Home General The Fascinating Origin and Meaning of “Okada” in Nigeria

The Fascinating Origin and Meaning of “Okada” in Nigeria

by Abbey

In the bustling streets of Nigeria, the ubiquitous presence of motorcycles is hard to miss. These two-wheeled vehicles, known as “okadas,” have become an integral part of the country’s transportation landscape. In 2020, the term “okada” was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary, cementing its place in the global lexicon. But what exactly does “okada” mean, and how did it become so deeply ingrained in Nigerian culture? In this article, we’ll delve into the fascinating origin and meaning of “okada” in Nigeria.



Also check out: The Meaning of “Ogbeni” Explained. What does it Mean in Nigerian English?

The Literal Meaning of Okada

Before we explore the etymology of the term “okada,” let’s first understand its literal meaning. Okada is the name of a town in Edo State, Nigeria, serving as the headquarters of the Ovia North-East Local Government Area. This small town has played a significant role in shaping the language and culture of Nigeria, as we will soon discover.

The Influential Businessman Behind Okada

The story of “okada” is closely tied to the life and ventures of one remarkable individual: Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, the Esama of the Benin Kingdom. Born in Okada town, Chief Igbinedion’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to establish Midway Motors in 1968, a company that assembled cars in Nigeria. However, his most significant contribution to the nation’s transportation sector came in 1983 when he launched Nigeria’s first private airline, aptly named Okada Airlines.

The Rise of Okada Airlines

Okada Airlines quickly gained prominence, growing its fleet to over 10 planes and making Chief Igbinedion one of Africa’s richest and most powerful men. The airline’s success was further solidified when it was commissioned by the military government in the 1980s. Okada Airlines became a symbol of pride and progress for Nigerians, showcasing the country’s potential for growth and development.

Motorcycles Become Nigeria’s Alternative Transportation

However, as Nigeria’s infrastructure and public transportation system began to decline in the 1980s, motorcycles emerged as a cheap and fast alternative for navigating the congested cities. These motorcycles, which could weave through traffic and reach destinations quickly, were nicknamed “okadas” after the popular Okada Airlines. The name stuck, and soon, “okada” became synonymous with commercial motorcycles across Nigeria.

The Dual-Edged Sword of Okada Motorcycles

While okadas have provided affordable transportation for the masses and a source of employment for many, including educated but unemployed youth, the industry has faced its fair share of challenges. The loosely regulated nature of the okada business has led to high accident and casualty rates, prompting some states to ban or restrict commercial motorcycles. The safety concerns surrounding okadas have sparked debates about their role in Nigeria’s transportation system.

The Decline of Okada Airlines

Despite its initial success, Okada Airlines experienced a series of setbacks in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A series of crashes tarnished the airline’s reputation, and despite attempts to relaunch, it ultimately ceased operations in 1997. Chief Igbinedion alleged political interference in licensing as a reason for the airline’s demise, adding another layer to the complex history of Okada Airlines.

Okada Town Today

Today, Okada town remains a significant part of Nigeria’s landscape. It is home to Igbinedion University, the country’s first private university, as well as a large cattle ranch and Chief Igbinedion’s farming business. The town also boasts a teaching hospital and the former “Okada Wonderland” amusement park. The Igbinedion family continues to wield political influence in the area, with several members holding prominent positions in government.


The term “okada” has evolved from a simple town name to a powerful symbol of Nigeria’s transportation history and entrepreneurial spirit. From the rise and fall of Okada Airlines to the emergence of commercial motorcycles, the word encapsulates the resilience and adaptability of Nigerians in the face of challenges.

While the okada industry faces ongoing issues related to safety and regulation, the name itself endures as a testament to the ingenuity and determination of the Nigerian people. As “okada” takes its place in the global English lexicon, it serves as a reminder of the rich cultural heritage and unique contributions of Nigeria to the world.

Key Takeaways:

  • “Okada” literally refers to a town in Edo State, Nigeria, but has become synonymous with commercial motorcycles in the country.
  • The term originated from Okada Airlines, Nigeria’s first private airline, established by Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion in 1983.
  • As Nigeria’s public transportation declined in the 1980s, motorcycles nicknamed “okadas” emerged as a popular alternative.
  • Okadas provide affordable transportation and employment but face challenges related to safety and regulation.
  • The word “okada” reflects Nigeria’s entrepreneurial spirit and cultural heritage, even as the industry navigates ongoing issues.


  1. Q: What does “okada” mean in Nigerian English? A: In Nigerian English, “okada” refers to commercial motorcycles that are used as a form of transportation.
  2. Q: Where does the term “okada” come from? A: The term “okada” originated from Okada Airlines, Nigeria’s first private airline, which was established by Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion in 1983.
  3. Q: Why did motorcycles in Nigeria become known as “okadas”? A: As Nigeria’s public transportation system declined in the 1980s, motorcycles emerged as a cheap and fast alternative. They were nicknamed “okadas” after the popular Okada Airlines.
  4. Q: Are okadas still used in Nigeria today? A: Yes, okadas continue to be a common form of transportation in Nigeria, particularly in cities where traffic congestion is a major issue. However, some states have banned or restricted their use due to safety concerns.
  5. Q: What is the significance of Okada town in Nigeria? A: Okada town is the literal namesake of the term “okada” and is home to notable institutions such as Igbinedion University and a large cattle ranch. The Igbinedion family, who established Okada Airlines, continues to have a strong presence in the area.

As the term “okada” gains global recognition through its inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary, it is clear that this uniquely Nigerian word has left an indelible mark on the country’s transportation landscape and cultural identity. The story of “okada” is one of innovation, resilience, and the enduring spirit of the Nigerian people.


  • Abbey

    Abbey Johnson has a Masters degree as an engineer and has over 3 years of teaching and research experience. He is happiest when on a bike and is also interested in electric energy and computer Science.

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