When women break barriers to make a mark for themselves in their chosen field of endeavor, we celebrate them. In Nigeria, for a woman brave the odds and follow her dreams, especially in what is still seen as a man’s world, is a great achievement.
That is the story of Ladidi Victoria Kolo, a female pilot of Nupe origin.
Taini Yahya, who followed her ‘soaring’ journey with keen interest, writes.
The Nupe people have been recognised for their tremendous achievements in the history of the black race. In many ways, Ladidi Victoria Kolo fits the description of the Nupe woman perfectly; hardworking, resilient, patient and certainly an achiever of what most women would still consider ‘a man’s terrain’. In the past, women did not hold positions more than that of cabin crew members or ticketing agents. But this has changed a lot where they have proven that old adage that says, ‘‘what a man can do, a woman can do too, and even better’’. Although, women have made great strides in the aviation industry, their male counterparts are often preferred when it comes to flying the giant bird.
When it came to choosing a career, this brave young lady would not take a backseat and cast her dreams aside Her childhood passion for flying a plane has grown and become a reality due to her determination, belief in her abilities and the goodwill of people who believed in her dreams.
How it began
Her journey to becoming a pilot began in 2014. ‘‘After I completed my first degree, I decided to open up to my dad concerning my dream. He got in touch with his very close friend, Mr. Akin Eric Garuba who works at Capital Airlines. After a lengthy discussion, he promised to get me into a school to start.’’
She said Mr. Garuba contacted his colleagues in South Africa who assisted her in gaining admission. The private pilot license training cost a substantial amount of money. ‘‘It was quite expensive,’’ says Ladidi. ‘‘My dad had a panic attack because he didn’t even know how or where to start getting such money.
She said Mr Garuba came to the rescue. ‘‘I guess he saw how passionate I was, being a pilot himself. He told my dad to calm down and that he would sort things out, which he did. According to him, it was time for him to pay back the goodwill he was shown years back by my dad. He told me my father was a good man who showed him so much kindness some years ago. I am really grateful to God and to Mr. Garuba because if not for his kindness, I won’t be a pilot today.’’
Kolo says that her interest in flying objects was piqued since childhood. She was fascinated by airplanes. ‘‘Back then, in my innocence, I didn’t understand the mechanism of flying until I got to know that airplanes were flown by human beings and that the object was called an airplane. I just knew that I wanted to be high up there flying one day.’’
Today, she stands tall among her peers in the industry and tells the story of how what began as a childhood passion has seen her soar in her chosen field.
Comparing female and male trainees, she said as far as she knows, ‘‘Male trainees face difficulties just like their female counterparts. Some would even drop out, while some give up in the course of training,’’ she said. But that is not the case for this ambitious, youthful yet bold, 22-year- old from Nupeland.
Her first experience in the air
‘‘Terrifying! As time went on, I got used to it though. Owing to the love and passion I have for flying, I overcame my initial fears. You know what it feels like when it’s your first time to learn how to drive. You are a little scared and careful but as time goes on, you’ll get used to it. It is funny but right now, I feel safer on air than on ground. I don’t even think about plane crash. If possible, I would relocate and live high up there.’’
My fear is more of the road than in the air. When I was told to ride a motorbike I was so scared. I wish I could go anywhere I want to by air no matter how short the distance is.
Does she qualify to be pilot?
‘’Yes, to an extent, because I have my foreign pilot license.’’ However, she needs to cross the next stage which is getting the commercial pilot license.
‘‘I’m aware that the economy is in a bad shape and that things are pretty difficult but I am looking up to God. Only He can make my dreams come true because for the first training, my parents had to sell the only car they had which didn’t cover much.’’
How to achieve this?
I have gained admission into a flying school in America and South Africa but the cost is quite scary and I know my parents won’t be able to pay. The training costs about $57,000 for 6-9 month-course duration. I wouldn’t mind, if I can get support from the Governor of Kwara and Niger states to help me achieve my dreams.
Heroes in the industry
The graduate of Sociology says her flying hero is Captain Chinyere Kalu, Nigeria’s first woman commercial pilot. She is yet to find out if she is the first pilot, male or female, from Nupeland since she hasn’t heard of any. ‘‘Maybe there exists one whom I am not aware of yet,’’ she adds.
Changes she would like to see in the industry
‘‘Enlightenment is the key. In Africa, Nigeria being no exception, females are relegated to the kitchen. Even the educated ones still have issues fitting into jobs perceived to be for males only.
In addition, the males often feel threatened when a female rises up to some professional levels. I believe females should be educated and accorded equal opportunities. Their confidence level should be elevated as that of their male counterparts.
Pilot trainings are capital intensive. Aside encouraging females, I feel the fees should be subsidized. The females should be accorded the enabling environment to bring into the industry.’’
‘‘I have big dreams but top on my priority list is to serve my country. I want to use my experience here in Nigeria because of the love I have for my country. I told my dad sometime that I wouldn’t mind joining Nigerian Air Force, and he strongly believes it is possible but we all know what it is like joining any of the Armed Forces in Nigeria.’’