analysisBy Emma Maduabuchi
Lagos — Dr. Mercy Gabriel, the now popular female taxi driver in Abuja, the nation's capital, has proved herself an enigma. A holder of two doctorate degrees, and though earning a good remuneration in the employ of the United Nations Commission for Refugees (UNCR), she jettisoned these advantages and took to cab driving.
She started the business on May 16 this year, and has come to be known and admired by cab users in the capital city. As she put it, "I have my eyes on a business that will eventually grow tall and big."
Gabriel expressed optimism that one day she would raise enough capital to float a conglomerate under the name Mercy Travels. Her vision of the business includes Mercy Airlines, and another branch that will package trips for tourists, as well as organise holiday packages.
She believes her current taxi business is the early stage of her coming corporate conglomerate, and connects more positively to her planned concepts.
In her words, "The whole effort is a component of Mercy Group of Companies, but funds with which to begin the whole project were late in coming. Taxi driving has earned me respect from my peers, with loads of admirers - men and women. Many of them are dumbfounded on learning that I turned down the renewal of my contract (with the United Nations).
"I am convinced that the taxi business connects more positively to the concept. This is because there is a programme I call Evangelism on Wheels, through which I preach the gospel," said Gabriel, who claims to be a devout Christian.
Surprisingly, other women also admire Gabriel's odd but bold step. For instance, Funke Fadugba, former Nigerian Union of Journalists' chairman, Lagos State branch, sees nothing wrong with a woman daring to enter fields reserved for men and succeeding. She, nonetheless, cautioned Gabriel to be careful with her new-found love.
She said, "That only shows that she is daring, and it is good to dare. After all, men are doing it and breaking even. She should be careful, however, and know where to go, to avoid marauders. She must have done her feasibility studies, so I think we should commend her."
Gabriel has continued to confound her contemporaries, who remain surprised at seeing such a highly educated woman choose such a relatively lowly vocation.
She concluded her Master's in International Law and Diplomacy at the University of Jos in 1999.
Gabriel, who has had a stint with a non-governmental organisation in skill acquisition for women, begins a typical business day in the morning and closes about 6pm or 7pm. While some regard her present cab-driving business as a demonstration of Christian humility, others say it is a ploy to garner cheap publicity.
But Gabriel says she converted her private car into a taxi as the first step of faith towards establishing a big business in the future. Apart from the business side of her work, she revealed that she savours spiritual satisfaction from the job, as driving a cab offers her ample opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ with her passengers.