Odinkalu’s futile smear campaign against El-Rufai

When offering opinion on issues of national interest, elites like Professor Chidi Odinkalu, who are expected to display maturity, shed valuable light, and proffer workable solutions on the way forward, most times tragically disappoint those who invest any hope in them. As a professor of law and former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Odinkalu shouldn’t have appeared on the prime time Channels Television programme, merely to throw tantrums, to spill bile to smear Nasir El-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna state.

At the end of the day Odinkalu spectacularly failed to advance discourse, but succeeded in generating enough materials that can sustain a libel suit by El-Rufai, who guards his reputation jealously.

El-Rufai’s real crime, which has generated all sorts of negative comments, is his stiff opposition to the lackadaisical implementation of the cashless policy, which has both political and economic implications, and the fact that his media interviews have helped save the APC from the evil designs of the Villa forces. El-Rufai should know and he certainly does know, that the policy was an evil plot to demarket the ruling party and ensure the defeat of its candidates, especially Bola Tinubu, who certain Villa forces are opposed to.

Odinkalu’s appearance on Channels Television on the currency redesign was a shameful waste of precious resources. His only achievement was that he used the ample time and the credible platform to unleash his malicious criticism of El-Rufai, at a time when the nation is battling with widespread suffering, confusion and induced political logjam, all brought about by the badly implemented currency redesign policy, a deliberate political weapon fashioned by the terribly compromised Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, against the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

While Odinkalu, clearly, has an axe to grind with the entire APC political family, he purposely went after El-Rufai, because he is the key guy in APC, “the brain box”, who organises the party and effectively canvasses its position. It’s clearly the reasons Odinkalu’s poisoned darts were specifically directed at El-Rufai during the interview. El-Rufai has made what looked a walkover for the Villa forces a much more difficult exercise for them to accomplish. They reckoned without El-Rufai, the one man battle ship.

While Odinkalu is within his right to prefer another party, he absolutely has no right to libel El-Rufai. He said, “Some governors who have collected the money that should have been used to develop their people, they have locked it up to use it to buy votes”. Unfortunately, he provided no evidence.

Baying for blood, the former human right commission chairman alleged that El-Rufai is amongst the governors that had stocked money for electioneering. Odinkalu ignored the persistent counsel from the host, Seun Okinbaloye, as he thundered: ”El-Rufai is carrying it on his head. Let him sue me, if he wants to. People like El-Rufai want to buy votes….I have evidence. That is why he has been (strutting) from studio to studio. The president said he wants to stop them from buying the elections. That is why all of a sudden, El-Rufai has joined the opposition, and they are getting the Supreme Court involved”.

The position of Odinkalu and the other openly enthusiastic proponents of “the currency redesign policy is okay”, who are in reality celebrating the possibility the policy has provided for the defeat of APC, is not in any sense altruistic. They don’t give a hoot that the policy is crushing economic activities, inflicting pains and misery on the people. It’s the possibility that has informed their support for their new found friend, the much hated President Buhari, the architect of the unprecedented crisis facing the country. Don’t blame the Odinkalus of this world, who in their imagination believe that the policy would cause mass disaffection for the ruling APC and make the electorate turn against its candidates, especially Bola Tinubu, the main target of the policy. A classic case of cutting your nose to spite the face.

They have refused to question why “Mr. Integrity” is only professing his desire to forestall the use of slush funds to manipulate elections, only after the “corrupt” people had helped him to power in 2015 and 2019.

Odinkalu and his ilks are not and can’t be moved by the negative impact of the policy; the hunger, riots and collapse of businesses and social life, or the fact that the very foundation of our society is being shaken by what is widely seen as a poorly implemented policy and a reckless disregard of a legitimate oder of the Supreme Court by President Muhammadu Buhari and his handlers. For all they care is the opposition profiting from the situation.

