Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Can you say Okada?!

I cannot begin to describe to you what emotions this picture elicits in me. No doubt the bikers head is as vacuous as the 'helmet' he's wearing, but in a strangely poetic sort of way, I can really understand why he's doing it. You see, this photo was taken in the country of my birth, Nigeria! Why on earth is he wearing a bucket for a helmet? I'm glad you asked because I was going to tell you anyway. My homeland is a land of contradictions. We provide people with the opportunity to make a living by allowing the introduction of 'motorcycle' taxi's to beat the inhuman traffic conditions (these bikes are commonly known as Okada, and named for a now defunct local airline with a reputation for being on time but unsafe). We don't require them to pass any kind of safety test, or even wear any sort of protective clothing. They can bribe county officials for licenses and off they go to the races! Many of them actually learn to ride as they ferry passengers up and down the death-traps called streets, in Lagos.

Some of these asinine daredevils often carry as many as three complete strangers (besides themselves) on the backs of these motorbikes that are about 120cc capacity. Safety is not even a consideration for them and they are known to die in their hundreds from fatal crashes. However, the 'brilliance' of the Nigerian road safety system, clearly unsurpassed by any other nation, is displayed in the random way in which it was decided that each one of these untrained, unlicensed, and unflappable taxi-bikers must, effective January 1, 2009, wear a helmet whenever they are on their bikes. Only one small problem with that completely unenforacable law: A helmet in Nigeria costs about $25.00 which is, oh I don't know... about half the monthly income of these bonafied boneheads!!!

In an attempt to be compliant with the new helmet law, and to avoid unecessary delays and requests for bribes from the malnourished Nigerian police force, these enterprising young men have found ways to obediently 'comply' while protecting their hard earned income. Before you begin to criticize their ingenuity let me give you the Webster's Unabridged Dictionary definition of the word, helmet: anything resembling a helmet in form or position. I guess, even though they are barely literate, they know enough to figure out that they can save money, and be 'safe' and 'compliant' all at the same time, barring of course any sort of 'unforseen' accident. So, the next time I hear you complaining about how tough life is where you are, I'm sending the Nigeria Police to cart you off to Lagos on a one year sabbatical.


Anonymous said...

Is that a helmet (purpley) in the front of his bike, or actually part of the bike?
If a helmet: "wha?" (maybe for more passengers?)
Really the bucket doesn't look much different than a drum majors headgear after a good "shave". ;-)

Ash said...

personally, i think it's innovative. you have to be a bit creative when circumstances force you to "comply" with the limitations. survival can push a person to think outside the box. --wink.

Joseph said...

Indeed, that is an extra passenger helmet on the handlebars. Of course, in a crash I'm not sure it matters who was wearing which helmet!

Ashley, it is no doubt innovative, especially in the troubled economic times. I do however think that much more than thinking would be "outside the box" if anything were to happen since that 'chin strap' would literally serve as a guillotine. Ce la vie, eh?