There Are No Alternatives

On Monday morning, I woke up to some amazing news; Governor Fashola had set up a new law which banned commercial motorcycles (what we call okada), from moving about on the major roads in Lagos.

A lot of things came to my mind when I heard; first of which was “Panda, why’re you just hearing about this? Which kind of last lifting behavior is this?” but well, I thought to myself “let’s see how this pans out.” That morning, it took me at least twice the time and twice the amount it normally would to get to work. I had to get o more buses and I also had to walk quite a bit (and almost got hit by a bus along the way), just to get to work.

Later in the evening, on my way home, it was pandemonium. There were more people on the road, and with no okada to take them to their destination, everyone was forced to squabble for buses. Of course, the laws of demand and supply came into play, and the bus drivers & conductors put up their prices by 50%.

On Monday as well, a lot of people said a lot of things about this ban. A lot of people were for Governor Fashola’s decision, while a lot of people were against it. One thing I noticed though was that most of the people speaking, were speaking with a lot of emotions. People who had been through bad experiences with okadas, people who were being terribly inconvenienced by okadas, people who don’t even get on okadas and couldn’t really care less about them… everyone had an angry word to say. So I kept quiet. In my honest opinion, it’s almost impossible for an angry person to be rational.

Two days after this ban was put in place, I have a few things to say.

First of all, I understand where Governor Fashola is coming from with this; for one thing, okadas have been, over the last two decades or more, being a public nuisance. Most of them break traffic laws all the time, endanger the public, and cause a lot of trouble. As much as I use them, I myself have sometimes referred to them as “pests on two wheels”.

However, even though I can honestly understand his point of view, I do not believe the implementation of his plan is sensible.

Transportation in Lagos, as with most of the infrastructures put in place in Nigeria, is broken. We have no railway, or waterway transport system to speak of, and so we’re left with roads. These roads are in terrible shape dues to being overburdened and under maintained, so plying them takes more time than it should. Okadas have become an important means of movement to the average Lagosian. They help people get through hours of traffic, making it easy to meet appointments and get things done in the shortest time possible. Also, this means of transportation has become a source of livelihood for thousands of people who have mouths to feed.

And Governor Fashola has taken all this away.

There are no alternatives for transportation, none at all. Many people have mentioned BRT Buses as an alternative. Well, even before this ban, the BRT buses were insufficient. A lot of the time, people would have to queue for at least 45 minutes before they’d be able to get into one. So no, I don’t believe they are “the alternative”. Because there are no alternatives, the cost of transportation, like I said earlier, has gone up. Please note that in Lagos, this is the third time in the last ten months that the cost of transportation has gone up. The first and second times being when the cost of fuel went up, and when Third Mainland Bridge was partially shut down for repairs. Unless of course, I’m missing something, the earning power of the average Lagosian has not gone up, meaning that life has become financially harder for the average Lagosian, due to this fact. Because there are no alternatives, there is more traffic on the roads. People, who normally would leave their cars at home and just take okadas about to conduct their business, have to drive. Meaning there are more cars on the roads. More cars on the roads is more stress on these under maintained roads. Because there are no alternatives, people who have appointments to keep, and would normally just go by okada and be there in minutes, have to leave their locations hours beforehand, just to make these appointments in time. Now, a lot of people would say that complaining about this is what a lazy/slothful person would do. But as a person that actually has a job, I don’t see that as the case. Time, is money. If I have to sit in traffic for two hours just to get somewhere it would ordinarily take me twenty minutes to get to, that’s time wasted. I could be doing so much more in the 100 minutes extra that I’ll need to sacrifice to make an appointment. Because there are no alternatives, working individuals now have to leave their houses much earlier to get to work, and get home much later than they normally would. As for the okada riders, what alternatives do they have when their source of livelihood is “banned”? What are they meant to tell their wives and children when they need to put down “money for soup”? How are they meant to explain to their children that they can’t send them to school because they have no money?

Let’s not forget that with this ban, the police and other enforcement agencies have found a new way to extort money from individuals. The police have extended the ban, and are arresting okada men anywhere they see them, taking their machines away, and making them pay ridiculous prices to get them back.

I think Mr. Fashiola needs to have a rethink.

There’s a common saying that goes “when God closes a door, he opens a window”; you don’t fix a problem by making a bigger one with the mindset that says “the people will adjust”. All that does is show that the people are not cared about, and that you don’t have their interests at heart. What happens to the people of Lagos now?

I don’t want this post to simply be one where I just rant and rant, so I’ll try to be silent. It’s quite easy for people at the top to make decisions, but do they (Governor Fashola, I’m looking at you) actually realize the effect of these decisions have on the common man? Are leadership positions meant to be used to proffer solutions, or to cause more problems? Yes, everyone wants Lagos to become a mega-city, but is this really the way? If people spend a third of their day in traffic, how is business meant to be conducted, and how is money meant to be made so that Lagos as a whole can prosper? Yes, I agree that okada men have been a thorn in people sides, but still, is banning them the right way to go? This is simply a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

*sigh* … I don’t even know why I’m bothering with this. As with everything that happens in Nigeria, people will read, and move on. They’ll take the bulls**t that our leaders give us, complain for a little while, but still, they’ll get used to it. Because that’s what we do; we suffer and smile.

I can’t even be bothered anymore.

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About The Capoeira Panda

Panda makes his home in the world of words and metaphors. In the hopes to be more than just a confused blogger, he currently works as the editor for an ecommerce company that was good enough to hire him, and lives with his flat mates & two imaginary dogs who get along just fine. He enjoys reading good books, writing, relaxing with his friends, & poking fun at his mother over the phone. When he's not doing any of these, he sometimes sits back and wonders why anyone expects to learn anything useful about him by reading this bio. View all posts by The Capoeira Panda

3 responses to “There Are No Alternatives

  • @Justezma

    Panda, Port Harcourt & Abuja do just fine without them, and I personally prefer driving on those roads. A part of me feels what you’re saying but the other part is like “fuck ’em”. You call them “pests on 2 wheels”, I call them bloody terrorists coz they drive like they have a death wish. Baba Fashola has tried with the BRTs, but I think he should have provided other viable options before throwing peeps in front of okada. 😉 Anyways, it’s his 2nd term, so he can pull this sorta ish off with no adverse effects long term. In the end, Nigerians will do what they do best – suffer, strive & survive cos God dey. P.s. don’t forget bout keke. 🙂

  • kryptonait

    I see your point. I personally hate okada, especially the first time I tried one in Lagos but on the otherhand that’s a lot of jobs lost. What are they supposed to move on to/how will they survive? Its a sad situation, let’s hope Gov. Fashola will reconsider

  • Jerome

    It’s going to take a LOT of getting used to. Just when okada business was about to really take off in Ghana, the gov’t clamped down on them, hard. I can imagine how much more difficult it will be to get around.You can’t just legislate problems away. Better roads and more buses must be provided if the Governor is really serious about transforming the transport sector.

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