Okada’s issue mirrors our flops

A nation which accepts to live a third class life is just a third class nation, if you don’t refuse a bad government, deserve it all the way” – Mehmet Murat Ildan

Alot of Nigerians who watched our growth and development as a nation are still wondering and asking how we retrogressively got to this point. The point our major source of transportation pitiably became motorcycle and Keke. How did majority of our youths become glued to Okada riding as the only way for raising revenue in this country?

There has been some uproar over the barring of Okada riding in Lagos State with a lot of sentiments in the air over it. Those sympathetic to the Okada riders derives their position from the unemployment situation in the country and the possible condition the youth will be subjected to without Okada ridding as a means of revenue for their survival. Their support is basically mawkish and not supported by any development index of youth empowerments.

Those in support of the ban are also narrow basing their position on the security menace being enhanced by the Okada riders. Some economics are also arguing that Okada business is offering something positive to the social and economic progression of the citizenry.

Okada as a means of transport has been so entrenched in Nigeria business system that each time there is attempt to raise policy on it by government, there would be some noise.

When the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), now the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai took the bull by the horn few years back to banish the riding of Okada in the FCT, it generated all the heats but both the minister and the then President Olusegun Obasanjo were not the type that got shaken in their convictions.

The truth which remains incontrovertible is that the removal of Okada on the streets of Abuja has more positive impacts than anyone can think of. Its absence has significantly helped to raise the status of the capital city. 

Discerning minds know as a fact that the current ban on Okada ridding in Lagos State even with the hullabaloo will have a lot of positives although it would not be felt now. All the reactions are on the disequilibrium of the immediate but the long-time impact will be more augmenting.

The people who are really hit by the Okada barring trend catching up fast across the country are the dealers and manufacturers of the products.

By Okada riding Nigeria turned a number of dying motorcycle manufacturers in Asia especially in Korea and China into a mega company. Many Nigerian business men who got involved in Okada business worked lavishly to the banks turning instant millionaires.

But not so for the riders, reasonable percentage of Okada riders end up in the hospital with pneumonia disease and in orthopaedic hospitals with broken legs and ribs. Realistically, it would be difficult to see reasonable number of persons who made it financially by riding Okada. Those at the background who hire it to them may have progressed financially but for the riders few if any end up with it as a lucrative deal.

I have taken this time to bring to the fore the social and economic minuses of Okada riding to the country on my way to searching for an answer to the question, how did we get to this point?

We got to this point because successive governments over time refused to address the issue or have a pragmatic youth development policy.

Even as they ignore this, they have not boarded to address the issue of indiscriminate child bearing that would have enabled bringing up manageable children that can be cared for. Instead we have hidden under the cover of religion to keep having children we lack the economic capacity to manage. Expectedly, what you have is largely an economically useless population with its attendant social vices.

Okada riding became an immediate solution to a huge problem coming from governments that are not ready and willing to crack their brains for an answer to a problem.

I recall sometime in this country a governor in the North-West state worried by the growing population in his state capital and fearing that the youth could one day turn the hit on the leaders devised an immediate answer. The governor decided to order for the importation of 5,000 motorcycles which he distributed to 5,000 youths. He did not end there he charged them to take the bike to Kaduna, Abuja and Lagos more lucrative cities where they can make more money. This they did praising the governor as Allah sent. Little did they know that the charitable governor was actually selfishly postponing the evils day even though for him it became a huge empowerment programme of the administration. But the nuisance these riders created by their influx into Abuja with its attendant social challenges of increased crimes and criminalities helped to expedite the barring of Okada riding in Abuja at the time.

At least one-third of these beneficiaries within one year either ended up in the hospital after several accidents or after picking pneumonia disease. There were hardly any of them who were able to progress into anything meaningful in that business because they were not properly guided.        

While nations have their means of transportation progressed from trekking to bicycle riding, motorcycle to motor for the land, canoe to ship for the sea and aeroplane for the air transport, it’s not so in our clime.

For Nigeria it has been retrogressive journey from motor vehicle back to bike as a major means of movement. It says a lot about our progress as a nation and reduces our national reputation as the World sixth largest importer of oil.

Even governments that have mustered the courage to confront the menace of Okada have failed to seize the opportunity provided by that to dutifully marshal out youth empowerment policies.

Their concern is just to get the problem solved momentarily. But truth remains that Okada riding is not modern, it’s backward and not dignifying. Rather than this piecemeal approach from Abuja to Lagos to Plateau etc., the Nigeria government should be bold enough to disband Okada as means of transportation in our country. The President or the National Assembly should take the necessary steps to eradicate Okada riding by coming up with the necessary legislation that would help upgrade our transportation system. It is necessary however to warn that to do this without providing concrete alternative would be like running away from armed robbers into the hand of a kidnapper.

In addressing this cankerworm, efforts must be made to pragmatically tackle the menace from the root and that entails economy and not religion being the critical determinant.

In conclusion what is being said here is that the menace of Okada riding is not limited to only its criminal input but far more to the lowering of the esteem of the country. It’s probably unbefitting things like this Okada riding that induced a Turkish playwright and thinker Mehmet Murat Ildan to say that “a nation which accepts to live a third class life is just a third class nation. If a nation wants to be called honourable nation, it must use option to refuse any kind of policy which is against human dignity.” God help Nigeria.

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