The Minibuses Trap
In 1978, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was under construction. Therefore, smart drivers, who were sent to collect Oyinbo (peeled person) from Ikeja airport, Lagos, were already traveled the unpaved route to Ibadan, even though the project was still in the stage pf bush clearing.
Menashe Abupepo, arrived one evening to Nigeria to start his contract, after a long stressful trip. up had already taken the new route, through the jungle.
Before he left for the exciting flight, Abupepo checked the maps in details to know where he was going and get information about Nigeria.
Also, he found out that the distance from Lagos to Ibadan is about 140 km. About two hours' drive, through the jungle.
The next morning, I hear shouting in the main office. In fact, everyone in the Head Office hears the screams. And I will not be exaggerating if I say that the entire community around Agbegba, heard those shouts too.
Abupepo tells me that even before he recovered from the flight and the night drive through the jungle to Ibadan, his manager, whom he had only met for the first time that morning, Engineer Rosen, lost his temper because of something he said.
What did you say to him that made him jump so much, and with such stubbornness? I am asking.
Abupepo claims - "It all started when Rosen asked me how was the trip from Lagos to Ibadan. I replied that it was perfectly fine. It was not a long trip, only 140 km, through the jungle. When Rosen heard my answer, he jumped up and said I have no idea what I'm talking about."
"Rosen said, he has been in Nigeria for three years, and the distance from Lagos to Ibadan is at least 500 km."
Abupepo said – "I gently told him, that I checked it on the map, and I am sure that the distance is 140 KM only."
"Oh then, Rosen jumped up and started screaming at me. How dare I disagree with him, when he's been here for three years, and I just arrived yesterday."
Of course, it would be unthinkable that someone would come and after one day decide to argue with the manager about the distance between Lagos and Ibadan. To claim that the distance is 140 kilometers, solely because that is indeed the distance. Makes no sense.
It is easier to believe a lie that you hear many times, than a truth that you hear for the first time.
There is a saying among the Yoruba - "just because you are right, does not mean you are wise."
Abupepo tells me - "Yes, it was not wise of me to insist on the correct distance and argue with Rosen on my first day here."
Rosen's stubbornness reminded me of how one of my classmates once spent five hours trying to convince me that she wasn't stubborn. She claimed that in fact when someone convinces her then she is convinced.
So now Abupepo is in our Guest-House and one evening, we went for a dinner in Kokodome. A Lebanese Restaurant, one of the few places in Ibadan, that serves food that Oyinbo (peeled people) can digest, without taking a big risk of ending in the hospital.
Abupepo tells me about hundreds of minibuses he saw near Lagos. The minibuses are stuck on some man-made hill with a flat and wide surface, made of laterite soil, with very steep slopes, approximately 3 meters high.
He asks, how did these minibuses get there? They look very new. It is not possible that the minibuses climbed there, and it is not clear how they will roll from there. Hundreds of minibuses are trapped in a parking lot without the possibility of getting off.
I also saw the minibuses. I really don't know - I answered.
After a few days I meet Ayodele Temitope (Tope in short) who is, or maybe was, a Catholic priest in Lagos. We met at a certain event, and he tells me many stories, and he sounds like a wiseman and experienced person.
As a priest in the Catholic Church, Temitope is bound by a vow of celibacy, so he does not marry and has no family. On the other hand, part of his duties in the congregation is to counsel on matters concerning family life.
The members of his congregation cannot understand how can he counseling them, on family matters, when he himself has no family.
You can't fool these Yoruba people - Tope claimed.
So, I took advantage of Temitope's intelligence and asked him the meaning of the trapped minibuses.
Tope starts with – Well Sir, you are surely a curious man, the more intelligent you are; the more curious you shall be.
As for the minibuses, it goes like that.
The soil in Lagos-Ibadan expressway is laterite, which is considered as a good material for the base and sub-base layers of the road. The German Contractor who won the contract to build Lagos-Ibadan expressway, required of large quantity of laterite to be used for the road.
To minimize the transportation cost, the contractor looked for the laterite near the road. So, the contractor started excavating the laterite around the road immediately after he was awarded with the contract from the Federal Ministry of Works.
Unfortunately, on the area adjacent to the route of the road, there was a parking lot full with just-imported minibuses, which belong to Lagos State, parked on small area owned by an important local chief. Lagos State is using that area as a parking lot, and paid the Chief "Parking Lot" a monthly rental fee.
Chief "Parking Lot" is not a sucker. He has high skills for Nigerian negotiations, especially with Oyinbo, and particularly Oyinbos coming from Germany. He negotiates tenaciously with the contractor, about compensation, in an effort to get as much Naira (Nigerian money) as possible out of the contractor.
Actually, the chief's target is to get N 100,000 Naira notes, but as usual, he starts the negotiations by demanding N 2,000,000. That is the negotiation system in that area.
The German contractor does not understand the ins and outs of that negotiation system in Nigeria, and when he hears the chief's demand, he realizes that he has no one to talk to.
From the beginning, the contractor's budget, for the compensation to the chief, is N50,000. The next day, the Chief say he would give them a good discount and instead of N2,000,000, he can offer N1,800,000.
Those German Oyinbos are not moving from the N50,000. A budget is a budget, and anyway there is no management approval to go beyond the budget.
So, the days are coming and going and while they are negotiating the price, the German contractor is gradually shaving and excavating, around the chief's parking lot.
Every day, the chief offers additional discount, as he used to do for his entire life, and every day, the Oyinbo contractor continues shaving another layer of laterite around the parking lot.
Gradually, the contractor deepens the excavations around the parking lot, leaving the chief's parking lot high above the excavated area. Like an island in the middle of the sea. At some point, the parking lot becomes a trap for minibuses.
And so, hundreds of new Lagos State minibuses get stuck on the hill.
And that's the whole story, except that when the Lagos State commissioner of Works notices the hill of minibuses, he calls the chief and immediately forces him to take the minibuses off the man-made hill.
The chief urgently turns to the contractor for assistance in unloading the minibuses, because only this contractor can unload the minibuses. Now, the German contractor offers the chief help for N 2,000,000.