Sometime in April 2011, I got on an Okada (Motorbikes are called ‘Okada’ in Lagos) and noticed the Okada man’s bright green helmet. A Political Party logo was stamped on the back side of the hat. Well, the logo didn’t call my attention to the helmet as much as an inscription on the left and right side of the hat, ‘Eko oni bake o’.
The Okada man gallantly placed the protective hat made from lightweight plastic materials on his head and adjusted the straps in calculated rhythmic motions to a battle-like chant sounding in his head I presume. Then he looked straight at me, stretched an old red cracked protective head gear, then smiled. He had just been given an addition to his commuter bike – an extra helmet for his passengers.
The Lagos government had instructed previously that Bike riders and their passengers put on protective hats. So, a political party had seen a good way to spread their word. Okadas are almost everywhere in Lagos buzzing like bees. But that’s some stuff for another post.
I asked the Biker if he was going to vote in favour of the party that brought him a gift, but he said he believed in the man representing the Party for Lagos and that was how far he could go – It didn’t matter if he had their badge on.
Seventeen months later, I got on the same bike and the table was turned over, and with a mild twist. He had the old red helmet on, looking even more battered. And I had no protective head gear on. The bright green helmet was still bright and was doing just fine protecting his bike’s headlamp.
While I was taking this picture, he told me that he knows I would write about how he failed to give me a helmet. We have a good laugh and I told him that I was still as intrigued as I was when I read the writings on the side of the hat, ‘Eko oni baje o. It means Lagos will not stop progressing. Lagos residents have come to love the phrase, and I love how it makes us feel that our great dreams and plans for the city and the nation is still well protected because we believe.