Men assume I’m violent for running all-female bouncer outfit – Emem

Emem Moses

Emem Moses, 37-year-old Akwa Ibom-based lady, is the leader of an all female bouncer group in the state. GODFREYGEORGE How she came up the original idea and the journey thus far

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Please tell us about yourself.

Emem Thomas is my name. I am 37 years of age. I am originally from Akwa Ibom State’s Ikono Local Government. However, I grew up in Calabar and Cross River State. I come from an average family. I had a wonderful childhood, which I would like to believe.

You own and manage a private, all-female bouncer organization. This was your childhood dream.

My childhood dream was for me to be a doctor. I wanted to study Medicine and surgery, but you know what Nigeria is like. I wrote the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination in an attempt to study Medicine. However, I was always rejected by aptitude tests. I didn’t want to continue writing the UTME, so I had to switch to Biochemistry, which is also medical-related. My original plan was for me to go back to Medical and Surgery after I finished my studies. However, I found Biochemistry so fascinating that I decided to keep it. Although I didn’t know it, I was going to be a bouncer and would eventually own an all-female security company. However, I do remember that I have always loved security jobs because I love the uniform. After my university studies, I applied for many different uniform jobs, but was never successful.

When did you graduate?

I graduated from Cross River State University of Technology Calabar Campus, in 2014. I was also eligible for the national youth service that year. I completed my service in 2015.

How long did you look for a job within your field before you settled on security service?

After NYSC, I tried many jobs and filled out many online job applications. I tried Road Safety, Immigration, Customs, Fire Service, Prisons. I went to their screening but didn’t get any offer. This was between 2015-2017.

How did you come up with the idea of being an ambulator?

It was 2017, when I received a job offer from a private security company via a friend through Facebook. I had been constantly disturbing them for a job. He invited me down to Uyo, Calabar, to do the job. I met the owner and was hired. I was working as the firm’s Administrative Officer. It was there that I realized the possibilities of being a female bouncer. Their passion was apparent in everything they did. I was interested in how I could help the company expand. I started to research security service, surveillance and CCTV camera instalments. I was eventually promoted to the role of business developer. My salary was cut for some strange reason. As a business developer, I was looking to bring in business to the company and the idea of an all female bouncer unit popped into my head. I shared the idea with the company. They liked the idea because they had an all-male group of bouncers for private security and that was all they needed. Their brand grew because clients were open to the idea of being able to leave the regular and patronise them. This was how it all began.

Something went wrong somewhere along the way. Some people weren’t happy with the outcome. They thought I didn’t have the right to come as a new staff and ‘outshine’The older staff members. Many things went wrong. I was trying fight for the rights to these women I had brought from their homes to this job. These female bouncers weren’t full-time employees; they were contract workers. I suggested to the company that they should be paid a portion of the money received from clients, which was 70%. The company promised them a 30% share, but I was against that. I was on the side the women, and they brought me in. If anything happened, I would be held responsible. My insubordination was seen by the company and I was forced to leave. I’ve always been a field person so I know the struggles of someone who works in the field. It is not like working in an office. It felt unfair so I decided to leave. They even told me outright that they didn’t want the all-female group anymore. Since I was the one who initiated the idea, I shared it on my social media accounts. Women who liked the idea could do so through my account. What was I supposed to do with these women that I convinced to come to work with me? I was devastated. Because I was confused, I became sick for days.

How did you get started with Diamond Squad, an all-female bouncer organization?

I spoke to a friend and she encouraged it. We registered the company at the Corporate Affairs Commission. I pulled together the women and organized my first event. We then went together under that name.

Was it a positive experience?

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I was very nervous because I didn’t want anything to go wrong. I’d never worked with the male team of my former company, though I was the one in charge of gadgets and all that. It was a new experience for me. It was a bad decision, I thought. The women had no previous experience in the job at that time. Before our former company rejected us we had covered two events, but it was under the control of that company. I was not my best self throughout the event. I made several mistakes and then, I had a male friend who came for the event. He encouraged me and covered up my mistakes. It was incredible at the end. Our first client added some extra money to the price we were expecting because he received exceptional service. He didn’t stop there; he referred me to another friend of his who had his dad’s funeral.

What qualities should you look for in women before you accept them into your team?

