Feature Article of Thursday, 22 November 2012
Columnist: Yahaya, Moses K.
Moses Kofi Yahaya
Is Tamale fast morphing into the African version of Bangkok the teeming Thailand capital where motorcyclists are ubiquitous? There is mounting evidence that it has. The surge of motorcyclists in Tamale is unprecedented; just stroll onto the streets of Tamale on any given day and the sheer number of motorcyclists will simply overwhelm you. They are akin to a swarm of locusts about to decimate a cornfield pregnant with seed.
They are a fearless bunch, these motorcyclists. Defiant and daring, they ride around at breakneck speed and for most part without helmets, head-gears that are designed to prevent fatal head injuries in accidents. Their road antics and sheer bravado are stuff of movies and legends. They zip in and out of traffic with reckless abandon, running through red-lights and stop signs with least regard for traffic regulations and utter disdain for other road users and our poorly paid police officers just stare indifferently.
In the last decade or so, motorcycles have become a way of life in the northern regions primarily because of trade liberalization, but more so because of Asia’s new found affection for Africa. Markets in the region are flooded with motorcycles of all kinds from China, India and South Korea.
It was not so long ago that owning one of these metal contraptions took hard work and years of savings. But even then, you could hardly purchase one on the open market. It was a scarce commodity. The only way to acquire one was to trek across the border to Sankassi in Burkina Fasso or Lamacara in Togo with a bag full of cedis. It was, ultimately, an arduous journey because you had to deal with corrupt border guards and custom officials on both sides of the border.
One good thing about the motorcycles is that they are affordable and well within the purchasing power of public workers, farmers and ordinary citizens. Transportation within the confines of the city and its far-flung suburbs has greatly improved. For residents of Tamale this could not have come at a better time given the rapid expansion and growth of the city in recent years.
My assertions are by no means an indictment of all motorcyclists; there are law abiding motorcyclists no doubt. Nonetheless, a fairly large number of these road warriors pose a threat to other road users. Admittedly, our nation does a poor job of record keeping, so to put a finger on the number of dead from road accidents in Tamale is near impossible.
But there is no denying the fact that a disproportionate number of recent deadly accidents in the Tamale metropolis is caused by motorcyclists. And there seem to be no end in sight to this madness. Last month alone, four young strapping men were killed displaying their motorcycle riding prowess.
Lest we forget, traffic laws are designed first and foremost to regulate our driving habits and in the process create a safe driving environment for all road users, pedestrians included. But if a segment of this group flouts simple traffic laws and no punishment is doled out, lives are invariably put in danger. Additionally, it is a poor reflection on society at large.
It is time local authorities clamp down on these motorcyclists. Tamale Police officers assigned to traffic duty have the singular responsibility of making the road safe for all road users and the first thing they can do is to keep a close eye on these motorcyclists no matter how onerous the task may be.