by Gbenga Olorunpomi
He who drives a truck…
As a kid, I loved road trips. My dad was the type who made sure we visited the village from our home in Kaduna at least once a year, so travelling was a big deal in my family. Mummy would pack food for us all, but we always stopped for more at Jamata, close to Lokoja, Kogi State, on our way to the interior parts of the state. The high points of the trips for me were seeing if the face on the Zuma Rock in Abuja would blink at me (I swear it did once) and counting the seconds off as we drove fast over the Muritala Mohammed Bridge. Those were the days…
However, even back then, my dad was always wary of trucks drivers on the roads. “They are not well,” he always said. Each time he had to overtake one, he would take his time. And just when he was finishing the manoeuvre, he often muttered ‘Oloshi’ under his breath before biting into a hitherto abandoned banana. He would then go on to blame transporters for using their trucks to damage all the interstate roads in the country and bribing government officials to ensure that Nigerian rail lines are never revived. How he kept his temper while giving the police their customary twenty naira I will never know.
I never understood his hatred for truck drivers until I was much older. Even then, the tales about them just got uglier. There were stories of truckers getting to their rendezvous and asking each other, ‘How many grasshoppers (people) did you crush this time? ’ Some people even swore that certain trucks moved faster when a generous slush of whiskey was added to the tank. I even heard truck drivers never died in road accidents as they had supernatural powers with which they ‘disappeared’ just before a collision.
Bad as their rap is, these guys provide a vital service. Without them, most people would never get the goods they need. They may be rude to you on the highways and deny you the chance to overtake them, but they are breadwinners too. And if Aliko Dangote is to be believed six Ph.D, 704 Masters and over 8,460 Bachelor degree holders won’t mind to join this profession.
Now, I have watched with much amusement the commentary that has overtaken the social media space when the news broke that more than two-thirds of the 13, 000 applications for the truck driving jobs were submitted by graduates. Some were all too ready to blame the government for not providing enough jobs; others blame Dangote for having the guts to want graduates as drivers. “We are doomed!” was fairly common amongst the tweets I saw.
What I found particularly funny was not many asked if those applicants had made themselves employable for office jobs or had the skill-set required to succeed in an emerging economy like ours. No one asked what career plans they had or if they had hopes and dreams at all. They never asked if they saw this job as a temporary thing or wanted to build a business around it in the future. All we saw was the negatives and that is just symptomatic of what we have turned social media into; the Whining Post.
Since the news broke that food scarcity might be an issue in Nigeria, due to the terrible floods that befell us this year, I’m yet to see anyone say how they will take advantage of this to make money. Social media is becoming a big thing, not many are seeking the training to use it to promote their businesses cheaply. Thousands are off to waste one year ‘serving their country’ but they will return just as unskilled as they were before they went into the university.
Now, that is something worth muttering about. Just don’t call me ‘Oloshi’ after reading this; I’m no truck driver.
Gbenga Olorunpomi is a digital media strategist, a social commentator and, most importantly, a father. He tweets @GbengaGold