Before I start, let’s get one thing straight. I’m not in support of the atrocities that are often linked to commercial cyclists known as Okada riders. That said, let’s talk about their plight in their hands of government officials in Oyo state.
If you are going from the University of Ibadan to Cocoa House Dugbe and you board a taxi, you can spend as long s 2 hours on the road. But if you engage the service of an Okada rider, you could be there within 20 hours. This is why I ride bikes a lot.
While enjoying the natural breeze with some dusts splashing on your face, if you look close enough you will see the frustration that is well written on the face of the Okada riders. They are not frustrated about life nor contemplating suicide, they are just sick and tired of the antics and strategies of the various government officials that are making their daily chores uncomfortable for them.
Let’s still stick to the UI – Dugbe route.
The journey is usually uninterrupted until you get to Sango roundabout and you are forced to wait due to heavy traffic or the red light of the traffic light. As soon as the bike approaches this temporary stopping point, you would see officials of the NURTW approaching the Okada rider.
“You’ve not paid for ‘after’,” the official told my Okada rider last week.
Helplessly, he paid N50.
When we got to Mokola Roundabout, another thug approached and asked for money. We begged him to collect N30. At this point I was pitying the helpless Hausa Okada rider that I planned to give N100 when I alight at Cocoa House. Little did I know that he would still deal with more forces and principalities ahead.
As we were approaching Lekan Salami Stadium at Adamasingba, we were told Oyo state government’s Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) were ahead. So we made a detour – passing through Sabo, through Ibadan Recreation Club and subsequently we were back on the highway. He thought the worst was over only for some VIO officers to emerge from nowhere.
The guy decided to flee and the chase was very hot. We were almost knocked down by a truck.
When we finally got to Cocoa House, I decided to pay him N150 so that he could make some profit. As I was about to alight, police officers came around. They challenged him for parking wrongly and didn’t leave him alone until he gave them the money.
This is what Okada riders deal with daily.
From Iwo road to Bus Stop, they have to deal with the union officials, local government workers, those without any uniform but introduce themselves as task force. There are also police officers and several others that are all out for Okada riders.
I still can’t understand why VIO is arresting and impounding motorcycles – are bikes also vehicles? Same goes for FRSC.
If you look at the faces of these government officials you would discover that they see Okada riders as easy preys as powerless being they can treat anyhow. This is morally wrong considering the fact that many of them decided to start riding motorcycles because they couldn’t get a job.
With the way the state government through its officials is making life difficult for motorcyclists in Ibadan and its environs, it is not rocket science to say that they could support a candidate from the opposition party who can promise them better treatment. Someone once said there are hundreds of thousands of Okada riders in Oyo state. If they decide, together with close and distant relations, to vote for the opposition party, Gov Ajimobi could as well say goodbye to his reelection bid.But beyond politics, the plight of the Okada riders in Oyo state is a slap on the face of democracy in Oyo state. Because as much as we may choose to loath the acts of the riders, they are also legal members of the society and form part of the people being referred to in the definition of democracy.
When I asked another Okada rider that was arrested by a police officer at Agodi Police Station what he felt about their plight in the state, he said he felt dehumanized.
“It is not just the incessant arrests that are annoying, it is the way they look down on us as if we can never become important members of the society. They won’t help us when we go to them for help, the little money we make, these heartless people will want to take it from us. It is as if they want to frustrate us out of the city. If this is what the governor is trying to do, I say shame on him. He will meet us at the polls,” he said.