Friday, 21 December 2012

Ghana Police vs Okada: Okada wins.

So someone help me out. Here's an article from Ghanaweb that the Okada business is booming again.

I'm not upset. In fact I'm very happy. Having had a few risky rides in Vietnam on the back of strangers' mopeds I must admit that I'm happy I can recreate those experiences in Ghana.

So take in mind that I support the Okada business. That being said there's an obvious problem that sums up why Ghana isn't developing properly. When the reporter spoke to the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Angwubutoge Awuni, who doubles up as the Commanding Officer of the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit, all he could say to the issue is that "Okada is still illegal in the country and those who engage in such acts should desist because it is dangerous". Furthermore, the fact that the Christmas season calls for more innovative ways to navigate the ever-so-congested cities of Ghana does not grant citizens right of passage to violate the law.

I disagree wholeheartedly that the Okada system is dangerous, the statistics will back me and all those Okada riders too. More people die from articulated trucks, dodgy minibuses operating as trotros, and 4x4s dangerously overtaking on highways as I have seen every time I've gone to Ghana. The police and  politicians are able to make such claims because they know people fear thieves on motorcycles, but as many Ghanaian films will also show you there are enough thieves operating in cars too. Thieves will do what they must and use what they must.

Away from my defence of the Okada system the reason for this post is simple. The law against Okada is clear. So what does the ACP propose for future action, knowing full well that the Okada business is not only existent but thriving and most likely to grow?

Answer: Public education (although I doubt it will be free given that the NDC won the elections, "we want 'quality [public] education' from the police not 'free'").

The police actually suspended enforcement of this law, although it's a very recent law so when exactly did they begin and suspend the enforcement? What is the timetable of suspension put on this law? They may even have to suspend the public education on the law, to educate people on how long they will suspend the law! What greater education is there than to enforce it. Enforcement should not necessarily mean jail or large fines for people. I'm just tired of seeing people break the law in full knowledge and view of the police. No matter the offence, the rebuttal from the police is always that public education is needed. Can people just do their jobs please?

I just think that the reason that people still urinate in streets and dump rubbish in gutters, drive recklessly and commit other offences is simply because they know that those with the authority to stop them won't have left the office yet. It's all big talk about compulsory motorbike leathers (ridiculous in Africa but true) and illegal paying passengers, but what all law in any country comes down to is the follow through. People won't change unless you implore them to, the country can't develop unless we actively develop it.

Postscript: if you must ban something, provide a worth alternative as lagos has done with the tuk tuk. Don't ban Okadas without introducing tuk tuks and don't ban street hawkers without introducin safe shoppin stores for them to work in. It's that simple.

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