Tunji Adegboyega

 

I know our country is blessed with many prophets: genuine ones, fakes, those who do permutations and pass them to the rest of us as prophecies, etc. I am none of the above. So, when I said I saw the Okada menace coming, I am not speaking in the context of any of the stated categories. I am only talking in the context of an observer, having seen the lawlessness that defined the Okada business in Lagos in recent times, particularly since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and, worse still, since the #EndSARS protests.

It is as if the Okada riders in the state saw the protest as licence for people to live and behave as they like. They converted the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes to Okada routes; intensified their disregard for one-way regulation, ignore traffic lights with greater impunity. In short, they’ve turned themselves into the law in Lagos, which has graciously allowed them to operate at all.

I said graciously because in the states where many of these law breakers came from, Okada is banned. When that happened, they did not complain. They did not riot or protest that riding Okada anyhow is part of their fundamental human right. They simply took the next bus or train to Lagos with their Okada and began business.

Lagos is not complaining. Because Lagos saw the need for the business, it allows them. It gave them a list of roads they could not ply and allow them to operate on others. But the law breaker that many of them are, they defy all attempts to make them do the business responsibly.

Since no government properly so called would allow a state of anomie, clashes were imminent between the Lagos State government agencies enforcing the law on Okada and the recalcitrant riders.

That explained the recent clashes between them and the state government enforcers of the Okada law on Tuesday at the Amuwo- Odofin area p, and on Ikeja Along Bus Stop (Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway), on Wednesday.

But Lagos State government should not be deterred by these incidents. It has to consider the possibility of using technology to tame them. The government should return to the drawing board to review its strategy. For sure, what is at the back of most of the riders involved in the illegality is that they could make the state government bow to their irresponsible road culture. This should never be allowed, otherwise, the government would have lost the basis for its existence. A mega city cannot make the low standards of some miscreants the new normal on the roads.

Where necessary, the government should review the penalties against such attitude to make them stiffer and make scapegoats of some of these riders. Any of them who manhandles any state agent in the course of their official duties should be brought to book and the punishment widely publicised to deter people who may want to toe a similar path. The same applies to those people who burn public property. We will continue to witness such until perpetrators are served their deserved comeuppance publicly.

The point is; these riders have been having it so easy on the illegal routes that they plied in the crisis period, making brisk business, and cannot imagine that the honeymoon should be over just like that. But the state government cannot bow to their base standards. Otherwise we would all be in trouble.

 

The Nation