The tills are already a-ringing. Manchester City has spent its first £50 million, bringing the Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fernandinho to the Etihad after agreeing a deal with Sevilla for the winger Jesus Navas. Roman Abramovich is hoping that Bayer Leverkusen will relieve him of close to £20 million in exchange for the forward Andre Schurrle; there is also talk that Hulk might join Chelsea for another £35 million.
A number of you who have clicked the link to this post probably follow Big Brother Africa to varying degrees, or have watched one of the several spin offs which have aired in several countries since the franchise first started in the Netherlands in 1999. It has been a huge success precisely because it exposes lots of us as voyeurs, glued to our TV screens, watching the every move of total strangers.
The Big Brother franchise is essentially a trivialisation of George Orwell’s book ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, in which Big Brother is the head of a tyrannical ruling party that persecutes all independent thought with its omnipresent surveillance and propaganda. For a book released in 1949, it is remarkably prescient in the way it shows how governments want to control their citizens, and the Big Brother franchise is a trivialisation because it reduces a very serious issue to what is increasingly soft porn.
As the world becomes more and more connected, we see more and more portrayals in movies of the dangers of governments allowed to violate the privacy of citizens. Films like Enemy of the State, Minority Report and even shows like Person of Interest (a favourite of mine) paint scenarios that once seemed a little far into the future, but no longer.
Some of you may have heard about a $40 million contract given to an Israeli firm by the Nigerian government, to monitor internet communication of Nigerians. The firm called Elbit systems was contracted to deploy its Wise Intelligence Technology, before Premium Times broke the story, leading to an investigation of a contract award that went against all the rules of due process and privacy.
After 9/11, Americans accepted serious incursions into their privacy by their government, via the PATRIOT Act, in order to keep their country safe, as they were told. But like most things this ‘handshake’ has ‘gone beyond the elbow’. On June 6th, Glenn Greenwald broke the story that the NSA was engaging in widespread and indiscriminate surveillance of US citizens by collecting phone call data from the biggest US phone networks. It gets worse. The NSA has apparently also been collecting user information from Apple, Google, Facebook among others since 2007, as part of a program called PRISM, even though the denials have continued.
For some it may not be a surprise, but the sheer scale of it in such a short time, is a cause for grave concern, especially because as Bruce Schneier notes: ’Once a security system is in place, it can be very hard to dislodge it’.
What this means is that for countries like the US, that is becoming a surveillance state, rolling back the laws that enable such behaviour will be an uphill battle. It also means that for those societies in which massive surveillance has not yet become the norm, now is the time to put in place laws that will protect citizens from their governments. As we move closer and closer to an internet of things, which will collect information on virtually everything you do, that information, and the access to it, is absolute power, and the abuse of that power is inevitable.
It is on that note that I want to highly recommend the work Paradigm Initiative Nigeria has done so far to bring attention to this issue. Download their excellent policy brief here (PDF) which gives a good overview of the issues and charts a way forward.
Now, this may all seem very serious, and it is. Right now, as you read this, the future of the internet is being shaped to favour governments and corporations, while we just browse away. We must organise and engage with this process as much as we can, or this future will be defined for us, in lots of ways that will be less than benign. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
This is my first post on this blog for months, and it should not be a surprise that what leads me to post here is the event of Ferguson’s retirement, and all the fall out from that. I have thought for about a year now that SAF had taken the team as far as he could, and that it was time to him to move on. After last season’s dramatic loss of the title to City, there was no way he was going to say goodbye on that note. Just like Liverpool, Sir Alex wanted to put City in their place one last time, and he did just that.
Some of the numbers of Ferguson’s reign are truly astounding. His last game in charge will be his 1,500th, and he has won 60% of them. Since taking over, more than 1,000 managers have been hired by clubs who are part of the English Football League. Just prior to his appointment on 6 November 1986, United were 19th out of 22 teams in the Old First Division. It seems like a lifetime ago. In fact, it is. More or less. United have had the same manager at the helm for a generation. The majority of people today all over the world who identify with Manchester United have never known any other manager.
