Monday, January 26, 2009

Pssssst! Bike!

That's how you hail an okada, or motorcycle taxi, here in Lagos. You see them everywhere -- there must be millions of young men here who eke out a living ferrying people around on back of their bikes. They are known for being crazy drivers, and the exhaust their little 100 cc engines put out is a big source of the air pollution around here. But in a crowded city like Lagos, they make a lot more sense than the huge Ford Crown Victorias we have in New York.

I took my first okada ride today, on a shopping trip downtown. It was cheap and fun -- and a good way to cool off. And it reminded me of the international news okada drivers made this month (thanks to James for the original link) when they began wearing dried calabash shells on their heads to comply with the new helmet law that went into effect here on January 1st.

Funny story, right? Those crazy Nigerians wearing pumpkins on their heads! But this issue is really fascinating to me, and relevant to my research. It shows that, despite the reputation for lawlesness around here, the government was able to pass a law, and it is being enforced. I haven't seen any calabashi yet (maybe in more rural areas?), but 95% of the okada drivers do wear some form of helmet -- even if its one of those cheap plastic ones you see at construction sites in the U.S. How was this law passed? How is it being enforced? And what duty does the government have to help entrepreneurs when it imposes new regulation on them? After all, the okada drivers aren't wearing pumpkins as a joke -- they do it because they are trying to comply with the law and a pumpkin is all they can afford!


  1. I want to try a okada ride one day! Sounds fun and scary in the meantime.

    (from someone who was a big chicken in the past)

  2. I'm loving your entries and especially the photos and videos.

  3. Glad to see you are getting the full Naija experience. Might be passing through and will let you know.

  4. Thanks to all three of you for reading! I will keep up the photos and videos. It would be great to see you, Ejim, and of course anybody else who wants to come visit, as they say here, "you are welcome."