The country watched in horror, a close-circuit video of an adult shop in Wuse Abuja where a Nigerian Senator Elisha Abbo unleashed his rage on a lady who appealed to him not to be angry with a sales executive in the shop who it appeared had had an altercation with the then senator-elect. Premium Times an online newspaper broke the story few days after an Abuja-based pastor was accused of rape by the wife of a popular Nigerian musician. Therefore, with the events coming public around the same time, issues surrounding women’s right came to the fore once more. Last week was a terrible one for men who delight in assaulting women.
The senator who is 41 and currently the youngest senator in Nigeria today had his conduct questioning the success or otherwise of the popular #NotTooYoungToRun movement launched before the last general election to encourage young Nigerians to pick up the gauntlet and run for office. Of course, it is not as if Abbo is a direct beneficiary of the movement or its ideals, yet the circumstances surrounding the incident robbed off on the movement and it is ugly. Since the story broke more salacious, criminal and morally nauseating details of the young politician’s ways of life have been unraveled. But those are not the contention here today.
The assault on the Abuja lady by the senator is an example of the kind of behaviour that makes it impossible for women to achieve their life ambitions. They appear vulnerable and easily made to suffer bodily harm or abuse simply because they are women. Men are more prone to physical reprimand of an offending lady because they feel they can do it not because they were necessarily offended. Had the lady in the video been a man, we doubt if the altercation would have degenerated to the offensive level. This is what we find in a lot of homes and work places where women are silenced or punished via physical assault because they are seen as the weaker human as such can be corrected with a few blows or slaps and sometimes serious pummeling.
We condemn the indiscretion of the senator. For this to happen in a public place makes it more worrisome. The man should be restrained from women. He looks like someone who may repeat that sort of behaviour a thousand times. In more developed countries, he would have resigned from the senate. Our society is still conservative and more importantly pro patriarchy. Men hardly do wrong when it is any issue to do with women. The society approves men’s bad behaviour and even punishes the lady that is offended than the guy. This is wrong. We must stop it.
There are many laws in our books that seek to protect women. It appears these laws are applied in their breach. We have not made progress in that regard at all. It’s more of a shelf display than actual measures to forestall continuous breaching of women’s rights. We have to start with serious campaigns in the mass media. We have to let our young men know that the protection of the dignity of women by stopping incessant assault against them is to ensure that our environment is friendly to everyone to make achieving potentials better and simpler.
We take nice of the apology tendered by the “slapping senator”. We say it is not enough and didn’t even go the whole length. While the victim can accept or reject the apology, we hope that in the end prosecution will take place. Forgiveness is divine they say, but laws are made for humans. The man did not show remorse and his apology is an afterthought. He appeared to have apologised because of the fear of losing his electoral success. He didn’t apologise because he feels he did anything wrong. He didn’t accept responsibility therefore looking forward to take up a programme in anger management or promising to sponsor a bill to curb or punish violence against women. He did none of those because his apology was for the cameras. It was not thought through.
We can’t develop our jurisprudence by apology. Let us test our laws and see if the man can be convicted. If the state wants to forgive him, all well and good; but let the law take its course.