THE new trend in almost all the states of South East and South West Nigeria is to ban Motorcycle (Okada) riders, and if nothing is done, state governments will completely wipe out that sector without blinking as is usual in treating the people, in this country.
It has become fashionable to treat them as bad people, responsible for all the woes of our city transport systems and poor delivery in electoral promises.
The use of Okada riding across the states arose as one of the impacts of closure and relocation of industries from Nigeria due to sustained very harsh and difficult economic environment in our country, which escalated the rate of unemployment, leaving erstwhile gainfully employed persons with no option than to participate in the transport sector through riding Okada.
Okada riding as much as I can remember started around 1988/7, during the military era. They became more relevant as governments failed to give adequate consideration to the provision of dignified transport system and means for the people.
I remember women making a jest of each other in Imo State, when any rode to any occasion on Okada those early days, but like unwary and uncaring people we are, Okada is today a major means of movement in many areas of Nigeria including Imo.
I remember that Prof. Wole Soyinka, our Nobel Price Laureate, had to procure the services of an Okada rider to effectively monitor the NADECO action against the evil of June 12 elections result cancellation in 1993.
Important members of our society, Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers, Journalists, Top civil servants, and Industrialists have had cause at one time or the other to run to the Okada rider for assistance during emergencies.
They were always there covering every nook and corner of the states. In Lagos with the traffic gridlock, many often use Okada to catch their flights, and other urgent commitments. The necessity for quick movement led to the boom in Okada business.
Our beloved Charlie Boy Oputa, was a Patron and great mobiliser of the Okada group till he relocated to Abuja. Government at all levels should have known that the growth was becoming unprecedented and should have thought of providing a safer and more acceptable means of movement for the people.
Instead, civilian governors and the Federal Government, distributed Okada and Keke NAPEP, under their poverty alleviation programmes. In order to win elections politicians across the country, provided millions of these men with Okada to ride.
These politicians used them as informants, agents and evil fingers in their deadly desires to acquire power during elections and after. Nudged on by politicians, the Okada riding group acquired boldness, to challenge any in the event of any accidents.
Okada riders in Lagos cannot be wrong, in any accident situation, they will gather in their numbers to harass, intimidate and submerge the voice of any motorist in a brush with any one of them.They became a powerful force, especially in Lagos.
Mr. CLEMENT UDEGBE, a lawyer, wrote fromLagos.