Riders must organize and pressure thier union to declare for action.
• Democratic Management of the Transport System.

Davy Fidel

The recent ban on commercial motorcyclist popularly called Okada on public roads in Lagos without a well thought arrangement for an alternative means of transportation or to take care for the economic life of the okada riders remains condemnable. This policy is having a bitter effect on families i.e. people depending on it as a means of livelihood and transportation, especially working people.

The anti-poor people policy by the Sanwo Olu-led government will no doubt worsen the existing economic hardship people are currently facing under the Buhari regime, which is making mobility difficult and expensive. That is given all of the bad road networks and the constant traffic gridlock caused by the snake network of trailers loading containers and tankers from the tin can and wharf ports in Lagos including other operating terminal.

Since the ban, a minimum of “2, 228” okadas have been forcefully seized by the Lagos State agencies —- LASTMA, Task Force etc. And even in the communities where the ban is not operational. The Nigeria police are using their van to parade the street so they can arrest okada riders. Many of these seized bikes are taken to the site where they are smashed to pieces. Others who can afford the charges will bail their bike with exorbitant amount.

The economy has not improved since the regime took over in 2015 via a popular slogan of “Change.” The economic and social realities for the working people are getting harder every bit of the day. There is also the constant threat by the Buhari regime wanting to increase the petrol price. Added with the sharp increase of food items like rice, beans, yam, garri, and other stable food working-class families can’t afford regularly.

Motorcycle operation as a commercial means of transportation is necessitated first by the undeveloped and unplanned transport system in the country. The ruling elites have virtually abandoned the sector to private operators. And the refusal to invest on infrastructural development of the road networks interconnecting neighbourhoods. This also includes the construction of new roads as the population grows and expand into new residential sites are fundamental crises in the state.

This is however leaving too much pressure on the available means of transportation — the dilapidated public roads. The situation is not in any way helping the poor drainage system in the state, meaning that after every down pour of rain, it leaves a damaging effect on the road and helpless for people and transporters to ply.
The cosmopolitan nature of the state with a population of 25 million.

You will wonder how people can move with ease from place to place without the development of interconnecting light rail that should be publicly planned and cost efficient mass transport system. This is in terms of road, rail and the water ways. It is this huge population alongside people from the North fleeing the terror and banditry for a legitimate means of survival, as well the desertification; is what is resulting these youth trooping into Lagos in search of a greener pasture.

And it has added huge pressure on the unemployment crisis in the state and country, which MAKES Okada riding as a means of livelihood for many working class youth. One must not fail to mention that the Northern Ruling class rather than investing in infrastructures in the North, in education, and key sectors in the northern state. It has left the region with the highest children out of school. And many still sees Lagos as their hope of achieving their dreams.

Of course, the Okada riding on a highway is dangerous. No doubt! It is risky! But the working masses must by necessity move out daily from their homes to go earn a living by whatever means, and as consequence patronize Okada riders, given the already mentioned factor of bad roads and the crisis of traffic grid lock in the state.

This ban would only worsen the situation, hike the cost of boarding one, which would in the end increase the cost of transportation for the working people. We are faced with a recurring decimal ban as a political gimmick employ by the Tinubu dominated political machinery of Lagos every electoral season so as to enable a back door negotiation of loyalty by these okada riders in Lagos. The same ploy was adopted by Fashola in 2011 with the ban gradually easing itself out.

A government that is willing to save lives must also be willing to balance the equation of saving the lives they claim they want to save, not just by providing an alternative and effective means of mass transportation. But it is to ensure that those who would lost their means of livelihood as result of such a change are not made to suffer. Or are pushed into the abyss of penury they are battling against. And a scheme must be put in place to cushion the effect of the ban.

In addition to this, a necessary training that would provide new jobs for them is necessary. And anything short of the above means that government is only out to attack the very people it is expected to govern. The ban must therefore be condemned in all regards. It is bound to worsen the unemployment statistics, hike the cost of transportation for the working people, and increase the rate of social crime and violence in the communities as well.

According to Government officials, the prohibiting of Okada is in Eti-Osa, Ikeja, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, Apapa, and Surulere which are areas mainly occupied by the elites is intended to curb insecurity and it has been on since February 2020, which was only reinforced in 2022. But this is not in any way tenable. The fact that criminals employ okada as a quick means to get away from crime scenes, does not mean that if it is banned, criminals would not find another means.

