“A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject of today’s A Week In The Life is Adeyemi, a tanker driver. She tells us about being a woman in a male-dominated field, dreaming big, and discovering herself through her job.
I wake up by 6:30 am every day, so I can warm the truck. I make sure I check the water and oil level while doing that, so as to prevent unnecessary trouble when I’m on the road. I usually finish all my checks by 7 am.
If I was on the road travelling to another state, I’d normally wake up by 4 am. I’d wake up that early to have my bath because I am the only lady among male drivers. I’d find somewhere they can’t see me and do it quickly. Waking up that early is stressful, but I am not complaining because I know what I signed up for. I was told that I’d have to do guys stuff — I had to learn during road trips to sleep on top of the tanker at night, sleep inside the truck when it’s raining, and have my bath very early in the morning.
Since I’m at home today, I get to wake up by 6:30 am. I warm the truck and then go over to see if we can load the product (PMS and AGO) at the depot. It doesn’t seem like we can load today because of some small small delay. My work is not every day because, without loading the product, there’s no work. Since we can’t load today, I’ll have to check back tomorrow.
For now, I’m going home to sleep. Any free time I have like this, I spend it sleeping because I know that when the work comes, it’ll be plenty. We go again tomorrow.
I don’t like my job, I love my job. Anytime I am driving, people are always hailing me. They’ll be shouting “See this small girl”, ”Come and see oh” and it makes me feel like a celebrity. I’m always asking that shey na so life be? Is this how much I inspire people?
Funny enough, it was another woman that inspired me to do this job. I saw her driving a truck around my side in Ejigbo and I went to meet her. I asked her why she was doing it and she told me that she had a passion for it so I was so inspired. I was like as far as she can do it, I can do it better because I am still young and my body is stronger. I am not using my body for anything and that’s how I started the job.
The first day I drove a truck, people encouraged me by giving me money. At least that day, I still made like N7,000 just from appreciation. They were shocked that a young lady like me wanted to do the job. I was so happy to get free money that it gingered me to continue because I knew that I was going to achieve more than N7,000.
Even with the money, I was still scared. I kept wondering: “Will I be able to handle this truck?” “Will I be able to face people on the road?” “Won’t I have an accident?” but with support from my family, I now told myself that I’ll exceed all their expectations.
It’s been 2 years since that day and I’m no longer scared of anything or anyone; I can now face anything faceable.
Today, I drive the product in my truck to the filling station to discharge into their tank. At the filling station, people can’t stop staring at me as usual. One person even walks up to me and asks me for an interview because he is fascinated by me. He said he has never seen a female truck driver before. I exchange numbers with him and I continue with my business; I need to rush back to the depot to see if I can load again. The more trips I make, the better for me.
As I drive off, I find myself looking forward to the interview.
Someone asked me to explain my job today. I told the person that this tanker work is divided into two parts: local and bridging.
Under the local we now have west-local. Local involves supplying places within Lagos like Lekki, Apapa, and Oshodi, while west-local involves supplying products to places like Ibadan, Ilorin, Benin, and Ore.
For the bridging, we go to places like Maiduguri, Suleja, and Abuja. I used to be scared of these journeys because people told me all sorts: “They will attack you”; “You will have an accident”. I just made up my mind that whether it’s on the job or at home, it’s something that will still kill me, I can’t escape it. At least, If they kill me, they can’t kill my ghost. Whether I am scared or not, I know I will still die one day.
Even though I am now working full time in Lagos, I still have some memories from when I used to travel. One day that I will never forget was the day that I drove to Warri. I was so glad and so happy when people started hailing me and snapping my pictures. Many of them even took pictures with me. Come and see thousands of people calling themselves to see me as if I am Davido or something. I was so glad. At one point, I was even shy to walk among them because of the attention. I called my mum that day to tell her what happened because I was so happy. That’s a day I can never ever forget.
Another day I can’t forget is the day I had an accident while travelling. There’s nothing much to remember because I was unconscious for like 5 minutes.
The day I had an accident, it was my boss that was driving. A woman wanted to cross the road but she didn’t look well so she got hit by a car. The driver was trying to avoid climbing on her after hitting her so he swerved towards our tanker. For us not to hit the car, my boss swerved to the left-hand side of the road to allow the car to pass without any issue.
Unfortunately, there was a big gutter and we fell into it at a high speed. All the product we were carrying (45,000 litres of diesel) wasted. Thankfully, my boss and I survived. He had to shake me and shout my name to wake me up. The accident was so bad that we had to break the window to come out, as the doors were completely gone.
