Go and tell Prof. Sagay that I am not just the man Friday of Senator Bukola Saraki. Tell him I am his man Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday – Bolaji Abdullahi
That was the response given by Bolaji Abdullahi, former Minister of Sports and until recently the National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) when Prof. Itse Sagay, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) accused him of being the “man Friday” of Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
To close watchers of political events in Kwara and Nigeria’s politics, Abdullahi’s resignation as APC’s spokesman barely 24 hours after Saraki announced his exit from the party did not come as a surprise. Given Abdullahi’s antecedents, many believe that given the options of choosing between loyalty to the APC and Saraki, Abdullahi will opt for the latter and lo, those who placed their bet on him were not disappointed when he announced that he is leaving his role as the party’s mouthpiece.
Abdullahi also resigned his federal appointment as the Chairman of Nigeria Sugar Development Council last Friday. He said his resignation comes on the heels of his exit from the ruling party.
Based on the reasons given by Abdullahi in the statement he issued announcing his exit, it is clear he has been enduring a frosty relationship with some powerful forces in the APC , not because of incompetence or any iniquity but because of his affinity with the Senate President.
Abdullahi complained that he has recently had to endure the flagrant usurpation of his role as the spokesman of the party in a manner that he considers “unbefitting of a ruling party and inconsistent with my ethical standards”.
He added that in a situation whereby his loyalty is constantly brought into question, his subordinates deployed to subvert his office, and his views constantly second-guessed on the basis of his political affiliation, it became imperative for him to review his position.
“Clearly, I cannot continue to function as the spokesman of a party whose expectations of that role is incompatible with my personal principles,” he said.
“In the same token, I can no longer justify to myself that I should remain in a party which has now made it clear to the world that the political group that I belong is no longer wanted, and which has hung my membership of that group as an albatross around my neck.”
A True Omoluabi
The political class in Kwara believed Abdullahi has always demonstrated through his words and actions that he is a “ a real Omoluabi (well-brought up child) and trusted associate of the Saraki political family. His loyalty to Saraki’s political ideals has never been in question when he was appointed as Commissioner for Education, a position he held until the end of Saraki’ s eight-year tenure as Kwara state governor in 2011.
Abdullahi, soon shot into limelight when he was appointed as Minister of Youth Development in 2011 and later asked to supervise the Sports Ministry. He was appointed substantive minister of sports in May 2012 and Chairman, National Sports Commission (NSC). As a technocrat, his tenure was indeed a glorious one as he instituted major reforms which have changed the face of the sport, especially in the areas of encouragement and motivation for sportsmen in the country. The last time Super Eagles won the African Cup of Nations was in 2013 when Abdullahi was Minister of Sports.
However, Abdullahi soon became a victim of the political power play that rocked the then ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2013 owing to his loyalty to Saraki who parted ways with the party and pitched his tent with the newly-formed All Progressives Congress (APC). At different fora, PDP leaders thought Abdullahi will choose to remain a cabinet member under former President Goodluck Jonathan than follow his benefactor to the APC, which then is in the opposition with no prospect of winning the presidential election.
On why he did not resign as Minister after Saraki left, Abdullahi later stated that he chose to quit immediately but was persuaded to stay by Saraki and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, Kwara state governor.
Speaking during a visit to the state governor during a reception organised for him in Ilorin , Abdullahi said he had at several times wanted to quit Jonathan’s cabinet but for the persuasion and encouragement from the governor and Saraki he hang on.
“What else will I say to your Excellency than praying the Almighty Allah to reward you for the love that you have shown to me today. I have never seen anything like this in my life, in my wildest imagination; I did not expect that a day like this will come.
‘‘As I stood in the vehicle waving to the tumultuous crowd all the way from the Airport to the Emir’s place, I kept asking myself, what is it that I have done to deserve this?
“That is why your Excellency, I want to thank you very sincerely, you are my brother, you are my friend and I am not thanking you only for this day, I am thanking you for standing by me throughout the very difficult period. At every point in time, several times I came close to walking away but your Excellency, you always encouraged me and tell me to hang on there and to hang on there. I thank you very much and I pray that Almighty Allah will continue to keep you, will continue to abide by you and will never bring you down, ’’he said.
At a grand reception organised for him at Saraki’ s charity home (Ile Arugbo) located at the Ilofa residence of former governor of the state , Abdullahi gave insights into his relationship with his benefactor (Saraki) , saying the former governor took him out of poverty and made him what he is today. He said despite the fact that his father did not come from any of the prominent families in the state, Saraki decided to appoint him and many others like him into key positions.
Abdullahi told the audience most of whom were APC supporters the story of how he was once embarrassed by the head of a prominent family in Ilorin because he was from a poor family , noting that that has changed under Saraki’ s political dynasty for good .
He says: ‘‘Today, nobody can ask my children to name their father, or the children of governor Abdulfatah Ahmed or the Speaker to name their fathers. Our leader (Saraki) could as well choose sons and daughters of other prominent families in the state and make them governors or appoint them into important positions but he looked out for people like us from unknown families and made us what we are today.”
In his response, Saraki said Abdullahi through his loyalty and consistency had vindicated him, saying; “I think our youths have something to learn from Bolaji. He has vindicated me.”
“His performance has proved people wrong because when I brought him from Lagos, some people were against his choice. They wondered whether he would be loyal or committed to our cause. If I were not careful then I won’t border to support him. But, today we thank God he has not disappointed us. When Bolaji wanted to quit I asked him to hang on there”, he said.
According to Alhaji Ismail Sheu, “ The success of a General lies in the uncontested loyalty and support of his troops. With a man like Bolaji Abdullahi behind Saraki, the Senate President can sleep with his two eyes closed, confident that he can never be stabbed in the back. That he could put his job on the line and in loyalty to Saraki and even chose to remain with his benefactor despite pressures from APC to keep him shows that he is indeed, a true Omoluwabi”.