I have always clamoured for the youth to take over power at the centre. My belief is anchored on the inexorable fact that our grandfathers, having already used their time, also made incursions into our fathers’ own political times. Then they went ahead to gatecrash into our own very times. Now, they are even using our children’s times, the next generation. So, where is the saying that the future belongs to youths?
I cannot understand why Nigerians who are septuagenerians, octogenerians and nonagenerians are still ruling us today, thereby sidelining our vibrant youths. In some other countries, presidents and prime ministers had been elected in their 30s. So, I was quite elated to see 41-year-old Senator Elisha Abbo (Adamawa North), the young senator who dislodged very hardworking and brilliant 51-year-old Senator Binta Masi Garba of the APC in the last senatorial election. Ironically, Abbo is a young advocate of the masses from Gova in Muchaka Village, Mubi LGA, Adamawa State. He has been educated and lived in Lagos, the United Kingdom and Sydney, Australia, Canada and Abuja. He headed a multi-national consultancy firm that deals in political matters, and served as senior special assistant to Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State. Again, ironically, the youthful senator is regarded as detribalised and identifies equally with the Christian and Muslim communities in his state. Added to his having headed the Adamawa State Sports and Youth Council, he was easily the right choice for the Senate.
My elation at the youth taking over power at the highest level (never mind that Dr. Matthew Mbu, King Diete-Spiff, Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Muhammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Samuel Ogbemudia, et al, all became military governors, Head of State and ambassadors in their 20s and early 30s), is, therefore, understandable. But my exhilaration was almost completely marred by an ugly incident that involved Abbo.
In a video that has since gone viral, the youthful senator was caught assaulting and attacking a hapless nursing mother, Bibra, with several slaps. The woman was not even the primary cause of the fight. She had merely intervened to tell the angry senator to “take things easy” with the intended victim.
In the video published by Premium Times, Senator Abbo is seen accusing the shop attendant of a sex toy shop of insulting him. He asked a policeman with him (obviously his orderly) to arrest the female attendant. Scared about the unfolding happenings, the attendant is seen making frantic calls to inform the persons on the other side of what was happening in the shop.
This self-preservative step appeared to anger the senator the more and he immediately ordered her to stop the call. One of his aides (male) attempted to snatch the phone away from the attendant lady. A woman (who later became the punching bag victim) intervened, obviously to make peace. Boom! The infuriated senator launched an unprovoked attack on her, slapping and hitting the poor defenceless woman severally. It was so ugly, so nauseating, so ungentlemanly and so disgracefully unsenatorial. The senator even ordered the policeman to drag her away, despite the pleas of the initial shop attendant target. Power, brute, raw power, won!
This disgraceful incident happened on May 11, 2019, though Senator Abbo claimed it was on March 11. Whatever the date, the truth is that as at February 23, 2019, Abbo had already become a senator-elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And he knew this. By the way, what was a distinguished senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria doing in a sex toy shop at about 6pm? Couldn’t he have respected his new-found lofty status, discarded his burning teenage desires, and quietly sent one of his aides to pick up the preferred sex toys? Did he need to boast openly that he is “the youngest senator in Nigeria,” an act that actually gave him away to the unwary, but stunned onlookers? The unfortunate incident has expectedly generated public ruckus and outcry.
A litany of condemnatory critiques have since taken place. Amnesty International called on the Nigeria Police Force to investigate the disgraceful act. Abbo has since been charged to court and granted bail. To douse the tension, the senator, though pleading “not guilty” before the court (as is expected), appeared to have realised his terrible faux pas and blooper. At a press conference in Abuja, the young senator, close to tears (he actually wept silently), prayed for forgiveness from the victim, Bibra, the Senate, and his political party (PDP). He said it was not in his character to assault women. His words were measured with touching solemnity. He also apologised to Bibra’s parents and family, women generally, the youths, all men of goodwill and conscience, and all Nigerians, for insulting their sensibilities. He even sought for forgiveness from God, saying his life should not be defined by the anger of “five minutes.” “To the church of God, everywhere in the world, I am sorry,” he pleaded.
He said as an ambassador of the Body of Christ, who is expected to live like Christ, he profusely apologised. He said he had fought on the side of the weak, for good causes, and for humanity, before now. He begged for absolution and purgation because “to err is human and to forgive is divine.” He also prayed for clemency from people all over the world. The incident, he said, has taught him a good life lesson, promising to be of “good conduct and behaviour henceforth.” I was deeply touched by his self-recrimination and reprobation.
I watched the video over and over again. Senator Abbo appeared genuinely full of contrition. He appeared sincerely repentant, remorseful, regretful, heart-broken, guilt-ridden, dejected and sorrowful. This is one of those incidents you wished you could turn back the hand of the clock and repeat your life all over again. I can state categorically that if he has another chance again, Abbo would keep 10 kilometres away from that adult toy shop, given the same circumstances.
Now, the policeman who stood by and even aided the assault should equally be made to publicly apologise to the victim and all Nigerians, and be disciplined pronto. He is a disgrace to his uniform and the force he represents.
Fellow countrymen, let us forgive Senator Elisha Abbo. I personally have done so. He made mistakes. Terrible mistakes. He has realised them and has tried to make amends, atonement, indemnity and recompense. He did not swagger, grandstand, exculpate, exonerate or seek self-righteousness or justification, over his infamous conduct (as many of our public officers usually do). He rather prayed for forgiveness and indulgence from everyone across the world. Please, let us forgive him, he having realised his grave and grievous mistakes. True, to err is human and to forgive is divine. Clemency is what he begs for. Says Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” In the time of our Lord Jesus Christ, he would, on such an occasion, simply have shrugged his shoulders and said (Luke 23: 34): “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” And he would insist in Matthew 18:22, that we “should forgive each other 70 times seven times.”
In preaching that all Nigerians, especially victim Bibra, should forgive Senator Abbo, I take refuge in Romans 12:17-19, which states: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone … Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, it is mine to avenge. I will repay.”
One quick assignment for Senator Abbo, aside from his present court prosecution: go quietly, pacify and treat the brutalised lady. Make full and adequate amends and restitution. Write her a personal letter of apology. Senator Abbo, you now have a golden opportunity, a lifelong one at that, to mend your youthful ways. You are now a leader. Our elders tell us that when a child washes his hands clean, he dines with elders and kings. Providence and Nigerians, especially Adamawa North people, have dressed you with the colourful and glittering garb of an elder. So, you must now act and live it. Old things have passed away, as you are now a new creature in the political equation of Nigeria (2 Cor. 5:17). You must now respect the dignity of your high office, and its onerous demands.
You must begin to respect womanhood more. They are our cherished mothers, sisters and daughters. They serve as the channel through whom we are born. Women are the weaker vessels (1 Peter 3: 7). Says Luke 1: 45, “In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything”.
Let me end this piece by recommending a take-home for Nigerians who are currently indignantly (unjustifiably too) baying for the blood of youthful Senator Abbo: “forgiveness is the economy of the heart… Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.”
I pray you, Nigerians.
Abbo, now, go ye and sin no more (John 8:11). God bless Nigeria.
Thought for the week
“Inner peace can be reached only when we practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past, and is, therefore, the means for correcting our misperceptions.”