Something that happened in Owerri on Monday 24th February left me totally disorientated and mesmerized and I deem it necessary to share my experience with my countrymen. Now, this is the story: “As early as 7 am on Monday,24th February, thousands of women stormed the streets of Owerri to protest against the Peoples Democratic Party((PDP) and its leaders over what they described as the provocative statements they made during their party’s rally on Saturday,22nd at the Dan ANYIAM Stadium,Owerri. The protesting women said that the PDP people came to Imo State to provoke the people. With brooms clutched in their hands, ,they trooped to the venue of the event, Dan Anyiam stadium, and swept the stadium claiming that they were sweeping off the footprints of the PDP leaders and their members who were there over the weekend”.
For lack of a better label, I prefer to call this episode a “Brooms-Gate Scandal” because the broom, the symbol of APC, was the only weapon of attack in that scandal. It is pertinent to recall that President Jonathan and the National EXCO of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) were at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri to welcome a large group of politicians who had defected(decamped) to the PDP. A large number of these defectors (a.k.a decampees) defected from the APC. These politicians and their party structures were received in a colourful ceremony in Dan Anyiam Stadium, Wetheral Road, Owerrri. On that day, Aso Rock Villa and Wadata Plaza, Abuja, were relocated to Owerri in order to give a befitting honour to the repented politicians who had dumped the APC to rejoin PDP. It was a great event to behold.
Irked by what happened in the stadium on that day, the APC leadership mobilized their women to embark on a public demonstration to protest the PDP rally that held in Owerri and to use their APC brooms to sweep off the footsteps of the members of the PDP from the stadium. The symbol of APC is a broom. As they were sweeping off the footprints of their perceived enemies-the PDP-, they were heaping curses on the heaps of dirt and asking the PDP group to be met with calamity for defiling the stadium. I have never witnessed this level of reckless attitude to politics in all my life – an action which is also a barefaced affront on Igbo culture. As Onye Igbo i.e, an Igbo man, the whole show was very repugnant and revolting to my conscience.
From time immemorial, it has been the culture in Igbo Land that a host should not hurriedly sweep off the footprints of his guest/visitor unless there was cogent evidence that such a guest was a demonic visitor who had dangerous motives for the visitation .We were seriously warned not to commit that breach of tradition,and good parents were always vigilant to ensure faithful compliance with that code of culture and any breach was visited with some degree of chastisement. So, when the women of APC in Imo State trooped to the stadium to sweep brandishing thousands of brooms to sweep off the footprints of President Jonathan and his party men, I had a spasm of shock through my anatomy. For me, it was an arrow from the dark, a case of one seeing one’s ears. Even now, several days after the show of shame, I have been trying hard to come to terms with that unfortunate episode by the APC women of Imo State. More frustrating is the fact that most of the women leaders were top politicians in the PDP governments that ruled Imo State for 12 years ; they cut their political teeth in the PDP where they held command positions as commissioners and women leaders at the various party levels including the leadership of the women at the State and national levels. They are people who are well read and they come from various professions. They also hold top titles in the various secular and ecclesiastical strata. They are holders of such big titles as Ezinne, Nneoma, Nne nwere ugwu, Nne ka ibeya and Nne di Egwu. They are Lady Knights from the various faiths and some have even gone on pilgrimage to the Holy Land where they marched on the footprints of the Risen Christ without anybody sweeping off their footprints for desecrating the Pilgrimage Village. So, if after all these great profiles in the secular and ecclesiastical realms, they still exhibited such hate and venom on their fellow politicians, what examples are they handing over to the future generation of young girls who watched them dance naked in the market square. The day, 24TH February, 2014, they embarked on this show of shame must go down as a bad day for the African Women in general and the Imo Womanhood in particular..
