It will be difficult at this time for many people to appreciate the benefits in government’s policy priorities that led to the ban on okada operation
In his book: Five essays on philosophy” (published 1965 in the dark, trying days of China), late Chinese leader, Mao Tse-tung, urged his people to develop the consciousness of seeing the hidden benefits in current problems. According to him, every societal problem has a hidden benefit, which is only identified by those with foresight and the capacity for intellectual enquiry. Mao argued that societal problems have two sides: the problem and the good sides.
He posits that when problems occur, virtually everybody (the ‘crowd’) focuses on the “problem side of a problem”. On the other hand, a few have the ability to see the good side of a problem, or what he called the benefit in the problem. Men with unique leadership qualities, he said, usually influence this few. He encouraged his people to follow such leaders and to adhere to their counsel because the “few” do not possess the eyes of the crowd.
Mao’s counsel resonates in Anambra today following the state government’s decision to ban the operation of motorcycle taxi or commercial motorcycle (popularly called Okada) in Awka – the state capital; and Onitsha – the commercial nerve centre. The ban, which took effect from July 1, 2018, has elicited criticisms and condemnations against Gov. Willie Obiano administration. There are, however, a few voices of commendation, which consider the ban as the governor’s ability to see the future benefit in the problem that led to the decision.
It will be difficult at this time for many people to appreciate the benefits in government’s policy priorities that led to the ban on okada operation; because of the “ready cash” the business affords the operators and their owners. It will also take uncommon courage, forthrightness and determination to adopt and enforce such decision. The state government maintains that the policy is for public good.
According to the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Cdon Adinuba, the state government has a “dignifying alternative for okada riders”. He explained that Obiano-led government sees beyond the low-income generating capacity of motorcycle taxi (okada), which adds limited value to the lives of the operators and creates more problems than it appears to be solving. In his usual strategic policy initiatives, the governor did not approve the ban without a viable alternative. It therefore requires courage for a “comfortable” okada rider today to see the robust future the alternative provides.
Adinuba, in a press statement, said that Obiano administration decided to phase out motorcycle taxi in Awka and Onitsha in order to economically empower the operators and quicken the process of turning the state into a modern economy. He announced the government’s decision to provide N765 million for commercial motorcyclists in the state to enable them to purchase approved shuttle buses. He said the seed fund would be accessed through the Anambra State Small Business Agency (ASBA) – a small and medium enterprise (SME) development initiative.
The shuttle buses which cost between N700,000.00 and N800,000.0 each would be given to the okada riders upon payment of commitment deposit of N100,000 to ASBA. Thereafter, “they can make payments every two weeks of the interest-free loan so as to repay it within a year and a half. The first set of 200 units of the 1,000 buses in the scheme will soon arrive the state from Japan”, Adinuba said at a press briefing in Awka. He added, “A situation where some members of the public have been made to believe that they cannot rise beyond the level of okada riders is unfair and offends good conscience. Obiano wants commercial motorcyclists to get to the next level by becoming bus owners.”
It is in the interest of the okada operators to embrace this unique programme. It serves the purpose of advancing their living standard and making them more resourceful. The youth and middle-aged should embrace the revolution launched in the agricultural, industrial, educational and skill acquisition sectors by Obiano to improve their lives. Anambra has fertile land that makes it one of Nigeria’s food baskets. Foreign investors are frequently “invading” the state because of the economic viability of every sector. The inland river port at Onitsha that has been moribund for many years is an asset that will boost tourism, trade and transportation when revived.
The business of motorcycle taxi can only offer temporary and limited palliative to poverty; the “daily cash” it provides cannot be compared to investment in shuttle bus which guarantees higher turnover, better security, enhanced health condition, ownership satisfaction, business comfort and expansion. It minimizes exposure to criminal attacks and road accidents that could result to permanent disability. The youth who spend their productive years riding okada are not only demeaning their self-esteem, but depreciating in value.
As Obiano said through the Information and Public Enlightenment Commissioner, okada business does not guarantee growth. Business and economy experts say few people are known to have achieved business success through okada riding as occupation. Besides, the degree of untimely death and physical disability it exposes the operators is alarming. This has reinforced the call for total ban of motorcycle taxi across the country by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC). The agency maintains that okada is a major cause of fatal road traffic accidents across the country.
For instance, FRSC Corps Marshal, Boboye Oyeyemi, disclosed in the October 2016 monthly Road Traffic Crash (RTC) report in Abuja that 230 cases or 18 per cent of a total of 1,259 road vehicles accidents across the country involved commercial motorcycles (okada). The report revealed that motorcycle accidents ranked third after cars which accounted for 457 cases or 36 per cent, followed by minibuses with 243 or 19 per cent of the total. “Following the outcome of the analysis, it could be concluded that motorcycle still constitutes serious menace on the nation’s highways. Accordingly, improved results could be achieved in the future, if more state governments could consider placing a ban on the use of motorcycle for commercial purposes”, Oyeyemi said.
Experts have shown that motorcycle taxi is not only problematic short of being a viable source of living. A study by P.E. Iribhogbe and E.D. Odai entitled “Driver-related risk factors in commercial motorcycle (okada) crashes in Benin City, Nigeria”, showed that motorcyclists constitute a high proportion of fatalities in road traffic crashes and that commercial motorcyclists (okadas) constitute a unique group in this regard.
“The majority of okada drivers (82.8%) took to the okada business as a last resort. Driver’s licenses for okada operation were possessed by 73.5% of drivers, but only 27.2% had taken a road test before being given a license. No form of training on the use of okadas was received by 45% of drivers before they commenced operations. Crash helmets were owned by 56.4%, but they did not use them on a regular basis. Inconvenience was the reason provided for poor compliance by 52.7% of drivers. Regular intake of alcohol was present in 39.8% of drivers”, the findings revealed.
The researchers concluded: “Okada drivers are mainly young males with a low level of education who are ill-prepared and ill-equipped for the road. This is a recipe for traffic crash-related injuries and fatal motorcycle crashes. There is an urgent need for job creation, better licensing procedures, road safety education, national legislation, and enforcement of crash helmet laws as well as alcohol breath tests for okada drivers in Nigeria.”
Similar study by Florence Omumu, Pauline Tibi and Olufunke Chenube on “Commercial cyclists (Okada riders) and alcohol related problems in Delta State in June 2017, showed that “Commercial cyclists (popularly known as okada riders in Nigeria) pose a great danger to the public in most parts of Nigeria because of their reckless riding behaviours.”