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Okada Bad! Govt ‘Badder’!!

Okada Bad! Govt ‘Badder’!!

 

By Femi Akintunde-Johnson, Lagos

Nowadays, in Lagos, Nigeria, the simple most politically correct statement is that Okada is bad business; surely the Okada menace is real.

Okada riders conveying their passengers across town in a Nigerian city

Without disputing that position, let us put in a parallel position: should a government also be ‘bad’ to deal with a bad situation. If common thugs storm the road to villainy with scant regard for law and order; should law enforcers be encouraged to effect ’ jungle justice’ on the unruly crowd, even for the sake of creating a peaceful and orderly society?

 

Whichever way we look at it, the Lagos State government’s drive to rein in the seemingly lawless and dangerous antics of Okada (commercial motorcycle) riders in the state would ordinarily commend itself to reasonable people. The rightness of government’s vision is unassailable. After all, lives are sacrosanct - a little detail that Okada riders appear reluctant to worry about.

 

Several people have died, many more have been maimed; homes and dreams destroyed by the wanton recklessness of these riders. Admittedly, even the Okada riders also post self-destroying high casualty figures in these deadly statistics.

 

What more, the manner and method many of these Okada riders operate their unbalanced machines suggest they either have a death-wish before coming to Lagos with a target to kill as many Lagosians as possible; or they ignorantly assume a veneer of indestructability - though statistics at orthopaedic hospitals and bone-setting centers all over Lagos put a lie to their foolish fantasies.

 

Yet on the menace of the Okadas, their cup is certainly full: they have no regard for traffic rules. They carry a gruelling distaste for motorists and pedestrians. The beast in the average Okada rider is unleashed when he has a brush with a motorist - it doesn’t matter whether the car driver is right or wrong. Within few minutes of such a minor scrape, the scene of accident is speedily overtaken by tens and tens of ‘’solidarizing’’ Okada riders, seeking instant reprieve for their colleague. If the ill-fated motorist is not wise enough to ‘shush’ the fast-developing dilemma, he will be a victim of brutal ‘justice’ where the raging Okada assembly acts as judge, lawyer, law-enforcer and insurance company!

 

Sadly, the checklist of Okada riders’ atrocities is long, untidy and provocative. They are a difficult sector to hold brief for; yet the bastard child in a family of blue bloods, is still at the very least a member of the family, a fellow human being.

 

My argument is not in any way supportive of the reported criminal actions of some Okada riders who allegedly destroyed some of the state’s popular BRT buses. And as a consequence of these foolish acts of destroying public properties, the state House of Assembly is reportedly weighing the possibility of a blanket ban of Okada as means of commercial transportation.

 

Of course, no government will fold its hands as a small section of its thriving populace takes the law into its own hands and basically ‘levy war’ against the majority. Destroying public infrastructure and endangering lives of fellow citizens while expressing pecuniary interest in a private enterprise should never be condoned. The Okada riders have dragged their own case from bad to worse. You cannot take an ‘opponent’ to court and still engage in self-help. It beggars reason that someone being nominated for sacrificial burning now goes around town looking for petrol.

 

Now, to the government of Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN (BRF). The sanctimonious attitude of the Lagos powers-that-be would have been acceptable if conditions precedent to the establishment of the Traffic Laws of Lagos State were conducive for expanding and integrating transportation system. Of course we know that Rome was not built in a day; the same reason why Okada cannot be wished off our streets with a flick of the hands.

 

What do you call a government whose response to affront against its law is not only to confiscate offending private property worth over 100,000 naira each - and subsequently announce that 3,000 of those motorbikes have been crushed! Why crush 300million naira worth of private enterprise just to institute compliance? Is that not the same disease eating up the fabric of our social and political landscape? - Impunity!?

 

Apparently, in answering that question their own way, aggrieved Okada riders thoughtlessly descended on government property in retaliatory indiscretion. Foolish as that action is, the activities and vision of the government in dealing with the menace of Okada riders suggest that our rulers don’t understand participatory politics, in spite of their paper qualification and exposure.

 

We are told to go to Igbobi (National Orthopaedic Hospital) and see the grim reaper Okada has become. That is true. But we can also tell Fashola to go around Lagos at night time without security escorts, and see how vagabonds, rapists, thugs and armed robbers run amok, killing and maiming and robbing the innocent at will.

 

Of course the finger can conveniently be pointed at Fashola for instigating the recent wave of criminal activities around Lagos State on account of his mindless anti-people posturing and policies … such as the demolition of shanties without even inadequate rehabilitation to marginally compensate evictees for the almost sudden deprivation of shelter. The gleeful mass destruction of thousands of motorcycles belonging to road ’terrorists’ is not exactly a creative way of tackling the menace.

 

When you want the people on your side in the pursuit of public law and order, a government should find a way to manage such a critical sub-sector in way that the same public will not turn against their hardworking government. It is not by a flick of the wand you remind people that trekking several kilometers to work or to poorly designated bus stops serviced inadequately by a bus service barely able to move around less than a third of the teeming population of Lagos. To a people fed on and bashed by ‘Danfo’ and ‘Okada’ for several years as their only means of transportation to now be denounced for encouraging Okadas as the blight on the antiseptic clean landscape of Lagos is taking governance to ‘Kegite’ level.

 

The level of infrastructural decay is soul-dampening, and while Okadas merely scratch the surface of moving Lagosians (now I refer to residents of the state, the one BRF is praying will wake up, smell the coffee, and flee to their villages) from one spot to another.

 

Based on the prohibition of Okadas from 475 roads and highways, and its attendant crises, it is easy to see that BRF wanted to completely eradicate Okadas from Lagos State. The health, security, law and order, commercial and aesthetic issues involved in the Okada challenge lend support to the need for such a vision to become real in a developing mega-city. So, I have to agree that Okada is ‘’bad business’’ but government should not be ‘’badder’’ superintendent in actualizing such visions.

 

Even when you want to wage a war on behalf of your people, it is perhaps useful to throw in a dose of patience, perseverance, clarity of purpose, steadiness of goals and the overall benefit of the largest chunk of your people – these tendencies should condition the actions and utterances of war generals.

 

How much less mere servants of the people whose tenure and legitimacy should be at the pleasure of the vast majority of the people. On account of these and many acts of this administration, has BRF done enough to earn another term, if he were to run for a third term and if such were possible? The answer, as they say, is in the air.

 

Femi Akintunde-Johnson, Writer, Journalist and Author can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.