I have seen first hand how the choice of the humble but powerful broom as the symbol of a major political party has contributed to the growth of the local economy of remote rural areas in the oil palm producing belt of southern Nigeria over the past few months of electioneering campaign.
From Ilubirin Agbabu, a remote waterside settlement near Ore, where the Irele/Ore oil palm settlement is located to Okitipupa, Igbotako, Omotosho, Igbobini, Irele, Ode Aye, and so on, we have the oil palm belt of Ondo State. Agbabu, one is reminded by an aging signboard is the location of the Agbabu Bitumen project conceived during the first republic but never implemented by a succession both military and civilian governments and long since forgotten. No government has bothered to invest in the local production of this vital ingredient for the modern nylon tarred road. It matters little that under the earth stretching for kilometres from Ilubirin Agbabu into the creeks that lead to Igbokoda, Mahin, Ugbonla Zion on the great western Nigeria water highways linking Epe to the right and Warri to the left. The neglect of Agbabu’s riches means more profit for a few in profligate Nigeria while this remote corner remains literally in the dark age.
The humble broom, the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s symbol is giving the women of Agbabu something to survive on with the rising demand for this undervalued but essential tool for cleaning in all Nigerian homes and surroundings of the rich and the poor. The. Hard working women of this area eagerly go with their male counterparts who climb the majestic palm tree to hack off it’s rich oily bunch and trim out the tree’s branches, out of which the powerful broom now sweeping across Nigeria politically is made by woman power. Many families eek out a living in the semi-abandoned oil palm settlements first created by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, first premier of the Western Region in the late 1950s. The living quarters are all in various stages of dilapidation with apparently no one caring one bit. Young and middle aged Nigerians of different ethnic groups make up the farm settlements, from their languages and dialects: Ikale, Urhobo, Ijaw, Itshekiri and Igbo mostly live and work here.
The normal level of demand for brooms before now had meant that the branches of the palm tree fetched little income, compared to the political season when demand has quadrupled. The women are happy to see new buyers with weigh-in scale coming to their remote villages and buying tonnes of the humble broom at fair prices whilst relieving them of the burden of transportation to the. Far-away market centres. This new idea is signalling the industrial exploitation of the broom and the oil palm’s other by-products that were once undervalued. It is estimated that the women from each household sell up to 3dozens of sizeable brooms (about three big brooms make one kilogramme which may be sold for N100 or more and gross about N1, 600 twice a week or N3, 200 for meeting family needs. This may seem small at first until you see the number of families it takes to supply 1000 kilograms or 1 tonne of brooms ordered by a major user.
The broom revolution is powered by our amazing women working with their children from their humble homesteads, and though they may not know fully how their hard work is heralding the wind of change that is blowing across Nigeria’s four cardinal points, it is already winning hearts and minds from ethical injection of cash directly to rural families. The broom revolution’s leaders must prepare their minds to do more for these simple folks by making life less arduous and providing them some modern comforts to enable them get more work done.
The towns and villages of the oil palm belt have had no electricity for up to 2years in some cases as we found out to our surprise and it must lead one to ask: wither governance in Nigeria with all the wasting assets around us? Such is the power of a thoughtfully chosen symbol, the common, humble but powerful symbol for getting rid of filth wielded by our women daily.
Abimbola Daniyan, Osogbo