A prominent female politician was burnt to death by rampaging political thugs in Kogi State on Monday, stoking further concerns that the violence that enveloped the state’s governorship election on Saturday has not fully abated with the conclusion of the exercise.
Salome Abuh, 60, the Peoples Democratic Party women leader of Ochadamu Ward in Ofu Local Government Area, was sleeping in her home when political thugs set the building alight shortly before sunset on Monday, Kogi police spokesperson, William Aya, told PREMIUM TIMES.
The politician’s remains, which were burnt beyond recognition, had been taken to a mortuary for autopsy, Mr Aya said.
“It was a very unfortunate incident and the commissioner has ordered a thorough investigation to ensure that all those involved do not escape justice,” the police spokesperson said.
There are fears the death could aggravate the widespread violence that killed many in the governorship election in the state on Saturday. Civic groups that monitored the process in Kogi rejected its outcome, citing alarming violence and electoral crime rates linked to the exercise.
News of Ms Abuh’s death permeated social media commentary on Monday night, and by Tuesday morning it had morphed into partisan political bickering. Supporters of the PDP said Ms Abuh was killed by suspected thugs loyal to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Governor Yahaya Bello.
Kingsley Fanwo, a spokesperson for Mr Bello, did not immediately return calls and text messages seeking comments about Ms Abuh’s killing and the PDP’s claim that her assailants were unleashed by the governor.
Two residents in the community who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said those who burnt Ms Abuh to death were political thugs, but they were unable to immediately link the suspects to a political party.
On Tuesday morning, the police gave PREMIUM TIMES their account of what transpired in the community.
Mr Aya, a deputy police superintendent, said a preliminary police investigation of what led to Ms Abuh’s killing showed that it was a reprisal attack for the killing of an APC supporter in the community.
“There was a misunderstanding between Gowon Simeon and Awolu Zakari, both members of the community,” Mr Aya said. “Mr Simeon stabbed Mr Zakari in the chest and he bled to death almost instantly.”
The officer said Mr Simeon was a known PDP supporter in the community, while Mr Zakari identified with the APC.
After Mr Zakari was confirmed dead by a medical doctor, his associates gathered for a reprisal attack against Mr Simeon.
“They arrived at his uncle’s house where they believed he was hiding and set it on fire,” Mr Aya said.
“Unfortunately Ms Abuh was sleeping inside the house and she was burnt alive,” the officer said.
He added that three other houses were burnt in the neighbourhood, but it was unclear whether there were additional casualties from those attacks.
Ms Abuh was described as a prominent PDP grassroots organiser in the community. He campaigned heavily for Musa Wada, the party’s candidate, at the November 16 polls that saw Mr Bello declared winner for a second term.
“It was so callous and marked a return to barbaric nature where life has become brutish,” PDP chief spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Tuesday morning. “They have rigged the election, killed and intimidated our people, yet they are still going to individual’s houses to kill them.”
Mr Ologbondiyan mourned Ms Abuh as a courageous woman who was driven by her conviction.
“As a woman leader, she dedicated her life to the success of the party,” Mr Ologbondiyan said. “She was killed for a cause that she believed in.”
“We caution Governor Bello to rein in his thugs and stop the mindless killing that engulfed the state throughout the campaign,” he added.
PREMIUM TIMES could not immediately reach Ms Abuh’s family for comment. Some residents have fled the community following the incident and intensified police deployment from Lokoja, the state capital, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.