VITAL OBITER: THE DIARY OF A ROVING PUBLIC INTEREST LAWYER: AN OPEN LETTER TO MR. BABAJIDE SANWO-OLU

My Dearly Beloved Governor of Lagos State:

Sure you and the family are doing great today.

Sir, I read about your ban of Okada and Keke Marwa in major and commercial areas of Lagos State and I think as an inhabitant of Lagos State since my teen years, I should offer a word of counsel.

Permit me to share with you the contents of my Diary upon getting wind of this news. For your information sir, my diary is christened, Vital Obiter: The Diary of a Roving Public Interest Lawyer.

First I read the news of this ban with a sense of deja vu. It has happened before. It seems not to last. As I noticed, the last time Okadas and Keke Marwa were banned, they were again unbanned during elections. I wouldn’t know if it was to pacify the god of votes, which reside on the thumbs of the riders. It seems now that the honeymoon of the election is over, the voting masses can be discarded. This thoughts of mine may be wrong sir, but it seems that is the thinking of many.

You have adduced sundry reasons for your action including the one that you mean but did not bother to say. I actually seem to agree with you, my lord, oh sorry, I am not before a court of law but before your executive court, oh my governor.

I agree that this is 21st Century and we just returned from Davos and Okada and Keke Marwa may be primitive means of transportation in this age where people are booking one way ticket to Mars, the Red Planet.

But sir, we must not forget that Nigeria like any other Third World nations, is only in the 21st century in terms of calendar and not in the reality of the social and economic indicators that define the century. Therefore, we have to take things of this SMART CITY easy. I think for the city to be SMART, the people must be economically SMART. Hunger is not one of the characteristics of a SMART CITY. At least my last trip to the Silicon Valley, where the architects of these SMART things live, move and have their being bears me witness.

I also agree that the attendant menaces of using Okaka and Keke Marwa are enormous and clear to us and you also mentioned same in your magnanimity.

But may I ask sir, why is this ban decision so hasty? I don’t like when matters of the state seem to take the dimension of hastiness. Why? Matters of the state are matters of many interests, particularly in a democratic setting like ours. Therefore there is what is called public hearing, town hall meetings, consultative fora.

As you know sir, the purpose of all of these tools of engaging the public concerning a matter that affects many of the inhabitants of state is to take the views of all on board and find a common ground for all. The goal is to make the best efforts to give the people a sense of belonging and worth and give room to mutually beneficial decisions.

These stakeholders include big Investors in this matter, who are employers of labour and also empower their employees to own their Okadas, self-employed Okada and Keke Marwa riders, who are entrepreneurs in their own right, the passangers, who often don’t have another means of transportation, the Okada and Keke Marwa mechanics, the family members, including children of all the stakeholders, who eke a living from same, the people they purchase from, the list may just be endless sir.

So, sir, as I was saying, I don’t like hasty things, particularly since I read in the Book that ‘…he sins who hastens with his feet…’ I wonder why the King’s command is so hasty when Okada and Keke Marwa are not like Ebola or the most recent Chinese Coronavirus, which are plagues of public health magnitude, which must be addressed as an emergency that they are.

Sir, I went to Wikipedia to see who are the people, who ride this Okada, which recently earned its place in Oxford Dictionary and it says, ‘88% of the okada drivers were between 18 and 30 years old…’ Wiki also has it on good authority that ‘okadas began to spread in the 1980s and became more popular in the late 1980s following an economic downturn in Nigeria…’

From the foregoing, I deduced that our our young people, including (probably) graduates are in the Okada and Keke Marwa business as a means of survival due to the state of the nation, which seems not to have improved since the 1980s. Okada and Keke Marwa driving seems to be the last straw they are hanging on to as they face the threat of being drowned in the ocean of our economic misfortune as a nation.

These economic ‘survivalists,’ who we have now been told are close to one million in number are breadwinners of their families from the hand-to-mouth resources they make from riding Okada and Keke Marwa. What alternative do we have for these people sir?

What alternative do we have for the passangers, whose only means of transportation is Okada and Keke Marwa as our roads in the state are becoming less and less motorable by the minute.

Sir, while it is not every decision of government that will go down well with every member of society and the government must not seek to please everybody, I think your government should have provided an alternative means of livelihood or at least engage the affected people before taking this decision and think about the harship the banning will cause all the other stakeholders I endevour to list above.

