26 August 2008

The 7 Wonders of Nigeria - Part 1 - Okada

Today, I am going to start a new series on what in my opinion constitutes ‘the 7 wonders of Nigeria’. I have no doubt that my list will differ from yours; what will be interesting is to find out what you consider as the 7 wonders of Nigeria and why. Please use the comments link on this blog to air your opinion and enrich the discussion. Happy reading!

Okada - the motorcyle taxi
is a creation of necessity. Unlike the Chinese that have established the motorcyle as a means of transportation, Nigeria is not as populous to adopt this as a permanent form of transportation. We used to travel on taxis and buses in the major cities. We would easily prefer these means of travel; however, Okada surreptitiously crept into the Nigerian vocabulary and also into our carriage system as the economy bit harder in the 90s. The name Okada was adopted from a small town in Edo State. Now almost everywhere in Nigeria, Okada is the fastest means of transport and a very big headache for that matter for motorists and other road users.

They meander dangerously through traffic, they don’t obey any traffic regulations and anyone can put a bike on the road, with no training or registration required. They wear no helmets and offer their passengers none. Okada drivers are either deliberately inviting motorists to hit them and their passengers (they often carry two or more people) or they believe they are invincible. Sadly, it is said that a wing of the orthopaedic hospital in Lagos is set aside for victims of Okada accidents.

Although many would not admit to it, a good number of Nigerians, rich and poor would have had to take an Okada at a desperate moment for only Okadas can whiz through the depressing and parking-lot traffic of Lagos to deliver you to the multi-billion Naira corporate deal less than three miles away. An American Christian leader who is also the Editor of 'Charisma Magazine' wrote an insightful piece in 2007 on how he had to abandon his comfortable car to ride on the back of Okada to make a preaching engagement in Lagos.

Okada has become a legacy of our economic and political failures. The argument for Okada by its proponents is that it provides a quick and effective means of transportation for a vast majority of our people, and employment for those who might otherwise go into the underworld. However, the question is ‘do we as a nation really want an Okada economy’?

For its pervasiveness as a form of transport all over the country, Okada, the motorbike taxi is a wonder of Nigeria.


Leon said...

The third paragraph is very hilarious but sad (God forgive me). I can only imagine what has become of okada transportation.

I would argue that okada contributes to the economy in that, employees are able to beet the clogged up traffic and get to work on time. They also serve commuters, I think the main problem highlighted is the fact that they do not have training with regards to road traffic and health and safety, and they do not obtain registration. The government can easily introduce some regulation that would secure legalism and safe operation of okada, then okada can be acceptable but "okada economy"?...NO! Even though scrapping this mode of transportation may seem impossible.

Leon said...

Just wondering...who took the picture because that is just so funny...are they waiting for the red light traffic or about to race with their passengers? er...I didn’t notice any side mirror on the okadas

Postcard from Lagos said...

The photo was borrowed. Yes, it appears they are waiting for the traffic light

Anonymous said...

It is more than a wonder- the okada that is. I can't tell you how much my blood pressure goes up trying to avoid them weaving in and out of traffic; always trying to squeeze into the tightest of spaces. I agree it eases movement from A to B for a great majority, but a capital zero for health and safety awareness for themselves and others on the road.Someone once told me that most of the okada drivers are Malas - no experience required just get on the bike and go - no wonder!!!!
I witnessed one drive straight into a roadside shrub/gutter through negligence. His female passenger slamed her head on the ground so forcefully that to this day I have moments when my thoughts wonder whether the girl will ever escape a long term head injury. Guess what...... he rescued his okada before even sparing time to attend to the girl.
Man must wack!

I have some interesting okada photos too..if interested.

Postcard from Lagos said...

To 'the Sojourner' - Why not, please send the okada photos. Thank you

Unknown said...

Believe me, they are not waiting for the traffic light, they are waiting for a motorist to slow down so they can move on!
Well, I call them mario, after mario the game character, remember mario has seven lives or more depending on the level:)

seye said...

Lol!Mario!!!!!!!!!! rofl!
Nice one!

You know there are sometimes, you just have to take a 'bike' o! Time is money! lol

Still can't get over 'mario'.
You climb on a bike and you become Luigi!

Anonymous said...

i believe the okada is a necessary evil. as much as i hate to ride on them, when it gets to some roads, i'll rather pack my car and take an okada. but never on an express road or on the third mainland bridge or any bridge at all.training them will be the best.

World Wide Postcrossing and Stamps said...

I want all the seven wonders, pleaseeeeee!

Anonymous said...

....9ice update..just a lil correction..the name okada was nt adopted from ..the okada in Edo state..but rather from the then okda airline..a public airline though not popular but was the most frequently used..and known for its speed...