It even rankles the more when one recalls that on the 4th day of March, 2005, five students of Owerri Girls’ Secondary School, Owerri (O.G.S.S. 5) were crushed to death while about 10 others sustained serious injuries. What happened was that touts working for “Imo State Task Force on Obstruction and illegal parking “were struggling to snatch control of the steering of a moving trailer from the driver. In the melee and power show, the trailer rammed into a bevy of pretty students of OGSS leaving five dead and about 10 wounded in its trail. It happened at the precincts of Assumpta Catholic Cathedral, Control Post/Port Harcourt Road. I have written about four published viewpoints on the need for Government to immortalize these girls and pay some token compensation to their families so that their souls can rest in peace. The last one written in December, 2013 was an open letter to the State Attorney General and it was not even given the benefit of any response from that office. I also forwarded a copy of this complaint to the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Owerri, in December. Without any scintilla of dignity on the part of Imo Government, the five girls of Owerri Girl’s Secondary School (O.G.S.S. 5) were simply buried like common criminals. The leaders of the APC women who marched to the stadium to sweep off the footprints of the PDP faithful were virtually all in the PDP at the time of that tragedy. One of them was a Commissioner for Women Affairs during Chief Udenwa’s regime when the OGSS tragedy took place while the other, a lawyer, was a State Woman leader of PDP in Chief Ohakim’s regime. In spite of their privileged positions in PDP at the time, these big women abysmally failed to make a case for the victims of the OGSS 5 tragedy. The only reason for their indifference is that the parents of the dead OGSS 5 girls are not political chieftains in the PDP or in any other political party. If their parents were big politicians, these women would have carried placards to demand that millions of Naira should be paid to the families as compensation, more so, since the accident happened because of the recklessness and lawlessness of members of the Government Task Force in Imo State. They would have also asked for the immortalization of the victims of that tragedy. But today, the same women are not ashamed to troop to the stadium to sweep off the footprints of their fellow human beings including those of the President of the country and eminent Nigerians who were in his entourage. Too Bad! Even those of them who belong to the big sodalities (i.e. societies) in the Catholic Church) such as Catholic Women Organization (CWO) have not cared to demand that their daughters who perished in the tragedy of OGSS-a school that belongs to the Catholic Church- should be given a befitting burial and rights of passage by the State Government or even the Catholic Church. The big women in the Catholic Church are keeping quiet because the parents of these girls are not Knights and Lady Knights; their mothers are not Ezinne and Nne Nwere Ugwu or even Papal Knights. Their parents are so-called Catholics since they don’t make hefty donations during church events like Bazaar and the like. It is pertinent to emphasize that the Commissioner for Women Affairs in 2005 when the OGSS 5 were killed was one of the leaders of the Broom- gate scandal of Monday,24/2/2014 .She has since dumped PDP and joined APC where she now holds a big portfolio in one of the government parastatals in the Education Ministry. But as Commissioner for Women Affairs in Chief Udenwa’s Administration, she ignored the OGSS 5 victims and their families.
The recent killing /kidnap of some female students in Borno and Yobe States has ignited a national outrage and incendiary/vociferous denunciations from a cross section of Nigerian women. But when the five girls of OGSS were crushed to death in high noon, our women politicians in Imo state including the big OLD GIRLS of OGSS pretended as if they were in outer space; they heard nothing and said nothing. Where are the Alumnae of OGSS? Whither esprit de corps? Today, these women of substance have shamelessly come out to lead the IMO Broom-Gate Scandal because they are digging for gold. It is pertinent to state that since the death of these five OGSS girls, there have been series of road mishaps around that Assumpta Cathedral area where the girls were crushed to death. In fact, on Tuesday, February 26th or thereabout, a petrol tanker tumbled in front of Assumpta Cathedral complex. The tanker which was heading to Aba in Abia State from Lagos tumbled while negotiating the Control Post Roundabout. This is just the latest in a series of such road mishaps around the Cathedral Complex. The Catholic Church leadership must make a case for the OGSS 5 to be immortalized so that they can rest in peace, more so, now that the school has been handed over to the Catholic Church. A stitch in time saves nine. May the Souls of the O.G.S.S 5 find eternal bliss in the bosom of the Lord.
