‘The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things to accomplish the vital ones.” –Brandon Sanderson
Ask any ordinary Lagos resident, and none would bait an eyelid before telling you that these are, perhaps, the worst times to live in Nigeria’s emerging mega city and busiest commercial state capital.
This followed the commencement of the ban on the operation of commercial motorcycles popularly called Okada and tricycles also known as Keke Marwa in six local government areas and nine Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) since February 1.
Even though the ban is not total, its effect in the entire state is huge.
The latest development has again put the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on the news spot.
The last time Governor Sanwo-Olu attracted this sort of large-scale publicity consciousness was on Wednesday, November 6, 2019, when he made good his promise as he formally announced that the prefix title, His Excellency, should no longer be added to his name.
It would be recalled that a lot of disparaging comments trailed Sanwo-Olu after his assumption of office due to brief moment of perceived inactivity that was witnessed early in his government.
But in quick succession, he appears to be gradually hitting the mark and uprooting the seed of doubt forced on many minds by that short moment of seeming inaction.
This time around, his government says that after a robust assessment and consultation with stakeholders, the State Security Council, in compliance with the extant Transport Sector Reform Law 2018, on the debate on motorcycle and tricycle menace, it decided that the security and safety of lives of Lagosians are paramount, hence the resolution to place the ban on commercial motorcycles and tricycles.
The governor said that the ban was to ensure security, as well as reduce traffic congestion in the state of aquatic splendor, promising that the state government would provide alternative means of transportation for Lagosians.
And to show his seriousness and make good the promise of alternatives, on Tuesday, he formally kicked off commercial waterways transportation, with the official launch of eight newly acquired speedboats.
This is as more buses have been released at various routes to ease the effect of the transportation hardship.
Sanwo-Olu said the narrative of transportation in Lagos is about to change for good, as his government is set to take full advantage of the water bodies to decongest the roads and substantially reduce travel time for commuters.
Expectedly, mixed feelings are trailing the exercise as the ban has been met with criticism from some Nigerians in and outside Lagos.
While some Lagosians hail the ban, saying that there is sanity on the roads, there are others who condemned it, arguing that the government should have made adequate arrangements to provide safe, dependable and comfortable alternatives for commuters before the proscription.
Some Okada operators had argued that the governor reneged on his campaign promise not to ban Okada in Lagos, insisting that such trait was not a hallmark of a leader with integrity.
Unarguably, Okada riders, are seen by residents of the state, as necessary evil who they patronize because of inaccessibility of some parts of the state or the unbearable traffic that can at times, take up to three hours to get to some destinations that ordinarily should not take 30 minutes or less. But safety and security factors account for those who support the government on the ban.
Even the Minister of Works and Housing and former governor of the state between 2007 and 2015, Babatunde Fashola, has declared support for Sanwo-Olu over the controversial ban, insisting that Okada cannot be part of the envisioned mega city.
Fashola, at a public lecture organised by the United Action for Change (UAC) in Lagos on Thursday was quoted as saying that “if you care about security, you should back your governor onOkada ban. As a Centre of Excellence, Okada cannot be part of the plan.”
The quest to turn Lagos into a 21st Century economy is one of the critical elements of Sanwo-Olu’s agenda and it is not surprising to many observers that nothing good comes easy and without a price.
The present action, this school of thought say, is one of those prices Lagosians should be prepared to pay in the course of Lagos transformation to a mega city.
A well-placed official of the Sanwo-Olu government who would not want his name to be mentioned told Sunday Sun “You see, Sanwo-Olu promised repeatedly to tackle the roads as soon as the rains are over. True to his promise contractors have been mobilised to sites.
“Since work is in progress in many of the Lagos roads the resultant effect is that there is a lot of traffic jam in most areas due to the slow vehicular movement. Very soon Lagosians will smile, I can tell you, more buses will be released, as well as more ferries in our waterways soonest.
“But most importantly, Lagos security situation has become a threat and we know the means of operation. You must stop them first before they stop you. You have to be alive first before you talk about means of livelihood.”
This is not the first time previous governments in the state banned the motorcycle and tricycle operators, but it never lasted as many contend that weak enforcement of traffic regulations madeOkada and Keke operators everything monster they have become.
Whether this exercise will last or go the way of others remains a matter of just a few weeks of test for Sanwo-Olu’s tall order.
Babajide Sanwo-Olu, 54, was born on June 25, 1965. He was announced the governor under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) after contesting and winning the gubernatorial primaries of the party against the incumbent governor, Akinwunmi Ambode in October 2018.
He is a graduate of the University of Lagos, as well as the London Business School, Lagos Business School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Before his gubernatorial ambition, he was the Managing Director/CEO of Lagos State Property Development Corporation (LSPDC).