By Joseph Ushigiale
The mark of leadership goes beyond the mere formulation and making policy pronouncements by a government. Indeed the hallmark of a good leader is the building of consensus, formulation of policies and their implementation or execution to ensure such policies get the desired outcomes.
The recent decision by the Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu’s administration to sack motorcycles and tricycles otherwise known as Okada and Keke Napep from Lagos main roads, restricting them to rural areas is an example of how a leader exhibits the will to power.
The decision to ban these means of transportation although over due, is not new. Former governor, Babatunde Fashola of Lagos state banned the use of Okada and tricycles in the designated areas of the state, but the implementation died on arrival. In the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT), Mallam Nasir El Rufai was the first to ban them when he administered the FCT. Former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke also initiated a well organised transition process that eased the menace in that state and so many other states have taken such bold steps to bring sanity to the chaos that Keke and Okada now create.
Why was it expedient for these states to take these decisions? The first was the spate of accidents by the motorcyclists whose dare devilry accounted for several deaths as well as incapacitation of both passengers and riders. The statistics from the emergency and orthopedic units of several hospitals gave telling accounts of the danger that loomed ahead if nothing was done quickly.
From law enforcement came reports that most of these okada riders were involved in criminal activities as armed robbers, kidnappers and informants. There are several reported cases where okada riders vanished with their passengers only for the passengers to be sold to ritualists. Yet, others were used as means of escape after robbery operations.
In Lagos, it seemed there was a sinister plan by some northern elements to infiltrate the state. If you lived in Lagos in the last two years, you would have noticed a silent movement down south of young men, who were being brought on trailers daily to Lagos.
The established patterns of these northern elements with sinister motive was that the trailers would arrive in the night at a designated part of the city, offload its human cargo repeatedly and return. Gradually, every imaginable space on streets in suburbs like Surulere, Ebute Metta, Palmgroove, Maryland, Ikeja, Lekki, Agege right up to Lekki were strategically commandeered by these occupation forces.
As soon as they arrived Lagos and without any abode, they were issued a motorcycle and pronto they commenced the Okada business without licensing, training and no means of identification. As the authorities turned blind eyes to this exodus, so did the movement increased with equal audacity.
Soon, some of these new okada riders ,who looked foreign, started exhibiting very strange anti-social behaviours. They rode in pairs, spoke a language only they understood and exhibited violent behaviours. Any face off with one of the riders was an invitation to chaos. In a few minutes of an encounter, over a hundred okada riders would converge, manhandle the person and you would be lucky if your car was not burnt down right there.
With all these unfolding drama, it was clear that no responsible government would have folded its hands to allow the breakdown of law and order in such an important state like Lagos.
Although the implementation was shoddy and took a lot of Lagosians by surprise and currently inflicts a lot of trekking on them on some routes; overall it should be considered as a sacrifice to secure Lagos from Boko Haram and other criminal elements.
As this policy goes into full implementation, those vested with the authority to monitor it should note that its implementation took the pattern of putting the cart before the horse. The current long treks experienced by Lagosians could have been avoided if it thought through the entire process of implementing this policy.
From first hand experience, the Donald Duke administration conducted research to find out ways of curbing the menace of these okada riders, tricycles were not a threat then. First, it enacted a law establishing the motorcycle regulatory agency which was vested with the power of registering all motorcycles and their riders in the state. It also provided for two helmets for rider and passenger and a numbered reflective vests for the rider.
Before the policy went into full operation or implementation, the state government identified and reclassified the routes primary, secondary and rural routes. An initial 50 buses were procured and the designated primary routes clearly marked on them, Suzuki sedan cars with capacity for fours persons were procured and deployed on the secondary routes while the registered motorcyclists were to ply the rural routes where neither the big buses nor car could not easily accessed.
The idea really was for commuters to have different alternatives or choices to choose from and not be left with a single or no choice at all as is the case in Lagos today. People who have no means of transport are faced with the huge burden of trekking very long distances to places hitherto covered by okada and Keke.
Although I have reliably been informed that the state government is about to roll out a comprehensive transportation road map including palliatives to cushion the current sufferings inflicted on Lagosians by the new policy, these initiatives would have been put in place before implementation.
While I understand that this move has very huge security undertone, I do not believe that ridding the state of Keke and okada would solve the security problems of the state. I believe a very robust dependable transport system would naturally phase out okada and Keke in our midst.
For instance, majority of India’s poor still operates its rickshaw an equivalent of the tricycle as a means of transportation. India has not ban its use nor categorized it as a security risk. Transport for London (TFL) has about 21000 active buses commuting people around London alone, that is apart from the train services, waterways etc. Indonesia with over 600 million population still has a variety of transport means including bemos (public minibuses), ojeks (motorbikes), and becaks (pedicabs) for the people to choose from.
So Lagos state has to solve its transportation needs as its population continues to surge as the state remains attractive and a magnet to rural dwellers and fortune seekers looking for a better life.
It is also worth mentioning the dilemma of investors in the okada and tricycle transport businesses. Established investors like Opay, Gokada etc who have invested a fortune in developing this business need to enter fresh negotiations with the authorities to mitigate the huge losses that are already looming. As it stands, many would interpret this decision to mean that Lagos state is unfriendly to investors.
Right now, Lagos state has to also provide answers to the thousands of people who have been thrown into the unemployment market and deprived of their means of livelihood. This is important because these same people who have no jobs can now became a bigger security threat to society. The onus is on those in authority to put in place a foolproof means of identifying genuine persons who have been displaced by this ban and support them or absorb them into the new transport value chain which I am sure the state government is fine tuning.