Re-opening Old Wounds

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Following the recent leak of a CCTV footage, showing the senator representing Adamawa North senatorial district, Senator Elisha Abbo, physically assaulting a nursing mother, the incident appears to have opened old wounds of other victims, with a few of them alleging same treatment, Sunday Ehigiator reports

Like the story of a tail-less cow, who only relies on God to help it chase pestering flies, photojournalist, Olumuyiwa Owolabi narrated to THISDAY, how he had to bottle up the physical assault he allegedly received from embattled Adamawa North lawmaker, Senator Elisha Abbo, and his orderly back in 2014 during the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries in Adamawa State.

The photojournalist, who claimed the senator breached an agreement they had which led to the assault, said he got to know Abbo in 2014 during run-up to the June 2014 Ekiti State gubernatorial election won by the erstwhile Governor Ayodele Fayose.

According to him, he was personally recommended by the former governor, whom he once worked for as an official photographer, to Abbo.

Owolabi said: “Abbo, who was contesting for senator on the platform of the APC at the time, entered into a contract of N2.8 million with me to cover his political activities during the primaries. On August 13, 2014, I travelled with him to Yola, Adamawa State, from Abuja by air and we lodged at Lelewa Hotel for weeks while campaigning for the primaries, which was eventually won by Senator Binta Garba.

“Before he lost, I transited with him from Yola, to Mubi, to Vintim Muchala, back to Mubi and later back to Yola after he lost the senatorial primary, all to take photographs of him as he met with several political leaders including local government chairmen, during the politicking.

“Trouble started on one of those fateful days we wanted to travel together to Mubi for the last campaign. Boko Haram invaded the place prior to the day we ought to have travelled. Due to the attack by Boko Haram, I got worried for my life and began to plead with him that I needed to leave the state, and he should give me part of the money so I can return to my family. Mind you, I have been with him through the thick and turn of the campaign for about four months without seeing my family, but he ignored my message and refused to pay.

“I kept on calling and sending him messages to plead for part of the money since I was stranded and I had no other means of returning to Ekiti and I was a stranger in the land and can’t speak Hausa. But he ignored all my efforts. I decided to go meet him in his hotel room, but didn’t meet him, so I decided to wait for him. I had no choice but to sit in front of his room where he was lodged at Dansoho Hotel, Yola. This was around 5 pm.

“He arrived few hours later, and immediately he saw me, he got so angry that he rushed me and began to beat and slap me repeatedly. I was so shocked, though I kept pleading with him to give me my money so I can leave the state, because I expected better treatment from someone I have dedicated four months of my time to. But that wasn’t the case.

“He then called on his policemen and told them to deal with me. They started beating me with back of their guns and their boots, and in the process destroyed my phone in my pocket. I got more terrified when he said to them to cock their guns against me, that he would show me that this is his land by wasting me and telling his people that I am a member of Bokoharam sect. He then ordered that they take me away.

“By this time, it was very late in the night. It was about 02:00am. Then the police orderlies brought a white hilux van and jacked me inside. Then they took me to a place I later got to realise was a police station when they asked the Investigating Police officer (IPO) on duty to lock me up in the cell, and shoot me if I refuse to comply. Everywhere was so dark, even in the police station, they were using torchlight.

“It was the worst moment of my life. I narrated to the IPO what happened and begged him to help me contact my brother. His number was the only one I could remember by heart since they had destroyed my phone. That was how I called one of my brothers that pleaded with the IPO to assist me out of the situation.

“I remember when Abbo mentioned he would lie that I was a Bokoharam member, I was so scared because I can’t speak in their language and no one would believe I am not if he does. And also, because I am a stranger, no one would come to my rescue, so I began to beg him to please let me go with a promise that I would forget about the money, but he wouldn’t listen and instead still ordered them to lock me up at Kaliwa Police Division around 02:00 am with the instruction that I should be shot dead if I failed to comport myself.

“The DPO came the following morning and begged him (Abbo) to give me transport fare to go back to meet my family. Till date, he hasn’t paid me what he owed me.”

Asked why he decided to speak out about this now, Owolabi said, “I was very terrified and scared because I know how well connected he is. I couldn’t even tell Governor Fayose then because I may lose my job if he doesn’t believe me, and they may hurt my family.

“I even saw him in Ekiti in 2016, and I asked him for my money, he kept ignoring me. So I went to his Facebook account which I could show you our conversation to demand for it privately. He finally asked me to send him my account number but till date, he still hasn’t paid me one naira.

“But when I heard of the incident of the nursing mother, my experience came back to live. I could feel the terror again as though I was the one he was assaulting again, and I said to myself, that I have to speak out so that peace loving and hardworking Nigerians like me can stop suffering innocently from this man. I also feel, by speaking out, maybe Nigerians can help me get justice and make him pay me what he owes me.”

THISDAY also spoke with one of the police officers who worked as Abbo’s orderly in 2014, for over four months, during the APC primaries in Adamawa. The officer who only agreed to speak on the strictest terms of anonymity alleged that, himself alongside other officers were posted on special duty to provide security for Abbo during the primaries of APC in the state back then in 2014.

But unfortunately, after their service, he alleged that Abbo refused to pay them their allowances. But for the fear of losing their jobs, they didn’t make a fuse about it. And till date, he still owes them. Breaking down his withheld entitlements he said: “I worked with him for four months. He was supposed to pay N38,750 allowance monthly to our command office for us but he never did. We even resorted to calling him personally to plead for him to pay us our entitlements but he never did. I remember one of us even needed the money badly then because his father was sick. If I am not mistaken, I think the man eventually died. As at now, he still owes us N153,800 each, being the total cost of our four months allowance at N38,750 per person.

Going further, THISDAY retrieved screenshots of Facebook conversations between the embattled Senator and Owolabi, where it indeed showed that the latter truly provided a service to the senator and he was yet to pay him for his services despite several pleas.

Meanwhile, the nation waits with bathed breathe for the outcome of the senatorial committee put together by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan to investigate the matter between the embattled senator and the nursing mother.