Win­ning our wives’ trust tougher than risk­ing death –Trailer, tanker driv­ers

The Punch - - WEEKEND STARTER - Eric Dumo

Sadiq Mo­hammed sipped from the green plas­tic cup in his right hand as he scrolled through his mo­bile phone with his left hand that cold morn­ing. He had just got off the phone with his wife, Habiba, be­fore tak­ing a po­si­tion on a bench in front of a kiosk. His trailer is among dozens parked op­po­site Kara Mar­ket, along the La­gos-ibadan Ex­press­way, Ogun State on Wed­nes­day morn­ing when our cor­re­spon­dent came across him. Now op­er­at­ing as a driver of heavy-duty trucks, fer­ry­ing goods be­tween Kano and La­gos for the past 11 years, the 37-year-old has mas­tered the art of go­ing on trips and all that comes with it.

But in con­trast, Mo­hammed has yet to fully master and win the trust of his wife. Spend­ing longer pe­ri­ods on the road than in the house with his fam­ily has made it quite tough for him to prove his faith­ful­ness to his wife as a re­sult of the na­ture of his job, he told our cor­re­spon­dent.

Some trailer and tanker driv­ers are re­puted to be phi­lan­der­ers with sev­eral girl­friends and con­cu­bines in var­i­ous parks and bor­der towns across the coun­try. As a re­sult, their wives, even though many of such women don’t com­plain openly due to re­li­gious and cul­tural con­straints, find it hard to have com­plete trust in them. Stud­ies over the years have found cheap, un­pro­tected sex to be a com­mon stable in many trailer parks in Nige­ria.

The 37-year-old and his wife ex­change sev­eral calls ev­ery day, with the topic of fidelity and trust dom­i­nat­ing their con­ver­sa­tions.

“Af­ter speak­ing early in the morn­ing, be­fore 11am, she will call again to know what I am do­ing and be sure that I am not with an­other woman,” the na­tive of Kano State said told Satur­day PUNCH. “She has found it hard to trust me just be­cause I am a trailer driver.

“She be­lieves that when I’m not at home, I could be with an­other woman in any of the places that my job takes me to. This has been a big is­sue since we mar­ried even though I have never cheated on her and I don’t plan to do so.

“Maybe she is just be­ing over­pro­tec­tive and doesn’t want to take chances be­cause of what she hears about trailer driv­ers,” Mo­hammed added in Pid­gin English be­fore tak­ing one more sip from the hot liq­uid he de­scribed as na­tive tea.

Some­times on the road for three weeks at a stretch, the young man has come face-to-face with death on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. Apart from reg­u­larly con­tend­ing with bad roads and the men­ace of bribeseek­ing law en­force­ment of­fi­cers on the high­ways, it is the en­coun­ters with ban­dits that of­ten leave his heart pound­ing faster than usual. Ac­cord­ing to him, as risky and life-threat­en­ing as these en­coun­ters are, gain­ing the trust of his wife is tougher.

“We en­counter all sorts of dan­ger on the road ev­ery day,” he said. “Some­times our ve­hi­cles break down in the bush for up to one week and we have to stay there un­til me­chan­ics are able to fix them. In the process, we are at­tacked by armed rob­bers and some­times wild an­i­mals.

“But I can tell you that this is still not as dif­fi­cult for us as get­ting our wives to trust us. They be­lieve we have women in ev­ery part of the coun­try,” Mo­hammed, who earns an av­er­age of N20,000 per trip, told Satur­day PUNCH.

Like him, Sham­sudeen Hanusa has had a tough time win­ning the trust of his wife. Now in the busi­ness of driv­ing trail­ers across the coun­try for 13 years, the 35-year-old driver from Plateau State told our cor­re­spon­dent that even though he did not doubt his woman’s love for him, she had yet to ac­cept the fact that he had not been cheat­ing on her dur­ing his long trips away from home.

He said af­ter be­ing away from home for two months at a time on some oc­ca­sions, he would try to make up for that time in ev­ery way pos­si­ble to let her know he was com­mit­ted to her alone.

“Even though my wife knows the type of job I do be­fore she agreed to marry me, she still finds it hard to to­tally trust me,” he said. “Some­times, I am on the road for two months and won’t get to see her through­out that pe­riod. Though we talk to each other on the phone ev­ery day, she still ex­presses some form of worry.”

Three years ago, Hanusa ran into armed rob­bers dressed as mil­i­tary men near Akure, Ondo State cap­i­tal. The hood­lums stole his mo­bile phone and N80,000 he had on him at the time. This was in ad­di­tion to slap­ping and hit­ting him with sticks. It was a near-death ex­pe­ri­ence for him. Sur­pris­ingly, the 35-year-old said com­pared to how hard he strives to put his wife’s mind at rest as re­gards his fidelity, that at­tack was noth­ing.

