Since the 1990s, commercial motorcycle (Okada) illuminates everyday coping mechanisms of the struggling immigrants and the urban poor to earn a living against the vagaries of harsh economic realities.
This paper examines the experiences and marginality of young West African immigrants who competed with socially excluded and unemployed (or underemployed) Nigerians in the Okada (commercial motorcycle) business.
From the early 1990s, the population young West African immigrants continued to bulge in Ibadan. Due to their poor economic background, most Okada riders were in the business to “buy time and get ‘chop’ money.” Okada was an evidence of falling standard of living, social inequalities, dependency on foreign technology and absence of welfare state in the era of neo-liberal economic reforms.
Most of the young immigrants in this study, especially those who migrated between 1990s and 2000s belonged to what Sabyasachi Bhattacharya and Jan Lucassen (2005) termed as ‘informal sector labour force’, ‘labouring poor’ or ‘marginals.’ There are confrontations over the use of urban space between state authorities and Okada riders. The underline element was to keep the “undesirable youths” and “criminals” away from the roads in order to attract foreign investors and provide urban security. Banning Okada invoked a new urban governance dynamics in terms of policing, beautification and rebranding of Ibadan city. The government ban threatened the survival of Okada riders who eke out a living at the margins of the urban economy.