- An Insider, BOLAJI ABDULLAHI, Tells City People Everything
Former Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi, is a valued member of the Bukola Saraki political family in Ilorin, Kwara State. He has been a top aide of the Senate President for over 20 years. He is one of those who decamped from the APC with him a few months ago to the PDP. When the Senate President decamped then, he gave as reasons the alienation he and members of his group suffered in the hands of the APC leadership in the running of the Buhari administration.
Bolaji Abdullahi confirmed this last week in an interview with City People. He explained that the Saraki political camp left the APC because the APC leadership was unfair in the way it treated his political leader and members of his team, who defected to APC in 2014 from the PDP.
Bolaji Abdullahi explained that they decamped because of the humiliation and indignities meted out to members of the Saraki group. “When we joined the APC in 2014, we were driven by a desire to have a different experience from what we were experiencing in the PDP at the time. We felt that the PDP was not being run in a way that gave everybody a sense of belonging. We believed that there were a lot of practices and behaviours that were not compatible with democratic tenets. Quite significantly, we felt that the direction the country was heading at the time was sub-optional. And when the opportunity came, to be part of the APC alliance, it was a difficult decision, but we took that decision, knowing quite well that we were running a risk of leaving a ruling party to join the opposition.”
“There was nothing to hold on to. It was just a hope. It was a major risk that we took, that let us be part of the movement which we believe was promising a new deal for Nigerians, anchored on the principles of CHANGE. So, we bought into the change agenda and we felt we could contribute to helping to bring about that change.”
“As the spokesman of the APC for the past 3 years, I have come across many people who accused me of being part of the APC people who deceived Nigerians. And I like to say No. We didn’t deceive anybody. We believed, and we truly believed that we were going to bring about the change that we promised to Nigerians. That was quite exciting for me. I am relatively young, compared to many of the people on the political field. So, I am still capable of a little bit of idealism. So, I believed that Yes there was a possibility of change. Personally, I was attracted by the principles of improving our Federalism in a way that strengthens the states, in a way that devolves more resources to the states, I learnt in Development schools that if you want to get the resource, you put resources where the result is most expected. What was incredibly attractive to me was the promise of the political party that believes that more resources should be allocated and devolved to the component states rather than concentrated at the centre. I was then the Deputy Director of Policy and Strategy team of the campaign in 2015. So, I believed it.”
“But apparently, there were other people, within APC, who were interpreting things differently. What I saw was that when people, who were part of the other legacy parties, began to talk of APC, how APC came about, with the various people, or components that made up APC, they hardly remember, the new PDP. They hardly talk about us, as if we never existed. At a point, it was becoming a matter of hubris, that they began to even say the new PDP, as if they were going to win the elections, anyway like they actually did us a favour, by admitting us into their party.”
“That was not what happened at all. I think with all sense of responsibility, if the new PDP did not bring in those 6 governors, APC would have remained just another opposition party that will make so much noise. We were the ones who knew how to win elections.”
“We were part of the PDP. We brought experiences into winning that election. Of course, other people also made immense contributions. So, when I hear things like, oh! it was the Buhari brand alone that won the elections. I think it’s not fair to other people who made contributions.”
“Then I joined the National Working Committee of the party and I saw how this behaviour continued I experienced it first hand, where people tend to make you feel like an outsider, to feel inferior, like a second class member of a party that you worked so hard to build. In 3 years, I sacrificed everything I had in terms of integrity to defend APC and I felt it was not appreciated. I felt I was being made to feel as if what are these people doing here. You heard people throw around nebulous concepts like progressives.”
“And they define who is a progressive and who is not a progressive. Many of them flaunt nebulous credentials.
That apart. I think what defines our relationship with APC leadership was the contest for the Senate Presidency. People say Dr. Saraki became the Senate President against the wish of the party. The question many people are not asking is: who is the party? The party, APC as constituted, where did they take that decision that Dr. Saraki should not be Senate President. No. There is nothing like that. It is some individuals who framed themselves as the party. And once those individuals say this is the direction they want to go, that is it. That same thing is happening now. The NEC took a decision, a couple of days back, to approve indirect primaries for all the elections apart from the presidential election and these same people who call themselves the party went back to say, ‘no’ that’s not going to happen. Where on earth did you ever hear that individuals within a party upturn the decision of the 2nd highest organ of the party?
Dr. Saraki’s experience within the party immediately implicated all of us associated with him. So, whenever you show your face, they don’t see Bolaji Abdullahi, they see Dr. Bukola Saraki. And everything they have against Dr. Saraki they heap it on you. They use that to define your relationship with everything else within the party. In the first place, we have not had anybody come up with one reason Dr. Saraki was not qualified or competent or capable of becoming the Senate President. He was chosen by his own peers. The constitution says Senators should choose a President among themselves. What the APC leaders have kept saying is he defied the party. How? I don’t get it.
The truth of the matter is that it was a game of politics and they lost. Now, to punish him, they dragged him through the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the Supreme Court said no. They did all kinds of things.
Even while all those things were going on, I was doing my best to defend the party. I took up the job of the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, at a time, it was at its lowest point in the party’s history. That was when Mr. President was sick and he was out of the country for like 100 days and PDP was having a field day, PDP was having a field day. Nobody was there to speak for the party. That was the time I became the National Publicity Secretary. I put all my experience and knowledge into it and I think we were able to give the party a visibility. Trust them, no matter what you did, they would never appreciate it, because you are Dr. Saraki’s man, as if that in itself was a crime.
So all that happened with Dr. Saraki, Gov. Abdufatah Ahmed and all those in my political camp were saying look they are leaving the APC, was a significant factor for me. But I had my personal reasons based on my experience working in the National Executive Committee of APC. And I told myself’ no I cannot continue here’.
Some people have asked me the question when you knew all of these why did you again contest National Publicity Secretary slot at the National Convention? My answer is simple. I contested because I believe a new leadership was coming on board that would be able to turn things around. I worked with Chief John Oyegun and I believe he was an incredible gentleman, who did everything within the impossible limitations that he faced, to keep the APC going as a party.
Dr. Oyegun himself was a victim of these same people whom we are talking about. He was roundly victimised, he was vilified, his relationship with the President was damaged completely by the same set of people going to tell the President all sorts of things about him and ensuring that he had no access to the President. Have you heard about that kind of situation before of the National Chairman of the ruling party not having access to the President? It’s was unheard of. Sometimes events will be happening at the presidential villa, the party would not be invited.
Sometimes when they manage to invite us we would go to the banquet hall, there would no seats for us, there will be no role for the party National Chairman.
They humiliated Oyegun a lot. So there was no way, (whether Dr. Saraki was leaving or not) that I, Bolaji Abdullahi would have been able to continue to work in that kind of environment. And that is why I left the APC.”