A local hero

Transportation Solutions:  Chinedu (aka Nigga Raw) the Motorbike Customizer

African Time: when people arrive later than the time specified for starting an event, holding a meeting, etc especially in densely populated African cities like Lagos. Poor development of infrastructure like good connecting roads and provision of alternative means of transportation by most African governments can be blamed for the late coming that is peculiar here. The motorbike rider (aka Okada rider, named after a locally owned airline, symbolising speed) is arguably the only means of transportation that gets people to their meetings on time. Chinedu, a motorbike customizer is an interesting character who symbolises how a young man brings ingenious solutions for the okada rider.

Chinedu, aka Nigga Raw by his friends hails from Nnewi, an Eastern town renowned locally for dealing in motorcycle spare parts. He owned a shop by the beach in Lekki, at one of the back roads, before it was demolished by the Lagos State government. The government’s directive to the motorcycle spare parts sellers to vacate the spot was impromptu, says Chinedu, and they had nowhere to relocate their goods. Hence, their goods were burnt when the government’s bulldozers arrived at night.

It is with the goods he refurbished from the inferno that Chinedu started his customising business. That was the only way he could sell off the damaged goods, by practically showing motorcyclists how the parts could be used in their bikes. This twenty-nine year-old man’s ingenious solution to a sad situation has gained him fame among Okada riders. According to a survey by a local radio station, twelve percent of the Nigerian population are unemployed.  The youth are honing personal skills and opening up business solutions that can positively impact the society, but it seems the government is not encouraging local enterprise.

Lagos is one of three Nigerian states that have banned commercial motorcyclists from plying certain roads. This is unfortunate, as many unemployed youth now carry passengers and workers on motorbikes through the traffic jammed streets of Lagos. Most people in Lagos will agree that the Okada rider helps get people to their destination on time. This writer hopes to own a motorbike as an alternative means of transportation, a passion he has nursed after encountering many horrible traffic situations.  One may not be able to afford the more expensive, racy Ducati or Harley Davidson bikes, but with Chinedu’s help, a customised bike with a personal attitude becomes more affordable. His is a story of innovation, and making the best of bad fortunes. The partially burnt parts from the destroyed shops are once again marketable, and to the crowd of motorcyclists that he gives their bikes a cool look, he is a local hero.

NB: More pictures of Chinedu and his world can be viewed in my media library

Anthony Nsofor,

Freelance Photographer, Lagos, Nigeria, 17/10/10

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