I RETURNED from a trip outside Lagos to discover this rumour making the rounds that; the Lagos state government has unbanned the operations of motor bike riders (okada), hitherto disallowed from operating along the major streets of Lagos. If the rumour is true, then, it is a jittery sign on the part of the APC, following from, the LASU school fees saga. Oshiomhole’s recall of sacked school teachers, the stumble at Ekiti and the decampment of Nuhu Ribadu to the PDP in Adamawa state.
It is a behavioural pattern that requires a thorough analysis, when we consider the fact that such policies are to serve the overall good of the populace. Take for instance; the okada ban law was well thought through before it was passed, with inputs from the general populace, security experts and finally the state House of Assembly. The withdrawal of okada from the major streets has drastically reduced the crime rate in Lagos. The Police Force attested to this through their official crime statistics releases. The casualty wards of Igbobi and similar hospitals in the state witnessed considerable decline and the doctors, nurses in these hospitals are happier for it. Moreover, with the health hazard constituted by okada as a means of transportation, to both the rider and the passenger, the ban was generally considered a good state policy. Now that the Lagos residents have adjusted to it, bringing it back will mean taking ‘one step forward and three steps backwards’. We were already shouting ‘Ebola’ and its impact on the okada riders and passengers, this is a sure avenue for its spread (God forbid), if the challenges of Ebola is allowed beyond the present state.
The debate now is between ‘stomach infrastructure’ and ‘capital infrastructure’. One is a guarantee for the present, while the second is an investment for the future. I think, both of them could be joggled in such a way that there is a balance without rubbishing a focused, polished, developmental policy like the APC is trying to achieve in Lagos. Allowing the okada riders back on the major streets of Lagos is like ‘going back to one’s vomit’. It is a shame and the APC in Lagos will now be a party of anything goes, just for the sake of winning election. It will be a big setback for the ‘progressives’, the thinkers and hardworking technocrats, who weathered all the odds to put the policy together.
The okada riders were equally annoyed in Edo and other states that have banned them from the streets and life has returned to normal. What Oshiomhole did recently to win them back, was to organize a programme where affordable cars were made available to erstwhile okada riders. Genuine members were identified and the vehicles were distributed amongst them. The people are happy; it was well publicised in the print and electronic media. Governor Fashola can adopt this model. We can also pacify the okada riders through other means, without endangering their lives and that of many other innocent citizens. One way to do this is, get all of them properly registered and identified according to their qualifications and trades; apply the Oshiomhole option and if that cannot take care of every one of them, we adopt other policies of integrating them into government; agriculture, craftsmanship and soft loan to start small scale business.
All of these will be after they have been properly identified and briefed through trainings and seminars. I belong to the school of thought that believes the masses have not been properly sensitised to their individual needs and rights. No matter how harsh a policy is, if the people buy into it, it will succeed. The way the Lagos state handled the tax drivers under the Tinubu and Fashola administrations are perfect examples. Every Lagosian, working or trading or doing business is very aware of his or her tax obligations.
I do not think that a good policy like the okada ban should be jettisoned, because we want to win election. Indeed, if the people fall for that bait, it will be a sad commentary for this country. So, the best appraoch is sensitize the people to the good and ugly side of a policy. The overall aim must be for the common good. Leaders must have the boldness and conscience to stand up for the common good. In civilised societies, leaders are known for stepping aside when they find their policies been criticised by the majority and history had turned out to judge them either right or wrong but, on the whole, they are known to have made sacrifices in the cause they believed in.
The APC should not, out of political exigencies, jettison its well-intentioned policies. In the case of Edo state, Oshiomhole wanted to institute standards amongst the teaching professionals. Apparently, he did not properly sell it to the representatives of the unions. For a man who had been in the fore front of the Labour movement for so many years, it was quite unfortunate that he could not use his skills to persuade his colleagues in this instance. Several meetings ended in deadlock. At the end, he had to wield the big stick through the sack of over 900 teachers. He also, instituted a policy compelling the teachers to write competency examinations, both the teachers and the governor promised not to shift ground on this issue. but immediately APC lost the Ekiti elections, Oshiomhole recanted. The question is; was the governor’s cause not worthy of a sacrifice? Must he change a good policy because he wants to win an election? Again, I say; that is taking the people for a ride. Where he has failed is, his inability to convince the teachers that the cause he is pursuing, is for the overall benefits of the teaching profession and education generally in the state.
The pressure of 2015 is beginning to take its toll on the APC. When the parties (ACN, CPC and ANPP) merged, some of us observed some of the difficulties that would face the merger. Those involved in the merger were ideologically poles apart; the only uniting factor is their determination to prevent the PDP, by extension, Jonathan from contesting the election. I have argued that; the ACN party would have been better and stronger on its own without merging with the reactionary and extreme conservative CPC party. A year after, events within the party have proven us right. Nuhu Ribadu, the supposed ‘conscience’ of the nation, in terms of the anti-corruption crusade, has crossed over to the PDP. So, who is fooling who?
For now, the apc is beginning to drift like a rudderless boat, without direction and form. It is not too late to steer the course to safety. First, they should open up all their structures to proper democratic elections and remove impositions. Secondly, the person they will choose as their presidential candidate must be free to come from anywhere, there should be no restrictions. Allow the Oshiomholes, Fasholas, Amaechis, in deed, anyone, to contest for the presidential ticket, without zoning.
With that, maybe, just maybe, they may begin to have a grasp of the situation.
Sunny Ikhioya, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.