Those who know the relationship between both men, El-Rufai and Odinkalu, were and are not in the least surprised by the unguarded outburst of Odinkalu. Blinded by hate, prejudice, and personal animosity against El-Rufai for reasons best known to him, Odinkalu left the critical issue of currency redesign unanswered, but decided to use the opportunity to unleash verbal violence against El-Rufai, thus betraying his learning and exposure.

Unknown to many Nigerians is the fact that Chidi Odinkalu is a fugitive from the law, who is walking free, simply because the Nigeria police which is not known for diligent investigation and prosecution has bluntly refused to carry out the order of a Kaduna state high court to investigate him.

In 2019, Odinkalu had launched an unprovoked smear campaign against El-Rufai following the unfortunate incident in Kajuru local government area of Kaduna state which claimed the lives of about 130 Fulani.

Odinkalu’s position on the bloody incident forced the state government to seek legal redress. At the end, Odinkalu lost and was made to pay damages of N2 million to the four parties whose characters he had impugned.

Pray, if the government wanted to stop Tinubu, it certainly didn’t have to put the whole nation through a regime of unspeakable hardship with the ill-timed and poorly implemented cash swap policy; an exercise that in every sense amounts to money seizures? If the learned professor knew the governors and other prominent politicians who had stored up huge cash for vote buying, as a good citizen, he had a duty to have provided the security agencies the details of how the funds were looted and were they are stored.

Definitely, there ought to be a less painful, non destructive and more effective way to checkmate money-bag politicians and their dirty schemes. But there is no sense or justification bringing the whole nation down to its knees, in order to prevent vote buying. Nobody pulls down his house in order to catch a rat, when the pest can easily be trapped or eliminated without causing commotion in the neighbourhood.

It’s a shame that the law teacher refused to comment on the dangerous precedent of the president overriding the ruling of the apex court in the land, just as he showed no concern for widespread hardship of individuals, families and businesses wreaked by their inability to access cash from the banks and related outlets. Nothing mattered to our dear Odinkalu, except his unwarranted a vitriol on Governor Nasir El-Rufai and a desire to be taken to court for malicious criticism.

The ongoing cash swap policy has definitely brought out the best and worst of the Nigerian mentality. Suddenly, the Odinkalus are ready to accept a most outrageous and thoughtless Central Bank initiative, because it favours their agenda. Which explains why they have openly embraced President Buhari, whose gross incompetence has basically destroyed every facet of the polity. It’s a miracle that Buhari has suddenly become a good and capable leader, and elevated even to sainthood, just because he authorised the ill-timed policy that Odinkalu sees as being injurious to the party that brought him to power and sustained him in office for eight years.

It smacks of sheer hypocrisy to beatify President Buhari, or dress him in the robe of a saint, solely on account of his current insensitive posturing on the cash redesign programme. He claims to hate vote buying, and we agree. But you may be curious to know exactly when he cultivated such hatred. Mr. President had said he took a bank loan of N30 million to pay for his expression of interest form for the presidential nomination of his party in 2014. That claim was taken with a pinch of salt. During electioneering campaigns in 2015 and 2019, candidate Buhari made use of private jets and exotic cars, and lodged in presidential suites of most expensive hotels in every city he visited. The question is who are those that footed those expenses?

Nobody is out to vilify President Buhari, nor is there any gain in vilifying him. He remains our president until May 29, 2023. All we are saying is that the cash swap policy of the CBN, as approved by Buhari, was ill-timed, poorly thought-out and badly implemented. It has wreaked havoc on families and livelihoods, pushing more citizens into abject poverty. The governors urging Buhari to listen to the voice of reason should not be castigated as obstructive villains of the cashless policy, the way Odinkalu and his ilks would want us to believe. Instead, these elected and respected leaders should be commended as valiant champions of people’s welfare and due process. When this war is finally won or lost, nobody will forget the pivotal role of Nasir El-Rufai.

Ogbuagu writes from Abuja.