By Adekunle Adekoya
READERS of this column must be wondering why so much attention is being paid to the Okada problem, when there are equally other problems that, on the surface of it, outweigh the issue.
Considering that we’re in the political season, there is fixation on events in the political arena, especially as it concerns the presidential candidates of the two major parties, the PDP and the APC. While the PDP has picked its presidential candidate, the APC has just concluded screening of 23 aspirants, one of whom will emerge either as the choice of the incumbent, or otherwise. The nation is waiting.
In the seven days between the last edition of this column and this one, power generation crashed to an abysmal 2,000 MW and much of the nation remained in darkness. The only areas that remain lit are those where diesel generators are roaring, or solar-powered inverters providing illumination.
A few more Nigerians lit up their homes with petrol generators. Those that can’t afford either diesel or petrol simply begged to charge their phones with neighbours, or at barbing salons, or anywhere they can get a charging point; they will at least remain connected to the rest of the world that way even if they can’t watch TV or iron their clothes.
Also within the same period, the problem of insecurity seem to be worsening, with the kidnap of the Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Dr. Samuel Uche. He was later released after payment of a ransom of N100 million, the same amount that APC charged for its Presidential Nomination and Expression of Interest Forms. Just few of the serious problems we live with daily.
But life must still go on, and movement from one point to another is a crucial part of life and living. Two days ago, the ban placed on Okada in six local government areas of Lagos State came into effect, and there was total compliance by the daredevil riders last Wednesday. In fact, I noted in the last edition of this column that “there will be much huffing and puffing by the security operatives in their bid to enforce the order. Enforcing the order, as I see it, will entail mainly seizures and arrests, which cannot be sustained.”
Barely 24 hours after the ban went into effect, the Okada riders were already daring the Lagos State Government and the law-enforcement agents. Yesterday, Thursday looked normal; many Okada riders had returned to some of the roads they were restricted from, virtually undisturbed by security agents.
In the early hours of Thursday, they were seen in parts of Apapa, Mile-2, Ikeja, and Lagos Island, from where they had disappeared on Wednesday. For fellow compatriots that don’t know, the Okada riders had prepared to do battle with the state government. Their unions had sued LASG before a Federal High Court in Lagos, praying for a declaration that the ban on Okada “is illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional”, and prayed the court to grant an order compelling the government to provide jobs for the teeming commercial motorcycle riders in the state.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, his Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN; Commissioner of Police, Abiodun Alabi; Lagos State Task Force; Lagos State Commissioner for Transport, Dr. Fredric Oladeinde are defendants in the suit.
What does this mean for all of us? What do these developments portend for our body politic? A few things are clear here. One, the law-enforcement agents have either abdicated their responsibilities completely or have opted to be complicit as a section of the society declares war on the rest by refusing to obey validly-made laws.
Two, it is befuddling that a group of people who chose not to obey validly-made laws by refusing to register their motorcycles, refusing to wear helmets, refusing to obey traffic rules and regulations are seeking solace in courts of law.
Three, the decision to challenge the state government is a major step towards anarchy; a group of persons who number in millions refusing to obey constituted authority and desiring to operate based on its whims and caprices are declaring war on the rest of us. Four, the transport unions who reap millions of naira daily from levies collected from the Okada riders have, as expected, opted to side with them against government and the rest of us.
I had noted earlier that the Okada problem is no longer a local problem, it is national. Recall what Okada riders did in Abuja barely two weeks ago at Lokogoma Estate, following an accident involving two of them and a motorist? That is the kind of anarchy we are faced with.
For the Lagos State Government and the state’s pillars of power, the first thing to do is to sever the real or imagined connection between it and the transport unions. The severance must be total, and must be seen to have been done. The battle with the Okada menace is not one that the state government can afford to lose; a lot will go down with it if that happens, and it should not!