The Driver Who Was Too Smart To Drive

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bmwHe came to pick me up on a Saturday morning…

Assigned by the company to be my “driver” for the day. But the way he spoke, the way he talked, the way he carried himself … was just different. I could not place my finger on it.

And as the Air Conditioner from the car protected me from the madness outside Lagos, I could have easily forgotten about him.

But I couldn’t … his face stayed in my head. I couldn’t understand why he was driving, he looked like someone that could be working for us…the company.

A couple of months later I sat down at a management meeting…and I don’t know why but I started thinking about drivers and wondering about their opportunity to grow within the company. You see when we talk about drivers we rarely look beyond the wheel … in fact the career path of a driver is quite predictable …driver…senior driver and senior senior driver…you get the point. So my hand defied gravity and I raised it up…

“How can we give drivers more opportunities” I asked.

A voice from across the room said we did one time it failed…another said it was difficult to do because of this and because of that…but I kept asking and asking, until finally we had to move on to another topic…

2 months later, the HR rep called me. When HR calls, you are either in trouble or in real BIG trouble. But I was called to interview a “Candidate” for a technical position. She sent me the resume…a UNIBEN graduate…his name didn’t ring a bell. But then he walked in…I remembered him … the driver that didn’t look like a driver …

But the interview had to happen…I dusted off a bunch of engineering questions … I wanted to know if he could handle them…I heard rumors of candidates who could not answer simple primary school questions, so I had to ensure he was not one of them. But this guy…he was rusty but smart, he understood the questions and tackled them quite impressively. I gave my recommendation to HR…

“engineering foundation solid but would need to learn on the job.”

They promised to get back to him…6 months passed…9 months and then a year. I would bump into him occasionally and ask “how far job” and he would say nothing. Nothing.

So last week I had a cough…that dry harmattan cough that would not just go away. So I went to see the doctor and bumped into him…yes him…the “driver.” He was filling out a form…I asked him what he was here for, “Was he sick?” He said no…he was here for his Fitness To Work Medical Check Up…he had gotten an offer. Finally!

When we think about that word driver it is easy to see that low life poverty stricken guy with no education working for us. It all merges into one, we see our drivers as well drivers, we save their names as Ade The Driver or Driver Ade, as if driver is their last or first name.

But not everyone driving is doing so because they want to be there or they have a passion for driving. I mean nobody gets up in Primary school and says “When I grow up … I want to be a driver!” Most people drive because of the crazy circumstances of life in Nigeria, the high unemployment.

So aside from our mandatory responsibility to treat drivers with respect, we should also push them to finish up their education, if they need to go to school on weekends arrange for it. Help them become better, and for those of us in positions of influence advocate on the behalf of the talented drivers you discover. Remember nobody except Jason Statham grows up wanting to be a driver! Drive the change.

twitterWords By Okechukwu Ofili of
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Words by Okechukwu Ofili of
Follow him on Twitter
Stalk him on Instagram
Read his crazy titled books on okadabooks 

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27 comments on “The Driver Who Was Too Smart To Drive

  1. This post is worth thinking about and taking action to.

    Education still matters. And it does, regardless of our vocation locally or internationally.

  2. Aweriawhen on said:

    Wow. I am moved to keep talking and doing the best I can no matter how little. Most drivers, cleaners… are overwhelmed by their situation they do not want to listen. They blame economy and those that wanted to develop themselves i have not been able to give them the push they needed financially. Next time I will ask someone I know who is able to help. God bless you ofilli.

  3. Batwoman. on said:

    Nna eh! Just negodu that car. Is that yours? If yes, can I be your driver? Biko. I can sakirifice my Bsc . Tains!

  4. Thank you, Ofili for reminding me how important it is to not only treat the lower cadre with respect but to also seek ways to help them fulfill their aspirations. I do that sometimes but henceforth, I’ll be more deliberate about it.

  5. This is amazing.
    A prof in school once told us a story of how he encouraged a primary 6 holder who was a typist in the office to get his degree…today the man is a graduate and ofcourse, has been promoted in the office.
    that’s because someone saw him not as a typist but also, saw the possibilities he could reach for.
    Adopting this attitude In our daily lives would surely reap rewards.

  6. Amazing !!!!
    There’s a security guard in at work with a full Bsc. when you converse with this guy(name withheld), you learn more than some of your over paid colleagues. i have encouraged him to drop his CV with HR and i hope something positive comes out of it.
    On another note , it’s plainly disturbing to hear people call cleaners, security guards and drivers whom they have worked with for years “” pssst, hey, guy, oga, madam, SECURITY!!!,CLEANER!!!”” It takes less than 5mins to ask “pls what is your name?” if you get it wrong the 1st time(or even 4 times) that is if you are forgetful, you will eventually get the name.

  7. I liked this.
    It is important to note though, that what set that guy apart was his attitude, I actually think I know the person you’re talking about, he’s not the only graduate driving a car in that organization, but with other (graduate)drivers, you can almost feel the resentment from them sometimes thinking “this person is probably younger than me o, see life…” So they act up, are rude, belligerent and all.
    Attitude is sooooo important, not accepting defeat in your heart even when your life is saying something else outwardly, and making sure your actions, particularly to people around you stay positive, if you see something in someones life that you want in yours, don’t resent them! It’s hard, oh I know it’s hard, but you have to be deliberate about the things that are good for you
    Very happy for the ex-driver, I wish him all the best.

  8. Biko, leaf story, what if i want to be driving Formula 1 cars ? abeg driver pass driver o, those guys earn in 1 season more than my 10 years pay join together. See Vettel, Hamilton, Rosberg et al…

  9. Lancaster on said:

    I’m sure if my driver sees this write up, he conclude that, that is my reason for helping him out. I have a 26 year old driver, before the school vacated for the Christmas break last year, I called him and made plans for him. ‘You will write GCE in 2015, every teacher in this school is available to help you, you will make your papers & puck NTI forms. If you are a driver in a school, nothing stops you from been a qualified teacher & teaching in that school’. Thanks Ofili. We all should keep pushing & encouraging bit by bit.

  10. Thank you for writing this. We have to be more empathetic. And it starts with little things .. like calling a driver Mr. X instead of Driver X. In a comment above, someone said his attitude stood him out versus the resentment from other drivers. That may be but a man or woman”s attitude should not determine how you address the person. Respecting a person is more telling on you.

  11. It’s a good one Ofili. Met a cab driver sometime last year that got me curious & speculative about him. He was well dressed, spoke eloquently (almost slanging), and was jamming to jazz! Even when his phone rang, he simply told the caller he to call back or he’d return the call, as he was driving.
    Another plus is that he didn’t charge me much 🙂
    Some of them everyday folk are talented, intelligent as the man they call ‘sir’ or ‘oga’. Belittle not them

  12. This is a great story. It is unfortunate that the “driver” had to wait so long for his opportunity, but it’s awesome that he got it. I do my best to empower people who are currently in the undesirable jobs. I’m currently teaching someone English. She has never gone to school and doesn’t know her age. I think she’s about 30.
    I too have encountered a driver who is too smart to be a driver, and this story has motivated me to try to learn more about him.
    That last sentence though…I’m pretty sure Michael Schumacher is a driver 😉

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