Okada Etiquette

Moving about in Lagos is a tricky business, especially if you don’t have your own car. This simply means that you’re at the mercy of the public transportation system, such as it is. So you must include the time lost for soliciting passengers, dropping them off, traffic en route etc in your arrival time to any destination. Your patience quotient must also be topped up…enormously (this is absolutely essential for survival!), to include the amount for the driver/conductor antics, fellow passengers and anything else that might crop up during the course of the journey should and must be anticipated! Whilst you’re at it, you mustn’t forget to have the quantity required for the full work day too.

Thankfully the system is no longer entirely dependent on danfo buses, BRT or the few molues found in obscure locations in the metropolis. The introduction of okadas a few years back brought an enormous sigh of relief. Hard to reach suburbs became accessible and the infernal go-slow could be waded through more quickly on the two-wheeler. It has become a common enough sight to see smartly dressed men and women atop them. Once the traffic builds up and appointments are at stake, it’s common for people to hop unto the motorcycle and whizz away. Office workers, mid and top-level managers have used these daredevils as occasion calls for it.

Some Lagosians have okada riders that they have a standing agreement with, just like some others have taxis that do the same. The more competitive landscape in this sector has given rise to numerous contracts like this state wide. Financial benefits accrue to the rider on one hand; whilst the convenience to the passenger cannot be over emphasised and so makes it difficult for anyone to convince them otherwise. It’s a common enough thing for people to ask for the number of a reliable okada operator, as it is to ask for that of a taxi driver of the same ilk.

It then begs the question of why some people (women in particular) would prefer to dismount from a motorcycle a few metres from their actual destination. I guess it’s more understandable if a business meeting is in the offing and you’d rather that potential bosses or colleagues not see you getting off this humble mode of transportation. I also guess that the same goes for those that sometimes use this to get to church and maybe even to the cinema. It’s not seemly to be seen paying off the bike by all and sundry. After all, it’s getting to your destination that counts and not how you got there!

On the other hand more often than not men seem to carelessly dismount, pay and blithely go about their business without recourse to public opinion. I’m quite certain that these men would have weighed the pros and cons before taking a course of action that best suits them. The same is true for females that use the commercial motorcycle to fulfil various obligations, but for the sake of other factors prefer to hoof the last few metres.

Seasoned commuters resident in Lagos usually have a tale to tell, either of personal experiences or firsthand accounts of events. At one stage or the other, men and women have used one mode of public transportation or the other. Judging and juggling one that best suits personal agendas at any given point in time is what matters in daily transactions. Thus whether you hop okadas or think it’s unbecoming, making the best use of alternatives and resources is what ultimately counts in the long run.

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