All that can be said about Ferguson has probably been said already, but perhaps his biggest positive attribute is a sense of timing. He always seems to know when to do what: let this or that player go, sign this or that player, and so on. He has gotten many of the biggest decisions correct. His decision not to quit at the end of the 2001/02 season, with Sven Goran Eriksson apparently set to replace him, proved to be the right decision. Over 10 years later, he is right yet again.
The time has indeed come for change at Old Trafford, and by all accounts it is to come in the shape of David Moyes. The debate over the pros and cons of hiring him is already well underway. For a club that prides itself on its stability, Moyes is perfect. He has just turned 50, and has been at Everton for the last 11 years, consistently exceeding expectations in the process. Prior to his appointment on 14 March 2002, Everton were 16th in the EPL, staying out of the relegation zone only by a goal difference of 6. 13 points from their last 9 games meant they avoided the drop, and every season since then, Moyes’ league record is as follows:
2002-2003 7th 59 points
2003-2004 17th 39
2004-2005 4th 61
2005-2006 11th 50
2006-2007 6th 58
2007-2008 5th 65
2008-2009 5th 63
2009-2010 8th 61
2010-2011 7th 54
2011-2012 7th 56
2012-2013 6th 60*
*season still in progress
With regard to league placement, wage bill rank is the best predictor of where a club will end up. Everton only rank 10th on the wage bill table, but have placed 8th or better – averaging nearly 60 points – over the last 6 or 7 seasons. This means that David Moyes brings a ‘value added’ to the club similar to what Ferguson delivers.
His approach to management, excellently highlighted here by Simon Kuper, which relies significantly on statistics and an admirable attention to detail, is certainly a factor. These traits can reap dividend when trying to do well on a shoestring budget, or a much larger one.
The flip side, of course, is that Moyes has won nothing at Everton and has very limited experience in Europe. The concerns about how he will cope with the added resources, extra pressure, and better opponents are real and cannot be wished away. Ferguson came to United having broken the dominance of Celtic and Rangers with Aberdeen. When he won the first league title in 1979-1980, it was the first time in 15 years that the league didn’t go to Glasgow. It was no mean feat. Moyes’ own credentials are nowhere near as intimidating, and it is no surprise at all that a lot of people are skeptical, especially as Mourinho’s time at the Bernabeu comes to an end, and he has made no secret of his desire to replace Ferguson. Even Rafa Benitez would bring vastly stronger credentials to the table, having coached at every possible level – and situation – in club football, and his time as the ‘Interim One’ at Stamford Bridge will soon be at an end as well.
Eventually, it appears neither man was considered, and it will be one of those decisions that could either be a master stroke or clearly wrong from the start, depending on subsequent events.
Is there really a way to know which manager will succeed in a new job and which manager won’t? Just two very recent examples could be instructive. Jurgen Klopp, current coach of Champions’ League finalists BV Borussia Dortmund, coached Mainz for 7 years after spending his entire career there. Mainz were relegated at the end of 2006-2007, and he could not bring them back up the following season, so he resigned. Dortmund hired him in 2008, and the rest is history. As for Pep Guardiola, Barcelona was his first senior managerial position.
I view the appointment of Moyes with considerable curiosity, even excitement. I wonder whether Fergie can resist getting involved in team affairs behind the scenes or commenting about them in public. I also wonder about how the old man will cope with not having to go to Carrington bright and early every day, knowing that the club has been his obsession for a quarter century.
There are so many narratives that will spin off from this event. The following weeks, months, even years will be very interesting. Fall Out Boy said it best: ‘…this crystal ball is always cloudy except for when you look into the past.’
As the hairdryer era comes to a close, my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude for the past and present.
Thnks Fr Th Mmrs, Sir Alex.
Hello, David. Welcome to Manchester.
‘There are two things that are important in politics. The first thing is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is’ – Mark Hanna.