“I think com­pared to the dan­ger we face on the road, many of us find it more dif­fi­cult to get 100 per cent trust from our wives. They think that all trailer and tanker driv­ers are the same when it comes to flirt­ing with women.

“I know my wife loves me so much but I think she is be­hav­ing that way be­cause of what the other women say about their hus­bands who do this job too.

“Many of my col­leagues have women in ev­ery ma­jor town that they drive through and for this rea­son, they hardly take care of their fam­i­lies. This is the rea­son why their wives don’t be­lieve them any­more,” he said.

‘My wife de­mands HIV test from me be­fore sex’

If Mo­hammed and Hanusa’s wives’ dis­trust of their hus­bands is high, then that of Mo­hammed Yi­nusa’s wife is on an­other level. Start­ing out as a ‘mo­tor­boy’ eight years ago be­fore grad­u­at­ing to be­com­ing a driver in his na­tive Taraba State, the frail young man has had dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences on the job over the years. Mar­ried one year ago, the for­mer diploma stu­dent of the Fed­eral Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, Yola, Adamawa State, who dropped out of school be­cause of lack of funds, said his wife de­mands an HIV test re­sult from him each time he comes home from a long trip be­fore she al­lows him to have sex with her.

“Those of us who have ed­u­cated wives, they some­times de­mand HIV test be­fore they al­low us to have sex with them. My wife de­mands this a lot even though she knows I won’t cheat on her.

“I got mar­ried last year and some­times I am on the road for two weeks. I spend at least five days be­fore load­ing and coming back to La­gos. It is a very te­dious job I do, so where would I have the time to cheat? But my wife doesn’t want to hear any of that.

“Re­cently, I was at­tacked by armed rob­bers in a se­cluded area where the road was bad.

“As I slowed down to avoid the pot holes, I sud­denly saw sev­eral men with guns emerge from the bush. They opened the ve­hi­cle’s door and di­rected their guns at my head. They col­lected all the money on me, about N50,000 be­fore at­tack­ing sev­eral mo­torists be­hind me.

“When we meet rob­bers on the road like that, for those who don’t have money, they kill or in­jure them. Some­times, even af­ter giv­ing them money, they still go ahead and kill peo­ple. That is how dif­fi­cult our job is.

“To go through such deadly sit­u­a­tions and still come home and see that your wife does not trust you can be very painful,” he said.

Though not both­ered by the sit­u­a­tion, 55-year-old Has­san Ahmed from Sokoto told Satur­day PUNCH that he had done enough to earn the trust and love of his two wives. Blessed with 10 chil­dren from both women, the man, who has ded­i­cated 35 years of his life to driv­ing long dis­tances, said that de­spite the temp­ta­tion of cheap sex and drugs, he does not in­dulge in them. He said he would not ex­pend his en­ergy try­ing to prove his fidelity to his wives.

“Women would al­ways be women no mat­ter how old they are. De­spite the fact that we have 10 chil­dren and our cul­ture per­mits me to marry more wives, the

two women in my house are still not sat­is­fied. They’ll still plead with me not to sleep with young women dur­ing my trips.

“I don’t lis­ten to them be­cause that is not my fo­cus in life. All I am in­ter­ested in is to make enough money to take care of my fam­ily. That is more im­por­tant to me than whether my wives trust me or not be­cause no mat­ter what I do, they’ll still feel that I have other women out there,” he said.

While not all trailer and tanker driv­ers in­dulge in im­moral acts while on the road and away from their fam­i­lies for sev­eral weeks and some­times months, vis­its to a hand­ful parks in La­gos and Ogun states dur­ing the day and at night time gave more in­sight into the hap­pen­ings in those places. It gave a deeper un­der­stand­ing of the real lives of trailer and tanker driv­ers, in­clud­ing their as­sis­tants, pop­u­larly called mo­tor­boys.

For ex­am­ple, dur­ing a re­cent visit to Ogere, a pop­u­lar hub for trail­ers and tankers along the Lagosi­badan Ex­press­way, our cor­re­spon­dent ob­served how a bee­hive of other ac­tiv­i­ties went on at the place from morn­ing till night, pro­vid­ing en­ter­tain­ment and re­lax­ation for driv­ers, their as­sis­tants and oth­ers there. While young and mid­dle-aged men, who pre­pare tea, pap, noo­dles and other quick fixes known in lo­cal Hausa di­alect as Mai Shai, help many of these road work­ers, who stop by this pop­u­lar park to be­gin their days with af­ford­able meals from as early as 5am, oth­ers hawk­ing herbal mix­tures of all kinds, in­clud­ing en­ergy drinks are also not far away to give the men some­thing to ‘charge them up’ as they pre­pare for long and tir­ing days ahead. As eat­ing and drink­ing go on, the voices of var­i­ous mu­si­cians from the north­ern part of the coun­try are heard blast­ing from al­most ev­ery avail­able speaker to add colour to the al­ready car­ni­val-like at­mos­phere at the place.

