Tuesday, 09 July 2019 01:58

[Opinion] Elisha Abbo: A Broken Symbol? - Reuben Abati

If the drama that overtook Senator Elisha Abbo’s life in the past week had not occurred, he would have been a symbol of the value of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Movement in Nigeria. At 41, he is the youngest member of the Nigerian Senate. He is much older than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, of the United States House of Representatives, (D-NY, 14thdistrict) and Senator Josh Hawley, 39 (R-MO) but any young person who won a major election in Nigeria in 2019 is readily a symbol of sorts for young Nigerians who insist that more young persons should be elected and appointed into positions of authority. President Muhammadu Buhari who signed the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill into law. He   can legitimately claim it as a major legacy of his administration. 


Elisha Abbo could have been a torch-bearer for the recruitment of more Nigerian youths, until a video-tape surfaced showing him in an Abuja sex toy shop, violently assaulting a nursing mother who had dared to ask him to calm down during an altercation with the owner of the sex shop. The video showed Abbo in an angry mood, hitting a defenceless woman as if he was having a boxing practice. The woman not only ended up in the hospital, Abbo also directed his police orderly to intimidate the woman. Elisha Abbo has since apologized to all Nigerians for behaving badly.  He wants to be forgiven. He has also been advised to apologise to his victim who is asking for protection from further molestation. The police have invited him for questioning with the indication that he may be charged to court. His party, the People’s Democratic Party has condemned his action, even if at the time of the incident, he had not yet been sworn in as a Senator of the Federal Republic. 


We all have a duty to be interested in the character and conduct of those we elect to lead us, be they young,  middle-aged or old. We cannot afford to have in the corridors of power men and women who are broken symbols, with a capacity to cause damage with the power and influence that they wield. But having said that, let me point out that the attempt to politicize the Elisha Abbo’s case is deplorable. He did not slap a nursing mother because of his PDP affiliation as his political opponents have mischievously argued. This is about his own personal failings and not politics. One APC Senator snatched the mace of the Senate in 2017 with the assistance of some intruders into the Red Chamber. The police never made an attempt to arrest or investigate him. That APC Senator has since been rewarded with a position of influence. Another APC senator who eventually switched loyalties once threatened to forcefully impregnate a female Senator and shame her husband. He later joked about her menopausal status. Such verbal violence is as bad as physical violence. In the same Senate, a ranking Senator defended his right to marry a 13-year old girl. In another case in 2004, a male Senator slapped a female Senator. He got away with it. In the House of Representatives, a female lawmaker also walloped the face of a male colleague. APC lawmakers are just as badly behaved as every other irresponsible lawmaker.  


Two incidents in the last week: the rape allegations against COZA Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo and the case of battery and assault against Senator Abbo illustrate the menace of phallic hegemony and the abuse of power and gender relations in Nigeria. But Senator Abbo cannot claim ignorance of the law and should stop hiding under the banner of Christianity and forgiveness. If he was a good Christian, he would have behaved differently. My take: I believe the time has come for the Nigerian government to set up a psychiatry and counselling department in Abuja.  Nobody should occupy a position of value and consequence without going for a psychiatric test and anger management counselling. It is beginning to look like some angry men have seized control of the Nigeria’s 9thNational Assembly. We should send them to counsellors and the shrink, one by one, just to be sure.  

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