With the just concluded merger of opposition parties and reaction to the development sure to dominate political commentary for some time, it is safe to say that the 2015 election season has unofficially begun.
As we once again contemplate elections, it is worth remembering that elections cost money. Democracy costs money. Campaigns cost money. Lots of it. Anyone who knows anything about the way politics is done in Nigeria, knows the huge cost of a campaign for public office. This cost is so high as to be prohibitive to all but the richest men, or those who have rich benefactors, or those who have their hands in public funds.
The figures are truly shocking. In the PDP, for example, to pick a nomination form for the State House of Assembly, you must part with the princely sum of N1m. Yes, N1m. For a form. If you wanted to be a House of Representatives candidate, you part with N2.5 million. For the Senate, N3m. Governorship, N5m. And for the Presidency, it is N10m. This is not counting other fees like the ‘expression of interest’, ‘formalisation of intent’, administrative charges, and all such levies which combine to make elections a game won by the highest bidder.
It can therefore not be surprising that after being elected, a public official’s first port of call could be to recoup all the investments made in his campaign, replenishing both his own funds, and those of his benefactors. The prohibitive cost of seeking public office in Nigeria, is a major reason why corruption continues to thrive.
This cost is actually enshrined in our laws. The Electoral Act in 2010 doubled the campaign spending limits in the 2006 Act. Someone running for the Presidency can spend up to N1 billion, a Governor can spend up to N200 million, N40 million for Senate, 20m for House of Representatives, N10 million for State House of Assembly and local government, and N1 million for ward councillor. Even with these limits, there is no enforcement of them from INEC, which has powers to monitor campaign finance, audit the accounts of political parties, and make that information available to the public, as enshrined in Section 153 of the Constitution, as well as Part 1 of the Third Schedule.
The lack of attention paid to this crucial area is of grave concern, because the unchecked influx of money into politics will produce governance that has been captured by a tiny minority, to the detriment of a majority. The result is a political process captured by special interests, resulting in an undue influence on government policy, distortion of political discourse, and a reduction in political participation. Whenever a waiver is granted, or foreign goods are banned, it is often to pay back a generous donor and wet the ground for the next cycle.
Another of the main dangers in money politics is that it becomes an arms race. The other party is doing it, so you have to do it too, or risk falling behind. In the run up to the last US elections, Barack Obama initially rejected donations from SuperPACs, groups who were recently allowed to use unlimited funds in support of a presidential candidate by the US Supreme Court, but he later accepted their support because Mitt Romney, his challenger, was already profiting from the organisations which backed him.
With just over 2 years to go till the next general elections, civil society groups need to impress on INEC the urgency of putting in place measures to track campaign expenditure in all political parties, at all levels, and enforcing the spending limits contained in Section 91 of the 2011 Electoral Act. Limits should also be placed on how much any one person can donate to a candidate, and information on donors to political parties should be in the public domain.
There is little hope of stemming the tide of corruption, while the stakes for public office in Nigeria remain so high. In the end, it will not matter whether an election is free and fair or not. He who plays the piper dictates the tune. If only those who are rich or have rich benefactors can run for office, the electorate is deprived of new faces and fresh ideas. That cannot be a good thing.
Being in the state that it is, Nigeria needs a critical mass of people to steer it clear of the calamitous course it is on. It needs people on the outside, constantly demanding better governance at all levels, and keeping politicians and civil servants honest. Equally as crucial, it needs people on the inside, fighting the hard battles necessary for reform.
In March, The Economist described Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Nigeria’s ‘Iron Lady’, and frankly, one needs an iron will to attempt any kind of reform in a nation that has gone backwards since she left her first stint as Finance Minister in 2006, to wide acclaim. Then, like now, her principal needed her to confer some measure of credibility on the cabinet. Then, like now, she answered the call.
