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Tankers Under the Bridges


Bamidele Adedeji is a cement-tanker's driver. He is a Yoruba man from Oguro, Osun State, and he works with Oyinbos (Peeled People) for 12 years, collecting cement from Shagamu and Ewekoro, and delivers the cement to many projects around the South West of Nigeria.


Bamidele Adedeji is entitled to be called "Chief Tanker", since he holds great responsibility for the life of others, in his extremely important job.


Now, Bamidele Adedeji said that under many bridges in Nigeria, you might find rusted tankers ruins. It could be 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 under bridges and near box culverts.


In Nigeria, there are Traditional Traffic Laws, that under the local circumstances in Nigeria, make much more sense, than the Oyinbo's (Peeled People's) Traffic Laws, around the world.


When a driver is approaching a junction, he should first look right and then look left, and only then carefully cross the junction, provided the road is free or, if his car is bigger or stronger, than the other cars approaching the junction. That is the Traditional Traffic Laws representing the Right-of-Way.


For example, Adedeji explains, 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 on the hierarchy, there are the tankers. Fuel tankers, water tankers, cement tankers. They are the biggest and heaviest. No one should challenge them on the road.


Chief Bamidele Adedeji say that each tanker is managed by a very important Chief Tanker, like himself, with one or two Motor-Boys, like those motor-boys he has. Normally the motor-boys come from the same village and even from the same family. Relatives of the Chief Tanker, like in his case.


Bamidele Adedeji's Motor-Boys admire him for his ability to control the giant machine. Usually, they are doing the less honorable jobs, such as cleaning the tanker, from time to time, or parking the tanker when required. Plus, pushing cars left and right, to clear the path, when the chief is stuck in a heavy go-slow (traffic jam).  


Chief Adedeji is wearing a traditional Agbada, with wide-sleeved robe, worn by the honorable men 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 helps to discourage others, from arguing with them on one thing or another or owo, money. Especially about owo (money).


His size and his job, as a Chief Tanker, provide Bamidele Adedeji a special position in the hierarchy of the Oguro community, and Bamidele Adedeji is indeed highly respected among the residents of 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 cars' drivers on the road respect him. He is proud and pleased, when cars stopped on the roadside, clearing the way for him, allowing him to go ahead, as a sign of respect.


It will be a total disrespect, not to say embarrassment, to Bamidele Adedeji, if he should slow down, just because a smaller car is coming from the opposite direction of the road. Those small cars must respect the tanker, and specifically respect Chief Bamidele Adedeji, the chief tanker from Oguro.


Of course, the simple fact is, that those driving the cars coming from the opposite direction, have no clue who is driving the tanker, and never heard of Chief Bamidele Adedeji from Oguro.


On the other hand, no one wants to drive opposite a tanker that doesn’t slow down, on those narrow roads. Apart from it, these are the traditional traffic rules.


Chief Bamidele Adedeji said that every car that stops in front of a bridge, or a box culvert, is a gesture of respect to him. Rest assures, that the motor-boys will tell the story, when they will be back to Oguro.


From time to time, as it happened to him, another tanker is approaching a bridge, from the opposite direction, right at the moment when he is approaching the bridge.


The traditional traffic rules, are not specific on such a case, when two same-size vehicles approach a narrow bridge.


Chief Adedeji said that, only later he realized that the other tanker's driver is also a Chief Tanker, like himself, and he also have motor-boys coming from his village.


Thus, naturally, the second driver can't slowdown too. So, he drives at full speed, no matter what, just not to lose face in the village.


The motor-boys of the other tanker can tell the village community, that their chief tanker slowed down, and that could be huge embarrassment and humiliation for the chief tanker and his family.


Now, both Chiefs Tanker are on full speed, with their tankers, and they are not considering slowing down. One can imagine, what is going in their head. They have 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 the Juju is not around, and he can lose both his life and the respect he gets in Oguro earlier than planned.


So, right in front of the bridge, he quickly turns the tankers to the road side, to avoid the impact with the bridge. Chief Adebola Oladayo, from the other tanker, did the same.


Chief Adebola Oladayo had no chance to tell his story. He was not fearful enough. Or maybe he was. His tanker was a fuel tanker, and caught fire instantly. Clearly, Juju was not around at that moment. Or maybe he was around.


Bamidele Adedeji tells me that, if he knew that the other tanker's driver is Chief Adebola Oladayo, then he would slow down. Although, Bamidele Adedeji is saying – I can't understand why Chief Adebola Oladayo didn't slow down?


Now, you know, why under many bridges in Nigeria there are the remains of tankers. Not enough fear.


Adedeji believe that the more intelligent you are, the more fearful you shall be.


I said – that is sounds logical; even Andy Grove, the famous Intel CEO, wrote a book 'Only the Paranoid Survive'. So, have some fear makes sense after all.

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