In this article, originally published in Vanguard, Dr Ugoji Egbujo analyses the personality of former factional candidate of PDP in the concluded Ondo State gubernatorial election, Jimoh Ibrahim, through his role in the whole drama.
Egbujo is highly critical of Jimoh Ibrahim’s role in the election that culminated in victory for the APC. He labels him the ‘Arch Judas of Ondo Diocese’
Nigerian politicians are not a moral lot. And our political field, unfortunately, has no hedges. Without a political culture, without the guidance of tradition, without institutions, riotous baser instincts can roam unconstrained. Politics is a dirty game. But the exceptional contempt our politicians have for ethical bounds makes our politics unbearably filthy. Scandals are now mundane. A populace gifted with elastic spirits has been taking unending manifestations of depravity in their famished strides. But they won’t stop plumbing new depths. And now it’s Jimoh.
From literally nowhere he emerged the candidate for a faction of the PDP that exists only on the pages of newspapers in Ondo state. Jimoh who is endowed with an inflated sense of self importance is vulnerable to delusions. But this Ondo choreography seems the product of clear- eyed Machiavellianism. He revels in vainglory. So the initial appearance was an attention craving scheme of trivial moral consequence.
After Edo, the nuisance of the Sheriff faction was all but cured. So it seemed. But when Jimoh obtained that questionable judgment from an Abuja high court, and improved on his garrulity, apprehension spread. What he did next was to abandon the fig leaves of decency over his loins and come naked into open court to pour tar on the reputation of appeal court judges. An ‘agbero’ would have acted with more circumspection. The antics he employed to deny redress for his victim, his party, were more despicable than the high court judgment which the appeal court described as patently fraudulent. Jimoh claims billionaire status, so it may not be about a few shekels of silver. But who knows? No one trades his reputation for nothing. And Jimoh isn’t a circus clown. If Jimoh had wasted only his money in this patently ridiculous enterprise he could have simply been the prodigal one. But court time is public resource. So he wasn’t just frivolous, he was cynical. Engaging in actions capable of undermining the peace of the community can’t be mere profligacy, it is reckless brinksmanship.
So, Jimoh is perhaps worse than Judas. Judas was left bereaved by puerility and greed. He was accustomed to theft. He had been stealing from the apostles’ communal purse. And its possible that his pockets were already as congested as a billionaire’s. But he found the consequences of treachery too heavy to handle. He must be commended for finding in himself the regret and righteous anger to commit suicide. Judas wasn’t that shameless. He didn’t celebrate his treachery like the other one. Jimoh made the electoral menu in Ondo more wretched. Real politics is not a moral idea, I concede. And people can rebel against their own parties, I agree. The APC was almost torn into shreds. But Jimoh wasn’t one Oke who felt cheated and forced a divorce. He wasn’t an aggrieved party-man venting righteous anger. Jimoh has gone on smiling like a genius. He has to be an unscrupulous spoiler. Who else would think treachery is worthy of honour? It was likely Ondo , like Jesus, was destined to be taken. And would have been taken without the meddlesomeness of a traitor. But even that inevitability cannot lighten this enormity.
Scorn and derision must belong to anyone who lends himself to such an ignoble cause. There is a compelling reason why this Jimoh phenomenon must be collectively checked . If Jimoh had any real ambition to be governor and pursued it even opportunistically, he can’t be blamed. Exploiting the factionalization of a soulless party would have been fair game. Jimoh’s shenanigans and post election euphoria raise the grave suspicion that he was indeed a mole.
So the PDP in Ondo was poisoned? If he was planted from the outside, then his role becomes particularly troubling. Now consider that a Jimoh made himself available to Jonathan in 2014. He would have had some fruitful discussions with Dasuki and the APC could have died in infancy . Jonathan could easily have minted a couple of Jimohs and armed them with a few wily judicial hands and set them upon an APC then in a cot. A certain character, Nzeribe, was once a household name for many ugly reasons. He could think up treacherous schemes and do dirty jobs. The military once found him useful and June 12 was truncated.
The idea that Jimoh has done something ingenious must be discountenanced. Politicians must have an irreducible minimum of honour even in their prostituting. Jimoh isn’t therefore a mere Judas. The systematic abuse of the very institutions and processes established to protect the oppressed and guarantee freedoms must be worse than gluttony . We saw opposition party stalwarts rounded up by state agents on the eve of elections in Ekiti in 2014. We have seen worse. But these brazen acts of thuggery and tyranny are perhaps not as egregious as an elaborate scheme to defeat competition from within. Jimoh’s perfidy lies within the moral perimeter of match fixing. And there is a reason why match fixing attracts life bans rather than the three match bans of dangerous tackles. It is because match fixing undermines every aspect of the game and makes the game a boring piece of scripted drama.
Our politics may be crude but it has retained competitiveness. The quality of competition helps the making of choice. Genuine competitions are sustained by the observance of an irreducible minimum of fair play and good faith. Football, like basketball, thrives on trickery, feints and deceptions. They are decent because these pieces of treachery are legitimized by generally accepted rules. But rules are never enough. Beneath the rules must be a substratum of sportsmanship. Football won’t thrive if weaker teams deliberately sent in players, not to show fortitude but, to fracture the legs of stars , take the bans for rough tackles, and equilibrate contests. Football won’t thrive if players deliberately undermined their teams to influence a certain outcome. Match fixing is particularly debilitating because it damages competition from within. Jimoh has acted morally worse than a match fixer. Nigeria’s democracy cannot survive such an enervating tapeworm infestation.
Democracy thrives on popular enthusiasm and participation. It is only then that outcomes reflect the wishes of a meaningful majority. If apathy enfeebles participation beyond a limit, then democracy could be dead on arrival. And such disenchantment invariably opens the door to options that habitually lurk , to scavenge on the corpse of democracy. Jimoh wrestled his party to the ground. Judas only planted a kiss. Who else could be Jimoh’s role model? If Jimoh hadn’t drummed his billionaire status into all ears , he could have been proclaimed the presiding Esau of Ondo. But perhaps he no longer remembers the taste of hunger. Yet its inconceivable his plate isn’t out there for some kind of porridge. When a man lets down his group in the manner he did , and trades his birthright so casually, he has done better than Esau and should get more in porridge. With his reputation now cast to the swines, who can ever trust him? Many of those hopping and puffing around Nigeria as leaders suffer from crippling shortsightedness. Their undoing is their disdain for moral principles.