TILL now,they violate every known traffic law with impunity.Police attempts to curb their excesses made little or no impact.They became ungovernable.
Try Mile 2 to LASU along Badagry Express way, and the Isolo to Ejigbo road, to see how unruly they have become. They take no notice of LASTMA along these and other roads!
Men and even boys who came down from north of Africa in pursuit of security jobs which we call “Meguard” joined the Okada riders. People from Niger, Sudan, Somalia, and other troubled nations of North Africa, became Okada riders, and introduced more violence, crime, and abuse into the business, leading to the increasing outcry against the business. We, with our open eyes created the monster which we must learn to tame and manage.
Now that the party with their political fathers is over, the politicians have woken up, and can see more clearly now and they want to flush out a business and source of livelihood of millions of Nigerians without providing a carefully thought out plan and programme to give these ones another means to sustain their livelihood. We need to sieve the wheat from the chaff in stopping the Okada.
It is estimated that over five million families depend on riding Okada and Keke NAPEP for livelihood, which in essence means that over a conservative 10 million Nigerians live on Okada. Okada riding accounts for up to N20 billion business in this country. In Imo State, university and tertiary institution graduates, own and ride Okada as their means of lively hood.
This applies to many other states, including Lagos. A half-hazard ban on the operation of Okada, therefore, will push these persons who are living on the edge of life into crime.
This can be so wrong and ill-advised at this time when national security and crime management have become monumental challenges. We, as a nation and people, must change our attitude towards one another; we must begin to attach values to the lives and livelihood of Nigerians.
Some of these bans and restrictions are just politically- motivated because the leaders of the Okada group are relating with the opposition party in a state .No state government is known to have carried out a study in which the impact of the ban and the attendant income displacement have been critically assessed.
His Excellencies may want us to believe that the bans on Okada are in the over all interest of all, and we agree. But in states like Lagos and Imo, for example, where over three million people commute to work daily on Okada, how many can 700 taxis carry per day?
If each taxi moves four persons in 30 runs per day, you have a total of only 84,000 persons moved per day. How will the remaining over two million people move? Where are buses to help and how many are provided by the states governments?
What is the plan for movement from villages to cities and vice versa ? We must accept that in a democracy, our leaders are not to see themselves as rulers but servants of the people and that our overall welfare and care are squarely their responsibilities.
Why, for example, can two ACN states not come together to power the establishment of an assembly plant for small buses like the Suzuki 6 Seater bus, or the Dahaitsu Small buses given the huge market for commuting within towns in Nigeria.
The Suzuki buses are effective in Festac Town, while Dahaitsu buses are popular in Ondo and Ekiti states.
Why will any two PDP states not work together to manufacture small buses, especially in the South South and South East states where the funding seem to be available?
These buses could be introduced in other states and across the nation, as a more dignifying means of moving or transporting persons from one point to the other.
In a country where our national transport policy seems to be dying, and confused, what is the offer on the table for the ordinary man?
The intra-city transport plans of some states cannot easily be noticed among the people. There are no plans for trams, or better and safer means of mass movement within the cities.
Even in Lagos State where such a surface train plan seems to be in the pipeline from Orile into Lagos Island, the slow pace of construction along the Lagos Badagry expressway is killing life and business along the Badagry axis.
A careful look at the railway plans offers nothing to the people. If properly planned, these small buses should be used to replace Okada and Keke which to me are grave representatives of extreme poverty.
On the eve of the elections in Ondo State recently, newspapers reported Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu as saying that he invested billions of Naira in Ondo State election campaigns.
I plead with ACN to deploy part of these huge funds in providing means of commuting from the villages to the cities and within the cities to the people from henceforth. Our governors should replace Okada and Keke with small buses, thereby upgrade the life and living standards of their fellow country men.
What is worth doing at all is worth doing well, and that is why the time has come for buses to replace Okada all over Nigeria.The Federal Government may even provide the lead in this direction.
But until they come up with an alternative plan, governments should bear in mind that Okada riders are humans, Nigerians, and have their right to care, concern and provisions from their leaders. We really cannot wish them away, but must give them a better life.
Mr. CLEMENT UDEGBE, a lawyer, wrote from Lagos.