Currency Redesign: Chidi Odinkalu Goofed On el-Rufai. 

Currency Redesign: Chidi Odinkalu Goofed On el-Rufai. 

By Lewis Chukwuma

Indisputably, democracy would lose its defining egalitarianism if it foreclosed the free expression of viewpoints by its adherents. This includes often unreasoned perspectives by forces that seek to obfuscate, diminish and divide, like Chidi Odinkalu recently did in his interview with Channels television. 

Against this backdrop, public communicators who through discipline and intellectual honesty have achieved that delicate, firm balance between viewpoints that enlighten and lift society and contrived commentary that distorts, diminishes and stunts, should be appreciated.

Recently, on Channels Television, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu turned his gun-sight on Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai of Kaduna State, alleging a laundry list of sins against the governor flowing from the later’s principled opposition to the foggily planned currency redesign project by the current administration. The new policy is triggering an alarming socio-economic disruption despite the sing-song of bootlickers of the present regime.

Some are even willing, despite of the human misery caused by the not well thought out cashless policy, to suffer it so long as it will provoke sufficient anger to cause the defeat of the APC. Society should never be run like this and those individuals who bravely speak up against it don’t deserve to be wantonly demonized  

This is certainly not the first time Odinkalu, lawyer and former Chairman of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission has speciously taken on the Kaduna State governor. Odinkalu had pitifully tried to put the Governor el-Rufai to the sword. If there was some afterthought of taking a prisoner in this particular decapitating rhetorical excursion, the quirky Prof. betrayed none.

“The issue is that some governors who have collected money that should have been used to develop their people have locked it up to use it to buy votes. That is the issue,” he told Channels TV anchor Seun Okinbaloye.

More…”And those governors include el-Rufai and el-Rufai is carrying it on his head. Let him sue me if he wants to. Now, what is the matter here? That people like el-Rufai, want to buy elections.” But Okinbaloye promptly challenged him he had no evidence to substantiate such allegation.

Odinkalu insisted he has hard  evidence  that the Kadun State governor has been speaking on various media programmes and joined what he called anti-Buhari opposition with with Kogi State’s Yahaya Bello and Zamfara’s Bello and Kano’s Ganduje,because of the adverse effect of the policy on him personally. 

Apparently sensing he was crossing the line, he quickly disowned any pretension to good manners and pointedly told the television programme anchor that,  “There are no good manners I’m not going to come to your program on this particular matter and show good manners.” Haba!

Governor el-Rufai over his many years of service has demonstrated consistent belief in humanity, stability and orderly progression of society. He rejects staying tamely at the end of received policy prescriptions. He covets knowledge-driven innovations, proactive engagement with stake-holders, policy makers and sure-footed action with a human face. These dimensions have been boldly mirrored in his transformational leadership of Kaduna State in the last eight years.

Governor el-Rufai unabashedly pushes a powerful vision that draws in ideas, people and other resources. He initiates the momentum and will to make change happen. This leadership mindset inspires individuals, complementary organizations and institutions to commit, to persist and to give their best.

Little wonder respected Christian cleric, Bishop Idowu-Fearon, Chairman Kaduna State Peace Commission once accurately noted that, “El-Rufai is a consultative leader, who believes in sounding opinions before embarking on any decision.”

This leadership mindset led Governor el-Rufai to be part of the arrowhead trio of Kogi and Zamfara states who sought the Supreme Courts adjudication on implementation timelines of the new naira which has spawned a tsunami of socio-political ferment. Now, seven other governors have seen the light and asked to be joined in the initial suit, notwithstanding President Buhari’s mixed, confusing messaging on the subject matter.

But in his puzzling tendentious hockery-pokery project, Odinkalu perhaps forgot he had been badly bruised by the law on account of his previous attacks and unfounded allegations against Governor el-Rufai and his government.

In February 2019, Odinkalu had spoken on live television about events in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State and contested an announcement by Governor el-Rufai that the state government had received reports of casualties in the area.

Odinkalu insisted that his sources told him nothing happened in the area, and accused the state government of making up the story for electoral gain. The Kaduna Government, in March 2019, approached a magistrate court to summon Odinkalu while accusing him of offences that include injurious falsehood, inciting disturbance and furnishing false information.

The government said the offences are punishable under sections 77, 373, 104 and 150 of the Penal Code Law of Kaduna State and also applied for and secured an order of the court for the police to investigate the allegations against Odinkalu and report the outcome to the court.

Odinkalu lost his first effort to quash the case as the magistrate court dismissed his preliminary objection and assumed jurisdiction to hear and determine the case. He also lost his attempt to have his fundamental rights case to be heard in Abuja, as the trial judge at the Federal Hight Court transferred the matter to its Kaduna Division.

At a critical juncture in the convoluted socio-political evolution of the Nigerian state, what should be the focus of the nation’s intellectual class? Amidst contrived chaos, economic nightmare, human misery caused by hare-brained policies and extreme governance deficits that continue to define Nigeria’s democracy, many are wont to lose faith in the polity. This may be understandable. But history shows that mere loss of faith, a pathway to surrender is taking the easy course.

The path of courage is to interrogate the policies, concepts, leadership vision or visionlessness and socio-political triggers that generate regression using reasoned, temperate logic and candour. Next is to offer alternative vision of sustainable strategies to resolve extant human development and socio-economic challenges. This is the path Governor el-Rufai has trodden over the years and continues on.

Unfortunately, the core ingredients that define professionalism and intellectual honesty are for some reasons largely missing in Odinkalu’s now jaded socio-political discourse. This scenario throws up legitimate posers. In his anti-el-Rufai blitzkrieg, what is Odinkalu’s motive? Could it have been the Biblical voice of Jacob and hand of Esau scenario?

It could be recalled that in his pithy review of Governor el-Rufai’s epic book, “The Accidental Public Servant,” Odinkalu adulatorily wrote, “For a vocal politician with somewhat activist credentials…By this book, this author says in effect that Nigeria is bigger than any one person and he cares more about Nigeria than any temporary benefits from partisan politics. Further according to Odinkalu, Governor el-Rufa’s book “is also a passionate advocacy for firm, equal and non-discriminatory application of rules to everyone irrespective of status or other irrelevancies. It makes a solid case for the normalization of processes in governance.”

He further writes: “This book is likely to inspire spirited conversations that should enrich citizenship and political participation in Nigeria. Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai deserves our gratitude for memorializing his record of public service and for courageously inviting public scrutiny of that record.”

Why then would a professor of law who showed evidence of disciplined and accurate insight into the persona of Governor el-Rufai suddenly turn into a deadly sniper trying to assassinate the governor. Big question!

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