In the wake of Yusuf Buhari’s motorcycling accident, there has been a trail of condemnation of Superbike riders, and the practice of riding superbikes, with an article published on the website of Businessday Online on 31st December 2017 (Refer here: http://www.businessdayonline.com.ridder.co/dZYZ5Q), citing Yusuf’s accident as proof for the need for strict regulation on superbikes.
While it is unfortunate that it had to take the president of Nigeria’s son to be involved in an accident before a national spotlight is shed on the world of Nigeria’s super biking community, there is a positive side to this world of motorcycling and this should be taken into consideration before passing judgment.
Just as there are reckless riders, we also have reckless motorists, but more often than not, motorbike accidents are met with less sympathy than car accidents, with a larger percentage of the blame being heaped on the rider, even before a proper analysis or a valid eyewitness account is provided.
In January 2011, news of Tonye Claude-Wilcox’s death was broadcast all over the Internet. He had been riding his superbike from Lagos enroute to Calabar, when he met with an accident. Most blogs/sites described what happened as a collision between his bike and a vehicle, but one thing was missing - the fact that the vehicle that collided with the late Tonye’s bike was on the wrong side of the road, and coming in the opposite direction, or as we say, driving “one-way”.
Ogbonnaya Kanu, a chemical engineer, and renowned adventure motorcyclist was present when the accident happened. “When I saw Tonye thrown up in the air after the impact, I knew he wasn’t going to survive it. I carried my friend in my arms, and watched as his life slipped away, and there was nothing I could do about it. It’s an image that stays with me to this day.”
In the case of late Fred Omame, Kanu was also present at the Lagos Island General Hospital where Fred was brought in by the Lagos Ambulance Service, following the accident which had occurred on the Third Mainland Bridge. “Fred was still conscious when he was brought to the hospital, conscious enough to tell us that a woman in a red car, who had tried to overtake a bus in the middle lane, rammed into his rear and drove off. Fred was on the ‘slow’ lane, while she had crossed from the fast lane. Unfortunately, there was another vehicle parked along the ‘shoulder’ of the bridge, and Fred, who was already on the ground with his bike, slid into the stationary vehicle,” says Kanu.
Fred passed on over a year later of his injuries and as is the norm, news of his death was met with the usual disdain for Superbike riders, along with the general perception that superbike riders are rich, irresponsible and reckless, except that in this case it was a “Hit and Run”.
Kanu and a friend realized that they needed to do something to keep their fellow riders safe and to help them be better road users. They set up the Ride Easy Superbike Training School, located in Ikeja.
Kanu is currently the highest certified riding instructor in Nigeria, having completed Probike UK’s Motorcycle Instructor Training - Levels 1 and 2 - at the California Superbike School, UK; Levels 1 and 2 GS BMW Off-Road Skills, and Lee Parks Total Control Level 1.
The Ride Easy Motorcycling Club, one of the foremost motorcycling clubs in Nigeria, and of which Kanu is a member, even brought in an international riding instructor from Canada to give Advanced Rider Tactics training to its club members.
There are other motorcycling training schools spread across the country, which are not funded by the government, yet, doing their best to impart safe motorcycling practices to their students.
In recent years, the biking community in Nigeria has grown to encompass a large group of men and women in various professions, who are united by the passion they share for motorcycling, whilst adhering to a uniform code that promotes safety, honor and integrity.
Investment banker, Kwesi Amanor-Boadu lends credence to that code. “Motorbikes are machines like every other form of transportation. The person operating the machine is responsible for all eventualities. My safety and the safety of other road users is important all the time. This is the ethos of the well trained and oriented Rider. One crazy car driver does not make all drivers bad same with motorbikes,” he says.
Perhaps the pending actions would be to set up proper licensing procedures, much like what obtains for motorists, where superbike riders are required to undergo rider training from accredited riding schools and be properly evaluated before being licensed to ride, along with their own set of rules or regulations, such as wearing the right gear.
There is also a need to shed more light on the efforts at positive impact that the biking community makes towards the society, so that others may be encouraged to ride in the same vein.
Take for example Ryker’s Ride, a biker fundraising and awareness ride started by super biker and engineer, Paul Lawson. Ryker’s Ride unites the African Biker Nation to support and highlight the work of children’s charities, such as the SOS villages, and also highlight the plight and educational needs of the less privileged child in West Africa.
In an interview with Pride Nigeria magazine, Lawson explains how the ride benefits the children. “The awareness the ride brings to the work the homes and villages do for the orphaned, and destitute children, helps them raise funds and sponsors to help more children. A lot of people did not know they could make a difference or that such homes existed, and several others have been challenged because we came so many miles to help children in their towns. We have reports from some of the homes we visited that bikers and other people have been coming to support them and donate stuff since we visited.”
There is also the Fotodadi Foundation, co-founded by Ogbonnaya Kanu and Segun Obagun in 2015, and which was set up in memory of Tonye Claude-Wilcox and Wemba Otike-Odibi - both riders. The foundation awards scholarships to disadvantaged fatherless and orphaned children from primary through to the first-degree level. Bikers also constitute a majority of the donor base. The uniqueness of the FD Foundation lies in the fact that as long as beneficiaries are able to meet the criteria set by the foundation, their fees will continue to be paid till they graduate from university.
The Biker’s Trophy (BT) marked its fifth year of existence in 2017. The BT is Nigeria’s premier motorsport event, which takes place annually in Edo state. In previous years, the race took place on a closed public road through the supporting villages of Urhonigbe, Uromehe, Evbonogbon, Obazagbon, Umughun, Ogba, Ugo, Egbokor and Ugbokirima in Orhiomwon Local Government Area of Edo State. The 2017 edition saw the race taking place on the first purpose-built racetrack at Evbuobanosa, Near Abudu, Edo State.
Tough Tourers is a recently launched platform that provides riders with a well-structured opportunity to engage in long-distance motorcycling and honors them for their motorcycling achievements. It also promotes tourism, as the tours involve riding to a variety of locations in Nigeria.
In other parts of the country, different motorcycling clubs engage in various acts of charity, caring for their communities, as they try to make a difference.
The development of motorcycling in Nigeria has also brought employment and business opportunities, such as the establishment of motorbike workshops and rider training schools, sales of motorcycle spare parts and gears.
Time and again, it has been proved that people fear what they do not understand, and with superbike riding being a relatively new development to most Nigerians, topmost on most people’s minds are the inherent risks involved in engaging in the sport.
With time, we hope that this will change and that people will understand that riders have chosen - in the words of a leading motorcycle manufacturers slogan - to MAKE LIFE A RIDE.
Our thoughts and prayers go towards the speedy recovery of Yusuf Buhari.