Pan Africa Bicycle Information Network (PABIN)

Nigerian Transport Minister Out Spoken On Bike

Nigerian Transport Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, is emerging as one of Africa’s most vocal proponents of cycling.

In a refreshing departure from the “Wabenzi” (a local colloquial term for African civil servants who travel in Mercedes Benzes) Maduekwe and his staff can regularly be seen pedaling through the streets of Abuja en route to meetings, with their formal clothes and papers strapped to their rear carriers.

Maduekwe maintains that Nigerians should embrace cycling as a partial solution to growing gridlock that is crippling Nigeria’s economy. His zeal for cycling is neither diminished by nay sayers who accuse him of pursing quixotic ends, nor by bad weather, as he recently cycled through a torrential downpour on his way to a cabinet meeting. "Rain doctors did their worst, I defied them. In this business, rain does not really matter," said Maduekwe.

In June, Maduekwe was even hit by a bus and into a ditch while cycling to work. This only led him to redouble his efforts to establish bicycle route networks in Abuja and Lagos.

Adapted from articles printed in The Vanguard (July 2001): 


Nigerian Citizens Say No To Use of Bicycle

The Guardian (Lagos, NIGERIA), September 10, 2001
Posted to the web September 10, 2001

THE Minister of Transport, Chief Ojo Madueke's on-going crusade for the adoption of bicycle as an alternative means of transportation has received a nation-wide condemnation.

In a recent Guardian Opinion Poll (GOP) involving 1200 respondents in 24 states across the six geo-political zones of the country, a whooping majority of 744 respondents or 62.0 percent condemn the Minister's initiative as an idea that will take the country back to the stone age.

According to them, Nigerian roads are not safe for bicycle riding.  The survey equally shows that 260 respondents or 21.7 percent are in support of the culture of bicycle riding not only as a substitute for cars but as an alternative means of transportation in Nigeria.

According to this school of Thought, bicycle culture, if encouraged is not only economically good for rural and urban dwellers, but also a means of keeping the body healthy.

However, 196 or 16.3 percent of the total sampled population reserved their comments.

Interestingly, the rejection of the Minister's proposal cuts across the country with the South-East Zone topping the list with 72.5 percent, South-South 69.0 percent, North Central 63.0 percent, South West 59.5 percent, North-East 56 percent and North-West 52.0 percent.

When the minister of Transport, Chief Ojo Madueke, on July 7, 2001 told Nigerians to revert to the use of bicycles as alternative to vehicles, many took him up on the issue, saying that the Minister did not mean well for the ordinary people.

The suggestion which was put forward by him at a two-day conference of commissioners for transport and general managers of states mass transit agencies in Zaria, Kaduna State, has been described as unrealistic in view of the prevailing circumstances in the country.

In a paper titled "Alternative to Federal Urban Mass Transit Agency", the minister said that the return of bicycles to Nigerian roads would bring a lasting solution to the fuel scarcity and traffic jam in major cities in the country.

The Minister who cited China, Holland and Cuba as developing countries of the world where bicycles play prominent roles in transportation said that the federal government has concluded arrangements to embark on mass importation of bicycles in our towns and cities.

In an attempt to drive home his point, Chief Ojo Madueke has chosen to lead by example. He had on two occasions rode on bicycle with his aides to the Federal Executive Council Meetings in Abuja. Though he was not so lucky on the two occasions, he was drenched by the heavy down pour of the day on the first occasion. Mother luck saved him the second time as he was nearly crushed by an on-coming trailer. Commentators have observed that though the idea might be laudable but the question is how safe is bicycle riding in a country like Nigeria where there are no provision for such on our roads coupled with the recklessness of our drivers.


Pan Africa Bicycle Information Conference Letter to Min. Maduekwe

Dear Hon. Minister Maduekwe,

We thank God that you are well after your recent bicycle accident.

We praise your enlightened leadership in advocating bicycle transport in Africa.  What you are doing is very important for the mobility, productivity, and the quality of life for the majority of Nigerians and Africans.

Please know that you have our full support and admiration.  We look to your future leadership championing sustainable development of Africa.


Delegates to the Pan-African Bicycle Conference, Jinja, Uganda, 21-25 November 2001  


The Metaphysics of Maduekwe's Bicycle

Daily Trust (Abuja)
October 22, 2001
Posted to the web October 22, 2001

By Okey Ikechukwu

My critics are only concerned about the physics of the bicycle campaign, but my angle to it is inclusive of metaphysics". Thus spoke the Transport Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, in the heat of the counter currents following his historic trips to the Federal Executive Council Meeting on a bicycle. The attack from the media was bad enough without any talk about metaphysics. But with the suggestion that the already misunderstood talk about bicycles still had other layers of unsuspected import, some critics simply threw up their hands in dismay. Trust Ojo Maduekwe to march boldly into battle with nothing more than a brigade of words and come out of it with a defiant shake of the head.

On the face of it, the Transport Minister is trying to popularise the use of bicycles. The real task and target, however, is to change the national psyche and reorient our social habits back unto the path of simplicity. The whole idea is that the "invisible" changes wrought on the individual by a return to honest living will gradually snowball into a fundamental attitudinal change. This change and perception is at the "metaphysical" level of personal consciousness and will affect and condition everything thereafter.

Yet the Minister is right in his submission. Physics is about what we can see, touch and manipulate physically. Metaphysics is not. Physics is about immediate and observable actions and reactions, whereas Metaphysics is not so pedestrian. Those who are looking at only the "physics" of the transport Minister's notion of organic transportation are bound to raise a thousand objections and a few more. The bicycle is slow. The roads are not designed for bicycle users. The rest of the world is thinking of "conquering" the stars. Promoting the use of bicycles in this day and age is not just a throwback to the dark ages but a plunge into technological oblivion etc. At least that is the widely held view Development of the physical environment, of technology and other things that make modem life physically less demanding, must go together with (indeed must be predicated upon) the development of the human being.

In the strict and proper sense, human development has nothing to do with the existence of good roads, skyscrapers, etc. The possession of a dress suit will not improve the inherent worth of an ape, the same way the mere acquisition and use of the products of science and technology will not make a group of human beings better developed "as human beings". Thus when science is sometimes dismissed as "barbaric" and as upsetting the delicate balance on which human happiness rests, it is only because the scientific enterprise is now being pursued without any attention to those human values that gave so much vitality to older (classical) cultural and religious traditions.

Human behaviour is not always directed towards conformity, adaptation, self-preservation and survival. A large part of human behaviour, such as simple games, love of adventure, etc., certainly do not fit into this picture. Man is not just a stimulus-response organism, as is being suggested by this thinking. Human behaviour and human life in general do not boil down to the desire to achieve so-called equilibrium, perhaps with the minimum expenditure of physical and psychic energy. This is even true of organic evolution, which often produces fantastic formations, behaviour patterns, colours, etc far beyond the requirements of mere survival and the principles of adaptation.

It is much less true of man. Not by the wildest flight of fancy can the creativity of an artiste or musician be reduced to psychological or social adjustment. It is only at the risk of sounding altogether unintelligible that one can reduce every case of self-sacrifice, genius and all human culture (including Greek Classicism, Renaissance art and German Music) to biological values of maintenance survival and adjustment. That complex structure world of symbols or spiritual values, called human culture, is an overriding factor in human existence.

It is therefore time to restore the original lustre of "metaphysical" thinking which "the instincts of the populace" brought into disrepute. The onlooker who is hissing and cursing as he sees the transport Minister on his bicycle is, like the Minister said, only worrying about the physics of the bicycle ride.

Dr. Ikechukwu is the Special Assistant to the Minister of Transport.

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