By HENRY UMAHI ([email protected])
forty six-year-old Solo Agbaji, a trailer driver, is passionate about his job. In a manner of speaking, he has been driving for eternity, having obtained his first drivers’ license in 1989 at the age of 19.
With a smile playing around the corner of his mouth, Agbaji told the reporter: “I can say that I have been driving all my life. I have been driving since I was a small boy. Growing up, I was fascinated by vehicles, so I decided to be a professional driver. I started with Mercedes Benz 911 lorry but I now drive trailer.”
One of the reasons that account for his passion for the job is that it gives him the opportunity to travel all over the country as well as make friends. For instance, he boasted that there is no state in Nigeria that he does not know like the back of his hand. And sometimes, he spends more than one month on the road before returning to his family.
Days can begin really early for trailer drivers. Some are at peace moving with the light and there are those who prefer driving through the night. Whichever way, life on the road, they say, is lonely.
Does it mean that Agbaji, who hails from Kogi State, spends weeks on the road, just driving around the country? Where does he sleep at night, if any?
Of course, Agbaji and his colleagues do not spend every minute of the day on the steering. As human beings, there comes a time when they park their vehicles and catch some rest.
Indeed, the long distance drivers have places all over the country where they rest when night falls or whenever they like. One of such places is Umunede in Ika North East Local Government Area of Delta State. There, you see trailers and tankers line up along the Asaba-Benin expressway, especially at night. Situated on a plateau, it is about 15 kilometres from Agbor in the west and 56 kilometres from Asaba, the state capital, in the east.
They converge there daily in their numbers when the sun begins to recede, signaling that the day is winding down.
Attraction of Umunede as drivers’ rest place
Umunede could be described as exciting, depending on where you are coming from or what your intentions are. It is a place to love or hate. You just cannot sit on the fence there. Believed to be one of the oldest kingdoms east of the Benin Empire, it is a place of fun.
“I like Umunede because it is a free place,” Agbaji told the reporter. “When you come to Umunede you enjoy yourself; the people are good and everything is here.”
One of the things you find in abundance in Umunede is sex. In fact, in Umunede, as in other truck stops, sex is everywhere. Different shades of women of easy virtue come there to have a piece of the action.
Investigation revealed that Umunede evolved into a fun place because long distance drivers come to relax there and they are known to be lavish spenders. And after quaffing, they would be in need of female companions after days of loneliness on the highway.
“Truck drivers know how to enjoy themselves; they know how to spend money. That’s why women like them. They are like policemen; they know that no matter the amount they spend, they will get another when they put their vehicle on the way,” Ufuoma, who claimed to be a hairdresser told the reporter.
Sunday Sun was at Umunede recently and saw a bubbly town. Though it was learnt that because of the grinding financial hardship in the country, Umunede had slowed down somehow, yet it remains fundamentally a place for fun seeking drivers and their assistants.
Articulated trucks (trailer) were parked on both sides of the Asaba – Benin expressway, resulting in traffic bottlenecks. Makeshift stalls dot the landscape, where food and drinks are sold. Many of the food sellers sell other things as well. When they shut down their shops in the night, they open another leg of business. Most of the women have their own apartments where they entertain male guests. Some of the apartments were rented for the women by their male friends while some got theirs on their own.
Home for all
On arrival at Umunede, Sunday Sun went to a small ‘joint’ operated by a small dark woman of indeterminate age, who identified herself simply as Chichi. At that auspicious time, the rainbow appeared in the sky, creating an opportunity for a chat with Chichi and other people there without much ado.
Hilariously, Chichi opined that the appearance of the rainbow was symbolic, as it signified that a prominent native doctor had died in the neighbourhood. For Agbaji, it meant that there would be no rain that evening. Another lady whom they called Queen insisted that the appearance of the rainbow pointed to the fact that elephants were making love in the bush. It was a boisterous atmosphere and Queen’s submission caused some laughter and lightened things.
Chichi prayed that the night should be rain-free so that “man pikin go hustle. You know, one cannot stand at a spot and watch masquerade displaying. You no go see everything very well.”
At that point, the reporter ordered for drinks for everybody and struck up a conversation, asking Chichi if she was available for service in the process. Time was about 5.30pm. But she said that she would be available in the night after closing her shop. However, she offered to show her breasts for N1,000 inside the shop right away. She added that if one could not wait till night, she could call her friend to come and help out. Her charge for an all night dalliance (till day break, TDB) was N4,000 and N1,000 for a quickie otherwise called short time. The icing on the cake was that she would provide accommodation – her shop for short time, her room for TDB, with the rate, of course, negotiable.
