On February 1, 2020, the Lagos State Government banned Okadas and Kekes in major parts of Lagos, automatically putting thousands out of jobs. We went looking for a former Okada man, to find out what he’s been up to.
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Where were you when you found out about the ban?
I was at my village o, in Abakaliki. I travelled to go and bury my mother – she had one sickness that killed her.
Ah, sorry bros. What happened to her?
Thank you o. She been sick for like seven months, and as the firstborn, I was just sending money, sending money.
What did the doctors say was wrong with her?
Cough. That’s what they said. The cough didn’t go for eight months. And that’s how she died.
Sha, after the burial, as I came back that week when they first banned it, that was when I realised say true-true, they’ve banned Okada.
I’ve been at home since.
Let’s start from the beginning. Was it Okada work that brought you to Lagos?
I started 9 years ago. Back then, someone gave me the bike – wait, let me tell you how I entered Lagos.
Someone from my village actually brought me to Lagos. He said I was going to be under him for three years.
You were learning how to ride bikes?
Learn which bike? I was selling plantain inside go-slow. He said I was going to be under him for three years. How it started was that he’d give me money, I’d go to the market, buy plantains, sell it in go-slow. I’d hand over the money I made and he’d give me commissions.
But after two years, I no do again.
That’s when I found someone to do hire-purchase for me for Okada. You’ll agree on how much to pay every week, then continue paying till you finish paying.
How much did you pay in total?
If I had bought the bike once, I for pay like ₦200k. But hire purchase, na ₦300k I pay for one year. Every week till I finished, I give back ₦10k or ₦15k.
I work Monday to Saturday, and before I go home on Saturday night, I go and hand over the money.
For my own self, I was having like ₦10k for myself. This was 2012. That year sef, I wanted to marry, but there are things you have to do in my village before you can carry wife.
Things as in?
Cow. You must buy a cow – correct cow na like ₦200k. Some collect money, but people don’t like collecting money again. The money will finish, but a cow can give birth, so they want only cow nowadays.
So how did you do it?
I still managed to get everything they asked for and married her. Then we came back to Lagos together. I started giving her money every day, ₦1,500. But she started following other boys when she started working in the market. One day, I was sleeping, and she used hot iron to burn my head.
We don leave each other sha. The child we had together also died – sickness kill am. Even as she left me, I’m just happy that it’s not hunger that made her leave. Around this time, Fashola sef now banned bikes.
Then I had to get Keke and do hire-purchase. The person bought it, and I eventually paid ₦950k. Every week, I used to write everything down, how much I was making. By the time I finished paying the money, the keke done spoil finish.
I did hire-purchase again and paid ₦310k for it. But with the bigger bike, I was making ₦20k to ₦25k per week.
How many hours do you work?
Seven to seven. I don’t like night work, because I don’t see well at night. I also don’t work on Sundays.
After that period, I married again, and now she has our children. But she dey village.
What does your wife do?
Nothing. I just dey send am money from my work. Sha, that new bike helped me, sending money home, and paying school fees.
But now, I don’t even know what’s going to happen.
What of the other people at your bus stop? Where are they now?
Some people have gone back to the village – many of them are those keke people. Many of my neighbours, na keke them dey ride. Some of them have gone back to sell things in traffic. I know some of them that are working at the railway construction.
Let me show you where people for this area dey keep bike and keke.
The Okada people have bought boxes on their bikes, and started doing deliveries. If you do delivery work, nobody will disturb you.
One of those boxes cost up to ₦15k.
So, if you decide to focus on delivery now, how much do you think you’ll be making?
In a day, I can make up to ₦7k or ₦8k. Depends, but that’s what I heard. E no bad like that. And the good thing be say, there’s no place I don’t know in this Lagos.
You know wetin I hate pass about this Okada ban thing?
Being at home. As a man, the more you stay at home, the more you go dey lazy. I hate seeing daylight in this place.
Tell me about your house.
It’s just one room, na just wood. I stay there with my brother and another brother from my village. ₦3,000 per month.
Do you worry that maybe this delivery bikes, they might ban it too?
If I see a bus that someone will give me for hire-purchase, I’ll drive – I sabi drive too. Bus people don’t have problems and those small seven-seaters, they make up to ₦5k per day, and now that there’s no Okada, them go dey load fast.
No matter what, I no fit go back village.
Ah, why na?
All those old women will be abusing you, calling you lazy. So no matter what, I can never go back to the village to live as a young man. I can go, stay small then come back. But I can’t stay there permanently.
I know I’m not a lazy man sha.
Only thing wey save me, at least for my family, is that I built a house in the village and that’s where my wife and children live. It’s just a small house, but it’s my house. Everything cost me like ₦500k. Na plenty years of work.
Let me even ask, do you have savings?
I been get o, but I used everything to bury my mother in the village. That whole sickness time now, na like ₦90k I spend. The burial alone, na ₦220k I spend.
Right now, na only ₦10k I get. And I need it to buy a box for my bike, so I can start delivery.
What about your wife and children?
We just dey manage now. I no get money for school like that. Before, I dey send her ₦5k when I make money for one week. But I know say everything go balance once I start work again.
Wait, how old be your children?
The first one… I no really sure. Make I call their mama ask am. I know say the first one is like four of five years. The second one, that one never even dey waka.
How old you be?
Hahaha. I no too sure like that. Like 38 or 39. I no sure.
I asked one of my guys, how many Okadas there are in Lagos, he said over 100,000.
Ah, e pass that. Maybe 200,000. My bus stop, we were up to 60. See how all the bus stops are full because there’s no Okada to carry people.
You know say, Okada na sharp-sharp work. If you want to start work and you don’t know what to do, just start Okada. You can’t be hungry.
What will happen to everybody now?
I no know o. Na God hand e dey now. One thing I know is that, I will find work. Na man wey no get shame no go just sit down for house.
No work, no money.
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