At first, the criteria was to be plus-sized or chubby. But as we grew as a company, I began to run background checks on anyone I wanted to accept into the outfit, so I wouldn’t  endanger the lives of other staff or the clients. I make sure they are not addicted to drugs or have been convicted of any crimes. Before now, I would tell them to pay a fee of N5,000 to register, but it is funny that most of my ladies haven’t paid that money to date (laughs). I didn’t really stress on that because my aim was not to get money from them or make money off them; I wanted to see them make something out of their lives as plus-size women.

Is the group only open to single women?

Oh no! Every woman who’s plus-sized is welcome. My team includes single mothers, married women, and single women. For married women, I advise them to get approval from the husbands before admitting them. If your husband is okay with it, you are welcome to join us. If he is not cool, please, go back to your husband’s house. We don’t have any issue with that. Some married women are driven or escorted to their meeting points by their husbands. I actually know of a lady who had all her personal kit purchased by her husband.

What have you learned so far?

The journey to start this group has not been easy. My hope lies in this company. It’s what pays my bills. To make the brand grow, I must do everything possible to ensure it grows so that more revenue can be generated.

What was the worst experience that you had in the field?

I have never regretted any experience I had in the field. My passion covers all the challenges I face. The appreciation I receive from my clients doesn’t make me feel it (laughs).

Have you ever been a reporter covering an event that was subject to an attack or security breach.

This is not a violent act. It’s just that some people who attend events are unable to stay in their areas. They would rather dine and wine with the VIPs in their area. They will tell ya. “See these women o. Oh! So na women dem bring to bounce us? We go see na. I must enter there.” It’s not easy to calm this kind of situation because it can result in chaos. I’m very diplomatic about it. To be able to deal with such situations, I had the to attend a lot online and offline training. I am a lifetime member of the Nigeria Red Cross Society. I have also served as a Calabar Carnival Field Marshal. Although the pressure and crowds can seem overwhelming at times, my ladies are able withstand them all.

Do you know of any instances of sexual harassment of women who work with your company?

No. This is due to how strict we are. There is a saying: “The way you make your bed is how you will lie on it.”This is what has always guided me. When I was in the university and had to go meet a male lecturer, I didn’t smile with them. I kept my head down and did what I wanted. Most of them said I was not friendly but I didn’t care. I don’t give room for them to approach me for anything negative or make sexual advances because my face alone would tell them that I was not interested. This applies to the training that I give the ladies. They have never complained. They only tell me about men arguing with them, and how they disrespected them. I always try to help. I tell them to go back and talk to the man and make him understand.

What were some of the negative comments you received from family and friends when they heard you planned to become a bouncer and start an all-female bouncer club?

People didn’t understand us. Some people used tell me to go home and search for a husband. Some suggested that we might be lesbians. My friends said it was discouragement to keep me from doing it but I am determined to do it. It was fear that drove it. It is common for women to feel threatened when they see men succeeding in a male-dominated environment. They tried to pull me down but I didn’t let that happen.

How has this job affected your relationship?

When it comes to men, they don’t like challenges. They view women who are willing to do something that they wouldn’t normally do as being challenging. Most people believe I am a snub, and that I am violent. They feel that if I get too close to them or talk to them about a relationship, I would be violent. I can remember the first time I called someone. ‘darling’The person was shocked. He said, ‘I never knew you were this friendly’. I was shocked. The way I comport myself is very strict because I don’t want anyone to disrespect me. I return to my normal life after I’m off duty.

Would it have been different if your job was not in this field?

I wouldn’t say so. When one’s desire is to grow one’s brand, one has to make some sacrifices. I am not thinking in that direction right now. I won’t compromise my service. Even if I see people I know at events I cover, I act as though I don’t know them, so I don’t compromise my standards. I will explain my actions to them after the event. I don’t notice if this job is affecting me or not. At this point, I don’t see it as a problem whether or not men are around me. I don’t see it as a problem.

How supportive has your family been thus far?

I didn’t go to my family to say I wanted to be a bouncer. They just found out. My family has been supportive. They are proud of me and support me. My dad used to market for us. I lost my mom in 2020 and my team had to cover my mom’s burial and every other person around me had to understand. I would like the government and other well-meaning people to invest in me and help me achieve my dream. It will make a huge difference.

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