© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Deathbed confession: How young senator Elisha Abbo abused, infected former wife
WHEN security footage showing him assaulting a nursing mother at an Abuja adult toy store got leaked last week, many were hearing the name, Elisha Abbo, for the first time. Very little was known about the 41-year-old senator and online searches didn’t offer much help either. Persons who have had interactions with him have, however, been opening up about what they know of the lawmaker’s unfamiliar past. One of them is Eunice Nkechi Ojukwu.
Eunice, Abbo’s sister-in-law and junior sister of his deceased wife, messaged after reading The ICIR‘s report about him. She had observed that her “late sister never had any kids for” him. What followed was a half-hour-long interview where she narrated the ordeal her sister, Uche Eucharia Ojukwu, went through before her death in 2013.
She felt offended after seeing Abbo’s televised apology. She thinks it was pretentious and full of lies, and this pushed her to finally speak up.
“[However] whatever I’m telling you now is what a dying person told me and the little I know about him when I saw him physically,” Eunice warns.
Uche is the fifth child in a family of nine. She studied Economics at the University of Lagos and subsequently enrolled at an institution in Yola for a Master’s degree. It was while she participated in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme in Nasarawa that she met Abbo, whose first wife already had a son for him and left. Then in 2009, they got married in Mubi, Adamawa.
During their marriage, Abbo was said to be frequently abusing his late wife.
“On several occasions, my junior sister has been called to come, that my sister’s husband was hitting her and all that,” Eunice recalls.
“There was even a time they went there and he had torn her dress, brought her out half-naked in front of the compound, and locked her out. It was the neighbour who gave her wrapper to cover herself and all that.”
At another time, Eunice reports that her siblings told her, he brandished a pistol to scare them off, but the gun wasn’t found when a friend eventually arrived to help. “I wasn’t there, I can’t even tell. But I know the two can’t be lying against him.”
Whenever Uche was urged to leave her husband, she would insist on carrying her cross and trying to fix her marriage. The lawmaker’s in-law says, sometimes when she helped her sister to clean up, she would notice new scars. “She’ll be like one of those days,” she adds with a shaky voice and then sniffles.
“It’s just terrible. It’s just terrible,” she continues, still sobbing quietly. “It’s just terrible that somebody can do this to a human being and he’s just walking the street so freely, and he has the gut to come on national television and open his dirty mouth to say he is a Christian.
“I’ve never hated any human being in my life, but this guy I’ve hated him since my sister died, and I’ve always wished him dead. But I know I’m a Christian, I’m not supposed to be doing that.”
Infected with HIV, medical complications
When Uche and Abbo married in 2009, she had no idea he was HIV positive. He didn’t inform her. She told her elder sister that, when the issue was raised, he refused to go for a test with her. He later went to a different hospital and returned with a result. Uche kept having one medical complication or the other but eventually died of kidney failure.
When she was diagnosed with osteomyelitis “as a result of trauma to the bone”, Eunice put the pieces together and figured it must be as a result of the frequent assaults she suffered.
“An open wound from trauma (post-traumatic wound) over a bone can lead to osteomyelitis,” confirms John Cunha, a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. “With an open fracture, bacteria may come in contact with the bone that punctures through the skin.”
The condition has also been directly linked to domestic violence in a 2014 study. “When they brought up the issue, I knew he was molesting her, do you understand? He kept beating her and all that; so when they brought up this story about trauma to the bone and all that, I said it makes much sense because he was beating her. He must’ve caused it,” Eunice says, heaving a sigh.
She explains that it seemed the bone infection “then led to the anaemia she had”, which caused her to lose a lot of blood.
The Sexual Offences Bill, passed in 2015 by the Senate, criminalises the act of intentionally infecting another person with a life-threatening sexually transmitted disease such as HIV. Such person, it adds, “shall be guilty of an offence, whether or not he or she is married to that other person, and shall be liable, upon conviction, to imprisonment for a term of not less than twenty years but which may be enhanced to imprisonment for life”.
A husband (not) in need
At first, Uche received treatment at the National Hospital in Abuja. But then, her husband was “forgetting” to send her food supplies—sometimes a whole day, sometimes two days. When she called home, they would arrange for friends residing in Abuja to prepare food and give to her. Eventually, they knew she had to be transferred closer to home.
“On one occasion, she called and there was no food… the excuse he gave was he was going to watch a football match between Arsenal and I-don’t-know-what-other team. You understand that; so I don’t know which kind of human being does a thing like that,” Eunice says.
From April 2013 until death in October, Eunice stayed with her sister at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, Anambra State. Not a day within those six exhausting months did Abbo visit. He also did not contribute financially to her treatment and “was busy gallivanting, campaigning for a position in Adamawa.”
“I didn’t even know how to go about it because I don’t know anywhere in the world. I couldn’t have gone to the north to find somebody. And I was the daughter of a nobody, so I didn’t know where to start. When my sister was dying, I put it up on Facebook and pleaded for money. Nobody answered me,” she says.
“All these things are now bringing back the memories,” she adds mournfully.
Their dad eventually had to sell his land to pay her hospital bills.
According to the sister, Uche’s last wish was not to be taken back to Mubi and to be buried there in Nnewi. This wasn’t what Abbo wanted though because, after she passed away, he requested for her corpse to be sent northwards.
“How would we allow him take her corpse away,” Eunice asks sobbing, “when he wasn’t even there when she was alive?”
Nigerians should know the truth about him
Eunice says she simply wants Nigeria to find out the truth about the senator. She also thinks someone like Abbo is not fit for the lawmaking role he has been placed in.
“In the Senate, you put people who are supposed to secure our rights and our dignity; not people who are animals like him,” she says.
“That’s not the first time he has done it and he has lied on national television that he has not done it before, but he will be doing it again and again. I swear to you, this he just did, Karma has just used that to bring him out. He’s going to do more. He’s going to do more.
“…What kind of human being does that? Then somebody screens him and puts him as a senator to go and represent us. Which kind of calibre of people do they screen and put into the Senate? Is that what it is supposed to be? They are supposed to be decent people.”
‘Not ready to disturb her rest’… Abbo responds
In response to a text sent to his phone, Abbo said he will not be reacting to the allegations levelled against him and looks to God to expose the plots.
“My brother, I am not responding to such allegations I read on the newspapers,” he wrote.
“My wife died about 7 years ago and I am not ready to disturb her rest. God that sees the hearts and intentions of men will expose this conspiracy.”