From Abirigo’s chest: 'Gay riding' dangerous in Tamale than armed robbery, HIV/AIDs

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The Tamale Metropolis has undoubtedly become a cosmopolitan city. The 2010 population and housing census estimated the metropolis’ population at 233,252 representing 9.4 percent of the entire Northern Region’s population. This population is estimated to have nearly doubled currently as people’s quest to live in the metropolis has reached a crescendo.  The census indicated that the proportion of the population living in the urban enclave (metropolis) was as high as 80.8% higher than that living in rural localities of 19.1%.

It states that the metropolis had a total of 219,971 households, living in 19,387 houses with an average household size of 6.3 persons per household. The housing stock of Tamale Metropolis is 19,387 represents 7.5 percent of the total number of houses in the Northern Region. The largest proportion of the employed is in the private sector, especially in trading and artisanship.

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The Metropolis has a total estimated land size of 646.90180sqkm (GSS- 2010). Geographically, the Metropolis lies between latitude 9º16 and 9º 34 North and longitudes 0º 36 and 0º 57 West.

In terms of trade, the city has a vast market area in vegetables, grains and livestock due to the increase in population within the city. People who visited this city in the last ten years will be highly agog visiting today while new comers will have a lot to feast and share with the world across.

INFRASTRUCTURE

More than ten years ago, Tamale even though was presumably developed, the current spate of development has had its fair share of modernisation with the social status of the inhabitants markedly improved with many owning properties they could not afford. For instance, households which could acquire only a bicycle for transport purposes are now owners of motor bikes or tricycles and vehicles among others. The metropolis was more of a segregation of communities than an amalgamated city. The structure of the houses was more of the traditional Dagomba houses and the communities more of settlements mostly huts build with mud/bricks and blocks and grass in tapering shapes. Ten years ago, a plot of 100 by 100 in a place that is described as the heart of the city in today’s terms could cost as low as two hundred cedis. Such plots are hard to find and yet is estimated to cost close to a hundred thousand Ghana cedis today.

Currently, a plot of land in the then faraway Yonduuni costs not less than five thousand Ghana cedis. That is a place nobody would have hitherto agreed to go for a free land yet there is competition today and rapid development ongoing.

Practically, the lands of the communities that are not too far from the main commercial city have been acquired and developed into mansions by individuals and institutions given the city a beautiful outlook.

Today, the city of Tamale appear to have, by virtue of the development, inched closer the distances between Main Tamale and the nearby communities such as Yapei in the Central Gonja District, Tolon, Kumbungu, Savelugu and Sang among others which are municipal and district capitals of nearby assemblies. As for the Sagnarigu District, there is much difficulty in telling which part of the city belongs to the metropolitan area and the district due to the developmental structures.

GAY RIDING

Careless ridding which is described by a close acquaintance as “gay riding” is a major problem in the city and thus many people are scared when using the principle streets of the metropolis. A sizeable chunk of the people who use the roads especially motorbike riders and the many teenage tricycle riders do not have licenses to drive or ride on the road. This situation calls for action.

A gay rider, according to the Urban Dictionary, is a phrase used to describe something as being bad or having gone wrong. It is therefore not surprising that my friend has characterized most of the riders in the town as gay riders. They obey no traffic rules, overtake anyhow, very few respect traffic lights and hardly do they wear any protective apparel. In fact, in Tamale, if you are seen riding a motorbike with the riding mirrors fitted, you are considered “kolo”, a derogatory term used to describe people who are not “fashionable” and “trendy” probably derived from the English word colloquial. 

The people who are not licensed by law to ride or drive on the streets are therefore not supposed to do so. This we all know! Will somebody not ask about the whereabouts of the police? Whether they enforce the law or not? Whether they ensure that there is order in the city or not?

In providing answers to the above questions, a familiar person with the Tamale city police will say the police are very much present on the streets. They just look on helplessly for either fear of political victimization or for their own selfish gains and that has brought about the confusion on the roads in Tamale especially during the rush hours.

The police say any attempt to enforce the traffic regulations is usually met with resistance from the youth who always get the backing of very influential persons (party activists, chiefs and youth leaders). They cite cases where attempts are made to enforce the law and arrests made and before you know it, these respected and influential persons appear and ask for the release of the culprits. Any attempt to resist the pleas of these influential persons means different outcomes all together including vandalism.

Most of the times when driving and you stop for traffic, these young men and women will speed and hit the back of your vehicle and when you question they are quick to kneel down and plead for mercy and almost each time they succeed.

It is not rare to see motor riders crash among themselves or with the tricycles also known as Mahama Camboo. Most of the times they resolve the impasses by themselves.

The motor bikes ridden by all ages and sex of people including school pupils constitute the largest number of street users during rush hours because it is peak time to go to work, school, market or return home.

