Tunde Fagbenle: The moral example of Offa’s Afolabi Jimoh

by Tunde Fagbenle

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“As a native of this town, I don’t wish my town a bad thing. If something like this continues to happen and we decide to cover it up for one reason or the other, if not now, in the future we will account for everything.”

The first inkling I had of the brazen election roguery in the just concluded Offa (Kwara State) LG election re-run was through the Facebook status of my good aburo, Surajj Tunji Oyewale, a first rate chartered tax accountant and a man of uncommon integrity amongst his generation. And here was Surajj’s posting:

“The sudden declaration of PDP as winner of Offa re-run poll is a travesty. First, as an active Offa man, I know the mood at home. I have never come across anybody that endorsed PDP, except my friends that are brothers/sisters to the PDP candidate. The APC candidate is far more popular. Second, tens of people from different polling booths updated us on Facebook of results declared at their polling stations immediately after the counting. APC won in all polling booths reported. These are different people that don’t even know one another, reporting from different places. Can all of them be wrong? Could all of them have reported lies? Why didn’t anybody report a PDP victory in any booth? Three, I don’t believe 55,000 people voted in Offa. The ‘Social Media’ result, with 15000 total votes (APC, 11k; PDP, 4k) appears more believable than INEC’s PDP (35k), APC (20k).”

The media were later awash with reports of the travesty, with stories and pictures of protesters trooping out unto the streets of Offa demanding justice. The Kwara State “Independent” Electoral Commission (KWASIEC) had declared that all PDP candidates for councillorship and chairman in the re-run LG elections won! But, apparently, and as Oyewale indicates above, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Then the bizarre but heart-warming happened. One Afolabi Jimoh, a young politician in the PDP party and who ran for councillorship in Shawo SW ward came out and rejected the false victory given him by KWASIEC. His conscience would not let him take it and go about parading himself as the truly elected councillor of his ward. Let us hear him:

“As a son of this great town, I believe that in all that we do, we should know that we are going to account for them. I am not going to be a part to getting what is not mine from anybody.

“In all the eight polling units in my ward (Shawo Southwest) the PDP lost, while the APC won convincingly in all the polling units in the rerun poll on August 31, 2013. I know well that the town stands for equity and justice. I know that we shall give account of all our actions on this earth one day.

“On that day, there will be no influence from anybody: be it an Oba, a governor, a leader, an elder, a father or mother. You will be left alone with your deeds. In this wise, I have resolved not be a partaker of getting what is not mine from anybody: in Offa, Kwara State, and Nigeria.

“As a native of this town, I don’t wish my town a bad thing. If something like this continues to happen and we decide to cover it up for one reason or the other, if not now, in the future we will account for everything.”

According to The PUNCH newspaper report (also carried by virtually all the other newspapers), Jimoh spoke during APC’s media briefing in Offa on Wednesday. He stated that he rejected his announced victory based on his religious belief of not cheating. He added that his stand was also to ensure that his community did not witness violence and retrogression.

In a country replete with history of election rigging, and one where a “free and fair” election had become the exception, the Offa incident was to rival the worst of blatant and unconscionable rigging. But it is not an isolated case. Viewed together with the earlier incident where the election of a chairman for a group of 35 state governors was tastelessly snatched away from the true winner, it is a dress rehearsal for what to expect in the 2015 elections. The signals are ominous.

Overall, they are indicative of the complete moral decadence of a society, a country, where the lust for money and power at all cost has become the dominant value.

In my column of 10th May 2009 in a reaction to the infamous Ido-Osi (Ekiti State) election rigging of which the PDP was again falsely and brazenly declared the winner. I wrote:

“The brazenness, the impunity, with which the PDP and its federal might decided to steal Ekiti, rubbish the electorate and dare the consequences, is sickening. It is a “heaven-will-not-fall and if it will fall, let it fall” mindset of outrageous proportions…What is wrong with us, why are we so accursed? Would this country ever get out of the imbecilic rot that stultifies her growth?  Would there ever be genuine census, genuine election, genuine mandate, genuine budget, genuine accountability, genuine anything in this damn country?”

I went further: “Are these PDP leaders – all those up in arms, and charms, all those ballot box stuffers…and all those complicit in this senseless brigandage – are they also parents? What do these people tell their children? How do they explain their deeds? What do they say to their children who may cheat in an exam in school, or bring home some stolen goods?  What a country!”

I then narrated my own experience, my own political moment of confronting such ill.

“It was way back in 2003 when I ran for Senate under Gani Fawehinmi’s NCP. On election morning, some of my closest organisers came to me in my “situation room” intimating me of the intelligence they had gathered about untoward happenings in some wards, and wanting to know if they should go do likewise in wards in which we had clear advantage. I clasped my head in my hands for a moment, then looked up at them, a bit in pity, a bit in remonstrance, ‘no,’ I said, ‘definitely no. I beg of you, no.’

“The truth is that how could I ever have lived with such truth lurking and churning inside me, the truth that some victory I may have scored in certain wards were actually based on the fraud my team (and so, I) had committed? What would be going through my mind when my elated children congratulate me? Can I look them in the face and be happy? And what if on account of my own “Ido-Osi” I won the election and became the senator from Osun Central, can I live the truth down?”

Young Afolabi Jimoh’s action is something to be cheered and, indeed, rewarded. The Offa people, and Nigeria in the long run, must take good note of Jimoh’s action and in the future call on him to hold positions of trust.

Meanwhile, the Offa people, and all of Nigeria, must call for a probe of the nonsense of Offa and bring to book all those who played a part in this outrageous travesty. We must prevail on KWASIEC to release the authentic results and give victory to those who truly won. Enough of this madness.

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Republished with the permission of the author.

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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