Ban On Okada/Keke: Lamentations Everywhere

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Austin-fair Nwaulu

 

“I am a graduate, I wrote more than 1,000 applications without luck before I embraced the trade.’’

For the past 21 days, since the ban on tricycles and motorcycles (keke/okada) took effect, Waido Inatimi, a 2017 university graduate from Bayelsa State, who took to the trade as a last option in order to make ends meet after three years of joblessness, has not stepped out of his squatting abode in the heart of Ikeja.

He is stuck, stranded, helpless and confused like thousands of others who also depended on keke/okada transportation as a manageable means of livelihood and which has just been outlawed by the state government.

Still thinking that the harsh measure is a mere dream, he opened up. “I was barely three months old into the business. I am a university graduate and took to it after years of joblessness. I have a good result and wrote hundreds of applications for jobs that never came. An uncle now guaranteed me under the “hire purchase clause’’ to secure this keke. I am still paying.  Now tell me what to do. God have mercy.

“When I first heard of its proposal, I thought that people like us would be spared because of our status; that regulation was all that they needed instead of the blanket ban in some areas. I don’t call any restrictions. I can’t even access the free zones without the fear of being arrested on my way.’’

As a result, Inatimi lamented that his sufferings after a few months are continuing.  “Like I said earlier, I started three months ago and that’s three months of respite in that I could go out, struggle for the day, eat and return with something. But it’s all over again, I don’t know where to start from, another setback. No job and now this one.’’

There was never a time the young man bargained for what has befallen him today. That one day and too soon, his business would be outlawed. “Although I didn’t also bargain to be in it for long but to gather myself and start something else in the absence of a job, all that I expected to happen was that the operations would be regulated in future.

“I am aware that in places like Brazil, Malaysia and other civilized countries with better infrastructure, okada/keke operate with their services well regulated. The operators are registered and organized and have different lanes and uniforms. Here, we seem to learn but make policies that are oppressive, harsh and injurious to the commoners.’’

He blamed the system for everything saying, “if the government at all levels (past and present) had planned well for the country and the citizenry, nobody would do this type of job after spending four years in the university. But condition made the crayfish to bend. Just tell me if there would be this level of unemployment if they built industries or developed infrastructures over the years.’’

The Lagos State governor whom he said can reverse the vexed issue, “can suspend the ban and give it a human face. Regulation is just okay. See, for instance I want to move over to the approved areas, will I carry my keke on the head because I stand the risk of being arrested if I’m caught. Last Sunday I wanted to go to church with it as usual but no way, I trekked.

I am still begging that we should be reconsidered or rehabilitated with an incentive to start something else.”

 

And from a passenger, a chilling story

Olajumoke Cynthia Bakare is a trained caterer who said she decided to be self reliant and struggle until she garners enough income to rent a shop for her business, also spoke on the ban.

Every day she used to cook and in the evening hours, she will convey the bulk from her Railway Line abode to the St. Leo Catholic Church, Ikeja axis where she does the ‘Mama Put’ business. She already has a ‘keke’ that takes her to and from there at just N500 (highest) a day.

But “life has become hellish since the ban,’’ she narrated, and continued, “Í almost wasted the whole food I cooked on the first day of the ban. There was nobody to convey me there and at last I paid N1,500 to get there. Coming back was another thing. Now, if I spend even N2,000.00 every day on transportation, how much do I make?’’

Right now, Cynthia is still staying idle at home praying that the authorities would have a rethink of the ban.

“They should at least allow tricycle riders to remain and operate because they are not as risky and security-threatening as the ‘okada’ people. They can easily be regulated too as each one of them has an address where he/she can be located if the need arises,’’ she begged.

She wondered why most government policies are always too hard on the poor. “It is not only the riders that have suddenly been rendered jobless but other entrepreneurs like myself.

I don’t even know if every new government aspires to do better than the former using the poor masses. They only remember us when elections are around the corner. Then they would give us fish but would never allow us to catch fish thereafter.’’

 

 

From the observatory…

In company of Mr. Emma Nnadozie, an editor with Vanguard Newspaper a week after the ban, on a working day, we drove around the major roads in the capital city of Ikeja, Lagos.

We did this during the closing hours and until late. God, the situation has remained indescribable. I’m sure we are not back to the stone-age or simply learning how to become Southporians (left hand users) at old age. How can one trek from say, Under Bridge in central Ikeja to Alausa, Maryland or Oshodi? That remains the colour of each passing the day.

As we navigated through the streets and entered the major roads – with the usual hold-ups still there, we saw people trekking and sweating profusely as if there was an emergency in town.

But it was caused by an unplanned decision. By the way, why do they seize and take away riders’ bikes? That’s too harsh. An option of fine or months of imprisonment is better. No ‘offender’ will repeat the offence but don’t render him/her useless, we all started from somewhere.

If the government planned well, enough alternatives would have been provided. We thought of things like flooding the roads with, aside from big buses, cars to serve as taxi cabs. So, they can enter the streets and convey passengers not on ‘chatter’ basis this time but one after the other to a particular route. So, the burden will be less. People carry ‘loads’ from the market, shops, etc.

Then, of course individuals can come invest too. And that is if they would allow one to be. In Nigeria, if you don’t belong to the same political party with the ruling government, your days and source of income are threatened. Thank God they debunked the news of police ‘raid’ to impound okada on streets and at homes. Some policemen would do anything to seize one’s bike. They can never do without it apparently for obvious reasons.

People are really suffering as we observed. It’s just that government is stronger than all that they are winning this ‘war’, At the filling station in front of Airport Hotel where we refilled, this ground seller woman almost crying as she begged us to patronize her.

Her story: ‘My husband rides keke and now she’s out of job. This groundnut is our source of income now. This is a keke he just got on ‘high purchase’ If I don’t sell, we don’t eat. And the children go to school.’’ We bought anyway.

It was the same story everywhere. Leave the ‘keke’ at least.

 

 

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