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Opinions of Sunday, 25 July 2010

Columnist: Atawura, Philip

Ghana's Okada Wahala

“OKADA” is a house hold
name referring to commercial motors. Long ago it was never dreamt of
that such
a thing could ever happen in Ghana. I guess this is transport
integration where
the trade is gradually widening along the coastal cities of West Africa.
I
don’t know much about Benin and Burkina Faso so I keep my mouth shut on
them.
For Nigeria, I know it is of no news that the country is well known for
the
business as it is showed off in most of their movies. There is another
country
whose ratio of ‘Okada’ to car as a means of transport is almost 15:1.
This is Togo.
My three day visit to Lome the capital was a new world of experience all
together. It is a fast way of traveling and to avoid the scarce traffic
in
Togo, one would have no option than to board on the Okada. Mondays are
days of
money making for the Okada man as a result of most workers seeking the
help of
Okada to make it to work on time. My private Okada man whom I hired for
the
three day long was very sincere and told me a lot of things about their
economy
and politics which I intend to make known in latter articles. Though it
is
quite expensive, I would say it is the best form of transport in Togo. A
7km trip
could cost one about 2000CFA, close to 6GHC. This was the answer to a
question
I asked him about the reasons why they don’t provide their passengers
with a
helmet: “You know, this is a country where we don’t have money. First,
we use
helmets for passengers but some peoples head is not proper. Some people
have
disease on their head and they give it to others. When that happens, the
people
themselves stopped using helmets. That is why you don’t find people
using them.

”. Well, a little experience from Togo for us then. Now, let us move on
to what
is happening in Ghana. The first time I saw the operation of Okada was
in the
latter part of 2008 around the Rawlings Park. They initially were
running from
the said place to Kolebu, James town and its environs. Later
on, their numbers begun to grow from
the initial four that I saw to almost thirty at its present state. Just
two
months ago, the Okada business has just sprung up at the Odorkor Traffic
light
like roses. Its patronage too is very
high and one would need only a cedi to make it to Mallam junction in
just five
minutes at most. What made me add my mouth to this issue is all about
the way
these Okada men use adventurously use the road. One would have no option
to
know whether these men have any knowledge in road safety. That
withstanding,
how many of them have lances to operate? Do they pay VIT or any revenue
to the
government at all? Could you believe that their own created path of
transporting passengers to the Mallam junction is the pedestrians’
pavement? I was shocked to the pants
when I saw that. Of late, street lights on that highway are not working
and
pedestrians would have to be extra careful when walking on the now
perceived
safe grounds; the pavement. I know that
this kind of transport is not accepted in Ghana but to make it worst,
why using
the place meant for people to walk on?
As I am always on the watch, I saw this police officer taking
money from
the master of the Okada station in order to allow them operate. My mouth
was
fully opened in dismay. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Is this
not an enforcer
of the law helping to break the law? Anyway, I think we are about to
lose more
if we allow these guys to use the pavement. I was told by a Kasoa friend
that
those guys are usually arrested when they get to Mallam junction so they
usually dispatch their passengers around the market. The question then
comes.
If these people are arrested at one end and at the other end nothing
happens,
then the outcome is what? Corruption? That aside, it is bad to ply the
busy
streets of Accra without a helmet. With that too, making sure that
passengers
wear helmet would also result in the Togo saga. The end point should
then be
debated.



Atawura Philip

Ghana Institute of
Journalism
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