Thought and Ideas
Somebody thinks boda boda tail is wagging the government dog
Posted Sunday, October 13 2013 at 01:00
But what is all the fuss about boda bodas?” my maid asked with irritation. “You would have expected all the big people to be arguing about more serious people like doctors, but boda bodas surely?”
“They transport you and almost everybody,” I volunteered as I passed by to go and fix myself a cup of coffee. But the minister’s maid, who was visiting, like she does at least once a week when off duty, jumped up and came to help.
“But mzee how can you defend those reckless fellows?” she asked accusingly as she worked the now aging coffee contraption in our kitchen. “At least the farmers certainly feed everybody, but those boda bodas just kill half of the people who die on our roads, I heard the traffic police chief say the other day.”
“They don’t do it intentionally,” I continued with my defence of the otherwise deadly commercial cyclist.
“Then why do they refuse to wear helmets and to give the same to their passengers if their intention is not to kill us?” asked the minister’s maid angrily. “And who do they think they are anyway, riding motorbikes and carrying passengers without even having a driving license? For can you even dare drive without a permit?”
I did not like the way she was maneuvering me into a wholesale boda boda defender so I decided to stick to the economics rather than the legal aspect of it.
“What we need is to make them safer because they have really contributed to our economy – now even people upcountry can cover long distances instantly unlike in the past when they would wait for days for a bus or lorry to come by,” I put my case.
“Ha ha ha!” she laughed as she handed me my mug of coffee. “So you mean the best way to transport people was to bring in those small killer machines? Why not build the roads instead so that cars and buses which carry more people can reach every corner of the country and the towns?”
“You want a big bus to be depositing every passenger at their doorstep?” I asked as I felt myself getting irritated now.
“So is that why road development is so slow simply because the boda bodas can reach the smallest hut where there is no road?” queried the persistent maid. “So is that why the city is allowed to become one horrible slum because you have boda bodas that don’t require roads?”
“But even in the developed countries motor bikes are very popular,” I said defensively.
“And are they used as taxis?” she shot back. “I have never been out of Uganda, it is you who has traveled so tell me, do they use motor bikes to carry paying passengers in America? Do they allow a million unlicensed, uninsured, unregistered bikes to do business in Britain?”
“They have provided employment to half a million youths,” I said, not liking the direction of the conversation at all.
“Eh, eh eh!” she answered and said something about Ruhanga. “You mean you support these young men’s deserting and selling their land to buy those motor bikes? And do you realise sir, that the minute the young man starts riding a boda boda that is when his brain stops working? Tell me, what thinking goes into riding a boda boda? Surely mzee, is there even anything on the boda boda that is made in Uganda – from the bike, the petrol and even the helmet? Do you realize boda boda is making us less independent? At least if they cannot make the boda boda locally, they should make special lanes for them to reduce accidents. Do we need to import the road lanes also from India?”
“Okay okay,” I tried to calm her down. Why was she taking it out on me as if I was a boda boda man who had overcharged her? “The boda bodas are a necessary evil for now but as we develop..”
“Develop! How?” she cut me short. “By allowing boda boda to dominate the transport sector, you are just making sure that the country will not develop. If you really wanted to develop, you should have ensured that there are roads to reach everywhere and they are well maintained, then the vehicles would have been able to take people there. Instead you are allowing mentally stunted young men to control the passenger transport!”
She was now boiling with anger. I thought this was the right time to get some snippets she has heard the minister say about the strategic plans for the transport sector.
“Well it is people like your boss who know.”
“He knows nothing,” she said firmly. “All I know is that he owns about thirty boda bodas and he cannot see anything wrong with them.”