Yes, boda boda riders are a menace but a product of our corrupt ways

Police officers seize motorcycles along the streets of Kisumu on March 9th 2022. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

For a better part of the week, Kenyans have been screaming. They have been hollering at each other and passing blame, which, as usual, no one wants to take.

The screaming was inspired, for lack of a better word or phrase, by a female motorist who was harassed by the public after an accident on Nairobi’s Wangari Mathai Road, formerly known as Forest Road.

A short video clip of the frightened woman, buckled up in the driver’s seat, screaming her lungs out, or crying for help, as men with menacing looks were trying to pull her out, surfaced on Monday, and went viral instantly.

The Government took notice, and there have been casualties — boda boda riders who it has been said were the people behind the harassment, intimidation and humiliation have been facing the wrath of the police.

The action against boda boda riders has led to Kenyans screaming and hollering at one another, especially on online platforms.

The number of people condemning boda boda riders are as many as those defending them and saying the Government is wrong.

Boda boda riders have a bad name. Even before this latest incident that led to a crackdown on any motorcyclist, they have always been castigated for their herd mentality, rudeness and cruelty.

They believe that they have the right of way all the time, and are not just above the law, but are the law.

This is a very Kenyan thing.

These riders are not aliens. They were born and bred in this society, and they are just a mirror of what and who we are. Or have become.

Invariably, they take the law of the jungle in their own hands, and beat up motorists and burn vehicles whenever there is an accident involving one of them even if they are the ones on the wrong.

There is a general belief that boda boda riders are poor people; they are at the bottom of the pyramid and any slightest action against them means the poor are being oppressed.

This belief is their excuse. It has been inculcated in their minds that motorists are always out to harm them because they are poor.

This thought has been planted in their minds by the society and nurtured by politicians who have also convinced Kenyans that it is good to glorify poverty and better to weaponise it.

This kind of thinking makes it difficult for the authorities to work on ways of regulating the boda boda business and coming up with guidelines for the operators.

Politicians see them as a voting bloc and want to mollycoddle them because of the lame excuse that they are poor, and they—the politicians — always safeguard the interests of the poor.

It does not help matters that in Kenya, laws are proposals that we are not under any obligation to follow.

Our politicians scoff at the same laws that they passed. They disregard or break them and any attempts to bring them to book is seen as a political move by their enemies — and they start wailing that they are being persecuted even when there is no cause they have ever fought for.

This crybaby mentality of seeing themselves as victims is their only legacy; the only quality they have bequeathed to future generations, their zealous followers and Kenyans in general, who also see no need in following the law when the country’s leadership is not doing so.

Also, victimhood has been weaponised, and people see injustice being committed against them even when they have broken the law or wronged the society.

This is how corruption has become a legal tender in Kenya, and permeated all sectors of the economy.

That is why boda boda riders take the law into their own hands as they believe that they will not get justice because of their wrong notion that they are poor, and will not be given a hearing since they cannot bribe.

Their minds have been corrupted that they are being persecuted; that they are victims of the wealthy who want them poor and easy to oppress.

Sadly, the politicians who drive such a narrative use them as plank to elective positions.

They promise to make the lives of the boda boda riders better, yet not only fail to keep the promises, but engage in activities that run down the economy and only entrench suffering.

Of course, boda boda riders should have the right of way like other road users, but they believe that they own the road, and anyone else who wants to use it, is looking down upon them and must be punished.

The good thing about our collective impunity, and that almost rhymes with stupidity, is that we are the ones with the power to bring change. As long as we keep glorifying and weaponising poverty and worshiping corruption and seeing ourselves as victims, we will never know peace.