‘Appreciate What You Have No Matter How Little You Think It Is’
Alhaja Mojisola Basirat Martins, a.k.a Mama Danfo was conferred with the title of Iyalode 11, Aiyetoro Community, Lagos recently. She is also the Secretary, National Union of Road Transport Workers Union (NURTW) Ajeromi Branch and the Chairman, NURTW, Boundary/Oshodi unit. She shares her story in this piece.
GO for it, woman. This sums the message she sent to the Nigerian woman as she was crowned with the title Iyalode Aiyetoro 11 by His Royal Majesty, Oba Abdulfatai Aremu Aromire, Oyegbemi 11, the Oba of Ijora Kingdom, Ajeromi /Ifelodun Local Government, Lagos State. She has her own palace. Alhaja, as she has is fondly called, is now to be known, as Chief Mojisola Basirat Martins.
Chief Martins retains the nicknames, ‘Mama Danfo’ and ‘Lady Matos,’ names she got from being the first woman to drive a commercial bus in Nigeria.
An elated ‘Mama Danfo’ said she is very happy to wear the cap of a chief at last and as she adds that she has been officially installed seven years after she was elected an Iyalode. “I give glory to The Almighty God that I am installed at last,” she enthused.
According to her, an Iyalode’s duty is taking care of the welfare of the women in her community. It is a huge responsibility when it is considered that Ajegunle, ‘Jungle city’ and ‘AJ’ as this densely populated Lagos suburb is called, is under her care. To her, leadership is nothing new as she has been in leadership positions before.
This tall and stately beauty is presently the Secretary National Union of Road Transport Workers Union (NURTW) Ajeromi Branch and the Chairman, NURTW, Boundary/Oshodi unit. It is common knowledge that skirmishes among road transport workers is costly. But Iyalode Martins says that thuggery within the union has been eradicated. She heaps praises on the current chairman of Lagos State NURTW, Alhaji Chief Tajudeen Agbede, saying he is a peace-loving gentleman.
“He has banished violence as a way of the union. Thugs are no longer part of Lagos NURTW,” she maintained, but stressed that at “this happy moment”, she would talk about problems of the past.
“Generally”, she stated, members of the union protect their women and give them the opportunity to climb the ladder.
“They did that for me. They advised me to join a unit so that I could be contacted and my membership be taken note of.”
When she finished secondary school as a teenager, she left Lagos to join a theatre group in Oshogbo; a move that did not appeal to her parents. “They asked me what I wanted to do; I told them I wanted to be self employed. I had always wanted to be independent. But they got me a job at the Lagos State Ministry of Culture.
“I had a Suzuki jeep at the time and every morning, I would go round bus stops and pick passengers at the bus stops. I did same after I closed from work. I was arrested by the police for driving without a license; they seized the vehicle while I went round to get a license.
“They released the vehicle to me, but not before a policewoman, Mrs. Shola Ojemai counseled me on how to be law abiding. She was kind to me because she did not take me to court although I was told that the offence was serious.”
She was impressed by the woman officer. “I had made up my mind to join the police by the time I went back to thank her for being lenient with me. I told her that unemployment turned me into a kabu-kabu driver and that I have decided to join the police.
“Mrs.Ojemai gave me a note to another woman officer at Police College, Ikeja where I was given a date for an interview. I passed the test too.”
She served in various formations including the Public Relations department.
“But I continued to run kabu-kabu because it paid better than police salary.” She left the police to become a full time danfo driver.
“I used the money I was paid on leaving the police to buy a mini bus. One day, I was driving from Ajegunle to Obalende, when I got to Marine Beach, I saw many people at the bus stop. I thought they might be going to Island. I shouted CMS. The bus filled in no time at all and I made a lot of money.
“I confided in my sister who advised me to continue if it paid well. That was how I became a danfo driver.
“It was not easy at the beginning because other drivers harassed me in many ways, but my training as a police officer helped me to deal with it,” she recounted.
Chief Martins is also the first woman to produce Ewi, the Yoruba traditional poetry. But being a chief does not remove a natural talent, she says, noting that she will produce home movies and record songs when she has the time.
Singing is a hobby, she says, and her songs will send messages to the society; she made music in sensitising the society about the dangers of HIV/AIDS. “That is a way of giving back to the society,” she says.
She is also the Aare Adeen of Oke Oro Central Mosque, Ajegunle and she has been sponsoring the yearly Ramadan Quiz; but she says she serves the society in general. “We all serve the same God. I do not donate to get financial reward in return, I do what I feel should be done. When churches call, I answer their invitation.”
Her philosophy of life is that one must be content with what be or she has. “Appreciate what you have no matter how little you think it is. It is not a mistake that you are given that amount. It is a grace so that you can grow with it.
“I think that I was a grumbler myself at some point; I wanted to have it all. But I have come to the point where I have to give gratitude to God Almighty for His mercies.”
Her advice to women in general is: “You are bigger than your problem. Do not feel overwhelmed when they seem so big; do not lose hope and do not submit to frustration.
“You must pass through difficult times; you must meet challenges at least once in your life time. But stand up and face them; they are there to test your strength.
“I have known sorrow, deep sorrow at one time. A woman must know that she may be praised or condemned or both at the same time.
“Do not be disturbed if you are spoken ill of. People would talk about you even if you are rich or poor. But go on with your life and believe in Allah; do the right thing at the right time. Sadness may come today; but tomorrow will dawn bright if you have faith, courage and determination.”
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