‘…Abdullahi’s gargantuan achievements will live after him in the annals of competent administration and good governance in the country’I got the unfortunate news about mid-day last Wednesday when my phone rang. The person at the other end, a senior Journalist with one of the nation’s frontline newspapers, simply broke the unexpected news to me without much fuss: “The President has removed Bolaji Abdullahi as Minister.” Although that piece of news jolted me, it was not quite unexpected given the current political trend in the country. I managed to ask an incoherent question: “Why will the President do so at this time when the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament in Brazil is just three months away?”
The events leading to the Minister’s removal were, to me, some cock and bull stories or what is tantamount to giving the Minister a bad name in order to hang him. However, the case against the former Minister was put in the public domain by many of the newspapers the following day, in different banal headlines. One of the papers wrote on its front page: “The case against Abdullahi…did not identify with PDP’s plan to dislodge APC in Kwara; refusal to speak at PDP’s Ilorin rally; seen in company of Saraki and Goje, who are APC Chiefs; failure to fund PDP’s activities in Kwara State; and late arrival at the Emir’s Palace where Jonathan visited.
Let us take these accusations one by one. It is alleged that the former Minister did not identify with the ruling party’s plan to dislodge the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Kwara State. Yes, the Minister hails from Kwara State in the North-central geo-political zone of the country. Before his appointment as a minister of the Federal Republic, he was a commissioner in his state. If I am correct, he started as a Special Adviser to the erstwhile Governor of the state, Bukola Saraki, who is now a Senator of the Federal Republic. And it follows that it was Saraki who nominated Abdullahi as Minister.
Now that the Senator has pitted his political camp with the APC, an opposition party that is pulling all the stunts to seize power from the ruling PDP, it would be absurd for Abdullahi to work against his political godfather. This is enough reason to put him under the prying binoculars of his pay masters. And to think that Abdullahi would fully participate in the antics of the ruling PDP to dislodge the APC from Kwara State would be daydreaming, more so, when the former Minister is adjudged to be apolitical in nature.
It was, therefore, not surprising that Abdullahi avoided speaking at the Ilorin rally which was held some three days before he was shuffled out of the cabinet. Those who appointed him as a Minister should have known that all the while, he has never played politics with his job. Even those who knew him when he was a Commissioner have attested to that fact. So also is his political godfather, who said the young man was too married to his job than politicking all over the place. It is on record that Abdullahi was one Commissioner who never got himself involved in the revelry and jamboree of going to do ‘break-dancing’ at the airport each time Saraki, his boss at that time, was flying into Ilorin by air during his tenure as governor.
Now, people expected this type of fellow who has cut out his own unique lifestyle among the multitudes of flotsams and jesters who daily flock around politicians looking for a mess of porridge to feast on to distance himself from the company of those with whom he has found comfort all this while. I mean the accusation that he was seen at innocuous hours in the company of his former boss, Saraki, and Danjuma Goje, the former Governor of Gombe State, who is also a Senator. Apparently, both Saraki and Goje are among the 11 senators who have changed camp from PDP to APC. Are these people now saying that one of the requirements of being a Minister in this country today is that once you are a minister, you do not have the right to choose those to associate with? Therefore, if seeing Saraki and Goje amounts to a crime, then it sounds as ridiculous as it is unthinkable.
The same people have accused Abdullahi of failing to fund PDP’s activities in his state. If I may ask: Is there any evidence that the former minister was funding or had at any time funded the APC either? This question is necessary because right from the onset, he had been known to be apolitical. If this is so, why should anybody think he should dissipate energy and resources over any political party for that matter? At any rate, where will the money to fund the party come from? Is it from statutory allocations to his ministry, personal emoluments or inflated contracts? It would have been a different story if his accusers had said that he embezzled money that was given to him for onward delivery to the PDP in his state. If that did not happen, then it means that the former minister was expected to deep his hands into the public till to satisfy the financial want of some greedy, gluttonous and godforsaken politicians.
It was also reported that the former minister was reluctant to attend the jamboree in Ilorin because he had an assignment to do outside the shores of the country but he was prevailed upon to stay behind and attend the President’s campaign visit to Ilorin. Even at that, a mischievous party chieftain who was in the same vehicle with the former minister was said to have quoted the former minister as saying: “If not that I am from this place, I would not have been on this entourage.” That statement means that the former minister had to work against his wish in order to satisfy the wolves that had encircled him and were hunting and hounding him ever since his political godfather jumped ship. It is a pity.
I had a chance meeting with Bolaji Abdullahi on January 26, 2012, in London. At that time, he was Minister for Youth Development having been appointed a minister in 2011. He was later saddled with the task of supervising the Ministry of Sports before he was appointed substantive Sports Minister in March 2012. The venue of that meeting was at the Heathrow Airport in London. I had spotted him at the check-in queue on arrival at the airport that chilly winter morning. Although we were meeting for the first time, he instantly recognised me.
As we exchanged banters, I was overwhelmed by his humble disposition. We soon got talking. I told him I was in London for the annual Presidents’ meeting of the EMEA Region (Europe, Middle-East and Africa) of the global Entrepreneurs’ Organisation, EO. He said he was also in London for a series of meetings for the Paralympics games and other games coming up in London that year. He told me about his determination to overhaul the National Youth Service Scheme to make it more relevant to the needs of contemporary Nigeria and other issues bordering on his vision for his ministry. Two months after, he was moved to the Sports Ministry. As we departed that day, the impression he gave me was that of a quiet, unassuming young man. He struck me as a person who knows his onions and could go places if given the opportunity to excel.
Since that meeting, I have followed his performance and meteoric rise as a public servant and I must confess that he has been wonderful with what he had done as a minister. It is a pity that his zeal to excel has now been scuttled. The wolves may have succeeded in getting Abdullahi, their prime target, out of the way. By doing this, they have unwittingly caused the country a great harm; they have sacrificed merit for sycophancy.
Above all, Abdullahi’s gargantuan achievements will live after him in the annals of competent administration and good governance in the country. No wonder, his achievements are already reverberating in the public domain and will remain permanently etched in national consciousness for a long time to come. He has done well for journalism, his profession and his generation.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999