Anytime I have travelled into Africa over the years, I am always taken in at the sight of the taxi driver. I become fascinated by the lives they lead. And I always marvel when I see their coloured little taxis bumbling round the town, somewhat aimlessly.
Like….when I land in a city, lets say Lagos, early in the morning sometimes before light. I see these taxi cabs running on empty, hoping that someone will stop them and they can start earning.
I always wondered at what their lives are like, from so early. What determines where they head to? What makes them decide on what route to take? How do they feel when they pick their first fare? And how do they feel when they have been running the car empty for an hour, two hours with no real paying passenger? And I am always very sympathetic towards them.
In my country, Nigeria – taxi drivers…..some look rather unkempt. You can not but feel sorry for them. When they are nice to you, you heart goes out to them. They charge you an amount and you almost want to give double – if you are sure they will use the money wisely and buy nicer clothes and look cleaner.
Then there is the next level of cabbies. These ones have bought into the Uber revolution. They are nice. They try to keep their cars cleaner and more up-to-scratch. But they are still cabbies. And many people still tend to look down on them in a bad way.
Back in England, and in other western countries, cabbies are seen in a different light. Their jobs are respectable. And people love them because they provide a service. They are respected members of the society and most do an honest day’s job.
In fact, during this lockdown which taught many like me to embark on outdoor activities a bit more, I go for a daily run, and I must say I made some discoveries in my neighbourhood. A lot of nice properties – looking lush and expensive – had taxi cabs parked outside them, meaning their owners were actually cabbies. Hmmm, impressive.
Then there is the stigma amongst the average African. Those who see taxi cab driving, and cab drivers as the lowest of the low in the world. There is a feeling that many who come into England, America or Germany or other such nations, all come in illegally and the first thing that they can lay their hands on is driving cabs, mostly illegally around the cities to make a quick buck…or two.
But really, taxi cab driving is definitely not lowly at all. It can be better in mother Africa, but it is not lowly and should not be classed as lowly at all. It is an honest job, honourable and a very helpful service, and I give a lot of credit and respect to those who do it.
I see nothing wrong in the job that they do, and I actually am in awe of their attitude and mentality in dealing with the various people that they carry, able to hold their composure regardless of the temperament of their widely varying passengers in the course of each day.
As it happens, all I can do is be in awe, admiration and empathy with the cabbie. I am not one. I have never been one, and will not be taking it up either.
Mudslinging is a very common art, and I have picked up fora where many have sought to drag my personality down in making out like I was once a cab driver in London who just managed to stumble on football and got into it…..and somehow made my way from the saddle of a taxi cab to where I have found myself today.
Hilarious…..because it is far from mudslinging. As a matter of fact, going by the background of the cabbie that I gave up there, it is a good note in credit. That a cabbie will rise, aspire to get to heights in football where he is recognised by FIFA at the very highest of levels; was recognised by CAF at the highest of levels to the point of writing a book on the then CAF President Issa Hayatou, becoming a Director of the CAF Museum and Hall of Fame and also serving as a committee member of the immediate next dispensation of CAF; was picked by the Football Association in England to run the Africa arm of its International Development Program and also to run campaign operations for the England bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018, and then on to a role as assistant to the head coach of a top top footballing nation’s national football team!
All these achieved from the wheel of a taxi cab! What a fairytale it must be! Not mudslinging at all but a real story of fortitude, resilience, tenacity, ambition and drive.
And I would love to add the achievements in the last paragraph to the background of ‘Mr Taxi Driver’ that I was given by people in my sweet country Nigeria. Only I can’t. Because while I am all that the previous paragraph said in football, I was never a cabbie. So my story is NOT that fairytale that the cabbie’s grass-to-grace blockbuster might have been!
My story started in England. I was born in England and started my formative years here. I went back to Nigeria as a youngster who had no choice but to follow his parents when they went back (Father had to pick up a senior post in the civil service in Nigeria and who were we to say no?); graduated from tertiary institution and made my way back to England to pick up where I left off.
No time to explore the ‘dream’ of taxi-cab-driving, as I found a job immediately working under Her Majesty’s service, for the tax man (what we call the Inland Revenue). Story continues….but it was in the tax office but no taxis involved.
My story is a true one of hard work, self belief and passion. It is one that many can work on and use to grow. It is a story of contentment, satisfaction, happiness. Not so hard to achieve, but could have done with less of the slamming.
I recently gave a talk where I referred to the noises around you, and how you can allow them dictate your progress one way or the other. The noises make you.
Do not wish that they are not there. Allow the noises. As a youngster chasing a dream, sometimes parents will be making the noises questioning your ambition. As you grow, peers and tutors can be the noisy ones, questioning your ability. As a family person, it may be your immediate family making the noises, questioning your desire. And in the work place the noises might come from receivers of your service, or fans and stakeholders of your sport (if you are in the business of sport, especially football).
It is how you respond to those noises that make you. If you allow the noises to bring you down, you will not progress. If you hear the noises and you react with defeat, then you are on a downward spiral.
But think of the football player – the top player who says that the boos of the home crowd when he goes to play on away turf is a noise he transforms in his head to the noises of his own fans, and it spurs him to play even better. Cristiano Ronaldo said it once.
So you must turn the seemingly negative noises into a source of inspiration and drive, and find positives from them. Because there are many positives in a negative story. You just need to find them and pick on them, and use them.
So remain focused on what you have set out to achieve, and seek to derive the positives from what you have achieved, but also from what you are alleged to have done so wrong.
Driving a cab is no crime, and it is not a subject worthy of anyone being demeaned; and being spoken about as having been one would have been great for the story books, but sadly (I say sadly), I was never one.