Matters arising from the Lagos okada ban
By Okofu Ubaka
The cosmopolitan status of Lagos has never been ascribed wholly to government’s deliberate policy. The present anti-peoples’ ban on motorbikes, aka okada and tricycles (keke) from highways, bridges and highbrow areas of the city of Lagos has exposed Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu as a student with an appalling knowledge of history. And this is particularly as it has to do with the emergence of Lagos city as the fourth most inhabited metropolis of its type in the world.
The geographical location of the city on the corridor of the Atlantic Ocean is the singular reason Lagos is a melting pot to the rest of the nation. It suffices to say that Lagos may have suffered from the execrable trade in slaves the same way it has benefited in economic advancement than any other coastal city in the country. As gateway to the nation’s economy, Lagos offers array of opportunities to job seekers. Perhaps, the above reason accounts for why the city was dubbed by some as a ‘no man’s land.’ It is however a claim that the Yorubas had since rejected as complete balderdash!
The recent ban is not only tragic, but has racked up a maelstrom of anger against the political class that is quick and insensate in its ragtag approaches toward 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 his party, the All Progressives Congress, (APC) that Lagos is now home only to the middle class and the super rich. What more can be said! 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 legitimately as well as the operators of company-owned motorbikes and tricycles that are even not 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 ekpa sellers, the petty traders who offer personal services to the affluent come from? We must note that the cleaners, the fruit vendors, etc, are wives, sisters and children to operators of motorbikes and tricycles, and are in the city because their spouses, brothers and fathers are on the highways and bridges of Lagos plying their trade. Sanwo-Olu is also seemingly saying that these support hands should vacate the city and throw Lagos into the worst unemployment crisis since the history of the state. I think the governor wasn’t circumspect enough in trying to reinvent the wheels so to say.
Since the ban was made public, not many could be convinced by the government, particularly on the justification of 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 different from every other sprawling city in the country. 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 infrastructure in the city is being pressured by the bloated population numbers. If infrastructural provision is doubled up a bit, and is higher than we presently have, and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, ( LASTMA) is made to step up its game, disorderliness will be reduced to it barest minimum.
One of the low points of Sanwo-Olu’s ban is not making provisions to immediately arrest the fall out of the ban. Cursing Lagosans on roadsides are a clear indication that the Governor never had a second look at the ban. One is inclined to see the provision of 65 buses and 14 ferries by the government as hoaxes. The effort may end up as mere scratches on the surface and never as a solution to the prodigious problem of transportation in one of the world’s largest city. Every sprawling city of the world has its’ uniqueness. Danfo (yellow buses) and Okada are necessary twin worries which have given the cosmopolitan city of Lagos it nuances.