Many are the concerns that well-meaning Ghanaians have expressed about the use of motorbikes for commercial purposes on our roads.
Myriad of people have added their voices to this current means of transport for some Ghanaian citizens especially in the country’s capital.
The all-important discussion has featured prominently in debates at our legislature, with very prominent Members of Parliament calling for the ‘okada’ business as we’ve come to appreciate, to be banned.
The Majority Leader for instance, was strongly heard calling for the phenomenon to be discouraged, owing to the gross indiscipline usually exhibited by riders on our roads. Another MP who belongs to the Minority was swift in calling for a proper regulation of the business, since it serves as a very effective and efficient means of transport.
The said MP cited an instance of him packing his Toyota Landcruiser somewhere and jumping onto an ‘okada’ as a result of the need to get a transaction done in time.
In his view, the ‘okada’ menace needs urgent regulation backed by a parliamentary bill to enhance operation.
There’s also the School of Thought that sees the ‘okada’ business as a means of income generation for otherwise idle individuals. This has made the business very competitive.
On one of his current affairs programmes, JoyNews’ Evans Mensah was heard hinting about the possibility of him going into the ‘okada’ business in the foreseeable future, when a discussion on this very prevalent phenomenon came up.
This to me is worth understanding considering the tendency of the ordinary Ghanaian worker to explore smart avenues to maximise his/her income.
Widening the scope of the argument to cover dangers involved, one can immediately point at the harm done by some ‘okada’ riders to their passengers.
In a phone conversation with a school mate, she could be heard lamenting how her life was nearly shortened few days earlier when she was involved in an accident on a motorcycle. The motorist had lost control and thus threw them on the road.
According to her, no identifiable factor could be traced as being the cause of the tragedy except to blame it on overspeeding. I began imagining how regrettable a possible death could have been since I had seen her a week before.
Being an avid ‘okada’ user myself, advising her to avoid it’s usage wasn’t the way to go. Instead, I admonished her to let her will count whenever she joined an ‘okada’. “Tell the driver to slow down when you sense overspeeding”, i admonished.
This could only capture a little portion of the bigger danger posed to passengers on motorcycles in Accra and it’s environs. I’ve witnessed instances where both riders and passengers have veered off their intended lanes onto other lanes recklessly without caution.
One wonders why such vulnerable passengers sit back unconcerned. One main factor to consider in this ‘okada’ issue is the threat posed to other road users. It’s very uncommon to see okada riders adhere to traffic regulations when plying our roads.
To focus more on other aspects of this unfortunate phenomenon, one can discuss the threat posed by motorbikers to pedestrians. Most riders see the path for pedestrians as being equally suitable for their use and thus, endanger the lives of all in sight. Many pedestrians can recount instances where but for the excersice of more care, they would have been knocked down by motorcycles.
As an effective solution to these worrying trends, government should as a matter of urgency engage all stakeholders in a discussion aimed at regulating the use of motorcycles for commercial purposes on our roads. This is contrary to the opinion of the Ghana Medical Association. Let’s make it a point to reason with those who believe that the advent of the okada business has created employment for riders, helping to reduce the spate of idleness with its concomitant evil of all manner of crimes in our society.
Collectively, let’s endeavour to avoid seeing only the negative aspects of the okada business.
Regularising their operations would come with discipline. This would see strong adherrence to traffic regulations and personal safety mechanisms such as the use of helmets and other protective materials in guaranteeing the safety of okada riders, their passengers, other road users as well all unsuspecting pedestrians.
We cannot overemphasize the fact that the trend of motorbike usage has been quite dangerous in recent times than it has always been. However, many positives as earlier discussed can be identified including the larger picture of seeing considerable decrease of crimes in our society.
Let us get our stakeholders to hold important deliberations on the matter!
Fahad Khalid Yussif