Sadly for her, this time is different. Her official title: ‘Coordinating Minister for Finance and the Economy’, is as long as the list of problems she faces. 5 years after the first time, she has to confront a federal government bloated out of all proportion which consumes 70% of all its revenues, a petrol subsidy system used to finance the 2011 elections, state governors more reckless than ever, and a National Assembly that has a statutory allocation of N150 billion with no oversight, and little to show for it. The Excess Crude Account left behind by herself and Obasanjo was depleted to fund growing consumption by governors who just want to share whatever oil proceeds come in.
2012 started in dramatic fashion, with her attempts – increasingly in vain – to justify the removal of fuel subsidy in January. The subsidy was partially restored, and she went to work cleaning up the system, applying strict criteria for verification of subsidy claims. The results were loud complaints from petroleum marketers, lack of petrol on the streets, and the kidnap of her mother. More on that later.
In the meantime, she was widely recommended as the best candidate for the vacant position of World Bank President, going up against Jim Yong Kim, the US candidate. She received ringing endorsements from leading development experts, as well as The Economist and other leading publications. Even though the bid was unsuccessful, the moral victory was hers because her candidacy started a debate about what the role of organisations like the World Bank should be, and the lack of transparency around how its leaders are chosen.
It increasingly appears that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a prophetess that will never truly be celebrated in her own land. She was derided in some quarters for wanting to run away from Nigeria by way of the World Bank Presidency, but if that were ever the case, she didn’t show it by the manner in which she took on subsidy thieves and wasteful governors. Her office has no power to prosecute those who had stolen before, but she made it very, very difficult for them to continue robbing Nigeria blind. The proposed Sovereign Wealth Fund was another source of conflict between her and the governors, whose only mandate is to ‘share’ revenues.
These battles came to a climax when her mother was abducted on December 9, and held for 5 days. Okonjo-Iweala linked this directly to subsidy payments, a connection many had made with the appropriation of an extra $1 billion for subsidy for the rest of the year, which tallied exactly with the initial ransom demand. Crucially, the 82 year old Professor was released the very next day.
It highlighted the very real cost faced by those who try to push through reforms in a government awash with corruption, and an indication about how enemies of Nigeria’s progress may proceed in future. Kidnapping is now fair game, and this realization is a disturbing one.
Her nickname: ‘Okonjo- wahala’, conjures the image of someone who has always been an outsider, and this has proven quite true. Under Obasanjo, she at least had the comfort of fellow reformers, and a principal who – warts and all – commanded genuine respect and brought gravitas to the Presidency.
This time she has neither, hence the need for iron. Surrender is not an option. The alternative is unthinkable.
So, I am currently staring at this an E-16 message for the second time in 3 days, and missing the football, and not getting the service, despite paying before the expiry date.
It would have been understandable if this was a one-off. But it isn’t. This is the third or fourth month in a row that this has happened. Every month, I get cut off twice, without fail. Every month, I pay before it expires. Every month, I have to spend unnecessary time on the phone trying to get the issue resolved, and I am sick of it.
This has nothing to do with the prices, or the content, or whatever. This has to do with something that is the foundation of customer service: people should get what they pay for, when they pay for it. The fact that DSTV is unable to do this (anymore) tells me something is seriously wrong with the way that business is run.
Their other methods for resolving E-16 do not work. I have tried the ‘RA smartcard number’ to 30333 gimmick, but it doesn’t work.
This is 2012, and to think that one of the continent’s leading satellite TV providers cannot handle subscriptions properly, tells its own story.
On the wall at the entrance to Adeniji-Adele police station, the number of the D.P.O. (Divisional Police Officer) is prominent, to enable residents get in touch with him. At the gate and inside the station, the aggression so often exhibited by the police is absent, with people going about their business freely. It is almost as if this particular police station is not in Nigeria, where the brutality of its law enforcement agents is legendary.
A different kind of policing is in operation there, where Monday Agbonika is in charge. He first came to attention in an article by the Wall Street Journal a year ago, for his work in Agege. At his new assignment, which started in March this year, he continues to implement what he learnt from a DFID programme aimed at providing a new template for policing in Nigeria, one focused on forming partnerships with stakeholders in the community to improve service delivery.
