Opinion: Bolaji Abdullahi And The Burden of Loyalty (Part 1), By: Tajudeen Habeeb

Starting out as a Commissioner for education in Kwara State to becoming the Minister of Youth Development and substantive Minister of Sports and lots more, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi embodies a rare political fact: loyalty doesn’t preclude the fulfillment of the duties of a public servant. Loyal to his leader and benefactor, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Mallam Bolaji started to prove this point as the pioneer reformer of education in Kwara state.

As often said, people condemn what they find inscrutable. Hence, this meeting of loyalty and efficiency has been a subject of debate as people continue to wonder how does someone serve a ‘godfather’ and serve the people in the same breath. While this might be difficult to understand, really, it has always been a no brainer for Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi. To him, putting it in a simple language, loyalty is a “personal virtue” while service to the people is a “public obligation”. And, going by the records, at no time has Mallam allowed what’s personal to get in the way of what belongs to the public. Rather, the former has been a motivation to deliver the later in excellent degrees.

In doing the forgoing, this fine technocrat has proved, beyond doubts, his genuineness of character and the worthiness of his uncommon title in the political circle “Omoluabi” by tendering his resignation anytime the personal stuff (loyalty to his boss) conflicts with public assignments or even benefits. He did this both as a Minister and yet again as the Spokesperson of the All Progressive Congress, APC.

As common as loyalty can be, the type of Omoluabi is not what you come across cheaply like market crowds. Anyone who has ever been in the trench of politics would understand this even than myself. Perhaps one of the reasons loyalty has become that scarce is the ease with which people conclude it to mean weakness or abject sycophancy, or just because sincerity has actually vanished on earth. Whichever, the narrative by some self-opinionated individuals in Kwara State who have continued to condemn this Omoluabi virtue (something can actually wish to have from their friends and followers) deserves to be addressed. This article is here to do exactly that.

The resignations from the ministerial position, office of the publicity secretary of APC and the Chairmanship of the Board of National Sugar Development Council (NSDC) have been cited by critics to justify their claim that Omoluabi is over-dependent and excessively loyal to Dr. Saraki. But what these armchair critics fail to realize is that those actions, as much as they indicate loyalty to an individual, attest to the rarity of the kind of Omoluabi as a man who has always shown the world the best way to demarcate between personal will and public obligation. Mallam has always reiterated that he won’t hesitate to quit whatever position that will affect his relationship with the man who brought him to the limelight, not just as a politician but as a public servant with humble track records. In good conscience, what Omoluabi has repeatedly done is a proof that he does not only embody loyalty, he is equally a trustworthy man.

For anyone who claims to love Kwara State and its people, what Omoluabi has done, many times, is a thing of shared pride for those who can see the big picture objectively. Even many people who criticize Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi in public continue to wonder in private: “What kind of a being is this?” Utterly loyal and straightforward. Take this from me. Kwarans are now regarded as one of the most loyal and trustworthy anyone can get anywhere in Nigeria, thanks to Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi.

What’s more, those who see Omoluabi’s display of loyalty as sycophancy or a mark of dependence/weakness miss the point entirely. Bolaji Abdullahi was not resigning his appointments just to prove his loyalty to Saraki. No. If you can recall the Senate screening of Omoluabi towards his inception as a Minister, you would agree that his is not a pretentious or make-up loyalty. 

At that time, Mallam Bolaji told the Senate that he was taught by his parents never to make people regret associating with him. In fact, the origin of the name, Omoluabi, which Mallam Bolaji carries till date can be traced to that screening. Mallam said his parents taught him that “life is not as straight as the barrels of a gun” and it is therefore important that he stays truth to the principles that define the character of a good human being. One of these principles, according to him, is to never betray those who place their trust in him. Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi understands and respects the fact that once someone gives you something or, ultimately, their trusts, a burden has been placed on you, which can only be lightened by the level of truthfulness to yourself and to your God. 

This principle was what guided his conduct as Commissioner for education when he, realizing the deplorable state of education in Kwara, concluded the only way to prove the essence of his appointment was to revolutionize the system in making quality education obtainable by all Kwarans.

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