Monday , November 28 2022

People mock me for riding tricycle to earn livelihood –Master’s student

Thirty-seven-year-old Anietie Ebeme, a master’s student of the University of Lagos, who rides a tricycle to make a living and fund his education, tells GODFREY GEORGE about his journey

Please, introduce yourself.

My name is Anietie Ebieme. I am from Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. I am 35 years old. I am currently doing my Master’s at the University of Lagos; but I ride a commercial tricycle for a living.

How long have you been in Lagos?

I have been in Lagos for about 16 years now. Life has been very challenging for me since I came here but I don’t like looking at it from that angle. Life itself is not fair, so I keep on struggling, hoping that, one day, it will get better.

What schools did you attend?

I went to the Federal College of Education, Lagos, for my National Certificate in Education, where I studied Accounting Education. I then moved on to study Business Education as my first degree in UNILAG. I graduated with  Second Class (Upper Division) in 2020. I couldn’t go for the national youths service because of my age, so I was exempted. I have been the one sponsoring myself through school for as long as I can remember.

When did you start riding tricycle commercially?

Right from FCE, Lagos. I have always been a working student, and the journey has not been an easy one. I lost my parents long ago, so it has been from one hell story to another. When I was in UNILAG for my first degree, I almost dropped out because the stress on me was something else. I was into laundry services but it wasn’t enough to care for all my needs in school. I was still begging to survive, so I had to go into keke riding. At that time, I was doing it for someone on a part-time basis. It got to a point when I knew I couldn’t cope again, and I began to save. I saved up a little income and got mine on hired purchase.

When was this?

This was in 2017. I just rounded off my NCE and got admission into UNILAG when I started riding keke. I was admitted into UNILAG at 200 level because I already had an NCE. Since then, I have been riding keke for over seven years. Even as I am through with my first degree and pursuing a master’s, I still ride keke.

Why did you decide to go into this line of work despite your degree?

The jobs I see around are not good at all. For example, I tried teaching for a while after graduation and I couldn’t feed myself comfortably for a month. It’s that bad. How can somebody say they will pay me N40,000 per month in this Lagos? How will I survive? What about house rent? I just sat in my house and thought about the advantages keke offered and I realised how lucrative it was. If I am able to make like N4,000 every day; in 10 days, I will make that N40,000 and still control my time. If I do that constantly for 20 days, I will be realising more than N100,000. If keke riding, which people consider so casual, can offer me this much, I don’t think it will be wise to leave it.

There are challenges on the road, especially with those illegal tax collectors, but that can still be maneuvered because all they need is their levy. Once you give them, they will let you go. Sometimes, I take home as much as N80,000 in a month, So, what am I doing with a N40, 000 salary? That is an abuse to professionalism! You don’t expect anyone who has gone through the rigour of studying for a degree to come out and be given such a paltry sum. It is unfair, discouraging and insensitive.

How have you been coping in this line of work despite your studies?

It has not been easy. But, you know, the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities is on strike so I have a lot of time on my hands now. Even if the school was still in session, I won’t be in school every minute of every day. I will go out. It is the keke riding that pays my fees so I cannot abandon it and face my studies alone. It is challenging, but what can one do?

I studied Business Education; I have hands-on knowledge on how to become an entrepreneur. I was already prepared for unemployment because I knew how the Nigerian environment could be.

Apart from teaching, did you try out some other jobs?

I have engaged myself with some private firms in production and distribution. I won’t like to mention their names. I remember one time I applied to join a very big firm in Lagos, and I saw thousands of people jostling to fill two slots. At the end of the struggle, nothing will come out of it. I remember that last year I also applied to work as a banker in one of the new generation banks and they told me I was too old for the job. I was 34 years old at that time. They said the highest they wanted was 25 years. I couldn’t believe it. With the way university lecturers have been going on strike? How can anyone graduate before then? Even when I was doing my first degree, ASUU went on strike twice for a few weeks, if not up to a month. I just decided that I was done with paid employment. It was not only insulting but it was dehumanising that I had to be discriminated against because of my age. They didn’t even let me apply. The computer won’t even let me input anything into the system. The Federal Government should work on this because a lot of qualified candidates cannot get jobs for this same reason.

Has this current industrial action by ASUU affected any of your plans?

Of course, it has. I felt so bad when I heard they were extending it again; this time, indefinitely. I didn’t know how to react. I had plans to round off my master’s programme early next year because UNILAG doesn’t delay master’s students at all. With this strike action, it is now clear that the FG is not paying attention to the needs of higher education. I am discouraged but I have to hold on. The more they keep me in the system, the more my age keeps going and the more I become unemployable. I still believe that a well-paying organisation will need my skill and I am going to apply there. This strike is delaying my life; I have to be honest with you. I had planned my life out. I still have in mind to pursue another first degree; this time, in Law. I have always wanted to be a lawyer. Now, this strike has put my life at a halt.

If ASUU comes back late and the time I plan for it is gone, I will dump my master’s and go for Law.

How do you intend to fund these degrees?

(Laughs) Of course, it is through keke riding. How else am I supposed to go about it? I have already looked at statistics – I need profit; I need time to make that profit. I have made a decision to divide my time between my studies and keke riding which funds it. I am going to cope. I just pray Lagos State Government does not wake up one day and say they have banned keke within the city metropolis.

What if that happens?

My life will just finish! I haven’t given it a thought. Maybe, I will go into buying and selling. I may also go back to my laundry business which funded my NCE. But I just pray it never happens.

How do your friends and family members feel about this line of work?

My family, before now, was not satisfied. If I didn’t muster courage, I would have stopped a long time ago and resumed begging. Some saw it as an abuse of my personality. Some said it was an insult to my degree. Some will tell me that my degree is a waste. In fact, when people hear I am a master’s student riding keke, they are dumbfounded. It got to a point, I couldn’t ride my keke at daytime because I was ashamed. People were mocking me. So, I ride it in the evening for a few hours. After some time, I just told myself that I didn’t need to hide. There is no shame in looking for money. I rolled up my sleeves, shunned shame, blocked my ears to naysayers and home and entered my keke. I know a graduate that sells pure water in Lagos traffic. What about that? To make money, sometimes, one has to be dirty. I am ready to do anything legal to make money.

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