Identity & Culture

All for one, one for all: We can learn from Boda boda riders’ solidarity of reaching out to one another when in trouble

RECENTLY, the big man Dj Nimrod put me up for sale on his Facebook page under the banner ‘for sale’. We happen to have many common friends and at the end of the day, I was there, not sold. I had “Dibad”. The best bid was Shs 8,000, Shs5, 000 lower than half a TV chicken in Wandegeya. I wondered how cheap I was. 

So, what’s life worth? A million! A thousand or is it 1k as the kids of these days call it. That’s a story for another day. For one Aziz, his life was taken away at the tender age of 44 because a boda boda rider refused to pay Shs 500,000 to repair his car after a minor accident. Well, he had a new number plate on his car and I can understand the love for the car but if he knew the people he was dealing with, he would have counted himself lucky to be offered 50,000 by a boda boda guy. Those guys protect each other like bees. So long as you ride a boda boda, any other rider will treat you like a brother (I have not seen a female one in my long life in Kampala, so don’t think it’s sexist). 

One morning, a former United Nations driver was beaten to death by a mob of boda boda riders who accused him of knocking their colleague in an incident that happened at Mengo. According to eyewitnesses, Aziz Bashir, 40 a former driver with the UN and a resident of Mengo was involved in a minor accident in which his brand-new Toyota Allex registration number was scratched by a boda boda rider.

“The driver got out to negotiate with the boda boda rider to see how the car could be repaired. Whereas Aziz wanted Shs 500,000, the boda boda rider said he could only afford Shs 50, 000. Consequently, the two failed to agree and this angered the driver,” an eyewitness said according to the Daily Monitor Newspaper.

Sad, isn’t it? But c’est la vie. That’s how vulnerable we are. Beyond the unfortunate incident, we see the manifestation of the togetherness of boda boda riders. I have seen boda boda riders who stop to help their colleague who might be in trouble even if they don’t know them. One time, a boda boda rider, attempting tricks on the road, scratched my car. He stopped. We exchanged for less than a minute but in that short time, we were surrounded by dozens of other riders, some even abandoning their passengers to join their friend. I had no choice but to let go.

Where I eat lunch, a kafunda I wrote about here sometime back, has some boda boda riders who are regular customers. One of them was beaten up by LDUs allegedly for flaunting the Covid 19 SOPs and broke his hand. He is home getting treatment by a local bone smith. So when we hit Betty’s for lunch, they ordered food for him and one of them delivered it, enough for two meals. They also contribute Shs 5,000 each for his upkeep. I am not sure there is any profession I know that has such solidarity.

My own, the vets in UVA (Uganda Veterinary Association) can’t seem to agree on anything – not even how to push for their salaries to be the same as their medical colleagues. We are all doctors and we all study 5 years but Vets always get less from the government for the same level of work. Yet when we meet, it is rants and word Olympics but no solid approach. Even the mabugo have dried up.

The marketers on the other hand speak lots of English but not much about looking out for each other. I envy the boda boda riders for their togetherness. They might be at the bottom of the pyramid and lowest of the pecking order in society but they are so good at looking out for each other. I hope we can learn from them.

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Dr. Innocent Nahabwe
The Writer is a Father, Marketer, Vet and Author: "TreatingSmall Business, Lessons from my Operations". Website http://nahabwe.com

    1 Comment

    1. True. Where is there is unity, there is stability. It is the reason they have not been evicted easily.
      If you can mobilize people, you can have resources, and you can protect your interests better.

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