Why do I have this sure feeling sir, that some schools, private and public will lose students when their parents are not able to pay their school fees as they lose their Okada riding jobs, adding to the 13.5 million precious Nigerian children out of school.

Sir, I am of this nagging and sincere concern that since the threshold of individual citizens are not same and considering the harssh economic realities in Nigeria today, many may take to the life of crimes, creating another wave of avoidable insecurity for law abiding members of society, now that their last straw to survival has been taken so abruptly. The sociology of criminology has shown us that the state creates the crime, the people commits it.

Sir, besides, this decision will increase stress for the passangers, who do not have another means of transportation due to ‘unmotorable’ roads, which are on the increase in Lagos State.

As I told the people in my estate when they sent out a Security Alert concerning the Okada protest, I am told is slated for today, and if you will permit me to state it here, ‘I think ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’ in the words of Martin Luther King Jnr. According to a African proverb, ‘your chicken is not safe when your neighbor is hungry.’

Sir, I further said to them, that as enlightened citizens, we owe it a duty to speak truth to power that there is a civilized way things are done in the 21st century. The goal of government must not be to cause avoidable hardship for the people but to formulate policies and programs that take into cognisance the welfare and the security of the people, which is the primary aim of government, according to the Chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

I concluded that interaction with my estate people thus, ‘Mr. Chairman sir, permit me to opine that the real Security Alert is not the protest slated for January 31, which may be quelled by the police and other apparatus of state security in their state-sponsored might. The real Security Alert is the increased in crime, which may be an attendant reality to this decision of the Lagos State Government.

I left them with the historical words of a German Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemöller, penned down in 1946:

‘First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me…’

Sir, where do we even keep all the banned Okada and Keke Marwa without creating another environmental problem?

Finally sir, is this ban not an invitation to chaos and insecurity to our people here in Lagos State? Can it please be rescinded sir with immediate and automatic alacrity?

I also hope the Area Father himself, of the OMDD (Our Mumu Don Do) fame is still in comradeship with the Okada riders and will be in town for thier protest today.

Sir, I advise that you don’t use teargas on the protesters o, if he is in their midst. The Area Father is alegic to teargas and he responds to it by fainting and his fainting is worth millions before the Nigerian court. So sir, in view of eggshell principle, don’t use teargas o as we don’t even know how many of the protesters, who might have inherited the Areas Father’s allergy. As an amicus curiae(a friend of the governor), I don’t want the courts to be demanding from you from the meager resources of Lagos State, which I know you are managing to take care of us.

‘My friend, Mr. Know-all, will you keep quiet? I am talking to my governor here, show some respect…Who told you the judiciary is in the pocket of the executive or the highest bidder?’

Don’t mind the soboloyoke sir. He is just a child of the world.

Do have an INSPIRED weekend sir.

I am your Dearly Beloved Roving Public Interest Lawyer, Taiwo AKINLAMI

(C) 2020 Taiwo AKINLAMI
234-8033620843

7 comments

  1. Excellent piece!
    Succinctly stated.i just hope the authority would reconsider the effects of this ban and address it appropriately.

  2. Good write up and advocacy for the okada business. I think what really the issue is the habit of our government to allowing bad things to festered too long before taking action. Majority of those who are doing okada now in Lagos were driven from their states and they found Lagos as a place to be. Yoruba says if people are carrying something and you stand aloof, they will put in your back yard.

    Where will Lagos get jobs for all Nigerian? They come from all over and build shanties in Lagos and if Lagos government demolish, the advocates will say, Lagos should provide a place or alternatives. That is impossible. We have problems in Nigeria yes but Lagos alone cannot carry the burden, all the States must take care of their citizen.

    Also it is not compulsory that all must live in Lagos. Ogun state is there, Oyo and host of other States are there that did not ban okada. In other climes, you are not compelled to live in a particular location. If rent is expensive in New York, you can move to New Jersey or Ohio. Not every Americans can live in California and that’s I’d the reality.

    Conclusively, thank you for your advocacy, God bless you more and more. You should Aldo endeavor to Aldo advocate for the middle level and higher level citizen. We must all live together without one being terror to the other

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s