In view of the cultural implication of sweeping off the footprints of our August visitors, I appeal to the leadership of the Imo Traditional Rulers’ Council to make some clarification on the place of this conduct in regard to the culture of NDIMO. Does the tradition of Igbo land or Imo State accept this attitude or is it a desecration of our culture? Our EZES are custodians of our culture, and if they say that what the APC women did is OK, so be it. If, however, there was a breach of our culture, we need an open apology which will show remorse and penitence from those who perpetrated this act. This observation is pertinent because, before now, we had never seen such barefaced hostility to strangers in Igbo land. Ndigbo are well known for their spirit of hospitality, a welcoming spirit that impels one of the presenters in Imo Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) to always start his Igbo programmes by describing a typical Igbo as :”Ohuru Obia Agba Nkwa” which translated in English means” the one who dances whenever a visitor arrives”. Another jingle from IBC proclaims:”Imo is leading in free education and hospitality”. So, how can a people who are leading in education and hospitality suddenly become so hostile to their guests as to sweep off their footprints amid heaping of curses on the footprints? If we have become so hostile and xenophobic as to use brooms to sweep off the footsteps of our PDP brothers and their guests whose only offence was that they were in IMO State to execute a political party event, do we still deserve this beautiful label of possessing a welcoming and hospitable character? When did Ndigbo contract this virus of xenophobia? The word “Xenophobia” has been defined as:”intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries or strangers”. When did our people of Imo State/ Ndigbo contract this Caliphate/ BOKO HARAM spirit of hate and derision on fellow human beings? Who are the caliphate politicians in Igbo Land that are injecting this virus of misanthropy-hate of humanity- among our people, especially our mothers/the womenfolk who are universally known as the epitome of peace, compassion, and humility? Who are those trying to brainwash our humble womenfolk to become the present day Jezebel and Delilah? The typical Imo /Igbo woman is a gift to African womanhood and nothing should be done to change the peaceful disposition of our womenfolk in who we are well pleased. Our teenage girls were watching with interest while their mothers in All Progressives Congress( APC) were sweeping off the footprints of their real and perceived enemies in the Peoples Democratic Party( PDP).It is often said that while the mother goat chews, the baby goat watches and learns the art of chewing. If tomorrow, our girls in Imo State University (IMSU) Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) etc troop out to sweep off the footsteps of their Vice Chancellors; Professors Awuzie and Asiabaka- as a way of protesting any unpopular policy in the university, will any reasonable person blame them for acting out of youthful exuberance? As adults, what have we done to checkmate the adult delinquency and exuberance of our APC women who trooped out to sweep off the footprints of our August visitors from ASO ROCK and Wadata Plaza, Abuja? I am sad that the fact that the President of the country, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, personally graced that PDP event did not matter to these APC women and those who set them up.