Sex work­ers tar­get parks for clients

As our cor­re­spon­dent moved around dif­fer­ent sec­tions of the ex­pan­sive trailer park, he ran into one mo­tor­boy, Auwal, who re­vealed that the pic­ture was more in­ter­est­ing at night when there were sev­eral at­trac­tions, in­clud­ing beau­ti­ful women, will­ing to sleep with men for the right price.

“Of all the parks that we stop to rest and check our trail­ers, Ogere is by far the most in­ter­est­ing,” he said, flash­ing a bright smile at the re­porter. “Food and drinks are cheap here, so also are the women. They are beau­ti­ful and they will co­op­er­ate with you eas­ily, once you have some money on you. I like this place a lot.”

The young man, who is mar­ried with two chil­dren, told Satur­day PUNCH that many of them that are un­able to sup­press the urge for sex, usu­ally con­tracts one of the many women that flock the place at night and some­times after­noons, for some qual­ity time. Ac­cord­ing to him, af­ter agree­ing a fee with a par­tic­u­lar, they go ahead to pay for one of the chalets for about an hour or two, depend­ing on how they want it to be, be­fore the ac­tion takes place.

Find­ings by our cor­re­spon­dent re­vealed that for as low as N2,000, the sex work­ers of­fer their bod­ies to the trailer driv­ers, who in turn have to fur­ther spend N1,500 for the use of a chalet for one hour be­fore be­ing at­tended to. Due to the high de­mand and cheap na­ture of ‘en­joy­ment’ at this pop­u­lar park, pros­ti­tutes from places such as Sagamu, Ijebu Ode, Ibadan and other nearby towns throng Ogere ev­ery day to ser­vice an end­less list of cus­tomers. While a hand­ful of the men here told our cor­re­spon­dent that they nor­mally use con­doms when they have sex with the sex work­ers, two tanker driv­ers, who re­fused to give their names, said they had charms that pro­tected them from con­tract­ing HIV/AIDS or other sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases, hence no need for con­doms with the pros­ti­tutes at Ogere and other trailer parks they stop to have sex.

The sit­u­a­tion is not lim­ited to Ogere, as our cor­re­spon­dent learnt that the story is sim­i­lar in other pop­u­lar places trailer and tanker driv­ers con­verge to rest and ex­am­ine their ve­hi­cles as they ap­proach or depart La­gos – Nige­ria’s main com­mer­cial city where many of them of­ten come to de­liver or pick up goods.

At Kara area, though most of the driv­ers ap­proached feigned ig­no­rance of the avail­abil­ity of cheap, un­pro­tected sex there, the pres­ence of scant­ily clad ladies at the place when our cor­re­spon­dent vis­ited, sug­gested that sex work­ers were also en­gag­ing in their busi­ness there. Women hawk­ing all kinds of herbal mix­tures, in­clud­ing en­ergy drinks, were also seen at the place dur­ing the visit.

In ad­di­tion to the cheap sex, there were herbal mix­tures for sale along with other at­trac­tions. It was learnt that some sec­tions are trans­formed into cin­e­mas at night. Sit­ting on any­thing avail­able, in­clud­ing on top of parked ve­hi­cles, driv­ers, their mo­tor­boys and oth­ers con­verged to watch movies, crack jokes and en­gage in all kinds of dis­cus­sions at such places. At the back­ground were sev­eral kiosks where phones were charged for a fee and var­i­ous other items were sold. These ac­tiv­i­ties are said to go on well into the night and some­times, the early hours of the next day, mak­ing them places with round-the­clock ac­tiv­i­ties. It was learnt that such things pro­vide ir­re­sistible at­trac­tions for vis­i­tors at var­i­ous trailer and tanker parks in the coun­try.

But be­yond the randy na­ture of many of these driv­ers and their as­sis­tants, the dan­ger they con­tend with on the road is real and unimag­in­able, some of them said. For ex­am­ple, apart from some­times los­ing all their earn­ings to ban­dits on the road, many of them, over the years, have equally lost their lives in the process. For those who have been lucky to walk away from such at­tacks, the scars sus­tained from such en­coun­ters serve as a con­stant re­minder of the dan­ger they deal with on a daily ba­sis.

