Lagos and the day after the okada ban
By Ubaka Okofu.
The cosmopolitan status of the city of Lagos is not in doubt. What is in doubt is whether there can ever be a Lagos without those subsumed as fetchers of water and hewers of wood. Little wonder, that the announcement of the anti-peoples’ ban by the government of Lagos state on motorbikes and tricycles from highbrow areas of the city, and the vicious pulling down of what Sanwo-Olu’s men had referred to as illegal structures had generated unprecedented polemics against Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of the state.
Pundits are of the views that the infamous ban has given out the Governor as a student with an appalling knowledge of administration. Regrettably, they add that the Governor has little or no sense of history on how cities evolves, needless to mention how the city of Lagos had evolved.
Slamming a vicious ban on a section of Lagosians who, prior to the ban were earning a living legitimately could only be a step to undermine their contributions to the development of the city of Lagos. This reminds one of Christopher Henry Muwanga’s ‘Building The Nation’, a verse which leashes out at the corpulent arrogance and mendacious claim of the insensate nouveau riche African politicians to nation building while excluding the contributions of the poor masses.
If the story of a fantastic city of Lagos is ever to be told, it would amount to a faux pas to exclude the common Lagosians, some of who live only by excavating wastes and sweeping highways. The poet, Muwanga seems to be saying that we are all patriots and nation builders whether as a Prime Minister or the driver who drives the former about his official assignment. Hence: ‘/ two nation builders/Arrived home this evening /with terrible stomach pains/’. It has become a recurring decimal in African that politicians, on mounting the dais of leadership seem to forget quickly how the poor and the middle class endured the blistering sun to vote them into office. What they get in return are policies which seek to classify them as nuisance to the bourgeois class.
No doubt, the recent ban had racked up maelstrom of anger against the political class that is quick in its ragtag approaches to policies which affect the downtrodden in society. It is not out of place to view Sanwo-Olu’s selective ban on motor bikes and tricycles as a euphemistic way of telling those who voted for him that Lagos is now home only to the middle class and the super rich. Those who engage their motorbikes and tricycles in commercial transportation on the highways and the itineraries of Lagos deserve the right to earn a living as the operators of those company-owned motorbikes and tricycles that are now exempted from the ban.
The reality of Sanwo-Olu’s ban stares us rudely in the face. Now that the poor are to relocate from Lagos on account of government’s deliberate policy to throw them out of jobs, where will the care givers, the hair stylists, the guguru and epa sellers, the petty traders who offer personal services to the affluent come from? By extension, Sanwo-Olu is also saying that these support hands who are wives, sisters, brothers and children of the affected persons should also vacate the city. I think the governor wasn’t circumspect enough in trying to reinvent the wheel.
Since the ban was made public, not many could be convinced by the government, particularly on the justifications for the unpopular ban. True, government has cited the rising number of casualties resulting from motorbikes and tricycles’ related accidents and disorderliness as reasons for the ban. Equally, these reasons have been pooh-poohed by several stentorian reactions to the ban. Who knows? The over 600 deaths resulting from motorbikes and tricycles’ related accidents annually as claimed by the government might have been inflated and a deliberate claim to rack up sympathy for an unjust government policy.
The claim of disorderliness is frivolous. Disorderliness is what has made Lagos unique and different from every other sprawling cities in the country, and beyond. The problem has been there, and will remain until infrastructural provision reaches it optimum. We have more people coming into the city as residents than those who are relocating from the city. Presently, the limited infrastructures in the city is being pressured by the bloated population. If infrastructural provision is doubled and the Lagos state Traffic Management Authority, ( LASTMA) is made to step up its game, disorderliness will be reduced to it barest minimum.