Okada: The end of impunity!
Reports of the crushing of 3,000 impounded motorcycles by the Lagos State government could only remind us of the triumph of impunity in the running of public affairs in Nigeria. Some law-breaking commercial motorcyclist folks ran foul of some funny traffic laws, and had their bikes seized by agents eager to commit class suicide. And next you get riled with the sight of dismembered bikes preparatory to crushing in the backyard of the powerful.
Now you ask: where is it stated in that government’s laws that impounded motorcycles should be destroyed? Assuming it is even in the laws of that state, which court of law ordered the destruction of those bikes or is it that we have finally arrived at the destination of the governor acting the judge in his own cause? Again what law empowers its maker to seize the property of the offender without trial? Is seizure of property without a court order normal and right in a democracy?
The black man is a bad copy cat. He is like a poor student who is so dumb that he copies his mate’s script upside down. The white man who introduced traffic laws to enthrone sanity over chaos on the roads would not trade the rule of law for the rule of impunity. He would not replace traffic chaos with chaos of the law and its applications. Now, if the black man is so dumb as not to know how the white man enforces his traffic rules, can’t he at least seek to learn how it is done in sane climes? Or maybe he knows. He may just be doing his impunity his own ways. Kind of home grown wickedness.
Developed countries too have had to ask and answer questions on the daily challenges posed by traffic offenders and offending traffic regulators. I know of Joel Bolton, Project Manager at Gulf States Regional Center for Public Safety Innovation, Natchitoches, Louisiana, United States who suggested personality profile tests for traffic rules enforcement officers: “A crucial component to any successful enforcement programme, the attitude of agency leadership should be aligned with the agency’s mission, beliefs, and policy statements. Supervisors and managers play a role in encouraging officers not only to enforce the law but also to educate motorists about the need for enforcement. If the public understands the whys of enforcement—saving lives and preventing injuries—it will be less likely to object to stricter enforcement or to equate citations with revenue generation.”
True, okada riders are a terrible menace. When they are not breaking skulls and femur bones, they are getting involved in some other enterprise that questions their day light economic engagements. You find it difficult most times, to tell a genuine commercial cyclist from a felon hiding some gun somewhere to rob or kill. The dual life of the okada man makes it difficult for anyone to speak for them. An editor in Lagos some weeks ago who received a bullet to the head from a supposed okada man that proceeded to take his money is not likely to support any campaign to retain these guys on the streets. Still, official sanctions must not toe the same line of criminality. Traffic laws enforcement should be focused on “saving lives and preventing injuries.” It loses its allure when the punished is convinced that other motives other than compliance with the law were at the roots of the official clampdown. The way things are, I almost assert that not even the police do the kind of things task forces do in some states. I almost, assumed that but I also read of the policeman at Agege who last Tuesday, hit an okada man on the head, killing him with his baton as punishment for the poor man’s refusal to stop when ordered to do so? The okada man broke the law barring motorcycles from plying that route, the policeman enforced that law by violating the man’s right to life! Lagos is especially notorious for such noxious misbehaviour with official sanction. That is Lagos for you. It is eternally built on a skyscraper of iniquities.
And again, did you also read of the seizure of a van belonging to Obasanjo Farms for violating traffic rules? If you did that means you also read of the counter impunity measures by war tested General Olusegun Obasanjo. The old war horse took possession of Lagos State government’s buses as ransom for the seized van. What can be more interesting than that drama? Remember the van was siezed in Lagos, where Obasanjo’s enemy is the godfather? And Obasanjo Farms, where Lagos’ buses were detained is in Ogun State where OBJ is the grand godfather. Or are you one of those who doubt the very close blood (and political affinity) between the wily General and the current Lord in Ogun State? So, beyond the legalese of the two acts of detention of chattel is the deep politics of power play. The crisis, even after its resolution has served to tell us that Nigeria is not a country where the meek survives. It is a field of play for the hard tackler.
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