It was reported that FG may approve a proposal made by the National Council on Transport to ban Okada (commercial motorcycles). Not unexpectedly, when issues like this which affect a seeming small percentage of the population, people don’t care. They ask why they should be bothered by this negligible piece of information, in the face a plethora of important issues that should demand their attention. What they do not know is that, in that okada world, that piece of information was laden with trepidation. If the proposal comes to fruition, its effects would be to them as devastating as those bombs on Hiroshima.
I do not really blame people for not being interested, and I understand the sentiments of those who think the proposal is a step in the right direction, because truth be told, Okada can be a dangerous means of transportation and has been used for some nefarious activities. But, it is still someone’s survival ticket. It is the reason someone lay claims to two/three meals a day. It is the reason there is a roof over people’s heads at night. The sound of their Okada starting in the morning is to them the sound of hope, that their children are fed today, that they will be taken care of in case they get ill, and that they are in school in the hope that tomorrow they will escape the harsh realities of their parents’ lives. That sound is an assurance that their old parents in the village would not have to bend their arthritic bones to labour for food that barren lands do not always assure.
In the BN report of this development, part of the statement from the Ministry of Transportation reads:
“All states and the Federal Capital Territory have therefore been advised to establish a public transport system that ensure strict regulation of the operation of public passenger transportation system through a well-articulated management system for enhanced safety, security, effective and efficient service delivery
The states are to also develop master plans for the development of intelligent transport system to facilitate the development and management of their transport operations in line with emerging trends and global best practices.”
The argument is for safety, security and development into transport operations in line with emerging global trends. Banning people’s means of livelihood should be at the lowest rung of option in achieving this goal of the Ministry of Transportation. Have the roads been fixed yet, such that lack of safety on our roads is a reality engendered by only Okada? Have there been strict regulations, trainings, orientations, sensitizations, that tackled the issue of lack of safety and whose failure can be blamed on okada riders’ incorrigibility?
Have enough jobs been created? – the kind of large workforce that would assimilate the millions that Okada is a means of livelihood so that they really have other options. Yes, millions, because it is not just the Okada operators but their mechanics and Okada parts dealers.
Truth is, Nigeria is still a third world country and in such places our Okada is a subtle savior. A lot should be in place – developmental and economic – before this important aspect of Nigeria’s reality is phased out. What that statement does show, is how this could be another means by which the few rich enable their status teeming poor. When Ohakim banned okada in Owerri years ago it was so he could force his tricycles on poor masses who had no choice, and Okada riders had to pay through their noses in a brutally enforced system of hired purchase. Tell me this is not going to happen, even on a larger scale now.
You may not care, but situations like this is what we all get a feeling of, directly or vicariously. And that is because, when these millions are cut loose into a job market that already enjoys over 30% unemployment rate, that would be deal a massive blow to the economy and society. There is no saying how a man would react whose source of livelihood has been cut off and his wife is pregnant with twins and he has kids to feed and give education. Sooner rather than later that reaction would be a concern to us all.
So you might not see them because to you their existence is fleeting. Your contact with them is the shortest of all possible contractual responsibilities. When that money changes hands, and they hand you your balance if there is any, that is the end. You’re on to your world, as they are on to theirs, a world very much like yours, with wives and children and parents and responsibilities and love-worries, only you have not found yourself in less favourable realities where you have to carry people around to have a day’s meal.
So before you form your opinion on government directives such as this, look at the big picture, however myopic that might be.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Grantotufo