As if we do not have enough mayhem on our congested roads, particularly in the capital, commercial motorcycles, popularly known as Okada, are simply adding to making driving in Accra a daily nightmare.
I had a nightmarish experience when I came face to face with not one but two Okada operators in two separate incidents the last couple of weeks. I almost said my last prayers last Saturday at the junction of the Beyeeman traffic lights on the Graphic Road. The week before, at the Obetsebi-Lamptey Circle in the West of Accra where interminable traffic congestion has become a character trait of the area and where every driver is compelled to apply their best driving skills to negotiate out of the confusion, I came face to face with reckless riding by about four riders who were just pushing through with no regards to drivers waiting for their time to move.
Unfortunately, the business of Okada, irrespective of the mayhem they are causing on our roads, keep multiplying by the day. They seem to be the in-thing despite their illegal existence. They weave through traffic and ride past police officers at traffic intersections. Yet, they are allowed to ride through with their impunities.
I remember the Okada issue coming up strongly in 2011 with arguments for and against their operation in this twenty first century Ghana, at a time when we are busy were busy tidying up all in the name of building an attractive millennium city. But as sometimes is the case, when people engage in illegalities they want to use illegal demonstrations to authenticate their existence. And as it happened in 2011 when there was so much public outcry against Okadas, the leaders of the commercial motorcycle operators led a demonstration one morning to present a petition to Parliament. It is puzzling that they were able to obtain a police permit for their demonstration – an illegality in the name of freedom of expression?
Six years on, nobody has been able to stop Okada operation. We have seen some growth in their operations especially in Accra. How can we build a millennium city, a city where choked roads and endless unproductive hours in traffic can shoot one’s blood pressure to unhealthy heights? Have operators and investors in the Okada business assumed that their operations are legal?
Road traffic regulations
Of course, Okada operation is illegal because Part IV, section 128 of the Road Traffic Regulations 2009 is emphatic about the prevention of the use of motorcycles for commercial purposes. What a mockery of the law. Is it not ironic that these illegal motor cycle operators ply mainly on roads where Police Officers and sometimes traffic wardens are visibly positioned to man traffic flow? Defiantly they ride carelessly through red lights and without helmets under the full watch of the law enforcing officers and get away with all their lawlessness.
For those of us who live in the West of Accra, the nuisance is becoming unbearable and it does not matter which route you decide to take in order to avoid them. From the First Light junction at Kaneshie through to the Obetsebi-Lamptey Circle is one hell. From the Zongo junction to the Abossey Okai Mosque one is ensured of a complete agony. They operate in their numbers. The amazement is that in the open glare of the police, they operate their own stations where their clients go to join the next to move.
Beginning of lawlessness
The indiscipline on our roads now is absolutely incomprehensible. Sadly, that is how some of the lawlessness that has engulfed our nation begins. Like a child who is going wayward. If you do not show interest in his case and check his or her wrongs, in no time you would have a huge problem on your hands to manage. Most of the time curing those habits becomes a strain. Some of the indiscipline at our work places, on our roads, in public places all started with small beginnings and because they were not checked adequately, today some of them have become entrenched in our society.
Apart from the fact that they are operating illegally, the Okada operators are unleashing havoc on other road users. They pay no respect to anyone and they have become masters unto themselves. We see them ride in the opposite direction in traffic; they squeeze through vehicles waiting for their turn in heavy traffic build ups. In the process, they knock folded in, the side mirrors of drivers, and they scratch vehicles and add to the stress of drivers. Most of the time, they speed off with no apologies whatsoever.
The carelessness of Okada operators is the beginning of an infant problem on our hands. It is another pre-mature pregnancy of road indiscipline that we need to abort to save lives. If not, one day this illegitimacy could blow up in our faces just as Galamsey has now overtaken us to the extent of the massive damage their operations have caused our water bodies, farms and the entire environment.
If it is within the powers of the law enforcers to stop the nuisance and the disrespect on our roads, why are we looking on unconcerned? Is the Part IV, section 128 of the Road Traffic Regulations 2009 not empowering enough? We wait for them to get deeply ineradicable and then stopping them later becomes another issue. The cases of red writings on buildings, “stop work, produce permit” are clear examples.
Really, we all seem to be at the mercy of another illegal operation which at the moment, seems to be nobody’s beef. We seem to gloss over the fact that the pedestrian who is minding his or her own business crossing the road or walking on a pavement, the driver and his or her passengers enjoying a smooth ride or even the law enforcer helping to keep order on the road could be the unfortunate victim of this havoc that has besieged us.
We cannot build a tourist friendly and attractive city or country with such road indiscipline which, in the first place have no reason to be there. Okada is an impunity, clearly in contravention to the road safety regulations of this sovereign state. Galamsey is teaching us expensive lessons today for not having acted promptly on illegal mining. When can we stamp our feet on impunities and lawlessness? Let us say a bold no to Okada for a stitch in time, they say, saves none.