President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday caved in to the pressure to remove Bolaji Abdullahi from the Federal Executive Council because of his closeness to Senator Bukola Saraki who has defected from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
Since former governor of Kwara State Saraki joined others in staging a walk-out on President Jonathan and the leadership of the PDP, during the last PDP convention in Abuja, not a few pundits knew that the immediate past sports minister was living on “borrowed time”.
Those who walked out of the convention included former vice president Atiku Abubakar, the G7 governors from Niger, Kano, Sokoto, Adamawa, Rivers, Jigawa, and Kwara states, and some members of the National Assembly like Senator Adamu Abdullahi and Senator Saraki.
Consequently, President Jonathan moved against some of the FEC members who are loyal to those aggrieved governors. Those that were sacked then were former education minister Prof Ruqayyatu Rufai, ex-minister of science and technology Ita Okon Ekwa, ex-minister of foreign affairs Olugbenga Ashiru, ex-minister of environment Hadiza Mailafia, ex-minister of state for defence Olushola Obada and former minister of national planning Shamsudeen Usman.
Others were former minister of state for agriculture Alhaji Bukar Tijani, former minister of housing and urban development Amal Pepple and minister of state for power Zainab Kuchi.
Curiously, Bolaji Abdullahi not only survived the purge but went ahead to lead the Nigerian Super Eagles to South Africa where the African Cup of Nations was held and the team returned with the cup. At the CHAN competition that was also held there recently, Nigeria won the Bronze on the watch of Abdullahi.
According to an insider, Bolaji was also deeply involved in the planning for all the pre-World Cup matches for the Super Eagles as well as the World Cup itself holding in Brazil from June 12. But the hammer that fell on him has stopped all his permutations for the Brazil trip.
When asked why Abdullahi was removed from office, 48 hours after the presidential visit to Ilorin to participate in the “Unity Rally” where President Jonathan received those who decamped from the APC to PDP, a presidency source disclosed that it was in answer to the prayer of the decampees to the president asking him to drop the minister who “is not of the PDP”.
He said: “Remember this young man survived it when Jonathan sacked some ministers as an aftermath of the walk-out done by their godfathers during the convention. Bolaji Abdullahi, we all know, is a crony to Bukola (Saraki). He served in his cabinet as the governor of Kwara (State) and it was Bukola (Saraki) who nominated him as a minister representing the state. But President Jonathan decided to let him continue serving because of his sincerity and commitment to duty.
“Although there had been clamouring for his removal from his home state, Jonathan had refused to sack the young man. But before and after the ‘Unity Rally’ held in Ilorin where some bigwigs from APC defected to PDP, it was there they told Jonathan that the PDP in the state had no representative in his cabinet.
According to them, Bolaji Abdullahi is not of the PDP but of the APC. Their argument is the young man could not have dumped Bukola (Saraki) for him and that being there is like keeping a mole in the government for the APC to know the thinking of the Presidency.”
Among those who defected to the party were Senator Gbemisola Ruqayat Saraki; Lola Ashiru, an APC chieftain in Offa, Kwara; Prince Sunday Fagbemi, also of the APC; and Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the governorship candidate of the CPC; and a few others.
When asked if the removal has anything to do with the Senate’s case against him – that he had never appeared before the Senate Committee on Sports – our source said: “That is by the way. President Jonathan would not tolerate any of his ministers doing that but I have told you why Bolaji (Abdullahi) was asked to go. His problem has to do with his allegiance to Bukola (Saraki) and that was what consumed him.”
Jonathan swears in Gusau, 10 others as new ministers
Within 24 hours after he had sacked aviation chiefs, Jonathan yesterday removed the minister of sports, Bolaji Abdulahi.
While swearing in 11 new ministers who had been cleared by the Senate, Jonathan named Dr Tamuno Dan Agogo as the new minister of sports without allotting another portfolio to Abdullahi who was absent at the swearing-in ceremony.
Although the president did not state categorically that he has fired Abdulahi, LEADERSHIP gathered reliably that he had since informed the erstwhile minister that he had been relieved of his job, which explains why Abdullahi was absent from the swearing-in which took place before the commencement of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
Speaking further at the ceremony which took place at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Jonathan noted that more ministers will be announced next week. He did not assign the aviation portfolio to any of the new ministers.
The portfolios of the newly sworn-in ministers, according to him, are as follows: Gen. Aliyu Gusau (defence), Senator Muhammadu Musiliu Obanikoro (state, defence), Mohammed Wakil (state for power), Alhaji Abduljelili Adesiyan (police affairs), and Ambassador Aminu Wali (foreign affairs).
Others are Mrs Akon Eyakenyi (lands and housing), Mrs Lawrencia Laraba Mallam (environment), Hajiya Asabe Asmau Ahmed (state for agriculture), Boni Haruna (youth development) and Dr Khaliru (state for health).
The president urged the new ministers to be creative and ensure they succeed in the tasks ahead of them, even as he said: “Next week more ministers will come in and after that we would have clear-cut discussion of how the FEC will run.”
He told the new ministers that, as Nigerians, they already knew the problems the country was facing as projected on a daily basis in the media, adding that they must ensure they excel in their areas of assignments.
Jonathan observed that public work is a public trust, which entails that the new ministers are expected to serve the people, making sure that they bring positive and not negative changes.
He said, “Public office is public trust and you owe the people a public good. We must listen to the people. I want you to see yourselves as servants. If by the time you are leaving, you cannot say that you have brought some innovations with your creativity, then your have failed.
“Your duty is to ensure that you bring positive changes. You have to relate well with your colleagues. Because of the conflict between the ministers and ministers of state, we will make sure we review the schedules to curtail such conflicts.”
Urging them to work together as team players and dwell strongly on the need to work with others, he said some people bring unity while others take decisions over all kinds of interests.
He noted that there had been cases which had resulted in reviewing and scheduling of duties of ministers in ministries where there exists more than a minister.
Accordingly, the president urged them to bring their wealth of experience to bear as designations alone do not really matter, even as he assured them that from their credentials they were eminently qualified to serve as ministers.