Meanwhile, Agbaji was in an intimate position with a fair lady generously endowed at the front at a corner of the shack. Having made friends with him, after buying two bottles of beer for him, Agbaji opened up on personal issues shortly after his partner left. He said that his partner, Grace, an indigene of Kwale, also in Delta State, was his “woman,” adding that she has two children for him. He further disclosed that his official wife was in Kabba with their four children.
“You know say man no be wood. A man must be a man. So, since I met her about four years ago, we have been together because she is a good girl. Instead of moving from one woman to another, I decided to keep her. I used to have girlfriends everywhere but since I met her I stopped doing that because she is a good girl. She has gone to prepare food for me. I rented an apartment for her,” Agbaji told Sunday Sun.
Agbaji is not alone on this. It was learnt that many married trailer drivers and their assistants set up second homes at Umunede. In fact, it is said that any woman looking for her trailer driver-husband should come to Umunede.
Investigations revealed that many of such relationships were bearing fruits. And the evidence is there for all to see. You find children at many of the shacks at Umunede, most of them from the loins of the drivers.
When the Sunday Sun asked how he was coping with two families in the face of the general hardship in the country, Agbaji answered, “God dey.” He further told the reporter that he has friends who had children all over the country. He also said that his wife and family were not aware yet that he was sowing wild oats. He added that things would unfold naturally in due time.
In some cases, it runs in the family, Sunday Sun learnt: Consider what Mr John Akpoyibo, who runs a guesthouse said: “The trailer drivers are the fathers of the little children you see all over the place. There is one case whereby a driver impregnated a woman while his assistant impregnated the woman’s daughter. What happened was that the driver would take the woman to a hotel while the conductor slept with the daughter inside their vehicle. Mother and daughter gave birth few weeks apart. The woman sells local gin. I know the story very well because I know the conductor involved. He is my cousin; he is now a policeman serving in Abia State.”
It was discovered that almost every driver who stops over at Umunede has a concubine. Umunede is different from other trailer parks on that route in terms of content and character. In or around other parks, you find wooden chalets where ladies entertain men but Umunede is better known as a place drivers keep women.
Activities rev up in Umunede as darkness falls. Some shop owners blast music from big speakers mounted outside. Then ndi afia mgbede (night traders) take over the place, strutting their stuff. There are two main sets of flesh hawkers in Umunede – the shop owners who want extra cash and others. Many of them are not indigenes of the town. They migrated from other places.
Indeed, many of the people there seem gripped by what one can describe as a form of sexual madness. The men and women behave as if they are enacting a modern day version of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sex is freely discussed and done.
It is common to see people having sex in-between or beside parked vehicles.
Some of the drivers sleep in their concubines’ apartments, while some go to the guest rooms scattered around the place. Sex has no fixed rate at Umunede. A round of sex ranges from N600 for quickie to about N2,500 for all-night romp. It depends on the time, bargaining power and weight of the man’s pocket.
For N1,500 or more, you can get a place to sleep. In some cases, house owners rent out rooms to girls on daily basis to do their work.
The whiff of marijuana is common along the Asaba-Benin expressway in Umunede. Some of the drivers and conductors feel high on the substance. In fact, it is no big deal there. Both men and women are involved. There are peddlers and places where marijuana and other hard drugs are sold.
Some young drivers from a particular part of the country also sniff other substances. Sunday Sun could not confirm the makeup of the substances but they are certainly not the traditional tobacco snuff.
It was learnt that some of the drivers, particularly the young ones, take the substances to remain alert and agile. “You know, many things are happening on the road. There are spirits on the road; armed robbers can come out anytime, so you have to be on to face these things. Igbo (weed) is good for the body,” a motor boy volunteered.
Sunday Sun also discovered that the recklessness of the young men on the road is the major reason some companies do not employ them. However, some companies do not care about age as long as you have your drivers’ licence.
Umunede, a micro-Nigeria
At Umunede, no part of the country is marginalized in terms of representation. There are places where you get Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo delicacies in every material particular.
The escapades of trailer drivers and their concubines are not restricted to Umunede. In fact, it could be said that where two or more trailers are parked, you will find women of easy virtue.
Other places trailer drivers converge include Oba, Mgbidi, Ubulu Okiti, Ekwuoma, Agbor, Benin old toll gate, Okada, Ijebu Ode, Shagamu and Ibafo, Ogun State.
Investigation revealed that empires are rising and falling. For instance, Mgbidi and Ihiala in Anambra State used to be popular as home to trailer drivers. But, in that axis, Oba is now holding the flag. Sunday Sun was at Oba recently and also saw the drivers in action. It was raining when the reporter arrived but it didn’t deter them from parking and having their rest with female friends.