Fatima Abiola Isa is one of the few Nigerians and the first female to be trained as a train driver in China.
In an interview granted BBC pidgin, in Kano, Fatima Abiola Isa said when she started, in a male-dominated environment, men mostly teased her that she would abandon the work within a year, but she shocked them four years later when she still surprisingly, stayed on as a train driver.
She received two-year training in China and also worked as a driver’s assistant for another two years, also in China.
According to reports, Fatima, an indigene of Ilorin, Kwara State, said she started working with the Chinese as a domestic staff but with her interest in driving a train, the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) trained her to handle any type of train, including locomotives.
Isa was a 12-year-old when she decided to be a train driver. According to the female driver, she was walking with her grandfather when she saw a train in Ilorin, Kwara state, and she promised herself that she would drive it someday.
She said, ”My aspiration to drive train started when I was young and I went out with my grandfather and saw a train passed in my town, Ilorin. I then asked him, what was that? The old man told me it was a big long car, then I told him I would like to drive it when I grow up, he then laughed. So after my secondary education, I joined a company, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation as domestic staff.
“Subsequently, I got admission in to a higher institution and I became confused on what to do, but surprisingly, the company (CCECC) then gave me the opportunity to go to school in the morning and come to the office in the evening after closing from school”.
She went on, “Later with my understanding of the company’s operations in rail construction and showing keen interest, one of my bosses decided that I should be trained as a train driver”.
She noted that people thought she would quit after a year, but she has been driving it for four years and her determination has proved them wrong.
She met President Muhammadu Buhari at the commissioning of Abuja light rail in July, 2018. After the commissioning of the Abuja light rail, Isa, who also speaks Chinese fluently, while in transit with the dignitaries, had a long conversation with President Buhari on her experience, which she described as ‘wonderful’.
”I am mostly happy whenever people are staring at me with admiration as if I am a white man.
One of my major challenges is time because if you are a minute late, it will affect your schedule as a train driver.”
As the 1st China-trained and woman trained driver in Nigeria, Abiola revealed that she is interested in inspiring more local women, she said: “I will love to teach a lot of people and put them through the same way I was trained”.
She said there is a need for women to join the transportation industry as train drivers because a lot of development is ongoing in the area of rail transport.
The woman has a dream to be one of the best trained drivers in the world and also train more than 100 females on how to drive train.
According to Fatima Isa, “My dream is to see hundreds of female I can train in the next three years to become the best train drivers in the world”.
With this feat, Abiola joins the league of Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, first Nigerian woman to drive a car and Chinyere Kalu, first female Nigerian commercial pilot
During the commissioning of Idu Metro Station to Airport Station, President @MBuhari interacts with Abiola Fatima Isa, the first female train driver in Nigeria.