President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday sacked Bolaji Abdullahi as Minister of Sports, a decision that jolted many especially in view of what was considered to be the modest achievement by most parastatals under his ministry in recent times.
Abdullahi’s sack was subtly announced at the inauguration of new ministers when the President named Dr. Tamuno Danagogo (Rivers), as the helmsman of the sports ministry.
Curiously, Abdullahi was said to have left for Poland to attend a world indoor meet early on Wednesday morning, ostensibly unaware of the plot to sack him rom the cabinet.
Unconfirmed reports indicated that the Kwara-born former minister may have lost his job to the political scheming, particularly with regards to the parting of ways between President Jonathan and Senator Bukola Saraki.
Saraki, former governor of Kwara State, under whom Abdulahi served and who reportedly was instrumental to his appointment as minister, has joined the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC.
Political analysts have noted that Abdullahi’s sack was long overdue as he was seen more as a mole in the Jonathan administration because of his avinity to the Saraki family
Besides, thealleged security reports which indicated that he did not identify with the Peoples Democratic Party’s aspiration to dislodge the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara State remains one of the major factors that worked against him.
The Presidency was angry that Abdullahi told the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the PDP in the state that he is not a politician and distanced himself from the party’s activities, a source said.
Due to his apolitical nature, Abdullahi did not make any statement at the PDP rally in Ilorin on Monday, a development which infuriated President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo.
Another report faulted Abdullahi for allegedly breaching protocol by coming late to the palace of the Emir of Ilorin on Monday when the President was already seated.
According to sources, the Presidency was not happy that Abdullahi stayed away from the PDP when as a cabinet member he was aware that the President is nursing a second term ambition with Kwara State as a target.
It was learnt that some Presidency officials and Kwara PDP were uncomfortable with Abdullahi’s alleged refusal to contribute to the funding of the ruling party in the state.
“It is unfortunate that the President bowed to pressure to sack one of his best performing and result-oriented ministers, based on ‘petty’ security reports.
“The Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the PDP in Kwara State and his executives and stalwarts of the party had been complaining that Abdullahi refused to identify with the party in the state.
“Although Abdullahi was not found to be romancing with the opposition, PDP stalwarts felt the ex-Minister shunned their party in order not to confront his godfather and mentor, ex-Governor Bukola Saraki.
“They alleged that even if Abdullahi was apolitical, he could be funding PDP secretly as a pay-back for the opportunity given him to serve the nation by President Goodluck Jonathan.
“They sold a dummy to the President that Abdullahi was working against his re-election in 2015 and the success of PDP.
“At a point, the PDP Caretaker Committee reported Abdullahi’s activities to Vice-President Namadi Sambo, especially the ex-minister’s ‘I am not a politician’ declaration. Sambo was said to have exclaimed, “This boy again!”
One of the key organisers of the PDP rally in Kwara State, who spoke with our correspondent, said: “We knew the game was up for the ex-Minister on Monday when he failed to openly identify with us at our rally. He did not make any statement to link him with PDP.
“Also, he came late to the Emir’s Palace on Monday during a visit to the Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari. I think he stayed away to avoid tension, which could mar the visit following security reports that some PDP members wanted to disgrace him. He was advised to keep off but the same advice was used against him.
“Even when he was invited to be part of the rally, he said he might not be around because he was going for World Indoor Athletics Championship. It took a lot of caution to persuade him to stay for the rally.
“So, we see him as not adding value to PDP electoral fortunes in 2015 and we made the President to realise on Monday. In fact, while at the VIP stand, a former member of the State House of Assembly openly confronted Abdullahi to the hearing of PDP stalwarts and other dignitaries.
“Some party members wielded placards against Abdullahi at the rally amid chanting of slogans. At a point, the President asked what they were saying and they told him that the party members wanted Abdullahi sacked.”
Another source linked Abdullahi’s removal to a security report indicating that he was seen in the company of ex-Governors Bukola Saraki and Danjuma Goje.
The source added: “Security report showed that he was with Saraki and Goje, who are opposition leaders, at odd hours.
“The government was not happy with such a meeting and it felt Abdullahi should step aside.”
A pro-Abdullahi source said: “The ex-minister had been apolitical since he was in the cabinet of Saraki. He did not play politics as a commissioner in Kwara State.
“As a matter of fact, he was the only commissioner who never went to the airport in Ilorin to receive Saraki as a governor. He concentrated on his job.”
The Kwara State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) said yesterday that Abdullahi’s sack is sacrificing excellence on the altar of politics.
In a statement by its interim publicity secretary, Sulyman Buhari, the APC said: “While we concede the fact that Mr. President reserves the powers to hire and fire, in the exercise of such powers however, international best practices demand that excellence and competence should not be traded on the altar of politics.
“That a President could sack a performing Sports Minister three months to the World Cup speaks volume of the quality of the Nigerian presidency. This nature of politics is anti-people and anti-development.
“It bears repeating that the achievements of Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi are known to Nigerians and can hardly ever be captured by any book. As the minister of sports, he steered the ministry’s ship to stardom and catapulted the nation’s sports sector to world class standard.
“His leadership heralded successes in Paralympics Games, 18th National Sports Festival (EKO 2012), 2012 Senior African Wrestling Championships in Morocco, 2012 Senior Africa Weightlifting Championships in Kenya, Boxing, Basketball, African Cup of Nations (AFCON), Under – 17 World Cup and qualification for World Cup 2014 in Brazil, to mention a few.
“Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi is the most successful Sports Minister in recent times and, arguably, the best minister in the Federal Executive Council (FEC). By this sack, the President Jonathan administration has lost what is remaining of its credibility.
“Though Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi is not a member of our party, but as an indigene of Kwara State, we are proud of his great achievements at the Ministry of Sports.”