By Emmanuel Udom
Commercial motorcycle operators, popularly known as Okada riders are angry in Lagos, south-west Nigeria.
Anger is acceptable, legitimate and therefore welcome, when it is used to address perceived injustice.
But, before getting angry, let us ask ourselves the reasons for wanting to become mad temporally, for this is what anger is basically all about.
The riders are insisting that Babatunde Fashola, governor of Lagos state is routing to run them out of their self-imposed business of conveying people and goods from one point to the other.
The name, okada was coined from the defunct Okada Airline that used to operate quick-fix operations of flying passengers from one airport to the other. This was contrary to the go-slow operations that the equally defunct Nigeria Airway was operating.
Okada riding business actually started from frustrations triggered- off by unemployment in Nigeria, which forced some creative persons to think of ways to keep body and soul together.
Beyond the frustrations, however, an average Lagosian is always in a hurry and therefore prefers to board okada, instead of buses in order to beat the hectic daily traffics in the state.
The Babatunde Fashola angle
Governor Babatunde is not really trying to kill okada business in Lagos and throw the people back to the unemployment market. He is trying to sanitize the running of the business.
But, okada riders seem not to understand this. What they are saying is that the Lagos state government has come out with harsh traffic laws to kill their business.
Looming okada unrest
Penultimate Monday, Dandy Eze, national president, Paths of Peace Initiatives summoned about 5000 angry okada riders and marched to government house in Lagos in protest to compel the state to have a re-think on the need to delete the 496 roads listed as no-go-roads for the riders in the state.The deputy speaker, after listening to the protesters assured that they will look into their demand and see what the government can do.
The police in Lagos have been empowered to enforce the traffic laws and arrest riders, who run foul of the law. But, complains coming from some residents and riders show that the law enforcement officers may have been rather restless, restive and intimidating in going about their business of enforcing the Fashola traffic laws.
Visit any police station in Lagos and you will see that an average of about five okadas is being impounded daily. This has created hellish experiences for the riders and big business for keke marwa, danfo and other transporters in Lagos
There are about 5 million okada riders in Nigeria, with majority of them operating from Lagos. So, with the clamp down on okada business, the cost of transportation has increased by about 200% and the passengers are the ones bearing the brunt.
Everyday, heavy police presence is always observed along Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, Ikorodu road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway up to the Berger axis, as well as other so-called federal roads in Lagos.
Even down-town or what you could call the local roads are not free from police presence. You cannot really the police, whose business is to enforce the laws enacted and signed into law by the state government.
The truth as opposed to propaganda is that some, not all okada riders are criminals. Check police offices in Lagos for the records.
Secondly, some of the riders, after drinking beer, paraga, or other illicit drinks and smoking cigarettes or Indian hemp are reckless, restive and abusive while driving.
So, some passengers and riders have either being maimed or out- rightly killed by some reckless okada riders. Again, check Igbobi hospital or any other hospital in the state for the statistics.
However, while we commend the performing Fashola for trying to clean-up Lagos of criminals, I suggest that he should equally provide concrete alternative for the okada business.
If this is not solidly on ground, there is little the police and all the enforcement agencies could do, since the ban is likely going to heat-up the system and place the police perpetually on the run to curb the increase in criminal activities. I rest my pen for now. God bless Lagos