Why APC Must Stop the Ritual of Sweeping PDP Feet By Azuka Onwuka
It was not surprising that a life was lost just over a week ago in Ekiti State when supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party and those of the All Progressives Congress clashed while the APC members were reported to be sweeping off the footprints of members of the PDP, led by President Goodluck Jonathan, who had held a campaign rally the previous day.
Typical of our politicians, immediately after that ugly incident, both parties began to trade blame over who caused the tragedy. Both parties claimed that the deceased was their member. You can be sure that none of the parties would do anything afterwards to help the family of the deceased after that media exchange. The primary aim was to claim him in the media, so as to be seen as the victim, while the other party would be portrayed as the aggressor and enemy that should not be voted for in the governorship election scheduled for June 21, 2014.
On Saturday, July 26, 2005, the PDP held what it termed the Tsunami Rally at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos. It was part of the party’s plan to “capture Lagos,” a phrase credited to Chief Olabode George, the then National Vice Chairman (South-West) of the PDP. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami on Boxing Day, which claimed the lives of over 230,000 people in 14 countries, was still on the lips of people. The rally was named after that monumental tragedy, and anybody who saw the television pictures of the speed and magnitude of that tsunami would understand that the intention of the PDP was to shake Lagos to its foundations.
The then governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, responded swiftly. The next day, he led a team of Alliance for Democracy top shots in the state to ceremoniously sweep off the footsteps of the PDP, led by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, from Lagos. The response looked creative and dramatic. The pictures on newspaper covers and TV bulletins showing the AD bigwigs in that symbolic act of sweeping off the PDP from Lagos were both spectacular and hilarious to behold. It took attention away from the PDP rally and made the AD sweeping event the talking point.
The fact that the AD was in control of only Lagos State made the state seen as the underdog facing the onslaught of a rampaging bull that the PDP was. Obasanjo – as bullish as ever – was antagonistic to the administration of Tinubu, and intent on making Lagos a PDP state in 2007. George was firing from all cylinders. Chief Funsho Williams was gearing up for the 2007 governorship election.
Therefore, Tinubu was fighting the battle of his life. If Lagos State was lost to the PDP, that could mark the death of the AD. But Tinubu stood firm and ensured that that did not come to pass.
When Tinubu and his group merged with other parties to form the Action Congress in 2006, it was instructive that the broom was chosen as the symbol of the AC. It is doubtful if there is any party symbol that Nigeria has had since 1999 that is more dramatic than the broom. When thousands of brooms are waved at a campaign rally, looking at the sight from above is electrifying. And in a country where corruption, poor leadership, tribalism, religious intolerance are major issues, the broom can be displayed as a tool that can sweep away these cankerworms.
When the AC changed to the Action Congress of Nigeria in 2010, the broom was retained. And when it merged with other parties to form the All Progressives Congress in 2013, the broom was also retained.
In the 2007 election, rather than the PDP capturing Lagos, the AC retained Lagos and also later won Ekiti State and Osun State and Edo State through court decisions. In 2011, the party won all South-West states except Ondo State.
But like every powerful joke which is exciting at first but bland when repeated, the “feet-sweeping” ritual was repeated in many APC states and it became boring and unimaginative.
Beyond the fact that this act has become predictable and unexciting, it is fraught with some dangerous undertones that should compel the APC to jettison it forthwith. First, it portrays the party as intolerant. The message that the act symbolises is that the APC does not want any other party to exist: it is either you are in the APC or you are not allowed in an APC state.
Secondly, it portrays the APC as inhospitable. When a person visits you and you pick up your broom to sweep your house, you are indirectly telling the person: “You are not welcome.” But for a party that does not “own” any state, “chasing” another party out of a state is overbearing. What many may ask is: If the party controls the Federal Government, would it chase other parties out of Nigeria?
Thirdly, the act is rude. Let’s keep politics aside: Which governor of a state would take kindly to the chairman of a local government area sweeping his footprints out of his local government the day after a political rally? None. The LGA chairman would be sacked that same day for disrespecting the office of “His Excellency, the Executive Governor.” If a governor cannot take such an act, why give it to the President, whose office is higher?
Fourthly, it is tantamount to declaring the President persona non grata in a state. A Nigerian cannot be deported from his nation.
Furthermore, excluding the national PDP bigwigs that attended the rally from outside the state, there were thousands of the PDP members from Ekiti State that attended too. Sweeping their footsteps out is another way of telling them that you are sweeping them out of their own state. Which state do the sweepers want indigenes of a state to go to when “swept out”?
Our actions – covert or overt – have implications and meanings. The sweepers have every right to sweep. But if an act brings bad blood and rancour among brothers or compatriots, a wise person reconsiders it in the interest of peace and good neighbourliness.
The APC is not lacking in ideas. This sweeping ritual has become boring. There is a need to devise other means of selling itself to the electorate.
The political arena thirsts for these ideas that will lighten it up without creating animosity. These are what the APC as well as the PDP, the All Progressives Grand Alliance and Labour Party should pay more attention to. The nation would be the better for it if a state or federal election holds without any death, injury, vandalism or arson caused by intolerance and insensitivity.
The saying is true: “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”
– Follow me on Twitter @BrandAzuka
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