Bolaji Ganiyu Abdullahi wants to be the next governor of Kwara. He has incredible credentials. He was born on August 12, 1969, in Kontagora, Niger State. He is from Ilorin West Local Government of Kwara State. He attended Barakat LSMB Primary School, Ilorin and Government Secondary School, Kwali, Abuja. In 1989, he was admitted into the University of Lagos to study for a degree in Mass Communication and he graduated in 1994. He proceeded to Sokoto State for his National Youth Service Corps, NYSC scheme, where he taught communication skills at the Sokoto State Polytechnic.
In 1997, he began a career in journalism in one of the nation’s leading newspapers, ThisDay. From a reporter, he rose to the position of Deputy Editor of the newspaper within 5 years, during which he wrote over 500 newspaper articles. However, it was for his column on the back page of ThisDay that he was best known. In between his time with ThisDay, he worked for two years, between 1999 and 2001, first as the Director of Publications and later a Director of programmes at the International Civil Society organisation, the Africa Leadership Forum, ALF, based in Ota, Ogun State. In 2000, he led the implementation of the Forum’s flagship programme-the Democratic Leadership Training Workshop (DLTW), designed to deliver leadership and democratic training to youths across Nigeria
and the African continent. In 2001, he won the British Government scholarship, the Chevening Scholarship, to study for a Master’s Degree in Governance and Development at the world-renowned Institute of Development Studies of the University of Sussex, where he graduated with distinction in 2002. In 2003, he began his career in public service when he was appointed Special Assistant on Communication and Strategy to the Governor of Kwara State at the time, Dr. Bukola Saraki. While serving as Special Assistant, he organised the first-ever Kwara State Education Summit, which pushed
the problems of public education in the state to the forefront of the State’s political agenda. In 2005, he was appointed Special Adviser on Policy and Strategy. As Special Adviser, he was in the team that developed the Kwara State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (SEEDS), which enunciated the State’s medium to long-term economic and development vision. He was also the Chairman of the State’s Budget Monitoring and Implementation Committee, tasked with the job of ensuring value-for-money and project completion in line with the State’s budget. In recognition of his outstanding passion for education development in the State, he was appointed Commissioner for Education in 2007 by Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki as he commenced his second term in office. As Commissioner for Education, he led one of the most ambitious education reforms in Nigeria with the flagship programme: Every Child Counts, which remains a reference point for similar initiatives in the country. The key focus of the reform initiative was to improve the quality of teaching, especially in the primary schools and improve general education administration in the state. As a Commissioner, he also led the implementation of the DFID-funded Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria, ESSPIN and the World Bank-funded State Education Programme, SEP Under these initiatives, he reformed the basic education curriculum, introduced a system of classroom-based support for teachers and created the first Quality Assurance Bureau in the education sector in Nigeria, which developed the standards for best practices in teaching across the schools in the state. He also initiated the reform of colleges of education in the state, which received the approval of the National Commission for Colleges of Education in Nigeria, thereby setting the standards for similar reforms across the country.
To eliminate corruption that characterised cash payments of teachers’ salaries, he introduced the online payment system for teachers’ salaries, which ensured that teachers in the state received their full salaries promptly. He introduced the annual award of excellence for teachers and school administrators and ensured that teachers in the State were the first in the country to enjoy the 27.5 percent Teachers Special Allowance (TSA).
In 2009, he was specially commended by the regional education body, the West Africa Examination Council, WAEC, for his efforts in combating examination malpractices in the State. It was also during his time as Commissioner that the state government under Dr. Bukola Saraki took the bold step of establishing the Kwara State University Malete and commenced the process of establishing the IVfEC in Ajase Ipo, which was eventually completed by Dr. Abdulfatah Ahmed as Governor of the State. In 2011, he was appointed Honourable Minister for Youth Development by President Goodluck Jonathan. In that position, he embarked on a reform of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC scheme. It was the first of such reform since the programme was created in 1973. He also worked alongside his colleagues in the ministries of Finance and Communications Technology to develop the business and enterprise development initiative, You win, which awarded grants to young Nigerians with the best start-up business ideas. In 2012, he was drafted to oversee the Ministry of Sports in addition to his Youth Development portfolio. Within a short time, he brought order and stability to the otherwise riotous sports sector, especially the Nigerian Football Federation, which had been badly affected by infighting and litigation. In recognition of these efforts, he was soon made the substantive Minister of Sports and Chairman National Sports Commission. As the Minister of Sports, in 2013, he led Nigeria to win its first African Cup of Nations in 19 years. The same year, he led the national Under-17 Team to win the Under-17 World Cup for a record fifth time. In his time as Minister of Sports, Nigeria, for the first time, became African champions in athletics at all levels. He also introduced the first National Youth Festival in the country, to provide the platform for talent discovery and launched the innovative grassroots sports development, Rhythm ‘N Play, to mobilise children in schools to play sports.
However, what he considers to be his flagship achievement in sports was the revolution of the Nigeria Premier Football League, which led to the establishment of the League Management Company, LMC. The establishment of the LMC marked the beginning of professional management of the league as business and restored the confidence of sponsors, who had earlier pulled out. In 2013, he signed an unprecedented broadcast agreement worth $4 million with DSTV/Super Sports, which ensured that the Nigerian League is watched on satelite television across the continent. He was relieved of his appointment as Minister in March 2014 for political reasons.
In 2016, he was unanimously elected, the National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives’ Congress, APC. In 2018, he was appointed the Chairman of Nigeria Sugar Development Council, a position he occupies currently. A professional journalist and author, Abdullahi has a unique portfolio of experience that cuts across the media, civil society public service, and politics. In a working career that has spanned over two decades, Abdullahi has served with integrity and loyalty. He, over two decades, Abdullahi has served with integrity and loyalty. He has developed an extensive net-
work of contacts and professional relationships in the media, civil society, international development agencies, governments and with politicians across the country. He has at various times attended courses at the Kennedy School of Government of the Harvard University, USA (2010); Ashridge Business School, Berkhamstead, UK, (2009), World Bank Institute, Washington, DC, USA (2008), Hetta International Development Centre, New York, USA (2005) and Theodore Heuss Academy for Leadership, Gummersbach, Germany (2000). He is a golden jubilee Distinguished Alumni of the University of Lagos and finalist in the Distinguished Alumni Award of the British Council in the Social Impact category for his work in education in Kwara State. He is a Fellow of the Faculty of Education of University of Ilorin, and Distinguished Merit Awardee of the History of Education Society of Nigeria. He is the winner of the African Sports Bureaucrat Award at the 23rd African Achievers Award held in Nairobi, Kenya in 2013, among several other awards and recognition.
A writer and a thinker, a strategist and problem solver, Abdullahi is the author of Sweet Sixteen, a coming-of-age novel for young adults; and the widely acclaimed On a Platter of Gold. He is the chairman of the Omoluabi Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation based in 11orin, Kwara State, which is focussed on youth development through sports and extra-curricular activities. The Foundation has sponsored annual handball competitions in the State, it has also supported Karate, table tennis, among others. In 2014, Omoluabi Foundation partnered Super Sports to launch the Let’s Play initiative in Kwara State, an event that brought over a thousand kids into sports. Abdullahi’s hobbies include reading, travelling, photography, and fitness. He is married and has children.