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Opinions of Thursday, 14 February 2013

Columnist: Asimenu-Forson, Kwaku

On 'Okada' from Mali

In life, many things come in duality. Talk about man vs woman, black against white, night contrasting day and the law of opposites run through many facets of our existence. The truth also is that, in many other aspects of life, things are not black and white but many shades of grey. As technology connects vast areas of the world as part of what has become known as globalisation, not only are we becoming more aware of what unites us, we are also recognising more acutely, what the differences are between us. One such issue that cannot easily be placed in a yes or no categorisation is the need and use of commercial motorbikes in Ghana.

Between 2005 and 2010, my engagement as a marketing officer for a multinational company saw me traversing many locations in the Ecowas sub-region. In Ghana, my experience with motorbikes in the Accra plains is still fresh in my mind. The triangular road linking Sege, Battor and Sogakope close to the Volta River is better traveled on motorbikes most parts of the year. The main reason for this is simply lack of an alternate means of transport. Taxis will simply not ply this part of the country due to the poor nature of most parts of the stretch. When it rains, large populations are cut off except there is a motorbike. The story is no different in northern Ghana.

When I visited Tamale recently, I lodged in a growing community called ‘viting’ or something close to that. When returning to my abode after 6pm,’taxi-bikes’ were the only means. I was happy and grateful they existed. But I did not feel the same way in the city center when I was in a taxi proper and the bikes were competing dangerously with the cars. I did not witness any car-bike accident in tamale though but that does not mean they are uncommon. Before 2013 was ushered in, I witness two gruesome accidents on the mortuary road that leads to Korle Bu. In both instances, two people died and in both cases, the passengers were women. Likely, they were mothers returning home after a heartbreaking day in the scorching sun in Agblogbloshie. Recently, someone I know died when on a commercial motorbike from Buduburam to Kasoa in the bid to avoid the now routine weekend traffic that plagues that corridor. Apart from accidents, armed robbery facilitated by bikes are common in Ghana. One other headache that motorbikes may aid should it become the modus operandi of some unscrupulous individuals is suicide bombing.

In recent days in Mali, suicide bombers are having a day in the field with motorbikes. In Northern Nigeria, even the most revered religious leaders are not being spared attacks executed by people on bikes. With the Ghana Armed Forces joining hands with other states in ECOWAS to face Al Qaeda surrogates in Mali, if a decisive victory is not chalked soon, suicide bombers on motorbikes will spread like the 'flu in the sub-region. Should Ghana place an outright ban on bikes then or adopt 'one man, one bike' as is being done in Northern Nigeria?

The first time I saw a pregnant woman being driven by a community health nurse to a health center, I made a case that the regulation of motorbikes should be left in the hands of District Assemblies. I was convinced that, as for Metropolitan areas like Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale, there should be an outright ban. Places like Kasoa should be helped by reconstructing access and parallel roads so that the phenomenon will find no room. But with the Malian crisis now breathing down the neck of all of us in the Sub-region and beyond, the time has come for a public discussion and proper regulation of public transportation in Ghana. Else we start importing bikes with riders from Mali for detonation in Ghana.

By Kwaku Asimenu-Forson Akforson80@yahoo.co.uk