Rather, it is only an indication of the failure of the state to put in place all the necessary measure both in terms of training and equipment to allow an efficiency to combat and control of crime. To make a greater number of the innocent users (both riders and commuters) suffer for the sake of a few, who employ it for criminal purposes.

It indicates, however, how much the ruling elites do not care for the well-being of the working masses. Although, there has been pocket of resistance against this policy from the operators resulting into a clash with the security operators. But it is clear that this has not proved effective, given its spontaneous and unorganised nature. On the other hand, resulting in most cases to a paralysis of activities in the area concern.

This is without any conscious step to win the support of commuters. The leadership of the various associations like in MOAS, ANACOWA, and ACCOMORAN have not seen the need for organised and united action while they are reaping millions of Naira from their members. Then, issuing tickets that cost the riders as much as N1, 500 daily if not higher.

To have a union that is not interested in the conditions of their members, or the attack on their livelihood from which the union sustain itself; is in reality part of the problem. Painfully, the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) the central union of all of the okada sub associations has not deem it fit to condemn the ban. Sadly, it’s own operational mechanism is not any different from other trade unions where the bureaucracy is in the affairs of the union.

The union as in the case of Lagos is completely depended on the state. And working for its interest to continue to ensure that the state turns a blind eye to the daily extortion of members of the union. It offers no protection whatsoever since it is also engage in attacking them through series of ending extortions.
The union as presently organised is part of the problem.

Thus: this is because the union is not a union in the real sense of the word. Members are not active in it. It is just a union of extorting machine with no responsibility whatsoever to its members. This is why Marxism is insisting on the democratic control of the affairs of the union by rank and file members. In addition with this is the right to recall elected officers that are not defending the interest of their members.

In this sense, the MSA calls on okada riders to exercise their right of association to independently insist that they would only make payment into the associations or unions that are willing to defend their interest. And also help organise them to exercise their right to earn a living up to the point of demanding that government must pay compensation. Or, better still provide an alternative source of income for them to legitimately continue to earn livelihood for themselves and their families.

The MSA insists that the country possess the resources and means with which to organise an efficient and functional modern and friendly transport system. This is with all the necessary interconnecting networks of mobility. And it must be through rails (light and heavy), water ways, road and air, which can be accessible and affordable for everyone. But as things are standing. Capitalism and its greed for profit is an obstacle to development.
Since the excuse given is that it is not cheaper to achieve.

However, having a developed means of production and industrialise economic. It would leave no choice than to invest in developing the transport system for the effective movement and distribution of goods and services. Therefore, the problem with the transport sector is the same with other sectors. Only the working class organised in their millions as a political unit can reorganize society through socialist alternative. In the interim, the MSA is opposed to the ban. And it call for the outright lifting so as to ease the transportation difficulties of commuters in Lagos.

Nor do we agree to the cheap fallacious propaganda employed to divide commuters and the okada riders, who are largely Hausa youths characterized as fore runners of a terror group preparing to unleash mayhem in Lagos. That they are here and only waiting for the signal. This kind of fear is directly employed by government to launch attack on Okada riders, deny them of their right to property and isolate them. Even when commuters would want to walk long distance and pay more to be able to go to work and return home.

The MSA states that it is manipulated calculation for votes and the use of ethnic nationalism to divide the working masses. That in reality is playing into the hands of the political class dominating the politics of Lagos. Nearly in all cities of the south, the hausa youth are not different from the working class youth traveling to South Africa, Europe, USA, and Canada for greener pastures. In these countries, these youth are economic refugees that had fled their villages and abode given the northern politicians have failed in all the sectors.

We call on okada riders to insist through their associations to organise independently i.e. activities and public meetings to discuss on what to do. This must include what steps to take, and the necessary actions. Public meetings of the okada riders must be organized in the places where they have strength, and they must seek the support of commuters as well, to assert their right to legitimately earn their livelihood.

As we approach the 2023 General elections, the temptation to negotiate the unbanning for votes will be strong. Thereafter, it will resort to another ban without any corresponding need to develop or provide an alternative. It is also of the need to demand that okada riders legitimately join in the struggle for a Socialist Alternative. Join MSA Now.