A few days ago I had to travel to Ilorin in Kwara State from Lagos, Nigeria. Because of the unexpectedness of the journey and the challenge of aviation fuel coupled with frequency of flight cancellations, I opted to go by road. So I boarded a commercial car for a journey of about 4 hours. I was the first to arrive at the car park and by their law I get to sit at the front seat with the driver. I was happy to have the seat considering the distance and the heat.
Unknown to me the driver was not too happy to carry a lady on the front seat. Everything I did was wrong. If I moved my legs or adjusted the seat he would look at me from under his eyelids like I was some kind of mosquito or fly. I thought I was being over sensitive so I tried to make a conversation. At first, he pretended not to hear me. I was not one to give up easily. So I kept pushing for conversation until he gave me the “eye” that meant keep quiet. Notwithstanding I needed to know what was wrong with this driver. By the way the guy was probably around 30 years or a little more but he was quite young and I guess if I had kids earlier, I could have had him (smiles).
We continued the journey peacefully for a while. Those who are familiar with the Lagos-Ibadan through Ogbomosho-Oyo road would know that driving on this part of the road in Nigeria goes beyond the driving skills acquired from driving schools and experience gathered over several years of driving. Guys, you need real guts to drive from Lagos through Ogbomosho- Oyo Road. It’s a story for another day.
Anyways, half way down the trip and traversing in between the long queue of trailers, I noticed that almost all the other passengers in the car had slept and I was worried by the reckless driving of the driver. I cautioned him on this recklessness and gbam!, he exploded in native dialect and with a very derogatory tone “nkan ti mo fi so pe mi ole gbe obirin si waju moto mi ni yi o” Meaning; “this is why I said I would never carry a lady on the front seat of my car”. It got on my bad side and of course I responded badly. What on earth won’t women suffer? What has cautioning a driver against reckless driving got to do with me being a woman?
The above incident also reminded me of another one where I was badly treated simply because of my gender. As the Branch Manager in my banking days way back, a major and very prominent personality walked into the bank with a complaint. He wasn’t a customer of the bank but he was the chairman of an association that had an account in the bank. The account was abandoned and almost all the signatories had died and they needed access to the funds in the account. So because of his personality, he was brought to my office. Immediately I saw him, I rose up out of respect and courtesy to welcome him. But guess what? As soon as I was introduced to him as the Branch Manager, his countenance changed and he exclaimed “Ki leleyi? odo obinrin le mu mi wa” Meaning; “what is the meaning of this? You brought me to come and meet an ordinary woman?” Well all explanations by my staff that I was the Manager and most senior and they brought him to me out of respect for him, not wanting him to sit in the banking hall, blah blah blah.. fell on deaf ears. Well I assigned one young account officer to assist resolve his challenge and left them alone. What won’t women see?
Fortunately many of us learnt early to be unapologetically female and I have never really felt intimidated by outbursts of these kinds and trust me I have had severals working mostly among men. Sometimes I feel angry but more often I am amused and all I feel is outright pity at their levels of ignorance.
You probably are wondering where this conversation is going; not too far. I am not a feminist in the sense of feeling cheated or requiring emancipation but I just feel really sorry for our menfolk because sincerely from what is happening in the world today, they are and will be needing emancipation more than the women.
Today there are so many female CEOs, captains of great industries and leaders of organizations. Even when you attend a university or high school graduation ceremony, the ladies come out tops. Take a statistics of high performance in your organisation, you will be shocked to see that there are more females than males. And now to worsen the matter, professions that were previously exclusive reserve of the male folks are now being taken over by women. If you check out these outstanding specie (women), you would discover that many of them had to do double whatever a man would do to get to the top and rather than getting credit for it all they get are derogatory comments from the insecure man.
Well, I don’t intend to make this conversation long as I can not write all that is in my mind on this subject. But whether we like it or not, the new world is not about sex or gender. It is about what you have to offer irrespective of your gender. It is about excellence, efficiency and ability to deliver solutions to life’s problems. It’s not just equality, it is simply who ever the cap fits let her or him wear it without reservation. So like that my driver, if you don’t drive well and you end up in an accident, it wouldn’t matter if you had carried a woman or a man at the front seat of your car. This is life.