Tosin Adetola Adewunmi is a 30-year-old mother of two children from the Okeyinmi area of Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, who has thrust herself into a male-dominated business.
Actually, it was poverty, as Adewunmi herself put it, that thrust her into the commercial tricycle business many years after she finished her secondary school education and her life still appeared blank.
She told our correspondent that she had learnt a trade after her secondary education but things just did not go well with her. She then took to selling clothes. It was while she was hawking clothes round town and she came to the keke Marwa park in Ado-Ekiti that something suddenly struck her she can do the commercial tricycle business.
She narrated, “I asked them to teach me how to ride the tricycle, that I needed some money to further my education. They said no problem. They taught me how to ride the tricycle and that was how I began.
“I had applied to join the Peace Corps. But because of the controversy over its legality, I dropped that idea and came down here to join them in the commercial tricycle business. I had hawked wares for about seven years before I came here about two months ago to start this keke Marwa business. Now, I can ride the keke Marwa perfectly to anywhere, including Lagos and Ilorin. I have ridden it to Omuo-Ekiti and back. I took my boss there. He just sat in the tricycle and I took him there and brought him back.”
Though Adewunmi expressed happiness doing the job, her marital status is posing some “minor” challenges.
She said, “I am married with two children. Taking care of the home and doing this job isn’t exactly easy for me. I have to wake up early and prepare meals for the family before I come to work. I close late in the night about 8pm. Before then, my first child, a 15-year-old boy, would have made the evening meal for the family.
“My husband now loves what I do, although he didn’t initially want me to do the job, complaining it’s male-dominated. But I assured him everything would be okay. He later agreed and, since then, I have been here doing the keke Marwa business.
“In the morning I take my daughter to school and bring her back home in the evening. My mother assists me, which makes taking care of the home a lot easier for me while I work.”
Adewunmi spoke of how some passengers can be difficult, as part of the challenges of the commercial tricycle business. On one occasion, she recalled, she picked a particular passenger from the Prison area in Ado-Ekiti to the Soldiers Junction along Afao road.
However, after the trip, the passenger simply alighted and, instead of paying his fare, he simply uttered a ‘thank you’. When Adewunmi asked him what that meant, he replied he thought she was offering him a ride free of charge.
She said she declared to him there would be nothing like a free ride since he didn’t discuss anything like that with her before he boarded her tricycle. After some minutes of argument and as she wouldn’t allow him go and the scene was becoming embarrassing to him, he had to give her her money.
Adewunmi is yet to have her own tricycle; it’s the Chairman of the unit from where she operates who owns the one she has been using for her business. Of course, she makes daily returns to him.
That arrangement she still finds more rewarding than the hawking she was hitherto engaged in. She disclosed that she supports her husband from her commercial tricycle operation, as she is also doing so many things for the family. She said she earns an average of N2,000 from the job on a daily basis.
Adewunmi couldn’t forget a nasty experience she had in her first week of riding ‘keke Marwa’.
She said, “The first week I started, it was raining and I attempted to ride the keke through a flooded road. But I bumped into a pothole and fell. The situation was not funny. But rather than that to discourage me from continuing with the job, it gave me strength.”
Adewunmi called on well-meaning Nigerians, especially the Ekiti people, to assist commercial tricycle operators by providing them with tricycles.
“We need more tricycles to meet the demands of our passengers. Government should also help us to reconstruct roads so that we can always have a smooth ride. The roads are very bad and they damage our tricycles,” she said.
Adewunmi encouraged women going through hard times to try their hand on the ‘keke Marwa’ business, saying, “What men can do, women can do and even better. This business is noble and a lot better than stealing or engaging in prostitution.”