The tragedy of the Okada generation

The most important resource to a nation is the human capital. This is because with it other resources can be harnessed for growth and development with ease. This is why most countries the world over strive to put in place policies that will have their citizens achieve goals in life through education in the first instance, with such other opportunities that will guarantee professionalism in a chosen careers. In some cases, the state puts a tab on their growth and progress, particularly the young ones, who, in most cases, form the largest part of the population from among whom leaders emerge to administer the country in the near future.

The importance of youths made them command reasonable attention to discerning minds so much so that both governments and non-govermental organizations, world institutions like UNESCO, including those institutions that we sometimes view with suspicion and disdain as the IMF and the World Bank, gladly make provisions for the development and education of this segment of the population. Even the scripture backed this position with the Lord himself decreeing that we should not despise the children “for the kingdom of God is for such like ones.”

It is arguable that beyond the politically expedient rhetoric, this country has no plan for her youths. This is evident in the education sector that has gone comatose with no signs of something concrete and positive happening in that sector so soon. Neither is there alternative to having some semblance of what will enable our active sector of the population contribute to our development process.

In all areas of human index, this country has progressively failed to measure up, while yearly we always come up with policies that will see to it that our youth, who are supposed to be the hope of our tomorrow, are further pushed down the rung of the ladder of poverty and deprivation. If we are not increasing prices of very essential items that will ensure that few factories gasping for breath are finished up and worsen the unemployment situation, as was the case with Obasanjo of the better forgotten era, we will be engaging in bizarre activities on the very day of the new year thus ensuring that Nigerians begin the new year on a sad and confusing note. It is Nigerian.

At the start of 2009, we all woke up to be confronted by a new decree from The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), compelling ‘Okada Riders’ and their passengers to wear crash helmet by way of guaranteeing safety of the head in case of accident. And the Lagos state authorities had since latched on this to collect the revenue it believes is due it, asking operators of Okada to come and procure it from the state at a cheap rate upon presentation of a tax receipt. Smart idea.

While not against the FRSC intentions, and particularly, not against Lagos State for collecting its taxes, something that must be done by any one who earns an income, I am worried about our legitimizing the use of Okada as a means of commercial transport with all the health and social implications. I am also wondering if the use of Okada is allowed in our carriage laws as one for commercial purpose.

What I can not understand is the decision to reduce the value of our youths who struggled to go through hell that our higher institutions represent to graduates only to be condemned to Okada riding. Worst still is the fact that the state is not thinking of how best to engage these young vibrant ‘hands productively other than to expose their lives to avoidable danger as in riding Okada along with all the health implications.

Often we promote policies that help run other economies to our own disadvantage as in the rush for crash-helmet. While the manufacturers in Asian countries are smiling to the bank with money being milked from Nigeria, our factories are groaning under very unfriendly and hash economic environment as a result of the nation’s inability to get its bearing right. It seems we have chosen to remain an import dependent country and remain a dumping ground perpetually.

Nothing seems to work here. Not when the presidency has given up on NEPA by budgeting for generators for 2009, an amount that looks very scandalous. The states and local governments are yet to make public their provisions for energy power for 2009.

The fact that some of our citizens are dead on account of inhaling fumes from the generating sets imported from our new found friends in Asia does not worry our President nor did he see it as a motivating factor to compel to act on PHCN. No.

We must continue groping endlessly in search of an Eldorado that we did not plan for in 2020, a mere 11 years away.

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