A dirge for PDP women’s leader over brutal murder in Kogi guber poll
Party leaders relive torture experience in the hands of alleged fake police
The memory of the brute force, the brigandage, intimidation, repression and violence with which the November 16, 2019 gubernatorial election was executed against the electorate in Kogi State will linger for a long time. Like a martyr, the bones and ashes of burnt Kogi PDP women leader have brought to international limelight the extent of violence during the election in the state. Mrs, Acheju Salome Abu was set ablaze on November 18 in her husband’s house at Ochadamu in Ofu Local Government Area of the state by suspected political thugs during the violence that erupted after Kogi State’s governorship election’s result was released.
Until her death, Mrs. Abu was PDP’s women’s leader for the Musa Wada/Aro Campaign Organization in Ochadamu. Her political martyrdom can be said to have been in vain as her party lost the election. But her death signals the end of reason and civilization in Kogi. Condemnation has continued to pour in both from the ruling APC and the opposition PDP over the death of Abu. The Senate and House of Representatives dropped party affiliations in their unanimous condemnation of the murder of Abu. The United Nations was not left out in the condemnation of the gruesome killing.
Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mrs. Amina Mohammed, reacted to the development in Abuja on Tuesday after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari. This was after she met Buhari over gender-based violence in the country. She expressed delight that President Buhari had already condemned the killing of the politician and ordered a thorough investigation. Ordinarily, Governor Yahaya Bello and his snapshots with Oshiomole and Buhari holding and displaying his certificate of return would have been a moment of celebration all over Kogi. But Abu’s murder cast a pale of odium on such display as celebration of blood-tainted victory.
Buhari’s declaration that those who were not happy with the outcome of the election should go to court sounded trite in the face of Abu’s needless sacrifice.
It took almost one week after the PDP women’s leader was burnt to ashes before an official reaction emanated from the presidency, a sad indication that the president might not have, as usual, been oblivious to exactly what transpired. This explained the anger in his tone when he spoke through his media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina. Buhari said he expected security agencies to have conducted a thorough investigation into the “heinous murder” of a Kogi State Peoples Democratic Party Women Leader, Mrs. Achejuh Abuh.
Buhari assured that justice would be served upon conclusion of investigation, describing the killing as “primitive behaviour” that should not be condoned.
The statement reads further, “President Muhammadu Buhari expects scrupulous investigation into the heinous murder of Madam Achejuh Abuh, Women Leader of the People’s Democratic Party in Wada/Aro campaign council, in the just-concluded gubernatorial election in Kogi State.
“The president decried whatever could spur anyone to take the life of another human being, particularly a woman, who was burnt to death in her home in the most gruesome manner. He charged all security agencies involved in the investigation to do a thorough and expeditious job on the matter, so that justice could be served without fear or favour.
Buhari said he shared in the grief of the family of the deceased, giving them the assurance that the law would take its full course.
“We must learn to behave decently, whether during elections or at other times. No life should be taken wantonly under any guise, and the fact that this reprehensible act occurred two days after voting shows primitive behaviour, which should not be accepted in a decent society. Such evil doers must be brought to justice, irrespective of whatever allegiances they hold.”
Buhari further noted that the killing had gone beyond politics, saying that it was a “descent to barbarism.”
Unlike the arrogance in an earlier defence that the death of the woman was retaliatory, the president’s statement was like a soothing balm, which assuaged the feelings of the family. It brought some level of hope and assurances that after all, hope was not lost. Then like magic the Police Command in Kogi State, which had been docile over the issue, sprang into action, claimed to have arrested six suspects in connection with the killing of Mrs. Abuh at Ochadamu.
Spokesperson for the command, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Mr. William Aya, made the disclosure in Lokoja on Monday, saying that the suspects were brought in on Friday. He added that the police had started interrogating the suspects to ascertain their level of culpability in the death of the woman.
He said the outcome of the investigation would be made public as soon as it was completed.
Nigerians were taken aback at the speed with which the arrests were made after one week just because President Buhari had lent his voice to the matter. Many wondered what happened to the killers of 19 years’ old Daniel Usman, who was brought down by bullets at a polling booth in Anyigba during the March 2019 general election as well as five others. On the eve of the election, Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, and the candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the governorship election in Kogi State, Mr. Musa Wada, were reported to have escaped being attacked by gunmen in their hotel in Lokoja.
The incident occurred after gunmen dressed in police uniforms allegedly invaded Suitorial Hotel, Lokoja, where the duo were lodged.
The gunmen, however, did not succeed in gaining access to the hotel, as security men attached to the governor repelled and chased them away.
An eyewitness, who confirmed the development, claimed that the masked men accessed the hotel through both the gate and fence. The masked men were alleged to have been sent by their sponsors to abduct PDP’s candidate. Owner of the hotel, Mr. Alex Ayodele, relived his bitter experiences as a party leader who was arrested from his Mopamoro country home two days to the election. With bruises all over his body, which he said he sustained as a result of torture while he was being detained along with 32 others, he said it was a near-death experience.
