Why Jonathan sacked Nigeria’s Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi

Mr. Abdullahi is believed to be loyal to Bukola Saraki.

The politicking in Kwara State is the main reason President Goodluck Jonathan fired Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi, presidency sources have told PREMIUM TIMES.

A new Sports Minister, Tamuno Danagogo, was announced by Mr. Jonathan before the commencement of Wednesday’s meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation, FEC. The president made no mention of Mr. Abdullahi.

Mr. Abdullahi, apparently aware of his sack, was absent at the FEC meeting.

However, the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Reuben Abati, confirmed the sack of Mr. Abdullahi, but did not give any reason for the decision.

Presidency sources, however, told PREMIUM TIMES that the sack was necessitated by the politicking in Kwara, the home state of Mr. Abdullahi.

Mr. Abdullahi was first appointed Minister of Youth Development in 2011 and later asked to supervise the Sports Ministry. He was appointed substantive minister of sports in May 2012. He is believed to have been nominated as minister by Ex-Kwara State governor, Bukola Saraki.

Mr. Saraki who had initially shown interest in challenging Mr. Jonathan for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential ticket in 2011 was a major supporter of Mr. Jonathan during the 2011 elections. He, however, recently joined the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, along with his supporters in Kwara including the state governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed; and has since been a critic of the Jonathan administration.

Rumours had been rife since Mr. Saraki’s defection that Mr. Abdullahi, a known loyalist of Mr. Saraki in Kwara, would be relieved of his job as minister.

But Mr. Abdullahi held on, perhaps due to the seeming successes in sports that Nigeria achieved under his supervision, including Nigeria’s victory at the last African Nations Cup.

However, the straw for Mr. Abdullahi broke on Monday when Mr. Jonathan visited Kwara to welcome decampees to the PDP, presidency sources said.

A presidential source said it is the tradition that when the President is to visit a state, the minister from the state goes ahead to make sure all is in place. But in Mr. Abdullahi’s case, he stayed back to go with the president’s entourage.

The source who pleaded anonymity also said that “even during the rally his people complained bitterly over his attitude towards them and said the problems they are having in the party at the state level were caused by his disloyalty.”

The source told PREMIUM TIMES that the prominent decampees told the President that they cannot work with Mr. Abdullahi in Kwara, where they face the herculean task of dislodging Mr. Saraki.

They explained that “that was why he (Mr. Abdullahi) was not given any role to play during the president’s visit,” the source said.

Two of the major decampees to the PDP were Dele Belgore, the governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria in 2011, and Gbemisola Saraki, a former senator and sibling of Bukola Saraki.

“At the Emir’s palace, it was also learnt that he (Mr. Abdullahi) had been fronting for Senator Saraki” a source added referring to Mr. Jonathan’s visit to the Ilorin Emir’s palace during the Monday Kwara visit.

Mr. Abdullahi has, while serving as minister, always publicly declared support for the Jonathan administration, but has never denied being a Mr. Saraki loyalist. With his removal as minister, he is expected to now define his political stance.

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