The truck was condemned and even the owner didn’t believe we survived after seeing pictures of the truck.
If you ask me what I am most grateful for today, I will tell you that it’s life. Olorun oshey oh, mi o ku.
In this job, I have to apply my sense and give myself brain because everyone wants to date me. Everywhere I go to, from filling stations to depots, almost everyone wants to toast me. They want to be able to say: “That girl driving the truck, I am the one dating her.” I know that male truck drivers can be very stupid and even if they don’t see my pant, they can tell the whole world that they slept with me. I know this because sometimes I hear them describing women they have slept with in detail. I keep asking myself that are these the kind of men I will date? So, I reject all their toasting.
Another way I apply my sense is by having a driver’s license. The majority of my male colleagues don’t have a driver’s license because VIO and Lastma rarely stop trucks or check for licenses. However, as a lady, VIO and Lastma are always quick to harass me to show their power. They shout “Hey, stop there. Do you have a license?” after which I show them. That way, I don’t fall into their trap. My male colleagues are usually surprised that I have a license and I just smile.
Yet another way I apply my sense is by having extra clothes, pants, and pad in the truck. Like today, my period started so it came in handy for me. Anytime this happens, I just look for the nearest clean public toilet where I can change. The only good thing is that my period isn’t painful so it doesn’t affect my driving. I am grateful for that because I just can’t imagine driving with a painful period.
I can’t wait to get home today so I can eat my mummy’s food and be taken care of. I am kuku her last born, so she has no choice.
The best time to carry products is at night because Lagos traffic during the day is terrible. Trucks are not like cars and they normally overheat. The brake in a truck uses the air system and it’s different from car brakes. What this means is that if you want to stop at the end of the street, you have to apply the brake five houses from the last house on the street. If you have to constantly do this with Lagos traffic, your truck will spoil fast and that’s why we love moving at night. At that time you have very little need to use your brake and you also avoid traffic.
Today, I ran into a bit of trouble. My worst nightmare came to pass. The biggest fear any truck driver has is their truck breaking down at Mushin, Orile, Oshodi or Ikorodu. This is because area boys will beat the truck driver and still collect money for the truck breaking down in their area. If you run away and abandon the truck, they will open your bonnet and cut out your battery. So, the truck driver has no choice but to face them.
My truck broke down at Mushin today around midnight. The area boys trooped out and started threatening to beat my boss and the motor boy. At the same time, they also asked us to pay N50,000. I was a little bit scared because I was wondering if they would really beat us. They later came to their senses when they saw me and asked if I was the driver. Then, they started to encourage me when I told them I was. They told my boss that if not for me, they would have beaten the hell out of him.
My boss made a phone call to the truck owner to send money for settlement. We had to wait inside the truck while waiting for the owner to send money. The worst part is that the money we gave the area boys was for nothing. They didn’t tow the vehicle or assist in any way. It’s more annoying because you can’t report to the police — the boys don’t fear them. The only people they are afraid of are the army people and there’s a limit.
I have never felt so helpless in my life like I did today.
After the kind of day I had yesterday, I plan to sleep the whole day. Nobody should even disturb me if they like themselves.
I spend today thinking of all the things that have changed in my life since I started this job. People now respect me a lot. Even the ones that used to see me as a useless lady when I didn’t have a job have changed their opinion about me. Nobody is keeping malice with me again; in my house, in my mummy’s shop, on my street.
Anytime they see me driving the truck, people always want to talk to me. They keep telling me that they love my courage and they are inspired by me. So many things have changed that even guys that didn’t talk to me before are now talking to me. I keep telling people that I am not ready to leave this job anytime soon.
Not leaving the job was even part of the reason I broke up with my last boyfriend. He was trying to block my way by telling me to stop the work without providing another job. I just saw it as him trying to stop me from making it in life because I can’t give up on my dreams. He was giving me attitude and behaving somehow, so I left him alone because we are just boyfriend and girlfriend. At the end of the day, he’s nothing to me because we are not even married.
I want to achieve a lot of things in this job. I want to be the talk of the town, I want to cover newspapers, I want to achieve my aim of getting a post in any depot. I also want people to see me as their role model – I want them to know that they can achieve anything they put their mind to.
Olorun oshey oh, mi o ku – Thank God I didn’t die.
Check back every Tuesday by 9 am for more “A Week In The Life ” goodness, and if you would like to be featured or you know anyone who fits the profile, don’t hesitate to reach out. Reach out to me: email@example.com if you want to be featured on this series.