Mr Ejiro Otarigho, the heroic Nigerian tanker driver, who drove a burning truck away from a densely-populated area in Delta State to avert a disaster which could have claimed many lives, tells GODFREY GEORGE he feels overwhelmed by the outpouring of commendation, cash gifts and others he has received for his brave act
It was in the news that some well-meaning Nigerians donated N1.2m to you for your heroic act of driving a burning petrol-laden tanker to avert tragedy. Is this true?
Yes, it is very true. When I got a call from the Executive Director, Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights, Frank Tietie, on Monday or so, it was like a dream. My wife and everyone couldn’t believe that all this was real. My life has changed in such a short while just for an act of courage, which God used me to perform. On Tuesday, I was presented with a cheque of N1, 216, 300.88k. These were donations made from June 12 to 21, 2022.
How did you feel holding the cheque in your hands?
I almost cried, to be honest. I kept asking myself, “Is this me?” The feeling is overwhelming. I cannot believe Nigerians would be so kind to a man like me. I am just a man who was used by God to save my people, and I am so grateful to God for that opportunity to be used. It feels like a dream.
I am so grateful to God. I was taken to First Bank at Ahmadu Bello Way, Abuja and the cheque was handed to me. They kept hailing me, “Brave man! Brave man!” God, indeed, is great. Nigerians are really kind people. I cannot be more grateful. I never did it for all this. Nigerians and the government saw my intentions and thought it was worthy of all these accolades, and it humbles me. I am very happy about it. I have no regrets about it. God did not take my life but accepted my goodwill, I am really pleased.
Have you got any other gift apart from the N1.2m?
The Delta State Government presented a cheque of N2m to me. The government also gave me a plaque and named me a youth ambassador in the state. The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers also commended me and gave me an honour. I was named an ambassador of NUPENG. I am the first to be given such an honour in this country. Many other groups have been calling and giving me commendations and I cannot but be thankful.
We also learnt that you have been invited by the Senate.
Yes, that is true. As I speak to you now (Thursday afternoon), I am in Abuja. I met with the Personal Assistant to the Senate President yesterday (June 22) or so. I was only invited though, I have not been given anything yet. I am waiting for some procedure. We have not got anything for now but I am on the line.
But you said in an earlier interview that you prefer being given another tanker to being conferred with a national honour. Have you changed your mind now?
Well, I would want to get both (laughs). If the government finds me worthy to be given an honour, who am I to say no to it? I must have said those things out of happiness. I was overjoyed by the fact that a lot of people were calling to congratulate me. But deeply thinking about it now, I feel very honoured to be chosen by the Senate to be given a national honour. It is something that I never imagined in my wildest imagination, and for that, I will remain grateful to the government. If an ordinary man like me can find favour with the head of the land, I know that God indeed has opened my file of remembrance. I will appreciate with all my heart if they give me the honour but I would also love it to come with a good job or a truck replacement. I can’t reject any good thing that has been given to me.
Have you got any job promises from anyone?
I am hoping for God for everything.
What are your educational qualifications?
I don’t want those ones to be in the public domain. When we get to that bridge, we will cross it.
How’s your family receiving your sudden popularity?
They have just been grateful to God. I have received a lot of negative reactions from the public. I have got positive reactions too. Social media is a wonderful place. I was in church on Sunday when I got a call from someone, telling me to check what people were saying. Popularity is not easy. I don’t even bother to respond to them because I am where God said I should be now. When I was in my small corner and unknown, I didn’t get these talks. But as God has considered me worthy to be here today, I will accept all that comes with it. I just came to the conclusion that everything works together for the good of those that love God.
You mentioned that the burnt truck belongs to your boss. Have there been any discussions on how to replace it?
For now, I don’t know about all that. I will talk to him about it. He has not asked me for anything. For now, we have not even seen each other because of my busy schedule. It is when I get back to Warri, Delta State, that we will talk about it.
What has all this taught you about life generally?
It has taught me to be kind, good and diligent in anything my hands find to do.
Source: The PUNCH