Tankers Under the Bridges
Bamidele Adedeji is a cement tanker driver. He is a very respectable Ogah from the Yoruba people and he comes from a village called Oguro, in Osun State. He has been working with Oyinbos (Peeled People) for 12 years.
He collects cement from Shagamu and Ewekoro, and delivers the cement to the various projects around the South West of Nigeria.
Bamidele Adedeji is absolutely entitled to be called "Chief Tanker", because in his role he holds great responsibility for the life of others.
Now, Bamidele Adedeji said that under many bridges in Nigeria, you might find rusted tankers ruins of various types, such as water tankers, cement tankers or fuel tankers.
Chief, why is it? – I asked Bamidele Adedeji, the chief tanker.
So, Bamidele Adedeji explained to me why so many tankers end up their journey, precisely under bridges and near box culverts.
In Nigeria, there are Traditional Traffic Laws, which subject to the local circumstances in Nigeria, make much more sense, than the traffic laws of the Oyinbos (Peeled People).
One of these laws is the right-of-way law. A driver approaching an intersection should be very careful, look first to the left side and then to the right side, then carefully enter the intersection, unless a larger or stronger vehicle than himself does not enter the intersection. That is the Traditional Traffic Laws representing the Right-of-Way.
For example, Adedeji explains, a loaded truck has the right of way over an empty truck. A trailer has the Right of Way over a private car. However, army car has the Right of Way over a trailer, especially, if the army car has soldiers with guns on it.
At the top of this hierarchy are the tankers. Fuel tankers, water tankers, cement tankers and the like. They are the biggest and heaviest and no one should mess with them on the road.
Each tanker is managed by a very important Chief Tanker. In addition, in the driver's cabin there are two assistants, called by all Motor Boys. It is important to understand that the Motor Boys come from the same village as the Chief Tanker. He chooses them, and they are usually from the same clan. Relatives of the Chief Tanker.
Bamidele Adedeji's Motor-Boys are from his family, and they admire him for his ability to control the giant machine and make the machine listen to him.
They do the less honorable jobs, like cleaning the tanker every now and then, or parking it, when required.
And occasionally, during Goslo (traffic jams) they push vehicles to the right and left, to clear the path for Chief Adedeji.
Chief Adedeji wears a traditional Agbada, with wide-sleeved robe, worn by the honorable Ogahs in the Yoruba land. The Agbada makes Bamidele Adedeji looks much bigger than he actually is. At the same time, even without the Agbada, Chief Adedeji is extra-large.
It is important, for very important people, to look bigger than they actually are. Because it suppresses attempts by various people to argue with them on on one thing or another or on Owo (money.) Especially about owo (money).
His size and his job, as a Chief Tanker, provide Bamidele Adedeji a special status in the hierarchy of the Oguro community and indeed Bamidele Adedeji is highly respected among the residents of the Oguro village and the surrounding villages.
Obviously, Bamidele Adedeji drives on the road without slowing down the tanker, even not as slightly as it might be necessary.
Bamidele Adedeji says that all the other vehicles and drivers on the road respect him. He is proud and pleased, when drivers slow down their vehicle. Some even get off the road when they see him approaching. That's how much they respect him.
It would be disrespectful, not to mention embarrassing, if Chief Bamidele was forced for one reason or another to slow down, just because a smaller car is coming from the opposite direction of the road.
This is the kind of thing that Chief Bamidele cannot conceive of. The small vehicles must respect the tanker and especially respect Chief Bamidele Adedeji, the chief tankers from Uguro.
Of course, the simple fact is, that those who drive the cars that are coming from the opposite direction, have no clue who is driving the tanker, and have never heard of Chief Bamidele Adedeji from Oguro.
On the other hand, who wants to drive on those narrow roads opposite a big tanker that doesn’t slow down. Better stop, and let Chief Bamidele's tanker pass. Besides, these are the traditional traffic laws in the Yoruba Land.
Chief Bamidele sees it as a badge of honor, which enhances his prestige in his own eyes. Rest assures that his two "motor boys" will tell the story in the village about the respect he is receiving, and this will increase his prestige in the eyes of the residents, and also in the eyes of the chief of Oguro.
Now, every once in a while, as happened to him, another large tanker is driving from the opposite direction and sometimes it even happens when both of them are approaching a narrow passage, such as a bridge or a box culvert.
The traditional right-of-way law does not provide a clear ruling for this situation where two tankers, of the same size, travel opposite each other and approach a narrow passage such as a bridge or a culvert.
Chief Bamidele admits that later he realized that the second tanker is also being run by a Chief Tanker, like himself. And he also, the second tanker driver, has two "motor boys" from his village.
And that actually the other chief tanker can't afford to slow down the tanker either.
There is no such option, to slow down..., what will the two motor boys say later in the village, if he slows down the tanker. This could be a great embarrassment and a huge humiliation to his family and injury to the status of the chief.
The same thought is going the mind of the other chief tanker.
So, they drive at full speed, no matter what, just not to lose face in the village.
And so, the two chiefs drive their tankers at breakneck speed, as usual, and they can't afford to slow down. Who knows what goes through their minds. They have a few seconds to make a decision.
Bamidele Adedeji tells me that at the last second, he got some fear into his body. He was fearful that maybe the Juju is not around, and he could lose at once both his life and the respect he gets in Oguro sooner than planned.
So, just in front of the bridge, he quickly tilted the tankers wheel to the road side, to avoid the collision with the oncoming tanker and with the bridge. Chief Adebola Oladayo, from the other tanker, did the same.
Chief Adebola Oladayo had no chance to tell his tale. His tanker was a fuel tanker, and immediately caught fire. Clearly, Juju was not around at that moment. Or maybe he was.
Bamidele Adedeji tells me that he would have slowed down, if he had known that in the other tanker there was a tanker driver named Chief Oladayo, on the other hand he asks, why Chief Oladayo did not slow down?
Now, you know, why under many bridges in Nigeria there are the remains of tankers. Drivers have no fear.
Adedeji believe that the more intelligent you are, the more fearful you shall be.
I agree with him, even Andy Grove, the famous Intel CEO, wrote a book 'Only the Paranoid Survive'. So, having some fear make sense after all.