Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Last week’s National Convention of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) connoted different things to different people. For politicians especially members of the party it was about realizing their ambitions.
But, for residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, it was both a blessing and a nightmare. The event took place at the Eagle Square. On a normal day, the square sandwiched by the Federal Secretariat and the National Assembly plays host to diverse activities. Apart from being a central car park for workers and people who have anything to do at the secretariat, it houses food vendors, fashion dealers, petty traders and social outings. In fact, thousands of residents of Abuja draw their daily living from the place.
However, last Saturday the square was out of reach except members of APC. Johnson, a middle-aged man, who sells shoes told Daily Sun: “It was a long, agonising weekend for me. My family and I live on what I make from Eagle Square. In this place, so many people come from Nyanya to sell water, groundnuts, walnuts etc. But nobody was allowed to come close to the place (on Saturday).”
A food vendor, Mrs. Lizzy Morgan, also expressed frustration at being made to leave her business as a result of the convention. She argued that the security ought to have left them to do their businesses side by side with the convention:
“Some people will go hungry this weekend because many people who do business in that place get their daily living from them. Asking me to close my restaurant for one day was like putting me in prison for one year. I don’t know what would have happened if they had allowed us to do our businesses while they do their politics the other side.”
However, for taxi drivers it was a different but pleasant story, it was a busy day for them. Although the road to the square was condoned off by security operatives, they made fortunes conveying delegates to nearby points.
The 2018 convention was the platform APC elected its new national officials to take over from the former officials led by outgoing National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun. The presence of 6,800 delegates and thousands of unaccredited party members and supporters brought new life to Abuja, to the point that a deaf and dumb man could attest to it.
At the convention ground there were reports of disappearance of handsets, money and other valuables in spite of the presence of large numbers of security operatives.
The supporters appeared in different Ankara uniforms, branded vehicles and T-shirts that sent a message of where they politically belong. Based on distance and logistics, some were said to have arrived a day before the event (Friday) while others arrived early on the D-Day (Saturday).
In spite of the rain, the supporters, some of whom were not accredited to enter the venue of the event religiously displayed their posters and banners of their preferred candidates. Painfully, they, apparently disregarded all environmental rules in Abuja, and desecrated the city. Apart from open defecation and urination in green gardens, they changed the aesthetics of roads, buildings, signposts, streetlights and bridges in virtually all parts of Abuja with campaign posters.
The main contenders could not campaign openly but their supporters, as part of last minute efforts, moved in hundreds from one end of their restricted area, to another, chanting solidarity songs and also displaying banners of their candidates.
All roads leading to the square, through Ahmadu Bello and Shehu Shagari ways, were shut by officials of road traffic management agencies. Motorists were forced to use alternative routes. Traders and unaccredited delegates were restricted to particular side of the venue, perhaps, for the sake of maximum control of crowd and “miscreants” by large numbers of security men deployed in the venue.
The traders suffered in the early part of the day due to the rain that begun as early as 6:30am. They could not display their wares, especially those that could easily spoil if touched by water.
Some of them had a timely
change of plan. They quickly invested in umbrellas, cigarettes, local gins, codeine, tramadol, “shayi” and drugs to keep the people warm.
Surprisingly, many of these drugs, alcohol, Indian hemp, were consumed by youths in the open and some of the security agents could not help. In fact, some of them were forced to join, though secretly, having been drenched by rain. Daily Sun gathered that some undercover security officials had combed the vicinity including the entire Federal Secretariat complex as part of security measures. Some got mixed up with the people to monitor discussions and actions.
Our correspondent had brief conversations with some of the supporters and discovered that many of them had no knowledge of their presence at the event. Nuhu came from Kebbi State: “Myself and others arrived Abuja on Friday. And we were told that no provision was made for us to sleep in hotel. After several efforts, we were left with no option but to sleep in the bus. I don’t know when, but am sure we would return shortly after the event.”