- Says ‘It was that bad’… People Won Elections Against His Group Without Leaving Sick Bed
By Kolawole Ojebisi
Former Minister of Youth Development and Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi has broken his silence on why former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his disciples were routed at the 2019 polls in Kwara state.
He disclosed this, among others, in a tell-all interview he granted an online news platform, Premium Times, on Saturday.
Abdullahi, an ardent loyalist of Saraki since 2003, said though people have attributed their miserable defeat to the ‘otoge’ political movement, the Saraki-led camp also contributed to its political failure in 2019.
He noted that the Saraki-led political group lost the common touch and the Kwara people felt alienated and disenchanted with it.
According to him, the 2019 election was a radical departure from the Saraki–led political group that changed the fortunes of Kwara known as ‘civil servants’ state in 2003-2011, transforming it from basketcase economy into a boomtown.
He said, “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.”
Abdullahi, a former spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress who joined Saraki, following the gale of defections from the party to the PDP ahead of the 2019 general elections, added that the defeat was inevitable as the group had become lazy and could not provide a concerted and united front against the opposition but was expecting a man to win the battle by magic.
“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.
“I think, outside the government, it was difficult to maintain the centre, so we had to fall back to the traditional way of holding people together, which was patronage. The thing about a patronage system is that it consumes everything around it before it ultimately consumes itself. Because it consumes everything, it creates a small circle of people who justify their political engagement in terms of the patronage they are able to get from the system. Whereas politics is about bringing more in, these people survive and maintain their status by keeping people out so that there is no competition for the patronage they are benefiting.
“So, after a while, we began to drive people to envy because it is only the people within our political circle that were benefiting, looking good, within the system. From envy, people became resentful of us and began to look at us as people who are just existing to take from the state, as if we have never contributed anything.
“Of course, from resentment there could only be one direction to go, which is rejection. And people within our system have become so swollen with patronage that they were no longer in a position to fight, they only knew how to take; they have lost the capacity to fight. So, when the battle came, when the enemies arrived at the gate, we were not in a position to mobilise any troops because everybody had grown so fat and lazy, they relied only on one person to always work the magic.” Abdullahi added.
The former minister, who is also an author, debunked the claim that he wrote his book, “on a platter of gold” to get back at the former President Goodluck Jonathan for not throwing his weight behind his governorship ambition, which he failed to realize, in Kwara state.
He said, “The book I wrote is very clear that President Jonathan is one of the most widely embraced presidents in this country. In 2010, going to 2011, go and check the election results. Go and check the build-up to him taking over as acting president, he was one of the most popular and well received presidents, especially among the younger population.
“So, how did we move from such popularity, love and support to being probably the most hated president? That was the question I tried to answer in the book. It has nothing to do with getting back at him.”
Recall that the former Senate President, Saraki, in 2019 lost his reelection bid as a senator in Kwara state as Saraki’s party, the PDP, also lost the governorship, and presidential elections including all federal legislative seats in Kwara.
Since Dr. Saraki took the Kwara politics by storm through the influence of his late father, Senator Sola Saraki, 2019 marked the first time he would lose elections in the state.