Nigeria’s former sports minister, Bolaji Abdullahi, who many see as an achiever, was reportedly on his way to Poland, when his sack was announced by the Federal Government.
Signs that he would be revealed of his job had been given during the visit of the president to Kwara State as Bolaji was allegedly sidelined by the president and the delegation to the state.
Presidency sources said that politicking in Kwara State is the main reason President Goodluck Jonathan firedAbdullahi.
A new Sports Minister, Tamuno Danagogo, was announced by Mr. Jonathan before the commencement of last week Wednesday’s meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation, FEC.
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, said 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.
Senator Saraki who had initially shown interest in challenging President Goodluck Jonathan for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential ticket in 2011 was a major supporter of 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 Saraki’s defection that Governor Abdullahi, a known loyalist of Saraki in Kwara, would be relieved of his job as minister.
But 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 and some other feats that have been achieved in the sector in recent times.
However, the straw for Mr. Abdullahi broke last week Monday when Jonathan visited Kwara to welcome decampees to the PDP, presidency sources said.
A presidential source said that it is the tradition that when the President is to visit a state, the minister from the state goes ahead to make sure everything 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 that the problems they are having in the party at the state level were caused by his disloyalty.”
The source said that the prominent decampees told the President that they cannot work with Mr. Abdullahi in Kwara, where they face the herculean task of dislodging Senator 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 President Jonathan’s visit to the Emir’s palace in Ilorin 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 Saraki loyalist. With his removal as minister, he is expected to now define his political stance.
Sources close to him said that Abdullahi finds it difficult to leave the camp of the Sarakis and that ‘losing his job as a minister of the Federal Republic is not too big a price to pay for staying with the Sarakis known as the controllers of Kwara politics.’
Bolaji Abdullahi who left his Thisday Newspaper’s office to become a commissioner during Senator Bukola Saraki’s tenure as a governor became a close confidant of Bukola Saraki many years back as a result of his sustained criticism of the late Governor Lawal’s government when the late governor tried to extricate himself and government from the stranglehold of the Saraki’s in the state.
The write up that actually caught Bukola’s fancy was the one where he pointedly told the late Baba Saraki that he created Lawal and his mess and should clean it up.
A source in Kwara State revealed that the calculation of the presidency was to make a ‘Wike’ out of Bolaji Abdullahi, arm him with the war chest to face the governor the Rotimi Amaechi way and make the state ungovernable like Rivers State but Bolaji would have none of this, he knows the implication and so he chose the option of swimming or sinking with his benefactor, Bukola.
“Not even the promise of the Ministry of Works portfolio could make him have a change of heart and lead the war against his state,” in a couple of weeks we shall know whether he took the right step or not” a source told us.
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