Strange giant broom at Abuja city gate
Every nation creates its monuments arising from its historical, cultural and social experiences. Some monuments are local while others are national or international. National monuments are markers of national or our collective history and are expected to remind the nation of its antecedents while local markers are restricted to persons who may not have entered the national consciousness. By convention, there are certain iconic locations that are set apart for national or international monuments. Personal or private monuments are not to be located in prime places that belong by convention to the people or to the state. Sectarian monuments or signage are also to be precluded from occupying prime positions in the public space. This is because though the public space is general, yet certain portions of it belong to the collective psyche and cultural dynamics of the people.
It is against this background that the recent implant of a giant broom at the city gate of Abuja, the nation’s capital may be considered an offence to the collective will of the people. There have been arguments about rules and ethics of advertising. Some scholars have argued that advertisers can buy significant space for their billboards where they can garner competitive advantage. It is also conventional for certain adverts are to be rejected if they offend the rules of engagement. For example, an advertisement that has the capacity to offend another party is either rejected or amended in order to avoid litigation. So too are advertisements, which are to be placed in a monumental national spot. The Abuja City Gate is a national site and the broom, which represents a particular political party ought not to be sited there – especially during general elections.
The National Coat of Arms or the symbol of the city of Abuja itself may be sited there; not the symbol of a ruling party.
We need to reiterate the point that the broom symbol at the city gate has not broken any law. It is not illegal to the extent that there is no extant law precluding the All Progressives Congress (APC) from placing its symbol at the gate to Abuja. But the ‘Broom’ is NOT the brand of the nation: it is that of a party, one of dozens in the land. The reigning party simply seized the opportunity to place its campaign logo in a prime spot, the capital city’s gate, along the only airport road, which by convention ought to be sectarian-free. We espouse a lofty idea, walking the thin line between the ethics of public morality and the exigencies of electioneering. On the lighter side, whoever developed and implemented the idea lacks a sense of aesthetics, whatsoever. In that serene and beautiful landscape that is Abuja City Gate, the broom is an unbearable eyesore. It is unbecoming of a site fit only for a national monument.
There are 91 registered political parties in Nigeria according to statistics provided by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). What cacophonic and aesthetic ugliness it would be if all the parties elected to raise their party symbols at the city gate. It is a surprise that the opposition has not applied to set up its symbol at the same venue! A ruling party in any country has a moral obligation to be responsive and sensitive to both its followers and the entire citizenry. As a governing party, its level of partisanship must be moderated by an abiding concern for the overall stability and health of the polity. The social responsibility of a governing party therefore as represented by its national and state leaders must transcend clannishness and a narrow purview.
The Nigerian people were not left out of the debate on the propriety or otherwise of the broom at the city gate. In social media, some activists placed the image of the broom alongside such iconic monuments as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the State of Liberty in New York and did not fail to point out the incongruity of the broom image. If we have to create a monument let it be at par with similar structures outside our shores – that the world can hail in the capital city of the most populous black nation on earth.
As a nation, after 58 odd years of attempting to forge a national consensus on fundamental issues, we should begin to promote and establish national monuments. Such monuments invariably etch memorable events in the minds of compatriots and serve as a connection between the past and the future. Persons of different party affiliations who have been instrumental in the birth and continued unity of the nation ought to be celebrated routinely.
All told, there should be limits and restrictions on actions and spaces in our polity, both in the symbolic moral sense and in terms of physical interventions and utilisation of the national patrimony. Appropriating the collective inheritance for personal or sectional interests is inimical to the growth of the country. Fostering national unity is the responsibility of all stakeholders. And so, the governing authorities in Abuja should dismantle the ugly broom at the city gate of the capital of the federation. It is certainly not in the national interest to allow its continuous odious presence.