Curiosity. That was the main reason for choosing to ride in Ms. Aisha Umar’s taxi in the Federal Capital Territory on Friday .
Ms Aisha Umar has been a taxi driver in Abuja for over five years. Her handling of the vehicle is professional. She calls out for passengers and attends to matters relating to her job cheerfully and promptly too. She is never shy; and almost every day, she has had to answer questions, especially from many inquisitive male passengers. That, she does, courteously.
According to her, taxi business was the last thing on her mind when she dropped out of the university over 10 years ago.
She was in her second year studying Public Administration at the University of Abuja when she became pregnant.
Her initial plan was to take a break for one year to have her baby and then return to the school to complete her studies.
But the plan failed and that changed her course.
Today, Aisha, a 33 year old single parent, is a taxi driver in the FCT. She is the first lady taxi driver in the nation’s capital.
She was the only woman in the business for over five years until about six months ago when another lady took up the job at the FCT, apparently impressed by Aisha’s success.
And business has been good, she admits.
According to her, she pays her rents and takes care of the family with what she makes from the taxi.
Five years is a lot of time to perfect the commercial driving act and most people are not surprised that the lady handles the steering, driving around the city, picking and dropping passengers with a high level of dexterity.
Aisha, a mother of two, told our correspondent why she had to abandon her trading business and went into taxi business. She said it started by accident.
She had returned from Algeria, leaving her husband behind when it was obvious that the marriage would not work. She came back to Abuja with two kids, a boy and a girl.
She immediately went into trading and was dealing in clothing materials.
As a lively woman, many liked to patronise her.
She bought a car, a Nissan Sunny. It helped her to move the wares around, supply interested friends while she collected money later.
Only few paid for the materials on delivery; many bought on credit. The debt kept mounting and it was beginning to affect the business. She was fed up but she could not call it quits because there was no other means of survival.
One Saturday, she set out to meet some of her debtors. It was all stories, Aisha said. She became dejected. The fuel in her car was running low and she needed to top it up but there was no money.
As she was driving back home, dejectedly, a middle-aged man who appeared stranded, having waited for a cab for about an hour, flagged her down. Aisha stopped, almost absent-mindedly.
The guy asked if she could take him to Asokoro. She agreed and got N350 for the effort. And as soon as the man alighted from the car, another man entered and paid N400 for a journey of about the same distance. That was how it started.
She said, “At Wuse, a man stopped me and asked if he could help get more passangers into the car at N50 each and I accepted. And I got N250 on the short trip.
“That first day, I went home with N1,700, that was after I had filled my tank with N2,300 worth of fuel.”
The next day, she hit the road very early. And since then, she has not looked back.
Aisha has changed her car. It was in 2008, a year after she started the taxi business. She bought another Nissan Sunny for N650,000. It was an imported used car, but a newer model.
She has not set eyes on her estranged husband since they parted many years ago. But she is not bothered about that. As long as her taxi business is not hampered in any way that will affect the upkeep of her children, she is happy.