The slaps of a senator

Elisha Aboh

I have been slightly numb since I saw the video released by Premium Times of a 41-year-old Senator slapping a shop keeper in a shop. I first of all felt rage, the type I have not felt in a long time and then slow overwhelming anger and then some disturbing calm. You know the type that gives you an out of body experience.

The type that gives you an edge to attack someone and then deny that you ever did such a thing. That calmness that turns you into a different person. After the various levels of emotions, I have since returned to myself and now able to speak about the incidence. The battering of the young lady went viral of course and the “slappee,” a young man Elisha Aboh expected to be thinking of how to make laws, learn the ropes of law making and apply himself to his new elevated assignment is in the throes of what may be considered the biggest scandal of the 9th senate in 2019. All the things that YIAGA has been advocating, teaching and addressing to give Nigerian youth a chance, Senator Aboh emasculated in one day. But he cannot threaten that movement. The Youth have no choice but to rise to the occasion.

I have been on the journey with YIAGA since they started the advocacy and have spoken to young politicians at “The Convergence” before the elections and to elected young politicians just recently. While I cannot confirm, I would think that Senator Aboh would have been in the room where Samson Itodo and his team had gathered newly elected politicians to listen to carefully selected resource persons who gave from their hearts, tips, advisory strategy and information to assist in their journey of representing their communities. I was part of that group of resource persons and we were all very proud of the young elected politicians, a result of efforts of the not too young to run movement pushed on all fronts by YIAGA and other efforts and calculations. I held my breath when the age of Aboh came back as a totem for those who say the youth are not ready. Not so Aboh. Not so.

The number of persons who worked hard to get you to this position are numerous. From institutions to individuals and all civil society organisations who pushed the envelope. For me so many things come to mind. How are those who supported you to feel today? Secondly, how on earth can a sex toy shop be your priority at this time? I mean, people’s sexual preferences are private to them and they are welcome to it but you chose not to visit that shop quietly, you slapped and brutally attacked a young lady, threatened her and used language unbecoming of your position. In other words, you escalated a private matter to the public domain. There are certain behaviours that do not qualify people for national positions. We are as a nation on our knees with the number of deviants pretending to serve their nation. I have always wondered how we got here.

That takes us back to how persons for leadership positions are recruited in Nigeria. Is it based on competence, good character, hard work, antecedents of excellent service? What makes us choose a man or woman to represent us? Is it money? Is it the fact that he knows someone who knows someone? If we fact check, we would find deviant behaviour among many of our elected and appointed persons past and present. Do we ever check? And therein lies part of our national ethos.

I have watched the video over and over again and I cannot come to terms with the self-entitled position of the Senator. Not only did he batter the young lady in a manner that suggested that she was a lower animal who he wanted to hunt down but he also calmly called on his friends in security positions (paid to protect us) to come and arrest the “imp” who dared to question a senator for bringing badly behaved ladies in tow. He stood there like the winner of some kind of trophy and threatened to beat another girl in-shop whom he described as his friend. I worry about our security agencies, some of whom can be called up by a supposed “big man” to come in and join in being aggressors while kidnaps and armed robbery attacks are still going on. We await the Inspector General’s report on which of his men helped perpetuate our collective shame in a sex toy shop of all places.

Then there was the apology, which while brave, does seem to me an attempt to save the senator’s political skin.

As a people, we do not often allow the law to take its course. We appeal to base sentiments and refuse to tell each other the truth. A young senator starts his legislative journey at a sex toy shop and adds violence to the mix. The whole crime of violence against women is symbolically upon him. What should we expect of him in the next four years? When angry, what would he do to any female senator who challenges him?

As a nation we need to grow a critical mass, where we are collectively outraged when something or someone reduces us as a people and demand accountability and integrity in our public spaces. The shame is not just Aboh’s and that of his family. It is a national shame because the international community are watching us remove our clothes in public and we are becoming the laughing stock out there. When we travel abroad, we do not want to be remembered as a country where a serving senator acts irrationally and irresponsibly in a sex toy shop by meting out crass violence to an unarmed woman, or remembered as a nation where we attack our women randomly.

It will take checking character, integrity, historical antecedents of service, mental health and such other indices to recruit persons both in elected and appointed positions to deepen our democracy.
The drama does us no good.


Eugenia Abu