They shouldn’t have been here in the first place. They had no viable business being here, not even remotely. That they ever rode here is as a result of systemic failure.
They started trickling into Lagos as Okada. From Okada, the riders moved to Keke business. The more ambitious among them attempted OPay, etc. Then the bubble burst; and the centre could not hold again.
The Lagos traffic situation became embarrassingly chaotic. Things were turned upside down. What ought to be a relief became an excruciating pain on our fragile necks.
And riding on Okada and Keke turned suicidal. They became nuisances with maximum recklessness. They were daring, rash, fearless and heedless. Once a passenger ventured to call them to their senses, they became instantly infuriated.
They were wild, foolhardy, hot-headed and seemingly uncontrollable. There was complete lawlessness, disorderliness. Then Lagos applied the brakes. It put a huge spanner in the works for the Okada and Keke riders.
It was a sudden halt. The state government prohibited the commercial cyclists from operating in six local governments and nine LCDAs. And things have not been the same in the Centre of Excellence.
Useful flashback: Okada took its nickname from Okada Air, established in 1983 by Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin, Edo State. The airline itself was named after Okada town, near Benin. Though the company folded up in 1997, its name got stuck as the nickname of commercial motorcycle operators.
Thereafter, Okada began to spread like harmattan fire. It instantly became the rave of the moment. The riders easily navigate narrow and bad roads and remote areas. They meander through the hectic urban traffic with great deftness, “meeting the unmet transport needs of some urban residents.”
One report said: “Unemployed youths began to use motorcycles (Okada) to earn money by transporting passengers swiftly to their doorsteps and sometimes on narrow or poorly maintained roads.” That was how “this type of transportation quickly became popular, and acceptance of it increased steadily.”
Okada riders are masters of the art. Wikipedia explained their dexterity and audacity this way: “They could manoeuvre through the heavy traffic of Lagos, and take passengers to their destinations in a timely manner, in the same way as the airline.”
Okada has eaten deeply into our social life. It took the better of us. There is no contention about that. They have taken the dangerous toga of a social menace. It needed to be curbed and curtailed before it consumed us all.
We all saw the danger coming. And when it came, we watched and even nurtured its growth carelessly. Its unruliness and wildness were simply unmatched. Yet, we were negligent. We incautiously allowed it to fester to its ugly peak.
That is a big minus on our part. The Okada exploited our ineptitude and insensitivity. They became lords onto themselves. That is why the ban is attracting uncanny sympathy from the users.
They have lost hope in government and governance. It is the collapse of the system that bred Okada. And the patrons have no apologies for this.
Expectedly, the bulk of the hailing hailers of this ban comes from the elite, the rich and rulers who feign to be leaders. The wailing wailers are the real downtrodden. And it is never their fault that Okada became their favourite. These rascals in power have failed them several times over. They simply made do with what they could lay their hands on.
Overnight, Okada business, as it were, grew in bounds and acceptance. Brisk entrepreneurs lavishly feasted on it as their cash cow. They leased out several okadas to riders and reaped bountifully thereof. It was a lucrative and prosperous venture.
In the past, all over the country, their bans have always been greeted with utter displeasure and disdain. And the Lagos ban could not have been an exception. It attracted such uproar and resistance. Clearly, the ban was done at the wrong time for the right reason. The Okada operators had no choice than to quit the road. But the government stubbornly refused to provide a viable alternative, palliatives to cushion the damage. What an option without alternative!
The policy was poorly formulated and executed. That has been the signature tune of our government. It is shoddily handled with utter carelessness. Its essence is not only lost but also defeated.
Instead of hailing, there is wailing; instead of praises, there are curses. The ban has recruited for itself a large army of haters, instead of lovers. It attracted enemies in place of acquaintances; foes instead of friends.
There is a strange takeaway from this sad narrative. We tragically remain chaotic in our policymaking and implementation. We have refused to learn anything useful and positive from our chequered history.
Agreed. The ban must come. It was inevitable; it was a matter of time and season. But how would you handle it? It could come in phases or stages with reasonable breathing space.
We must recognise this fact: that is the source of their revenue. They eke a living by riding. That is their lot and we have to graciously concede that to them. That is the only option they have for now. You just don’t wake up from the wrong side of your bed and snatch that option without an alternative? Very absurd, callous and wicked. And that is what government did in Lagos last week.
The implementation of the ban ought to be made less painful and stressful for both the operators and users. But government would not do that. It preferred to act first and then search for solutions that are not there. It is an act of insincerity, insensitivity and the height of deceit.
We must remember that Keke and Okada are being used as important empowerment tools in some parts of the country. Some even add wheelbarrows and shoe-shining kits to the package. Governors and lawmakers distribute these tools with fanfare. What then do we make of the Lagos ban? Where do we place the action? Wonders will never end. In this our eerie clime, we run our affairs upside down. We walk with our heads and think with our legs. The reason we get awkward results.
For many years running, the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway gridlock has defied all solutions. President Muhammadu Buhari came, saw and was conquered. The gridlock equally conquered Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. It actually consumed former Governor Akinwumi Ambode.
It is still staring Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the face. But he chose to ignore that and picked on Okada and Keke, the voiceless. What unkind kudos! You have satisfied your appetite in nailing Keke and Okada. Take the same zeal to confront these trailers and trucks. They have effectively taken over some vital parts of your state. Will you keep quiet?
Every government that dared them failed. The local, state and federal governments all fell. The harder they came, the harder they fell. The trailers continued to soar. They grew in strength and queues. The trailers remain stubbornly untouchable. They are owned by the powerful and the mighty, both in and out of government. They hold the aces.
But not so with Keke and Okada. They are owned by lesser mortals. They are the wretched, the wrecks in society. That was why they could be easily crushed and silenced and left to lick their festering wounds all alone, while government looks the other way. Let Sanwo-Olu dare these trailers if he can. That is our ultimate wish; it is our throwback to him.