Monday, June 10, 2019
Pikesville, Maryland, USA

he phenomenon of human mobility had been in existence since the advent of man and this had taken various forms, ranging from walking to jogging and then running with all of these on feet. Then came other means of mobility especially on water through the use of boat, Ship and Hovercrafts. The uses of automobiles became popular on roads as lorries, trucks and cars, before the sophisticated rail (train) and Air transportations (aero planes, helicopters and Baloons). Life had always been given some meanings through an array of human movements and human beings had been able to relate for social, business and religious purposes as a result of their ability to get from one location to another. Our roads systems had evolved from bush- paths to single lane dirt roads to tarred single lanes and then the super highways, with as many as four to several lanes!

As human civilization grew and people delved into research and development, other transportation variations for human mobility got discovered and man was able to venture into the moon. In Nigeria, we have ventured into the use of the three-legged machines which is now popularly called the Marwa, and now two-legged editions such as bicycles, and the popular motorcycles (Okada). The Marwas and the Okadas have become the most common and popular means of mobility for the ordinary Nigerians. If proper inventories were to be taken, on the conservative estimate, there is likely to be more Okadas in many Nigerian cities than cars! The prevalence of these two and three-legged mobility devices in all nooks and corners of cities, is such that makes one to wonder, if they will not drive motorcars into extinction as time passes on!

The ease of learning to operate these Okadas and the cheapness in cost, compared with the cost of cars, make the Okadas very popular and easy to afford by many (jobless) Nigerians. The relative ease with which these machines are operated makes the fast transportation attributes from one location to another in our cities popular as it has endeared these machines to the populace. The young and the old have come to embrace the Okada. Children and adults, male and females, literate and illiterates, sophisticated and the less sophisticated ladies and gentlemen have become endeared to this mode of mobility. The taxis of the fifties and sixties in big cities have virtually disappeared to give way to the Uba and Car-Hires but how many Nigerians can afford the high cost of Car-Hires and the Ubas? Therefore, the Okadas have taken over in such a manner that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate them from our roads despite the increasing dangers of riding on these killer- machines.

This writer has researched into the myths and realities of the Okada in the modern Nigerian societies and found it be more in the negative than positive. The following have been found to be some of the advantages, disadvantages and suggestions for a sane and safe Okada transportation in the Nigerian society.

Advantages and realities of OKADA

Faster in reaching destinations.

Cheaper and more affordable for the common man.

Popular and easy to find for quick transportations.

Cheaper to purchase for the Drivers/owners.

Convenient for business linkages and transactions.

Easier to maneuver on the busy Nigerian roads.

Okada drivers can repair/replace simple components and fix damages.

Some disadvantages and Myths of OKADA

Okada drivers become careless and reckless in their attempt to reach their destinations quickly at the risk of the safety of both the drivers/passengers.

Because it is easier to maneuver on the busy Nigerian roads, drivers get disorderly, disregarding traffic rules at will.

Because Okadas are cheaper and affordable, every young man has become an entrepreneur, making academic pursuit and other vocations less attractive.

Young men have found an easier means of generating quick incomes and means of sustenance instead of learning other profitable trades.

Okadas have become nuisances to many neighbourhoods because they are dangerously ubiquitous.

Their convenience for business linkages and transactions make Okadas ready tools in the hands of scammers and fraudsters.

Okadas are not safe on our roads because many of the drivers are on drugs and undisciplined.

Okadas are not safe and particularly more prone to accidents on rainy days and inclement weather conditions.

Okadas are used in perpetrating evil behaviours and atrocities such as rape, kidnappings and burglaries, etc.

Migration from one city to another is possible for criminal drivers to wreak havoc on citizens and then move on to other cities.

Okadas are more disadvantageous in more ways than listed, as the list goes on !

Some Solutions to reduce the evil effects of Okadamania

Governments (LGAs) to develop active inventories of Okada machines according to localities for tracking them and containing their excesses.

Develop a register of Okada Drivers (Okada men) in localities, LGAs, Cities.

Vehicle Inspection Departments to develop training programmes for the Okada Drivers to bring some sanity to Okada driving, riding and safety.

Empower the VIOs to bring sanity and safety into the Okada domain through a new registration and licensure procedures.

Governments can generate reasonable IGR and miscellaneous revenues from Okada drivers through taxations as the Okada business is virtually Tax-Free f or now.

Inflict heavy punishments (fines) on Okada offenders to inject discipline and promote peoples' safety.

Legislate that Okada should not carry the Sick, Elderly, Pregnant, Nursing mothers, as well as not to carry more than 2 passengers on one bike.

Government to provide alternative Emergency Vehicles for transportations of the sick Okada Passengers ie, provide improved public transportation system for the populace.

Redefine who can ride or drive an Okada in terms of age, mental status and health conditions (institute a new medical certification for Okada drivers).

Government should introduce the breathalyzer (drug test policy) for Okada drivers and drivers of other types of public transportation vehicles.

Inflict and enforce heavy penalties on Okada offenders to deter erring Okada drivers.

Government to develop a Special Squad to curb the Okada indiscipline and retrain them to develop safe and endearing ethics for the Okada drivers.

The unprecedented influx of people from other States and neighbouring nations to Ibadan and other big cities in Nigeria in recent times is concerning and calls for attention and investigations. Information has it that many of these new entrants have no home or people (relatives) to identify with in their new destinations. Their profile is not known as to whether they are criminals or fraudsters or even Nigerians! All that we notice is that in a few days of their arrivals, many of these miscreants would have become Okada owners, since this is the trending business in Nigeria and who can stop them? Who provides training and funds for Okada purchase? No one knows. This is certainly a serious problem for now and the future. Our Local Government Authorities may start to view this development with some seriousness. Unverified Okada drivers might be getting us closer to more serious troubles than helping our transportation needs. Ibadan LGAs need to be forewarned and advised to be proactive in arresting this impending danger to the society. It seems that many big cities are invaded by many 'Unknown persons of unverified and dubious characters". To be fore warned is to be fore armed. Let us be not caught unawares!

The foregoing also applies to other parts and cities in Nigeria. The Okada saga remains the same and the life-wasting attributes of the Okada mode of transportation is very disturbing and worrisome. Every life lost in Nigeria means a lot to all of us. Okada should not be allowed to continue killing and maiming Nigerians. Some urgent steps must be taken to stop the bad trend in Okadamania. The Okada transportation system is certainly getting disturbingly over-subscribed in our cities and miscreants have found it a safe haven for easier, fraudulent living and survival, without being called to answer and account for their mischiefs in their previous locations. The matter is getting worsened, especially with the increasing influx of illegal aliens from neighbouring countries. This bad trend needs to be stopped. Long live Nigeria and Nigerians.