“Each time I look at the knife scars on my shoul­der and my back, they re­mind me of how I could have died dur­ing a trip five years ago af­ter be­ing at­tacked by armed rob­bers at Mokwa in Niger State,” Kabiru Sam­bawa, a 43-year-old tanker driver, said.

“Though I still feel pains on those spots from time to time even af­ter five years, I can’t com­plain be­cause many oth­ers who en­coun­tered sim­i­lar at­tacks have died.

“It is a very risky job we do and that is why many of my col­leagues try to en­joy them­selves while still alive by sleep­ing with var­i­ous women at the dif­fer­ent parks they visit,” he added.

While many peo­ple, who en­gage in phys­i­cal and en­ergy-sap­ping vo­ca­tions of­ten use anal­gesics at the end of each day, many of the driv­ers and mo­tor­boys Satur­day PUNCH spoke with said they use none of that. Ac­cord­ing to them, two to three hours of sleep and a few cans of en­ergy drinks, help them re­gain lost en­ergy and keep them awake. How­ever, some ad­mit­ted to hav­ing charms and amulets, which they claimed could pro­tect them from rob­bery at­tacks and body pains.

Giv­ing rea­sons why most trailer and tanker driv­ers would con­tinue to find it dif­fi­cult in win­ning the trusts of their wives, so­ci­ol­o­gist, Imoh Ekanem, said events over the years had proven that there is in­deed a high rate of im­moral­i­ties around parks, lead­ing to the spread of sex­u­ally-trans­mit­ted dis­eases, in­clud­ing HIV/AIDS.

“Due to the free money avail­able to most of these trailer and tanker driv­ers, they find it easy to en­gage the ser­vices of pros­ti­tutes when­ever they want sex.

“While there are some de­cent ones among them, ma­jor­ity are care­less about their health and so en­gage in un­pro­tected sex, thereby putting their lives and those of their wives at risk.

“With in­creased ed­u­ca­tion, many of the women in the North are be­gin­ning to un­der­stand the dan­ger of their hus­bands hav­ing many sex part­ners out­side their homes. That is why they are de­mand­ing that the men stay faith­ful be­cause they also keep their bod­ies for them.

“I know the odds do not favour many of the women in the North due to re­li­gion and cul­tural bar­ri­ers, I think it is a good thing that they are be­gin­ning to put their hus­bands on their toes by de­mand­ing for more trust,” he said.

In July this year, a non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion, Sus­tain­able Mech­a­nism for Im­prov­ing Liveli­hood Em­pow­er­ment, said there had been an in­crease in cases of HIV/AIDS in Kogi State, point­ing out that Oba­jana, a pop­u­lar com­mu­nity where trailer driv­ers con­verged, was tak­ing the lead in that re­gard. Co­or­di­na­tor of the or­gan­i­sa­tion in the state, Ke­hinde Arowosegbe, made the dis­clo­sure.

“Kogi is the only state that shares bound­aries with nine states in­clud­ing the FCT.

“Be­cause of in­ter-bor­der trans­mis­sion of the dis­ease, Kogi is vul­ner­a­ble. If we don’t tackle it now, it will af­fect many chil­dren as the ac­tiv­i­ties of trailer driv­ers at their park will have a mul­ti­plier ef­fect,” he said.

Stand­ing at 3.1 mil­lion as of 2017, Nige­ria has the sec­ond largest HIV epi­demic in the world with un­pro­tected sex ac­count­ing for 80 per cent of new cases. Ac­cord­ing to med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner, Michael Onanuga, ex­cept more aware­ness is con­ducted, es­pe­cially around mo­tor parks, the sit­u­a­tion might not change in the coming months.

“Even though a lot of aware­ness and sen­si­ti­sa­tion has been done over the years, more work still needs to be done as far as the fight against HIV/AIDS and sex­u­ally-trans­mit­ted dis­eases are con­cerned.

“We need to take the cam­paign to mo­tor parks where driv­ers ply­ing var­i­ous routes across the coun­try reg­u­larly en­gage dif­fer­ent women for sex.

“We need to let them know the ben­e­fits of hav­ing pro­tected sex if at all they must have sex, so that more lives would be saved in the coun­try,” he said.

But whether the aware­ness level for HIV/AIDS and other sex­u­ally-trans­mit­ted dis­eases are raised or not, the likes of Hanusa, Mo­hammed and Yi­nusa may con­tinue to find it hard win­ning their wives’ trust. For them, be­ing trailer and tanker driv­ers comes with a lot of pains – some­thing they wish can change soon.




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