Agbonika was part of a pilot programme called ‘Security, Justice and Growth’, which involved 129 divisions from across the country, and used role based training to introduce new policing concepts. The aim, as he explained, was to ‘discuss how we’ve been doing things, discuss problems we have been encountering and how we can do things better. It is like teaching ourselves’. The follow-up programme, called ‘Justice for All’, uses model police stations to implement those new concepts. He admits that ‘what they (the government) expect from us is different from the way we do it here’, but it makes his work so easy that he cannot imagine going back to the old ways. ‘I wonder why anyone should work differently’, he says.
This approach was a success at his former station at Isokoko in Agege area of Lagos, where, in addition to drastically reducing the crime rate, a new police station was constructed through community partnership. Accountability and transparency was key to achieving this, and he even got the governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola to assist. Isokoko was chosen as one of the model police stations in the ‘Justice for all’ programme, and Adeniji-Adele has just been included, apparently because he has applied the tools and principles consistently. ‘Someone said they are following me’, he says with a smile. ‘But I am not complaining’.
Throughout, he gives the impression of calmness, a kind of relaxed focus, inspite of his responsibilities. He deals with several visitors, one of whom was an elderly man who is an old boy of his former school, St John’s College, Kaduna. He communicates with his men a number of times as well, receiving reports from the field.
Just like Isokoko, Adeniji-Adele’s main problem concerned ‘area boys’. He solved the problem by employing a variety of tools like ‘crime mapping’, which keeps record of incidents with the help of notebooks, which are submitted on a daily basis. These reports form the basis for the ‘DPO’s briefing sheet’, submitted by the Divisional Intelligence Officer at the start of the next day. ‘This is how intelligence-led policing starts’, he explains. ‘It’s the small things. It is about collecting little bits of information and putting them together to form a picture. You don’t wait to get high-tech equipment’. The incidents are put on a map, resulting in hotspot patrols and neighbourhood patrols designed to boost police visibility, deter potential criminals and breed trust between the police and the community. Vigilante groups in the area under his command are encouraged and trained in partnership with the DFID and CLEEN foundation. Traditional rulers in communities with restive youth are also involved in warning them to desist from crime and in settling disputes. In the event of any disturbance, response teams are trained to arrive on the scene within 60 seconds of a report to disperse crowds and make arrests if possible. In addition, there is a Prisoners’ Lockup Register, designed to keep track of suspects in custody, and check the excesses of the men on duty.
Taken together, this approach aims to renew the faith of residents in the rule of law and make that the first source of redress. When suspects are charged to court, he notes the reforms going on in the Lagos state judiciary, which make for quicker dispensation of justice.
Another area in which progress has been made is regarding domestic violence and rape, which is a cause he champions. A lot of physical abuse goes unreported and steps have been taken to make victims able to come forward and receive care. ‘Before now, people used to think only about how to prosecute the suspect, but no one cares about the victim’, he says. ‘I have gotten training for them to focus more on the victims, because they are the most important. Some of them will never be the same again’
At the entrance to the station, there is a private area manned by a female officer trained to identify and respond to women in distress. A number of CSOs like Project Alert work with the police to provide counselling and shelter. In cases of rape which are reported within 72 hours, Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is administered which can prevent HIV infection, even if it is reported at the weekend. ‘More women are willing to come forward, but we still need awareness for them to know we have this in place and their identities will be secure’.
It has not been progress all round, however. A lot of officers have transferred out, because there is a lot less room for extortion. He has about 50 men less than when he took over as DPO. As a result the Ilubirin area is underpoliced, making it a haven for robbers despite attempts to clear the area under that section of the Third Mainland Bridge. He is less upbeat when discussing personnel issues, emphasizing the lonely nature of what he is trying to do. Poorly paid policemen often become corrupt in order to make ends meet, and Adeniji-Adele used to be seen as lucrative. ‘In the past, they used to pay N10,000 to come here’, he said. ‘Now, they pay N10,000 to leave’.
