The term ‘Okada’ has become an accepted street slang in Ghana that means motorcycle taxi.
Truth be told the Okada business is popular all across the country although authorities claim it is an illegality per the country’s laws.
Okada was the name of an airline in Nigeria, Okada Air, now defunct. Once upon a time when some young men in that country, in the quest of employment avenues started to use motorcycles as taxis, they nicknamed it ‘Okada’. The name stuck. It became popular.
Though the Okada business is banned in Lagos now, it became a huge commercial constituency that gave jobs to hundreds of thousands of young men in that country.
Ghanaians in their characteristic ‘copy-copy’ nature, borrowed the ‘Okada’ term from the Nigerians and started to use it in Ghana. Just like the Nigerian experience, the business became popular because it addresses the everyday needs of persons who want to move around very briskly without having to spend long hours in traffic. Their fares are cheaper too.
There are even parts of the country where Okada serves as the main means of transport due to either bad roads, unviability of enough commercial vehicles or other community-specific challenges.
Okada, is indeed a rather popular ‘illegality’, endorsed by many and tolerated by the very persons and institutions of state paid monthly to enforce road and motor traffic regulations and safety.
In the heat of the 2020 general elections, government’s official position was that motorcycles, per the existing laws, cannot be used as commercial taxis. Several institutions of state were categorical that the Okada business remain an illegality until the ban on its use as taxis is lifted.
The then presidential candidate for the National Democratic Congress (NDC), John Mahama had promised that if his party was given the nod, his government would see to the legalization and regulation of the Okada business.
Government however rubbished the suggestion and produced tons of super scary statistics to prove that motorcycle taxis have been a leading cause of road accidents and fatalities.
In its stead, government promised to give out mini cars to the Okada riders to discourage them from using motorcycles as taxis.
Then the debate became pure partisan politics which ended in a non-debate but spewing of emotional viewpoints fueled by parochial partisan interests.
The elections have come and gone, the Okada business is still thriving and getting larger on a daily business. The accident and emergency centers at the various hospitals have not stopped collating figures from Okada-related accidents and deaths. Figures that would end up as mere statistics although they are figures about the death of Ghanaians.
Indeed many more persons are beginning to invest in motorcycle taxies as an additional source of income. Of course, the migration from the rural areas into the capital cities to engage in the Okada business continues unabated.
Meanwhile the policy makers, policy regulators and politicians have all gone back into ‘default setting’ awaiting the next elections for them to play on the keyboards of people’s emotions, just to win votes.
If Okada is truly an illegality, how come the riders are forming Associations and establishing stations at almost all major cross roads in the capital city?
Some of the Okada stations are even directly opposite police stations…
…. What a country!!!