Ok, Lagos has got to get a grip. The level of suffering is appallingly appalling (Zibah is allowed to write this kinda English so back off). Recently, Lagos turned most of her inhabitants to Israelites, trekking long distances to their various Promised Lands with the not-so-recent ban of commercial motorcycles (Okadas).
I remember the day after the announcement (wasn’t aware of the development then cos I barely ever watch TV and my blackberry was having a fit even going as far as giving me the finger so no internet access); I was lugging my laptop on my back and heading towards my IT centre for tutorial classes. Poor naïve Zibah stood by the road and waved his arm in a fancy gentlemanly manner at every passing Okada rider. For some reason none of them made to stop or slow down; all I got were glares and puffs of smoke from their irritated motorcycle’s exhaust pipes as they sped off. I was mystified. When I go by public transport, I usually observe commercial bike riders falling over themselves to get passengers so what was with the attitude? I did a double check to ensure I did not have a “Please don’t pick me up” tag clipped to my shirt. No, no tag, I went on to check my fly (I’ve gone peek-a-boo unknowingly several times leaving my pebbles exposed to the gawking of evil eyes), everything checked out. After waving fruitlessly and standing for close to 20minutes under the angry glare of the Nigerian sun with drops of sweat sliding down my drenched back and backing a gradually obesing laptop (the sh*t seemed to be doubling in weight), I dropped all zibah-freshness and started yelling “OKADA, OKADA…..YOU DEY GO” (trust me; I too wasn’t aware I was fluent in Pidgin English *chuckles*). I ended up walking all the way to the centre as apparently none of them were prepared to ‘dey go’.
Several hours later, classes had ended and I was hungry, I made my way to the bus-stop only to be greeted by the sight of a mob. I mentally prepared myself: securing my phones, tab and wallet into that secret compartment in my laptop bag and strapping the bag closer to my body and joining the fray; chasing buses, scratching, pinching, elbowing and kneeing groins, backs and bums of young, old, male and female folks alike- survival of the fittest people. This okada business was apparently hitting everyone’s last nerve as I was equally receiving as much attack as I was dishing. We were all very generous with our fists that evening. Thinking back to that day, I would rather cut a finger than see a video of me in that mob….I must have looked as crazy as Bellatrix.
Eventually, I arrived at my condo; tired, scratched and begrudging Mother Nature (as usual) for my woes. Later that evening I learnt that the Lagos State Government had announced a partial ban of commercial motorcycles from operating on some 475 so-called ‘federal highways’ citing massive casualties/death resulting from okada riders pulling omega stunts and its contribution to crime as reasons. Shortly after the announcement, our ever obnoxious Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and even a couple of Army personnel swung into action. They quickly took to the street, seizing Okadas, beating and stripping naked some of the riders in the process. I guess their addled brains must have decided that all roads in Lagos states were designated Federal Trunk A.
Commercial motorcycles crept into Lagos state the same way the roadside touts did–overnight. One minute we didn’t have them and the next they had integrated themselves deeply into society that they became a necessity (not the touts though). Inasmuch as okada riders are guilty of the crimes they were accused off, we can all agree that their existence is as a result of the weakness of the government. Their presence covers the gap created by the state transport system. A cursory look at the statistics of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)-of which there are about 220 describes the systemas being able totransport 200,000 passengers within 16hours daily. This certainly cannot meet the enormous transport demands of the Lagos metropolis.
Shouldn’t a government with the people’s interest take measures to lessen the burden of transportation in Lagos by say providing more BRT buses and fixing the roads (wouldn’t dare talk about some of the roads on the mainland) before banning the fastest means of transport? Shouldn’t they have considered that the abrupt ban would have a ripple effect; increase in bus fares (which would certainly reflect on cost of food items) and longer queues at the gas station which is already suffering from artificial scarcity of fuel? Oh! What happens now to the several thousand okada riders that are faced with the challenge of surviving in Lagos with no apparent means of survival (crime??) or the touts that the government has turned a blind eye to whose income would considerably lessen without the okada riders to tax? Would they (the touts) increase the tax of commercial bus drivers who would inevitably hike their bus fares?
As we slowly bid 2012 farewell, several factors point to 2013 as being an even tougher year for Nigerians. Brace yourself people.
P.S Almost time to close at work *peeps through the window at traffic below* can’t wait to try out a new martial art skill I perfected last night in my bedroom on anyone that pulls me trouser as I chase after a bus.