As a matter of urgency, the secretariat of the Imo State Traditional Rulers Council, Owerri must issue a clarification on the BROOM-GATE Scandal in order to guard against a reoccurrence. I am aware that we have two chairmen in the Imo State Traditional Rulers Council, Owerri. One is HRH EZE Agunwa Ohiri who is the de facto Chairman (by executive fiat) while HRH EZE Cletus Ilomuanya is the de jure chairman (by order of Court of Appeal).Both should wade into this barefaced assault on our culture. This is not the time for our EZEs to embark on a conspiracy of silence. If the Broom-Gate scandal is not properly handled now, it will resonate during the next electioneering when all manner of politicians will invade Imo State for votes.Iam afraid that a big party like the PDP may even engage in reprisal attack and this will portend grave danger to society. In future, the police Commissioner should also severely screen all applications for protests in order to ensure that those who have dangerous reasons for embarking on protests are nipped in the bud in order to forestall a breakdown of law and order. The oft-repeated jargon that a police permit is not needed for a public demonstration is hogwash. I doubt if the Nigerian Police were given the actual reason for that APC women protest. Democracy is not a blank cheque for lawlessness and anarchy. There is no absolute freedom anywhere in the world. Has anybody cared to think of the consequences if the PDP which is the only real national party in Nigeria had decided to mobilize their crack women squod( women wing) to swiftly embark on a reprisal BROOM-GATE Scandal on the next day or in the future? If a thing like this could happen during a free period, I am afraid to imagine what will happen when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) gives approval for electioneering to commence. Although I do not know if the State Governor was aware of what these women did, the buck stops at his table. The former President of U.S, MR Ronald Reagan, was reputed to have permanently positioned on his table a plaque emblazoned with the caveat “The buck stops here”. It is trite rule that while an effective leader can delegate authority, resposibilkty cannot be delegated. So, Governor Okorocha who is said to have shown interest in the culture of Ndigbo should set up an Independent Panel to investigate the immediate and remote cause/s of the BROOM-GATE Scandal and take steps to guard against a reoccurrence of this dastardly act. This culture of xenophobia is anti-Igbo and we reject it in its entirety.
In the last few weeks, President Goodluck Jonathan has been crisscrossing the country to receive politicians who returned to the PDP. He was in Kano, Sokoto and Kwara and he is scheduled to be in Niger State and Kaduna State presently. In all these visits, the President was given tumultuous applause by the electorate, even though the governors of some of those states are APC members. In those states where President Jonathan visited, the environment was agog with buntings and posters of the President in, but in IMO state the buntings, posters and photographs mounted on flex banners in the streets were torn to shreds by unidentified persons. It’s only in Imo State that women trooped out to sweep out the footprints of the President and members of his entourage. Some months ago, about seven APC governors arrived Imo State to celebrate the defection of Governor Okorocha to the APC. On that day, we were all at the venue to honour the visiting APC governors as a way of showing some respect to our governor. It was on that occasion that Governor Okorocha shocked us when he announced that “APGA is dead; APGA is a non-governmental Organization (NGO); APGA is a cultural union; The Cock, the symbol of APGA, is dead”. In spite of this shock revelation from our governor, we danced and clapped hands and our women danced for the APC governors. So, why should women who danced for the APC governors yesterday now suddenly be protesting and sweeping off the footprints of our President? Why demonize a powerful but humble Head of State for no just cause?
I am involved on this issue because the President of the country, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, does not deserve this sort of humiliation from the IGBO nation, especially from a government that is led by Governor Okorocha who is a beneficiary of the President’s support in the 2011 election. If the PDP summit of Saturday February 22nd in Dan Anyiam Stadium was a local affair of only the PDP in Imo State, I would not give a damn about what happened between them, after all, I am just a media professional ; I am not a member of any of the parties(APC or PDP).I do not give a damn if members of the APC and PDP in Imo State decide to eliminate themselves. As a strong member of the Volunteer Media Professionals who worked assiduously for Okorocha to become Governor in 2011, I am full aware that we could not have found it easy to actualize Okorocha’s victory if President Jonathan had shown hostility to Owelle Okorocha or had demanded that Okorocha’s footsteps must not be seen in Government House, Owerri. In spite of being President of the nation and member of the PDP, President Jonathan stood aloof and allowed God’s wish to be done. Our then candidate in the 2011 poll, Owelle Okorocha, even juxtaposed his image on the same giant flex banner with President Jonathan. When Governor Ikedi Ohakim ordered that the flex banner must be pulled down, I, yours sincerely, wrote a viewpoint entitled: “Jonathan/Okorocha Flex Banner: What does Ohakim Want? Please GOGGLE the headline and read online or a copy could be forwarded to you on request. While the PDP in IMO state complained vociferously against juxtaposing Okorocha and Jonathan on one giant flex banner, President Jonathan did not give a damn .That was the first sign that President Jonathan had a soft spot for Okorocha’s agenda. So, we do not seem to know what happened between the two that should attract such hostility to President Jonathan in an Okorocha-led government.
