By Ugoji Egbujo
Elisha Abbo is a symptom of a systemic illness ravaging the country. There are tens of thousands of Elisha Abbo’s scattered like rashes all over the country. They are intoxicated by their power and money. They maul whoever crosses their path. They torture him some more if he proves recalcitrant. The country is morally bedridden.
The rich and mighty, all very religious, trample on laws, trample on the weak and poor, and walk away with swagger. When the law enforcement agents don’t look away, they help the powerful offender bring the poor victim to abject submission, to further humiliation. Law enforcement in many situations becomes the enforcement of the caprices of the Big Man.
Elisha Abbo is a brilliant portrayal of the rot that has infested the soul of the nation.
The Giant of Africa is decomposing from within. The police which should be a national resource has been privatized. The police force is now literally the property of politicians and rich businessmen. We see them everyday behind the rich and their girl friends as they march to markets and sex toy shops. No one bothers. Musicians and celebrities flaunt pictures with cops acting as bag carriers and maids for them. No one bothers about the sensibilities of the public. Communities are left to languish in crime infestation and inadequate policing. Nobody is touched by the absurdity of it all.
In Elisha Abbo, the youngest of all the senators, all the old cankerworms that have eaten the nation hollow came together, for a reunion. The senator called the police. There was no danger to his personal safety in that shop. Once the police arrived , he began to inflict bodily harm on a nursing mother. You can’t get a better contrast. Apart from giving false information to the police, he used the police as cover for his savage attack. The police force was effectively employed as a shield for a criminal enterprise in that sex toy shop. And it was crude violence by a Big Man against a poor nursing mother. It was a picture from hell.
The police didn’t do mere cheerleading for the savage senator for too long. Once the senator exhausted himself slapping and punching the woman, he motioned to the police. The policeman, like a tag team partner in a WWF wrestling match, jumped in, bristling and oozing threats of violence. He seized the woman’s phone which she was using to call for help. Then he dragged her away. That wasn’t strange. Nigeria policemen are betrothed to the rich and powerful. They feed them, pay them, and use them as errand boys and as thugs. That policeman in that sex toys shop was a thug in uniform.
A friend of mine who has a couple of petrol stations once had 16 policemen allocated to him. He marched around with them. He could drive against traffic. He could run red at traffic lights. He could bully his neighbours. The law was with him, in his pocket.
That Elisha Abbo’s policeman is not to blame. It’s an institutional rot. He dragged the victim of the senator’s barbarism out and forced her into a vehicle. He would claim he received a distress call from a senator. He would claim he didn’t see him batter the woman. He would claim he was doing his job. He must have have claimed much more. But that CCTV recording would have further story telling uncomfortable.
But Elisha Abbo and his policeman are just two rashes out of thousands.
The other day a video clip went viral. Starring in it was one megalomaniac called Onyeze. Onyeze, it was reported, was offended by a female blogger who took pictures of his house. She allegedly claimed ownership of the house which belonged to Onyeze. The lady said she came to an angry Onyeze to apologize for her wrong doing. Onyeze decided to teach her a lesson.
The video showed the lady, handcuffed on her knees, crying. Onyeze’s thugs were seen dictating her confessions. She was dragged around Onyeze’s premises. A policeman was seen behind Onyeze. She was never arrested by the police. She was handcuffed by Onyeze and his thugs. The police simply stood provided cover for the lawlessness. After the video went viral the police didn’t not investigate the physical battery of the young lady. The police didn’t find it outrageous. Nobody was charged. Onyeze casually announced in another video recording that the matter had been settled ‘amicably’!
Elisha Abbo had the intention to cause his victim grievous bodily harm. He slapped not her cheek, but on her eyes. That is a very grave offense. But Elisha Abbo is only a picture of the society.
Violence against women is now a national epidemic. Police stations have special offices for these offences. But it’s all lip service. Women are routinely battered and bruised at home and in the public. And they get no justice because the police treat cases of battery and violence against women like trivial civil disputes. They plead with the victim to “forgive and forget.” They ask the offender to render a dubious apology. And the case ends. The offender shows ‘appreciation’ to the police, and walks away. No one is charged. It’s been settled amicably!
That must be why Elisha Abbo, who committed a grave criminal offence, who should have been arrested immediately the scandal broke, was allowed to address a world press conference by the police. At the press conference, he tendered a dubious apology. He had bragged the night before that he was crafting a robust response to the allegations. And his wife had gone on twitter to defend his righteousness. Elisha Abbo knows that in Nigeria you can beat a woman, drop a stupid badly worded apology and walk away.
The police force is on trial. The police have an opportunity to begin to redeem their sullied image and to reset moral standards. An apology is not a sufficient atonement for crime. The senator has confessed. He referred to himself as an ambassador of Christ. He would be expected to plead guilty in court if he is indeed, an ambassador of Christ. His apology would only be useful only to the mitigation of sentence. He has all but earned a criminal conviction. The public is watching the police and their handling of the Big Man.
A criminal offence is an offence against the society, the state. The victim can forgive but the state must charge a high profile offender to set standards. The Senator should be charged immediately. And he should plead guilty. When he has been convicted, he should resign from the Senate. Then next will be restitution. He would have to settle the civil aspect of his offence with his victim. And he may need a more than words. He would certainly need a more contrite and personal apology than the hasty and haughty generic concoction delivered at a world press conference.