By Magnus Eze
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Director General of National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr. Garba Abari whose official responsibility it is to promote the image of Nigeria and drive national rebirth must meet Oladola Yusuff, an Abuja taxi driver that is helping them do their job.
The 35-years-old young man who hails from Ado-Odo Otta Local Government Area of Ogun State lives and thinks Nigeria, in fact, his patriotism knows no bounds, given the zeal with which he carries out the “change-begins-with me” campaign of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
Yusuff’s trademark is a Nissan car painted in the national colours of green and white; and branded with portraits of some Nigerian leaders and various patriotic messages. Most times, he dresses corporately in green and white attires to complement the colour of the car. Even when he wears other colours they usually have map of Nigeria embossed on them.
Popularly called Mr. Nigeria, the FCT-based Yusuff who claimed that God appeared to him in a dream on May 28, 2016 and asked him to ‘go and project Nigeria’, traverses Abuja on daily basis with his branded car.
To him, the rise of Nigeria should begin in the nation’s capital, hence his resolve to be also identified as the FCT Image. Though a cab operator, the young man disclosed that he is most times on the road even without carrying any passenger just because of the divine directive given to him to promote the country:
“I move about because I carry the image of the country,” he said. “On May 28, 2016, I got inspiration to remain a patriotic Nigerian. It was in a dream and I saw President Buhari. He shook hands with me and commended me to keep up with promoting Nigeria.”
For a man popular around the FCT for promoting his country, not a few will believe that life has not been rosy for Yusuff since he was brought to Abuja six years ago by an aide to the immediate past president as a personal driver. First, he was sacked, for inexplicable reason, by his master, in 2014. From then he vowed never to work for anybody again.
Precisely, on April 1, 2015, he commenced his operation of taxi with a weather-beaten SURE-P car he sourced from the Abuja Painted Taxi (APT). Even though the car had no spare tyre battery, and wheel jack, Daily Sun gathered that Yusuff signed agreement to be making returns of N3, 000 daily or N18, 000 weekly because of the urge to survive in the expensive city.
His experience in the hands of the APT car owner was frustrating until he secured a hire-purchase arrangement and got his current car on June 1, 2015. It was with the car that Mr. Nigeria started the-promote-Nigeria campaign, including ‘buy- made-in-Nigeria’ about year ago.
He is no doubt courteous in his cab services as he treats customers to very interesting ride, what with TV in his car. He plays comedy or music for clients or passengers who make use of his cab service.
Aside the humiliation, he had suffered trying to ‘sell’ Nigeria particularly to Nigerians in the midst of the current hardship, the taxi operator also claims that some prospective passengers would shun his cab because they believe that it attracts undue attention.
According to him, “it was very tough at the beginning because people were scared of entering my car. But with time, they got used to me. Promoting one’s country has its own pains. People say all manners of things; they ask me: how much did they pay you for what you are doing? But nobody has ever given me anything; it’s just my love for Nigeria that is driving it.”
Asked why he professes so much love for a country that he admitted had not treated him fairly, Yusuff quipped: “The truth is, even if your mother is a witch, you won’t deny her. You can only pray for her to repent. We don’t have any other country than Nigeria. So, love your country; whether good or bad, stand for your country. Show people that you are a good example because you are the image of your country. Be proud of where you come from.”
Be that as it may, there are still those who appreciate the patriotic spirit of this rare Nigerian; in fact, his fans especially within the ranks of Abuja taxi operators are on the rise.
“A lot of people commend me; they pray for me,” he said. “Some even ask if I am a politician. When they discover that I am not one they praise me. Some people take photographs of my car on the road. They wonder that there is still one who loves the country this much not minding the hardship in the land. Several people want to follow me as Mr. Nigeria 1, the FCT Image but they can’t because the money is not there. We need money to brand our cars, get uniforms and all that.”
With some encouragement, Yusuff said he would galvanise a formidable group that will not only provide transport services but also create jobs and promote the nation’s image. He also said that the few foreigners who had boarded his cab enjoyed his services and marvelled at his uncommon love for Nigeria.