The issue of sweeping footprints off and heaping curses on them is so critical to Christianity and traditional religion. I also want to believe that the Koran must have said something to that effect. Addressing his disciples on one occasion (LUKE 9; 15), The Risen Christ said:”If a town refuses to welcome you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate” .So, without sounding too judgmental, it shall be the responsibility of those who perpetrated / sponsored the BROOM-GATE scandal to juxtapose the cultural and biblical injunctions on this issue in order to justify or condemn what they did. The Book says “If your conscience has not condemned you, you have not sinned”. I am aware of criticisms bordering on the so-called lack of federal presence in IMO State. People who make this assertion are not fair to President Jonathan. It is more pathetic that the PDP people in Imo State are not even able to handle this matter decisively. Soon, I will do a viewpoint to discuss the federal government’s presence (projects) in Imo state, although I am not a member of PDP. Our politicians in Imo State must come to terms with the inescapable fact that humility to a person in power is not timidity. A governor, who is hostile to the President, cannot expect to have the same federal presence in his state with that of another Governor who is humble and loyal to the President. Even God says “Ask and it shall be given; knock it will be opened unto you”. Every day we hear of governors paying visits to Aso Rock with prominent members of their community’s .On such occasions, they present their shopping list to the president. Has any delegation led by the State Governor paid a courtesy call on President Jonathan since May, 29.2011? Has the state Governor ever invited President Jonathan to visit Imo State to commission his projects? I discussed this issue in a GSM chat with Chief Marshal, the State Chairman of the APC.While he was Governor of IMO State in 2007, Governor Ikedi Ohakim attracted the visit of President Musa Yar’Adua on three occasions within a year. The President personally visited IMO State on January, 22nd or 21st, 2008 to commission Governor Ohakim’s projects. On two other occasions in 2008, the President was represented by the then Vice President, Dr GOODLUCK Jonathan, and the Senate President, Senator David Mark for the commissioning of Gov. Ohakim’s Clean and Green Project and the Imo Road Maintenance Agency (IROMA).The object lesson is that no President turns down an invitation from a State Governor to visit his State especially for the commissioning of projects. In the same vein, no President will embark on a state visit in a situation where the State Governor seems to be an avowed foe. Let us emulate the humility of Governors Peter Obi and Godson Akpabio of Anambra State and Akwa Ibom State respectively. Take a trip to the two states and see how they have massively transformed their states through paying loyalty and humility to the President. Just yesterday, the governors of South West states (ALL APC Governors) had a summit with President Goodluck Jonathan in ASO ROCK, ABUJA. Speaking to the Press after the meeting, one of the Governors said that they went to discuss with the President on issues that affect their political zone, It is a sad development that while other states are trooping to Aso Rock to pay homage to the President in order to seek his favour, some politicians are sweeping off the footprints of the President from their State. For the umpteenth time, I advise those who perpetrated this heinous abomination to make an open apology because a President of a country is an anointed of God in the secular realm while a Reverend Father is also anointed to serve in the Holy Order of Melchisedeck but for life. So,the difference between flogging a Reverend Father and flogging a President of the country is the difference between six and one-half of a dozen. It is pertinent to remind the reader that in his IMMORTALE DEI Encyclical (Nov.1st, 1885) Pope LEO X111, said: “to despise legitimate authority in whosoever vested is unlawful and a rebellion against GOD”.Let our politicians in Imo State seek to find more to admire than to censure in our humble President.
N/B I regret to inform the reader that as a result of the activities in the Dan Anyiam Stadium on the day President Jonathan visited, I lost my most important professional tool, a digital recorder, which contained the interviews and other recordings I made on that occasion. This has severely impacted negatively on my professional practice. I plead that whosoever picked this most precious digital recorder should be kind enough to call my line. Our Lord will bless him abundantly.Amen.