Going forward, a community safety partnership will be developed consisting of relevant stakeholders that will find out the concerns of the people and try to resolve them. Also planned is a solictors’ forum made of lawyers who will have access to the cells, make observations, represent suspects in court and ensure their rights are not violated, serving as checks on the police.
This method of policing which focuses on service and partnership can go a long way to reverse the years of hostility Nigerians feel towards those supposed to protect them, conferring the legitimacy necessary to preserve order, without which society will slide into chaos, as graphically expressed in the ALUU 4 incident and numerous other examples of jungle justice which take place all over the country. Intelligence led policing can also help with combating Boko Haram, winning hearts and minds in order to deliver crucial information, as against the crude and counter-productive tactics of the Joint Task Force.
Lasting reform will take time, but maybe one day, the police in Nigeria will truly be your friend.
Every 4 years for quite a while, the world has been increasingly held captive by the US Presidential Elections. The fact that the US has been the richest and most powerful country in the world for the last century means that whoever becomes their leader has an impact on the rest of the world, especially as we become more connected.
While some may scoff at the focus and interest shown by the rest of the world, the fact is that the US elections in many ways represent the pinnacle of democracy in style and in substance. For months in the build up to the elections, the world has been captivated by debates, campaign speeches and convention speeches that are as much about spectacle as they are about specifics. In a sense, American democracy works almost too well, with everything choreographed even to the slightest detail. The issues of the election are analysed almost ad-nauseam until a Nigerian can repeat almost verbatim the issues in a US election cycle.
It is still strange for Nigerians to compare what happens in the US – with terms like ‘swing states’, ‘electoral college’, ‘early voting’ and all that comes with such a highly developed democracy – to what we have back home which is infantile at best, but this is because the US elections carry an aspirational quality. Every nation wants a democracy where all voices are heard and seen to be heard. America’s democracy is a celebration that the rest of the world joins in every four years.
Today’s election was a referendum of Obama’s four years, but more importantly it is an insight into the future of US demographics and the future of electioneering as a whole. As the percentage of white voters reduces, the Republican party’s base goes with it. Democrats have done a great job with capturing women, youth and minorities. Coupled with the legalisation of marijuana in Colorado and same sex marriage in Maryland, Maine and Washington, the GOP finds itself on the wrong side of a long term trend which will put them in retreat for the foreseeable future, unless they take back control from the Tea Party fringe. The role of the government in disaster relief after Hurricane Sandy and the bailouts which saved a lot of jobs in Ohio, also directly contradicts the GOP’s obsession with small government as against government that works.
Another interesting aspect has been the use of data to accurately predict the outcome of the election, as well as the targeting of individual voters to influence their choice for president. Data science is an emerging field that is being shown to have a vast range of uses. More and more, we are seeing that if you ask the right questions and collect data based on those questions, there is a lot you can do with it. Four years ago, Nate Silver on his fivethirtyeight blog, correctly predicted the presidential election results in 49 out of 50 states. This year, after being engaged by the New York Times, he was so sure of his model that he bet on it publicly. This time, he correctly predicted 50 out of 50 states. This is the power of data which is showing itself to be stronger than conventional wisdom and everyday punditry. This is the future of electioneering and could very well be the future of most things.
Barack Obama has run his last race, morphing from a charismatic leader to a pragmatist before our very eyes, while still convincing enough people that he deserves a chance to finish the job. To do this, he has had to maintain the same coalition that brought him to power in 2008, which also looks like the same coalition the Democratic Party will rely on for years to come, one which is ‘broader than it was deep’ as Nate Silver put it.
The Democrats will not mind much, and neither will Obama. He has four more years to consolidate his policies and learn from the mistakes of his first term. It also shows the utter failure of the GOP’s bitter and divisive campaign, designed to obstruct rather than point a way forward.
