The Minibuses Trap
In 1978 the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was under construction. Accordingly, smart drivers, that were sent to collect Oyinbo (peeled person) from Ikeja airport to Ibadan, used the unpaved route, right after the bush clearing was done.
Mr. Abupepo Menashe, a peeled person from Israel, arrived one evening to Nigeria, after a long anxious trip. The driver took him through the unpaved route in the bush.
Abupepo said that when he was in Israel, before arriving to Nigeria, he checked some details on the maps. He saw that the distance from Lagos to Ibadan is about 140 KM.
The next morning, I heard shouts. In fact, everyone in the head-office building, heard these shouts. And I will not be exaggerating, if I assume, that the entire community around Agbegba, heard those shouts too.
Abupepo told me later, that his new manager, Eng. Rosen, which; he just met for the first time, was very irritated by something that he said.
What could made Mr. Rosen so hysterical? I asked.
Abupepo says – it is all started when Rosen asked me how was my trip from Lagos to Ibadan. I answered that it was fine. I mentioned, by the way, that it is not a long drive, only 140 KM through the bush, no big deal. On hearing my reply, Rosen sprang to the ceiling and said that I don't know what I am talking about.
Rosen said that, he is already three years in Nigeria, and that the distance from Lagos to Ibadan is 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.
That is when Rosen exploded and started shouting at me – Abupepo said. How dare you argue with me, when you just arrived to Nigeria? I am three years in Nigeria and you will not tell me what is the distance!
Of course, it is unheard of, and unacceptable for, a new comer, especially someone like Abupepo, on his first day in Nigeria, to say that the distance from Lagos to Ibadan is 140 KM, even that is the distance. Especially, when Eng. Rosen, is already three years in Nigeria.
There is a saying in Yoruba, "Even if you are right, it doesn't mean you are wise".
Rosen was so stubborn, that it reminded me a class mate of mine, many years ago, trying for five (5) hours, to convince me that she is not stubborn.
A wise man said before - it's more difficult to believe the truth you hear for the first time, then a false you heard many times.
So now Abupepo is in our Guest-House and one evening, we went for a dinner in Kokodome. A Lebanese Restaurant, one of the three places in Ibadan, where Oyinbo can digest the food, without taking a big risk.
Abupepo told me about those minibuses near Lagos. Hundreds of minibuses stacked on top of a manmade hill with very steep walls of 3 meters high.
No way that the minibuses were driven to the top of that hill and there was no way for the minibuses to come down. The minibuses were trapped on top of that hill. I saw it too - I am telling him.
How did these minibuses get trapped on that man-made hill? - He asked me.
I don't know – I replied – but I will try to find out.
Some days later, I met a wise man by the name Ayodele Temitope (or in short Tope) and he is, or was, a Catholic Priest in Lagos. We met at a certain event in Lagos. Tope told me many stories, and he sounded like a wiseman.
As a catholic priest Tope took the vow of celibacy, which does not permit him to marry, or to have his own family. Now, according to him, some people in the Yoruba congregation, don't understand how can he counseling them, on family matters, when he himself has no family.
You can't fool these Yoruba people - Tope says.
So, I thought, such an intelligent priest, might be able to explain to me what is behind those trapped minibuses.
Tope starts with – Well Sir, you are surely a curious man, the more intelligent you are; the more curious you will be.
As for the minibuses, it goes like this;
The soil in that area was laterite, which is a good material for road construction. The German Contractor, of Lagos-Ibadan expressway, needed large quantity of laterite to be used for the road.
To minimize the transportation cost, the contractor looked for laterite close to the road. So, the contractor started excavating the laterite near the road, immediately after he was awarded with the contract, from the Federal Ministry of Works.
Unfortunately, there was a parking lot, at the vicinity of the road site, full with just-imported minibuses, belonging to Lagos State, parked on small area owned by an important local chief. Lagos State used that area as a parking lot, and paid the Chief "Parking Lot" a monthly rent.
Chief "Parking Lot" is a very experienced chief, with high skills for negotiations, especially with Oyinbo, and particularly Oyinbos coming from Germany. He negotiates with the contractor, in an effort to get as much Naira as possible.
The chief target, is to get a N100,000 compensation. It was a good amount those days. But, as a big chief, he starts the negotiation at N2,000,000. That is the negotiation system in that area. The German contractor doesn't understand that system at all, and believe that, there is no one to talk with.
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 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 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 parking lot.
Every day, the chief is offering additional discount, on his original offer, as he used to do, his entire life, and every day, the Oyinbo contractor continue shaving another layer, around the parking lot, in the area that does not belong to the chief "parking Lot".
Gradually, the area surrounding the parking lot, was excavated so deep, and low, compared to the parking lot, that the parking lot became like an island.
A steep hill in the middle of the excavated area. The hill was so high, that it is actually trapped the minibuses of Lagos State.
That is the whole story, except that, much later, Lagos State commissioner demanded from the Chief, to hire a contractor to take the minibuses down from that artificial hill.
The Chief had no choice and he had to approach that German contractor for assistance. The contractor asked for N2,000,000 for that job.