Former Minister of Youth Development and Sport under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Bolaji Abdullahi, spoke to PREMIUM TIMES mid-June on his experience as a political office holder at a time his political family alternated between parties, how the Otoge movement sacked the family from the control of Kwara, the education reform he initiated in the state and why he is advocating a new political culture in the North.
Question: Would it be right to say you are jobless now, since the OTOGE Movement silenced you politically?
Well, not really. I believe there is a season for everything. Election was conducted and it was won by some people who are in power now. I think it is only appropriate that those who won the elections are allowed to deliver the promises they made to the people.
Sometimes the mistake we make as politicians is that we don’t seem to realise when electioneering is over and it’s time to face the business of governance. So, if people like us are not as politically active as we should be, it is because people realise that this is not the season, it is the time for people who have earned the trust of the people to deliver on the promises they’ve made.
For me, jobless, politically speaking, yes.
Question: I am wondering how you’ve been affected by the OTOGE Movement, since some of you are young politicians. Would you say you were disappointed because of your attachment to the former Senate President, Bukola Saraki?
I belong to a political group that is led by the former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, and the counter mobilisation that happened in 2019 was to send away all of us that belong to that political group.
It was many years in the making but for some reasons, we were not paying enough attention to what people were expressing and what they were not saying. I think in 2019, if a chicken had been fielded against us, that chicken would have won. It was that bad. People somehow felt at that point that they had had enough of us, which is quite unfortunate, the situation we found ourselves in.
Some people even won elections against us without leaving their sick bed. It was a case that people were fed up with us. People saw sufficient reasons to say ‘enough is enough’ (OTOGE). That was what happened.
For someone like me who wanted to become a governor in the last election but never got beyond the primaries, there are different interpretations to what happened but I don’t think that story is ripe to be told yet. But the truth was that, what happened in 2019 was inevitable.
Question: Does that mean your group was disconnected from the people?
In a way. What happened was that we moved from building a system so efficient, and evidence abound of what happened. I’m limiting myself to the era of Bukola Saraki.
When we came in 2003, we were committed to rebuilding the state, which was traditionally known as a civil servants state. We tried to rebuild the economy, we tried to reposition the state, and I think we did quite well, because at that time, it was very unlikely that you would mention five top-performing economic states in Nigeria without mentioning Kwara State.
In fact, before then you had no reason to go to Kwara if you were not from there. But suddenly, we have an airport that was functioning, we have universities, we have the aviation college and all sorts of things that could now bring people to our state. That was the kind of system we set out to build…