After the victory and concession speeches were given and the analysis of results begins in earnest, I would be lying if I said I was not inspired. The Americans are far from perfect to be sure, but they make democracy look so beautiful. I want my country’s democracy to be beautiful, too. Some day, I want elections in Nigeria to be watched like this, to be analysed like this, to be predicted like this. I want Nigerians to celebrate democracy like this. I want elections to be free from rigging, with results known a few hours after polls close. I want a knowledgeable electorate that will hold their leaders to account and turn up at the ballot box, rewarding good governance and punishing the bad.
When will we have a democracy like this? Can we have it? I think we can. I think that if we each took personal responsibility for it, it can happen. It won’t be in a day or a year, but watching how it is done elsewhere in the world can serve as the inspiration necessary for the perspiration that is vital to create a real democracy within our shores.
God bless Nigeria.
Like most Lagosians, I have a love-hate relationship with okada riders, those daredevils on two wheels, most of whom appear to have a death-wish as they flash in between vehicles with scant regard for the lives of those they carry. Their numbers have exploded in lock-step with the population of the city, which in turn exposed the massive gaps in the transportation system, poor road network, and a masterplan long since discarded.
With initial amusement eventually turning into greater and greater concern, I have also observed the Lagos state government’s determination to make life increasingly difficult for a group of people whom, like it or not, have become indispensable in the lives of most Lagosians.
The reasons why some would support a ban on okada in Lagos, or at least a restriction on their movements in the city, are understandable. The increased risk of fatalities in event of an accident is one. Many have been seriously injured and even killed in this manner as a result of the recklessness of the riders. The sheer number of them further congests already congested roads, and they have been linked to an increase in crime.
That said, the truth is Lagos will not become more liveable if okadas were to disappear from the roads. The simple reason is that okada is merely a result of the chaos, not a cause.
Some will say that motorcycles have been successfully banned in Abuja and Port-Harcourt, but neither of these cities has the population and economic activity of Lagos. The number of people that need transportation to conduct economic activity of all kinds demands a transport system that gets to every part of the city. Lagos does not have that, and will not have it for some time to come. Moving around in Lagos is nothing short of a pain: the BRT only gets to a few places, the danfo and Keke Napep get to the rest, but in a situation where bad roads combined with floods keep people in traffic for hours, the okada is a welcome alternative to what might otherwise be a frustrating day.
This is the issue. Alternatives. A few bike rides may be the difference between a productive and an unproductive day. Many times, parking could take as much time as driving to the location itself, which is not good at all if you’re in a hurry. Cars seem to be everywhere, something that might get worse if the convenience of okada is no longer there. There is also no evidence that the BRT can handle the extra capacity. You see, a sharp decrease in one form of transportation will mean an increase in another form of transportation. Keke Napep is most likely to benefit from the okada clampdown, but they are already becoming a menace themselves, and the prospect of a significant increase in cars is something that should fill anyone with dread.
A lot of men without jobs, plus a woefully inadequate transport system has made okada central to our lives. Instead of the Lagos state government to provide proper mass transit and watch people gradually make the switch, they have chosen to put the cart before the horse. The foundation of this latest assault on okada is the Lagos traffic law, expertly analyzed by my good friend Tex, here. This law banned them from nearly 500 roads in the state, needless to say, the most lucrative routes. The 3,000 motorcycles seized belong to those who apparently violated the law. In that post Tex asked: ‘Are the enormous fines a stealth tax or fund-raising initiative?’ It got me thinking.
It is entirely possible that those who lost their means of livelihood refused to pay ever more exorbitant ‘protection’ money to ‘council’ or LASTMA officials in order to let them operate. Now that some have been made an example of, okada riders know that the state government isn’t playing and are likely to pay up. Combined with the ‘collection’ of radio and tv licenses, we see the signs of a renewed revenue drive by the state government.
There is no crime in wanting to make more revenue, but one wonders if tactics like these would have been employed in Fashola’s first term, knowing that he would run for re-election. Perhaps not. The next time you hear a story of someone getting robbed in traffic, you are welcome to wonder if he was one of the 3000 who had their bikes destroyed.