On Bike Bans, Lazy Governments and Why Nigerian Lives Don’t Matter

I have been sitting on my thoughts for the last few days, ever since the story appeared of the eviction of the residents of Tarkwa Bay. I didn’t want to speak with too much haste. However, the most recent announcement of the Lagos State Government that motorcycles and tricycles are banned from operating within most of the state has solidified my conclusion: our rulers (yes, rulers) are not only incompetent and lazy, they also do not care about the lives of the people they’re supposed to govern.

Why do I say they’re lazy? Well it’s quite simple: they identify a destination they want to get to. In this case, it’s having roads free of the menace of okadas and kekes. This is a destination I understand, and partly even desire as well. I hate having those guys buzz around me and crawling into any gap in sight when I’m driving, scratching my car or denting my side mirror. Creating all sorts of dicey situations. I hate it with all my soul. So on one level, I understand this destination, I’ll be happy not having them around.

But there is the right way of getting to this destination. And then there is the lazy way. And this way our government has chosen is, without a doubt, the lazy way: announce a ban, use your security apparatus to force compliance and make sure any deviation is met with harsh punishment until everyone falls in line. Problem solved. The problem is that solving the problem this way creates multiple new problems that are incompatible with a functional solution. Like, what are the people who use these means of transportation to reach very hard to reach corners of this city going to do? What are the people who depend on okadas and kekes for their livelihood supposed to do? What about those who just invested their savings into buying these things with hopes of recouping and making a profit, what are they supposed to do? What about those who live in areas where there are no good roads and no transport infrastructure to carry them around cheaply and effectively going to do? My employee that lives in Aguda and relies on a bike to bring her to Masha, because no buses or taxis come that way, what is she going to do? Walk, or Uber? Because those are the only choices this policy leaves her. And she’s hardly alone. What kind of difficulties does this create for her and people like her? What about the fact that many of us depend on bikes to cut traffic time from hours on peak days to minutes to get to far flung destinations in the city on time? Yes, there will be some lip service paid to palliative measures but we all know it’s lip service. Nothing will actually be done and if something is done it won’t be anywhere near enough. So these problems will build up until they start showing themselves in multiple ways, but what does it matter because the people who made this law aren’t going to bear the human cost of it. At all.

What is it going to take for our rulers to take the right approach to a policy like this? What is it going to take for them to study the problem in depth, understand how kekes and okadas solve the mobility challenges the government themselves created, find out how to close the gaps and provide alternatives to these modes of transport and set a timeline so people who currently engage in the industry know to slowly transition into other things? And that way the policy is well reasoned out, debated and implemented in a way that future administrations won’t have any reasons to reverse it?

Yes it takes more time, energy and resources to do it the right way but if the lives of Nigerians actually counted for something then that’s how it would be done. The reason they take this approach is either because we don’t matter, or they’re just plain lazy.

Another option is that they’re really trying to capture the rapid mobility industry for MC Oluomo and the NURTW. And if that’s whats at play here, then we all should raise hell. Because lazy is one thing. Wicked is something else entirely.


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