According to him, his crime was being the Director-General of the Musa/Aro Campaign Organization in his local government. He called on President Buhari, as the father of all Nigerians, to take more than a passing look at what was going on in Kogi State.
“Everybody knows that what is going on is not normal,” he stated. “I want to call on President Buhari to look into Kogi State properly.”
Ayodele was one of the 32 persons who were arrested from Mopamoro on the eve of the election. He described his ordeal in the hands of those he said were in police uniform without tags or name as an act of political intimidation borne out of jealousy.
“It is in two fold,” he said, “the jealousy part of it is about my own people in the immediate community and local government. I have not been into politics until 2015. Some of the political leaders in my place, having seen my exploits, felt I was taking over from them within a short period. So, the leaders were not happy with the progress I was making politically, especially in Mopamoro Local Government.”
He said they saw the election as an opportunity for them to bring him down politically. Secondly, he said they believed that his presence in Mopamoro on the election day would spell doom for APC.
“That was why I said my predicament was of two dimension, the envy of our political leaders and the fear that my presence would not allow them carry the day as APC would fail. You know that there was a threat from the governor that any political appointee of Okun extraction that fails to deliver his ward or local government would be fired.
“So, the appointees felt that if they did not look for a way to incriminate me a day or two to election there would be no way for them. Secondly, some of our own leaders in PDP, out of envy, felt bad after the primary election when my own candidate Musa Wada won. They immediately cross-carpeted to APC. People like Clarence Olafemi, Henry Fiki, and Folunso Daniya, because of what was on ground they detested my successes and were not comfortable with the rookie being their leader.
“Because, peradventure PDP’s candidate becomes the governor he would not listen to them because I was his campaign DG for my place. I started with him as one of his anchormen. So for that reason they decided to go to APC.
“The other reason was that in PDP it would be difficult for them to get the type of money they were looking for; they felt that there was so much money in the hand of the governor. So, they decided to crossover to APC. So, they believed they would get money from APC. So former PDP leaders that were not happy ganged up together with the appointees from my local government to embarrass me by arresting me and putting me to severe torture.”
He said there was threat that he would not be allowed to enter his community two weeks to the election.
According to him, “Some of the APC members called me to know that I would be arrested, even if they could not arrest any other person. I was only being loyal to my own party and I felt I had the right to choose any party of my choice. So, I did not take their threats seriously. I used to come home every time’ sometimes, I could go home more than four times in a week as I was working hard to see that PDP wins in Mopamoro.
“Even four days to the election, they called to tell me of their plan, but I felt that some of the young men were playing hide and seek. Over 20 fake police came to my house and said they want to conduct a check. Then they took us through Okene Road instead of Obajana Road to one filling station in Itakpe. They dropped us there where I was tortured while lying flat on the floor. The filling station was not in use.
“They were beating me with armoured cable. After a while, they sent for a bus from Lokoja, and they discharged those in the Hilux into the bus and from there they took us to Government House.”
But in a swift reaction, spokesperson of Governor Yahaya Bello, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, said no government official was framed him up, adding that he should be prepared to defend the weighty allegations against the state government and its officials.
According to him, “It is the job of security agencies to do their job without any form of interference. The administration of Alhaji Yahaya Bello doesn’t interfere with the job of security agencies. There are no Police Cells in Government House. Therefore, the allegation that he was kept in Government House is false, baseless and a lame attempt to drag the name of government into his situation.”
Another victim and former PDP House of Assembly candidate for Mopamoro Constituency in the 2019 election, Hon. Jones Daniel, said they did not release them intentionally.
“One of the police with us, who was also harassed along with us, had a small phone which they did not collect; they collected all our phones. It was this police that called force headquarters. It was police from headquarters that came and forced them to open the cell in Government House, unmasked all the fake police and forced them to open the cell. That was what forced them to allow us to be taken to SARS office in Zone A in Lokoja.”
He said there is a torture chamber in Government House where they were kept.
“The cell is a torture chamber with no window, no ventilation. The cell is not more than 3.6 by 4 metres and we were about 48 in number. This is because some were also arrested from Ayetorogbede, Senator Dino Melaye’s village. We were clamped together in that cell, with no space to even stretch our legs, because we were 48 in that small room. That day it was only once they gave us N50 bread and pure water till the following day. It was the effort of the escort police who called the headquarters that forced them to open up the cell.
“They came to search for their colleagues, but they denied that they made any arrest. It was the third visit from force headquarters that succeeded as they forced the place open. So, it was not like they let us go; it was the police from headquarters who heeded the cry of their colleagues. Their own colleagues came from Abuja to rescue them; so, it was on that premise that they released us and they took us to the divisional police station to register our case.”
He said the attack on Governor Makinde happened after they had put them in the cell in Government House that same day.
“When they interrogated me, I told them my identity. I told them the escorts were attached to me by the governorship candidate of PDP. So, after dropping us in the cell in Government House, they went to Suitorial Hotel even when they knew that it was the base of Governor Makinde and Engineer Musa Wada.”