Early morning of Tuesday this week, Nyeri Governor, Dr. Patrick Wahome Gakuru perished in a terrible road accident at Kabati area.
Initial eye witness accounts (not confirmed yet) indicate that, it might all have happened after a bodaboda rider popped up from nowhere and appeared in front of the governor’s car which was at high speed, forcing the driver to swerve as he tried to avoid killing the biker and consequently, hitting a guard rail.
Whether it is the motorbike that caused the tragic accident or not, that’s a story for another day.
Instead, I would like us to have a conversation, reignited by that incidence, and one we appear to have intentionally avoided over time.
For once, I would like us to critically think about the story of motorbike bodabodas in Kenya.
When I was growing up, there were very few motorbikes in this country.
Actually, in our village, there used to be only one motorbike owned by the area’s former Assistant Chief.
Then, around 2004, in a move aimed at creating jobs for the youth, the Mwai Kibaki administration scrapped taxes relating to motorbikes importation and boom!
Bodaboda motorbikes popped up all over. I can even remember the initial ones in our village.
Within no time, the business gained prominence. The once jobless youths got a job. It all appeared very promising.
But not until, the long term effects of the presence of these machines finally came calling.
Gradually, the bodaboda narrative started taking a different route. First was one or two accidents, then several and eventually, what was supposed to be a rare solution to youth unemployment in Kenya, turned out to be a terrible nightmare; bigger than we can even handle.
- Bodabodas are a leading cause of accidents on Kenyan roads. Our health facilities, throughout the country, have been forced to establish a special unit for bodaboda accidents, which are on the rise each day. My own cousin and a neighbour in the village are victims. But even worse, the long term effects of bodaboda riding minus the necessary protective gear are now a reality. Asthma and other related diseases dominate our hospitals each day, courtesy of the enterprise. Our youths are zooming away to shattered bones and early graves.
- Our country is, sooner or later, set to deal with a totally new kind of political insurgency. Long time banned groups like the Mungiki, Chinkororo etc appear to have found a new home in the bodaboda sector. According to my reliable sources, these groupings are slowly regrouping within the bodaboda sector, exploiting the sense of unity therein, to propagate their agenda. Just a matter of time.
- Bodabodas have given birth to the latest and most lethal version of mobocracy. If you want to confirm this reality, just get involved in an accident with a bodaboda rider. Within no time, his colleagues will appear from nowhere, to the tune of a hundred plus, and they will be ready to defend their own, regardless of whether he was the one who was wrong or not. Those fellows will even burn your car if it so necessitates. In short, they operate in their own country, do not observe any traffic rules at all, will use the wrong side of the road at will and they don’t give a damn!
- Instead of just creating employment opportunities for our youths as initially intended, bodabodas are now one of the main causes of school dropout in Kenya. Otherwise, why should I continue being in secondary school yet my parents can spare the fees, buy me a motorbike for some 50k and I can immediately start earning my own cash?
- The social impact of bodabodas is even worse. How many marriages have been broken simply because the woman of the house enjoyed the services of a bodaboda rider? How many times have we seen a story on TV in which, a bodaboda rider is stuck in someone’s wife cookie pot in a lodge, necessitating the services of a witchdoctor?
- Bodabodas are also being used by hitmen, terrorists, bandits, drug peddlers and robbers who use them to accomplish their missions with ease.
In a nutshell folks, personally, I have no problem with the bodaboda sector. In fact, I am their regular customer especially when I am in the village.
However, maybe it’s time we critically thought about the future of this industry.
Otherwise, we might be courting a disaster which we might not be able to handle in future.