Elisha Cliff Abbo may be in a cliff-hanger of wild anger. Aside from the law taking its course, he probably needs medical help
A dancing senator just exited. A slapping senator just entered. The image of the Senate, Nigeria’s apex legislative chamber, appears not about to get a spruce.
Just as well Elisha Cliff Abbo, the offending Adamawa North senator, has apologised. The social purgatory, of the “African Big Man” (to echo the uppity London Economist), stooping low to publicly beg a lowly woman he thought he had recklessly bullied — and got away with it — must have punctured his chauvinistic balloon.
That self-humiliation is well earned, even if we must also not shut out the prerogative of social mercy, though again, the law must take its course. The senator should get his day in court. Stripped of persons and posts, what Citizen Abbo has done is assault and batter another citizen, in public. That is a clear crime, aside from creating a public nuisance, both unbecoming a senator of the Federal Republic.
From the video evidence that has gone viral, that assault and battery was pretty much unprovoked. All the woman said was “Oga, take it easy”, and before you could mutter “Elisha!” he was all over the woman, raining slaps on her cheeks, literarily boxing her ears, and mouthing rude and crude threats to finish her off — what insane anger!
Meanwhile, Citizen Abbo’s first object of rage, another woman and the shop attendant, was calling her employer, the owner of the Abuja sex toy shop, where the high-voltage drama was playing out. The man barked at the woman to pronto surrender her phone. He probably was going to pounce on her, for he had worked himself up in a great rage. But then, “Oga, please take it easy”, from the other woman, diverted the rage — and the other woman took the fall, in a cluster of thunder slaps! What impunity! What brazenness! What barbarity!
Even after the brazen assault, the senator — with his disgraceful conduct, does he even deserve that pre-fix now? — even ordered his police orderly to seize the woman and drag her outside the shop, to God knows where. That abuse of state privilege, giving the police orderly an unlawful order to traumatise a fellow citizen, introduced another dimension to that affray.
In saner climes, the policeman knowing what his boss did was tantamount to a crime, would probably be empowered to call for help, salute and politely take in the senator, after duly briefing his superiors. But here the poor fellow first hesitated from carrying out the senator’s high-handed order. Eventually, he did — perhaps fearing for his job and privileged posting?
The result was the senator not only abused the privilege of his police guard, he also compromised an officer of the law to do improper behaviour. That double jeopardy must never be allowed to happen again! The duty of policemen on guard duty must be well spelt out, so that both the guarded and the guard know their limits; and are aware of the dire consequences of committing a crime; or being given illegal orders to commit one.
Senator Abbo’s disgraceful conduct epitomises the rampant impunity that has seized the Nigerian public space. You could correctly say it is one of the blasted legacies of military rule, with its contempt for civility and wanton disregard for fellow citizens’ rights, so long as you were in uniform; or knew somebody in one, who could skew the process for you.
That is one social disease governments at all levels must work on. Democracy is not only the ritual of regular elections. It is the apogee of civility, where the rights of the humblest and lowest of citizens are as respected — and protected — as the rights of the exalted and the most powerful; underscoring equality before the law, in the best tenet of republican democracy.
Still, that impunity is not one-way. Indeed, the lowly would appear to traumatise the exalted, as well as the powerful traumatise the powerless. That appears to explain why an Okada or Keke Marwa transport shuttle operator would drive anyhow, cock-sure he would escape any consequence, should he scratch, dent or even bash your car. This free-wheeling impunity is fast turning everyone into urban savages. The Abbo misbehaviour, therefore, is as good as any re-entry point towards curbing this social malady.
But beyond general unruliness plaguing contemporary Nigeria, the senator appears to have developed a personal code of recklessly throwing around his weight and threatening his victims, if the testimony of Tayo Olumuyiwa Owolabi, a photojournalist from Ekiti, is true.
Owolabi claimed Abbo contracted him, for N2.8 million, to do electioneering media work for him, in his native Adamawa. According to Owolabi, he had met — and struck the deal — with the future senator at Ekiti, on October 14, 2014, after the election that brought former Governor Ayodele Fayose to power, for the second time. Owolabi was Fayose’s official photojournalist during the campaign.
In Abbo’s native Adamawa, in Yola to be precise, with the work substantially done, Owolabi asked to be paid but Abbo reportedly balked.
Here was what happened, in Owolabi’s own words (only edited for correct lexis), in a posting which has gone viral on Facebook: “As soon as he came out, I began to plead with him that I had to go. The next thing he said was that I was embarrassing him. He leaped on me and started beating and slapping me — to the extent of telling his orderly to put me inside the pickup. He told them to cock the gun at me; that he would kill me; and tell people I was a member of Boko Haram.”
“No one could come to my rescue,” he recalled in his chilling tale, “as everybody was just dumbfounded at the way he brutalised me and broke my ankle.” It would take the benevolence of the DPO of Kaliwa Police Division in Yola to bail Owolabi out of his jam. Abbo had dropped his thoroughly chastened victim at 2 o’clock in the night at the station; before the DPO’s help came later the following morning. Till date, Owolobi insists, Abbo is yet to pay the N2.8 million he owes. He pleaded that Abbo be weighed upon to pay.
This bullying behaviour would appear a consistent pattern. Long before Elisha became the female slapper of Abuja, he would appear to have built a formidable record as the male basher of Yola! Such consistent pattern of ruthless aggression, in other climes, should have triggered the senator’s immediate recall by his constituents, as such conducts put the Senate in bad light.
Still, the authorities should investigate all these allegations. Apart from crime and punishment, effort should be made for the senator to seek and get urgent medical help, for he seems really incapable of managing his anger, not to talk of changing his penchant to oppress others, if he feels he can get away with it.
Such characters, except reformed, should not be tolerated in Nigeria’s public space. For the integrity of the Senate and the sanity of general Nigerians, political parties should critically check the temper and conduct of their candidates, before presenting them for elective offices. The Senate and this Abbo misconduct violently jar. [THE NATION]