Much ado about a mace



Uba Group

It is not uncommon for politicians to throw jibes at each other. The unwritten rule of engagement is however that those jibes should be done in a decent manner, avoiding mudslinging as much as possible. Politics is an engagement where interests are canvassed or promoted. It is the consensus of opinions that issues that create irreversible enmity should be reduced to the barest minimum or avoided. This creed is important in Nigeria, where political disagreements are not ideologically driven.

The PDP led government in Delta State has jettisoned decency and goodwill, attacking personalities rather than dwelling on the issues that affect the wellbeing of the masses of the state. They vilify Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Delta State for seizing a mace. They say he stole” the mace. A little education will surely be beneficial for Delta’s People’s Democratic Party and the government.

On Monday, December 10, 2018, Lloyd Russell Moyle, a member of opposition in the British House of Commons, in protest against the Conservative Party’s “Brexit Policy”, grabbed the ceremonial mace while sitting at parliament. The entire House hollered in anger and Speaker John Bercow yelled for Moyle to return the mace. On his way outside parliamentary chambers, he was stopped by a woman who snatched the mace from him and returned it to its stand.

Mr. Moyle was suspended from parliamentary sessions for the rest of the day’s sitting.

Before then in 1976, Michael Heseltine, the Opposition Industry Secretary grabbed the five foot mace from its stand, raised and waved it menacingly and headed outside chambers. A fellow Conservative MP wrestled it off him and put it back on its stand. Michael Heseltine later gained in political stature and rose to the House of Lords, just as Ovie Omo-Agege rose to become Deputy Senate President of Nigeria.

John McDonell from the Labour Opposition bench did exactly the same thing later in 2009.

In India, the All India Trinamool Congress politician, 50 years old Sudip Roy Barman, snatched the mace of the north-eastern state of Tripura’s Legislative Assembly.

The mace is the symbol of authority of the Speaker of parliament. It is carried by the sergeant-at-arms and announces the entry of the speaker into parliamentary chambers. In the United Kingdom, the mace symbolizes the presence and authority of the monarchy (king or Queen). The mace also gives legality and authority to the proceedings of parliament and its absence in a plenary session removes the authority and legality of such proceedings. Proceedings without the presence and authority of the mace cannot be recorded in the public record of the Hansard.

Because of the powerful symbolism of the mace as a symbol of parliamentary authority, the mace has historically been at the centre of conflict and disputations in many parliaments across the world.

But it remains just a symbol of parliamentary authority in plenary sessions, not a symbol of democracy. Democracy itself is the will of the people and its symbol remains the vote which is sacred and determines the power of the citizen.

There’s nothing to the mace apart from its power as object and symbol of authority in parliament. William Golding, British novelist, in “LORD OF THE FLIES” used the “conch” to dwell on the idea of symbolizing authority, in his novel on dissonance in the Second World War

Every society has the practice of using symbols to represent authority. The “ada” and “ebeni” are sacred symbols of authority in Agbor and Bini traditional governments. The authority of hereditary Chiefs is represented by the ada. The king’s supreme authority is symbolized by the ada and Ebeni together.

Although removing the ceremonial mace is uncommon and regarded as serious, the mace is however not an article of trade. It cannot be bought or sold. So the idea of a “mace thief” should not be countenanced. The mace is merely removed by angry members to deny the parliament of its authority and the validity of its proceedings at the time of the absence of the mace. It is of no serious democratic consequence.

And the people of Delta state should know this.

.Dr. ‘Tonye Timi,

Deputy Director,

Media & Publicity Committee,


Delta APC Campaign Organization