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Opinion

Can we still say “Eko oni baje oo”?

“Eko oni baje” is a well-known locution used by Lagosians to assert their hopes in the progress of Lagos state. This mantra simply implies that all hands are on deck to ensure the progress and development of the state. The beauty of this saying manifests best when, both the leaders of the state and those led are true to themselves as regards the pursuit for a progressive state. However, things will begin to fall apart when either of the party trivializes the essence and worth of the other, by making insentient policies (leaders) or being deviant to the rules made (followers).  

The Lagos State Government, on Saturday the 1st of February 2020, sowed thorns into the wheat of hope the masses have in it. Lagosians were greeted with the sudden ban and restriction on commercial motorcycles (Okada) and tricycles (keke) in six Local Government and nine Local Council Development Areas of the state. This measures were taken because of the following: the rates of crimes aided by motorcycles and tricycles keeps rising day after day and it serves as an easy means of escape by criminals; the scary figure of fatal accidents between 2016 and 2019 runs to about 1000 accidents reported in Lagos State General Hospitals, excluding unreported cases in non-governmental medical facilities; a total number of 600 deaths of innocent passengers resulting from recklessness of Okada riders have been reported. 

This restriction made by the State Security Council, summarily explained, will help battle the threat commercial motorcycles and tricycles have become, to the safety of lives and security of the nation. From the abode of logicality, it will be inapt to weave the crown of thorns for the major cause of accidents exclusively on motorcycles and tricycles, while we extricate the cause of these accidents from the capable hands of our ever faithful national scourge -bad roads. As the aphorism goes, “beheading is not the antidote to headache”. As noteworthy as the reasons for the ban are, one will only discover at closer scrutiny that the Lagos State Government, in a bid to curb a droplet of the problem, has only succeeded in digging a flowing stream into the problem. 

The governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwolu, while speaking at The Platform on October 1 2019, stated that motorcycles and tricycles will be regulated. It is, however, amazing how his Excellency has gone back on his words. To affirm the status of the ban as a poorly formulated policy, the government in a press release, promised to introduce 65 buses and 14 ferries for transportation which will make any sane human being question why the cart should have been put before the horse. 

Almost needless to say, all and sundry know that Lagos State is a densely populated state and on that note, the means of transportation in such a state is advisable to be diverse in nature. How on earth will the number of proposed buses and ferries cater to the number of people in one of the most populated cities in the world? The new buses and ferries to be brought into the state should have been injected into the transportation system long before the ban. And no considerate administration, which has the wellbeing of people at heart, would make such a decree without prior notice of the looming ban and also the provision of a less stressful and pocket-friendly means of transport. 

Transportation difficulties Lagosians face on daily bases is worrisome and people often use motorcycles and tricycles to beat the traffic that does last for several hours however, this ban will only make these difficulties hellish. Adding ferries and buses to the number of motorcycles and tricycles would have been beneficial to the populace to aid easy mobility, but their complete eradication isn’t a perfect act to put to law.

One of the problems the nation is characterised with is unemployment and Lagos state, in the stead of contributing its quota towards the reduction of unemployment has only fostered it. In a viral video, one of the Gokada riders, Sandra Osborne, complained and narrated how the money she earns from being a rider helps her in the payment of her school fees and other bills, but the ban will truncate this source of income. There are many Osbornes in Lagos with plights worse than Sandra’s, whose hope of making a living has been dashed. 

It is quite saddening that, aside from the bike hailing riders, most motorcyclists and tricyclists got their motorcycles and tricycles on an instalment payment plan. This ban will hinder them from meeting the deadline for payment and this will resultantly lead to the forfeiture of motorcycle and tricycle ownership. This set of vulnerable individuals are most likely to opt-in for a less profitable source of income since jobs are scarce or better said, non-existent. I think by now, the Lagos State Government needs no sacred Urim and Thummim to tell it crime rate will be incremental, since an idle hand, they say, is the Devil’s workshop.  

Motorcycles and tricycles are perceived by the current administration to be demeaning to the status of the proposed Mega-City dream. Only heaven knows where they got the arbitrary definition of a Mega-City, as a sophisticated city, devoid of Motor Cycles and Tricycles rather than, its simple definition as a metropolitan area with a population of more than 10 million people. Closer scrutiny, however, reveals that it is not beyond the ambience of good reasoning to think this poorly made and insentient policy has some political dog eat dog undertone.

It is, however, quite surprising that, despite the inconvenience faced by Lagosians through this ban, there has been no wholesome protest for a shutdown in Lagos by its people. Rather, people have opted to enact what the legendary musician, Fela called “suffering and smiling.” People go about their daily business like everything is all right. People have left the need for any protest on the necks of riders, and see no reason to make it a collective fight since their own source of income is still existent. Truth be told, this nonchalant act of  “not my business” is a destructive behaviour imbibed by the majority of Nigerians, and the earlier we realize it is detrimental to the progress of the nation, the better for us. A lot of people have even trivialized the crucial matter on social media by making fun of a critical issue worth a massive shutdown. It is the bikers turn today, who knows whose turn it will be tomorrow. I end with Prof. Niyi Osundare’s poem “Not My Business”

 …Chinwe went to work one day

 Only to find her job was gone

 No query, no warning, no probe-

 Just one neat sack for a stainless record.

 

What business of mine is it 

So long they don’t take the yam

From my savouring mouth?

 

And then one evening

As I sat down to eat my yam

A knock on the door froze my hungry hand 

 

The jeep was waiting on my bewildered lawn

Waiting, waiting in its usual silence.

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