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PUBLIC DISPLAY OF BROOM IS A TABOO AND ABOMINATION IN ONDO STATE: A REJOINDER

As our beloved nation, Nigeria, continues to wobble with so many missteps, giving the remnant of the true-patriots headaches and heartburns, it has become necessary to from time to time address and correct the misinformation peddled about. The damage being perpetuated by misinformation has gone a long way, including erroneously redefining our norms, cultures, reducing the thin line between evil and good, and making hitherto disgusting acts fashionable. No wonder Nigeria has been undergoing generational degenerations owing to the continuous misinformation.

I am writing this rejoinder following the article by Kayode Ajulo published by The Will on the 29 July 2012, claiming that the public display of broom is a taboo and abomination in Ondo State. This claim is an outright misinformation and has no foundation in the cultures of the various ethnic groups in Ondo State. Though there are specific taboos having to do with the use of the broom, example include sweeping at night, there is no norm that forbids the public display of brooms.

At this point, there is need to clarify that there is nothing abominable about public display of brooms. The public show of broom is indeed part and parcel of the cultures of the people of Ondo State, particularly Akoko, from where Ajulo hails.

The broom, and indeed the display of brooms is a symbolic act in the cultures of the people of Ondo State. Literarily the broom is used for sweeping and ensuring cleanliness of homes and surroundings. I could remember in my primary school days in the 80s, owning a broom, in addition to a hoe and cutlass is essential paraphernalia of the early education in Ondo State. Not owning a broom back in those days is enough to attract the anger of the teachers, particularly for girls. I can remember the public display of brooms and indeed hoes and cutlass is mandatory at the assembly ground to identify and punish those who fail to heed the instruction to have these implements for school works – cleaning the school surrounding or working on the school garden. Brooms are also included in the array of handiworks we contributed in those days towards raising funds for the school.

In the villages, women on community works such market cleaning, church or mosque cleaning, and indeed the cleaning of other communal buildings proudly display their brooms as they go and return from such communal works. I should also put it on notice that till today, women sing and dance around villages holding their brooms while they mobilize their compatriots for such communal cleaning works. Need I remind Ajulo that part of the funeral rites performed in villages in Akoko, particularly for the dead that have attain a ripe age and who passed on as a grandfather/mother or great-grandfather/mother is the coming together of the women to clean, cooks and do other needful chores. The procession to such funeral venues is done with the women holding their brooms, singing and dancing. Nothing in our culture in Ondo State makes holding brooms in the public a taboo. Like in the case of the primary and secondary schools, way back, any woman who fails to show up with a broom for such communal work is considered a dirty and an irresponsible wife.

Figuratively, the broom symbolizes the cleaning off of a hitherto dirty environment or aura. The public or private use of or holding of a broom symbolizes protest, rejection, clearing off filth, injustice and evils. The holding of the broom is a symbolic act in protest all across cultures in Ondo State and Nigeria at large. Traditionally, mother in-law sweeps off the feet of an evil wife from the son's house this way. In the larger societies, the public holding of broom with a gesture of sweeping is used to sweep away evil or indeed persons who have committed evil deeds and are being chased away from the community. This culture has found good use in modern day protests by students, workers and citizens all across Nigeria.

As part of the subsisting cultures of Ondo State, from the dry lands of Akoko in the northern senatorial district to the riverine communities bordering the ocean, broom plays symbolic roles in traditional rites, charms and amulets. Old brooms are seen as part of the charms and amulets for wading off thieves on the farms and witches and wizards from homes. A broom, old or new, displayed publicly or in the private is forbidden to evil and perpetrators of evil. Only a perpetrator of evil or one with intent to do evil is alarmed and discomfited by a display of brooms. The literal and figurative use of and display of brooms is as universal.

Though Ajulo concluded his article claiming it is not targeted at anyone, his analysis betrays and insults the cultures of Ondo State, Nigeria and Africa. It will be better not to commit abomination through misinformation. More so, knowing fully well that a broom held by a firm hand is the symbol of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), his article shows a lack of sensibility.

The public display of broom shall remain part of our culture in Ondo State. No amount of misinformation will erode history or indeed the relevance of any aspect of our culture. At this critical period in the life of our dear state – Ondo and indeed our nation – Nigeria, every well meaning citizen should be ready to hold their brooms in the public in a symbolic exorcism of evil and evil doers who have wrought so much destruction to our people and homeland.

Taofeek Ramat
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