Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Okada Women


It is 7.00 am on a busy Monday morning at Agbor, a town in Delta State, and traffic is tick. At such peak periods, all manner of horns are blaring from different sides of the road.

Workers, businessmen, market women and shop keepers hurry to make it in good time to their places of work. Parents desperately make efforts to see that their wards arrive early at their various schools. No one wants to be left out.

Mrs. Vera Okoh, a biology teacher at Gbenoba Grammar School, Agbor, and her husband, a laboratory scientist at the General Hospital in the town, are running late. Since she is saddled with the daily task of taking her four kids to school as well as reporting at her school, she needs an independent means of transportation. What this means for the 47-year-old lady is that she has to drop off the kids at various points. But that is no problem; she is a proud owner of a brand-new motorcycle.

The story is not different for Mrs. Betsy Orie who sells household items at the Agbor Motor Park. She has recently replaced her old motorcycle with a new one, relinquishing the old one to her adolescent daughter. When her husband bought his Audi 80 car a few years ago, his motorcycle was left as one of the used items in the house. For the two women, life is sweet and easy with the use of motorcycles.

These women represent the typical Ika woman in Delta State whose daily life and means of transportation depends largely on the use of motorcycles. In Ika communities, whether it is Umunede, Igbodo, Abavo, Mbiri, Idumu-esa, Owa-Alero or Agbor town, women pride themselves, today, in the acquisition and use of motorbikes.
Statistics show that about 75% of the women use motorcycles as means of transportation in Ika communities. Records reveal that in the country, it is in this region that a high ratio of women owns and rides motorcycles more than any other part of Nigeria. An average family in Ika owns between four and seven motorcycles.

The Ika woman is a true representation of the African woman, very hard working and resilient. She toils relentlessly to support her household. One unique thing about her is her independence in matters affecting the mode and type of transportation. Those who are not very conversant with this peculiar lifestyle might mistake it as being eccentric. But the Ika woman’s crave for this mode of transportation is legendary
From the days when bicycles were in vogue, she had struggled, bought and maintained them. In some cases, she had more than one.

Now, that motorcycles are the rave of the moment, she is not left out in the scramble for acquisition. As a matter of fact, it is a common phenomenon for a women’s group that is basically set up with the sole aim of raising funds for the purchase of motorcycles. There is no limit to the number of motorcycles a household can acquire. In family of eight, every member may own a motorbike.

An Ika woman goes all through the hug just like her male counterpart who owns a motorbike when it comes to maintenance. It is therefore, not an unusual sight to catch a glimpse of her at the mechanic’s shop repairing the machine or buying spare parts. Interestingly, she has a fair knowledge of the problems of her motorbike
Every day, as she sets off on her choice ride, her rare sense of bravery and courage in the face of danger on the Express way is most compelling.

Irrespective of age, the women take to the road. Both the young and the old slug it out daily behind the wheels. Taking extra load or passengers is another sight. She could conveniently take as many as the motorcycle can carry. Whether, she is attending a church service, wedding ceremony or rushing out for a social engagement, she confidently pilots the bike.
As she enjoys the ride, so also she is vulnerable to accidents. Many have been involved in accidents with different degrees of injuries.

When Daily Sun visited the Surgery Ward at the General Hospital, Agbor, a young lady, Ifeyinwa, was on admission for injuries sustained when her bike fell into a ditch on her way from the farm.
Checks by Daily Sun, reveal that because of the high volume of female motorcycle owners in Agbor town, business has not been too profitable for commercial motorbike operators. In some communities, it is even difficult to find commercial Okada riders because almost everybody, men, women, young and old have motorbikes. This development, of course, reduces the cost of an Okada ride in Agbor.

The highest for a ride from the College of Education to Oceanic Bank costs an average of N70. Aside from the relatively cheap rate, the Okada riders at Agbor display a rare sense of courtesy. They are more friendly and calm. They do not embark on a suicidal race, neither are they always in a mad rush. To woo passengers, they approach their prospective passenger with such uncommon civility and respect, exchanging pleasantries first unlike their counterparts in other places who have completely lost their sense of courtesy.

Because of their passion for the machine, Ika women would spare no cost to get the best and the trendy one. There are many types categorized as ‘Ladies’ machines,’ and there are pet names for them. For the ones in vogue, you have those nicknamed Aka-nchawa or Madam Pass Madam.
The Aka-nchawa and Madam Pass Madam types range from N170, 000 - N190, 000 while you may get the smaller, regular ones for between N120, 000 and N140,000.

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