Recently, the Tamale Metropolitan Assembly led by Hon. Iddrisu Musah Superior embarked on a decongestion exercise whereby buying and selling, hawking and unauthorized packing, unlicensed driving/riding and overloading on the streets were stopped. The exercise was very successful and brought a lot of sanity into the city.

There were those who wondered if the exercise would be sustained. True to their wondering, the exercise in less than three months doesn’t look like it is ongoing. The gay riders are back, buying and selling on the street is abound, overloading, wrong overtaking and haphazard parking are very common. Has our lack of sustained effort at getting things done affected the decongestion exercise? Your guess is as good as mine!

MAHAMA CAMBOO (MAHAMA CAN DO)

The Mahama Camboo (Mahama Can Do) as called by others is a roofed tricycle with a seat at the back which is only convenient for two but meant for three and one in front meant for the rider/driver only.

The use of the tricycle has helped many a commuter in the metropolis such that people no longer wait long hours on the streets before they gain access to means of transport to go to wherever they want to go. More beneficially their fares are cheaper than the taxis as there are no “trotros” yet in the metropolis. Yes, no trotros in the Tamale Metropolis. That kind of vehicles is reserved for longer distances such as Yendi, Savelugu, Yapei, Buipei and Gusheigu among others.

The negative side of this Mahama Camboo is what many people detest. The vehicle is meant to pick only three persons but consistently, the unlicensed riders/drivers despicably pick six persons on three wheels. Need I tell readers the destruction that would occur should there be an accident? When the assembly embarked on the decongestion exercise which I like to describe as “discipline yourself exercise”, these riders were being arrested, made to pay a sum of fifty Ghana cedis each on the spot and the front seat which was originally one for the rider/driver and now refabricated to pick two with the rider/driver in the middle removed so that they will go back and fix the original seat of one. This law was obeyed for close to a month and hey gay riders are back on the street with the bigger seat which any of the two passengers seated with the rider/driver could easily slip off. Yes, they are on the street again doing what they know how to do best in the name of money.

The other issue worse than this is the Motor King, the unroofed tricycle in the form of a small truck. This motor king was manufactured to be used for conveying small quantities of goods.

Unfortunately, Ghana man has changed the modus operandi of this tricycle. It is the means of transport for the surrounding communities. Though so risky, one would have expected that when loaded with goods, the riders/drivers would go and offload the goods and then come back for the passengers but no, that isn’t the case. It is usually loaded with the owners sitting dangerously on top of the goods. And I like to add that this case is not peculiar to the Tamale Metropolis or even Northern Region alone. I have seen it everywhere especially in the farming communities in Ghana. Again need I suggest the disaster in case of the accident? This category of road users seem, however, to have more favours from the police than any other road user because they usually look on helplessly while the illegality is perpetuated.

In the villages, market women are the worse affected whenever they get involved in an accident.

The combination of these two and the largest group (motor bike riders) are the reason behind this article. When they are in town, one can hardly avoid accidents or congestion because they always feel they are smaller in size so they can manoeuvre to overtake vehicles and this is what has brought about the ‘gay riding’ syndrome whereby the wrong is perpetuated in the full glare of the security forces and mostly go unpunished. Many times, one could easily feel the presence of motor bikes on the left and right wings of his vehicle whiles moving. So in the event a slight sway to the left or right or lost of control, somebody gets hurt.

At the health facilities, it is not news to see that most of the people at the OPD are bleeding due to cuts and injuries as a result of clashes between the riders and drivers and or themselves. 

I need not tell a child to eat a plucked ripe mango in front of him/her when s/he is hungry but I shall tell an adult that the child does not like mangoes so s/he should go ahead and eat it. The Ghana Police Service has over the years done extremely well in the area of security for the citizens counting from armed robbery, drug and child trafficking etc but in terms of road user laws, the least said about them the better.

Is it the one, one or two, two or five, five cedis that you will collect from the driver/rider in front or at the back of their vehicle at the pretence of checking the validity of license that your mother/father brother/sister wife/child must die?

Now to the Tamale Metropolitan Assembly and all other assemblies, if your security services are sleeping and asking for money to buy fuel or renovate their offices you must show them where the money is. You must either enforce the laws to the later to enhance discipline or arrest the culprits and make them pay.

I would encourage you to put the politics aside and sustain your “discipline yourself exercise”. Engage casual workers and pay them from such money you will raise from the exercise. Work with all stakeholders to ensure that there is sanity on the roads of the metropolis. Relent not in your efforts Mr MCE for the indiscipline in your metropolis is catastrophic.

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FRANCIS ATAYURE ABIRIGO

The writer is a Development Communications Expert and can be reached at aabirigo@yahoo.com/aabirigo1974@gmail.com