Saturday, 29 March 2014

EXCLUSIVE: MY FEAR FOR THE NIGERIAN YOUTH -Ex Sports Minister, Malam Bolaji Abdulahi | + How his Noble Ideas were Never implemented before Jonathan sacked him.

By on 17:11
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The prelude
Many months back during a One-on-one with your African Number One Celebrity Encounter blog asabeafrika , Kwara state, North Central  born Malam Bolaji Abdulahi the  immediate passed Minister for Sports and formerly of Youth Development,  spoke like someone that never knew he was dealing with people who will never revere excellence in any genuine transaction but pander to political delusion as a second game. 
Abdulahi, himself a genuine personality who cherishes excellence and sincerity of purpose above anything is one man who is very passionate about development in any sector of the Nigerian state especially the Youth sector which was his first point of call. And to this extent, his initial portfolio (Youth Development) and the last one he held before he was disgraced out of power by the political lords of Abuja are assignments that are not too far from his passion. The Kwara state born administrator loves the job of molding careers and empowering younger people for the greatness of the nation. You only need to have the privilege to sit like we did with him to see and feel his pain and passion for youth development.  When we met him that Saturday morning in Victoria Island in company of his media aide, Julius Ogunro, Minister Abdulahi was charged as ever and ready to discuss his passion-Youth Development.
Abdulahi....The kind of discipline you give your child will
determine the perception of your generation
The Resume
 Born in the month of August 12th 1969 in Ilorin Kwara state, North Central Nigeria,  Malam Abdulahi started his professional career as a volunteer and part time worker for several national and international agencies. Before then, he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree (Second class Honors, upper Division) in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos-Nigeria.  In his quest for further knowledge, he proceeded to Sussex University in the United Kingdom where he obtained a master Degree with distinction in Governance and Development in 2002. A man of humble beginning, in one of the most defining era of his life, Abdulahi had to work as a public bus conductor in his quest to search for a quality and befitting education that will put him in the better stead in life. This he did at age 14, a rare stance that made his parent discover his ‘activism’ approach to the quality things of life.
 Abdulahi who is gifted with the art of writing later fell for the craft in a special way as he embarked on a media career that saw him become one of the stars of his generation. He started his media career with Thisday Newspaper in 1996 as a staff reporter from where he rose to become the Deputy Editor of the Sunday edition of the paper and later Deputy Editor of the mother title. He was later promoted as Development Editor and member of the Editorial Board until May 2003 when he left for political assignment in his state of birth, Kwara.  Before then he had a brief career interval with Hallmark Newspaper where he functioned as Assistant Editor between 1998 and 1999 before he returned to Thisday Newspaper after a brief working experience at African Leadership Forum, Ota, Ogun state.
In May 2003, he was appointed Special Assistant on Communication and Strategy to the executive Governor of Kwara state Dr. Bukola Saraki. He held the position till May 2005 when he was appointed Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology. He served in that capacity until May 2011.
The former minister making a candid point to asabeafrika
The Results
His intense success as commissioner for Education in Kwara state recorded significant landmarks following the transformation and re-engineering initiatives he introduced which enhanced the quality of education in the entire state.  Abdulahi made the reforms possible through his novel idea of a first in history Teacher’s Competence Text exercise among indigenous teachers in the state.  There was also smooth industrial atmosphere between the state chapter of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, the Non Academic Workers and the state government. His tremendous success in Kwara state earned him a federal appointment in July 2011 as he was nominated by his God father Dr. Bukola Saraki and finally appointed Minister of Youth Development in the Cabinet of President Goodluck Jonathan.  His appointment to head that ministry brought lots of positive results to the ministry which was more of an obscure parastatal before the emergence of Abdulahi. Malam Bolaji Abdulai’s radical measures within his short term of four months earned the ministry some tremendous goodwill. For instance, the minister proposed a national conference to change the National Youth service Corps (NYSC) value system beyond national integration to include national transformation so that at the end of the one year service, the country will be able to groom youths who can write excellent business plans and not experts in design and presentation of curriculum vitae. That proposal remains a mirage before Abdulahi was re-deployed to Sports Ministry and finally shown the way out of power couple of weeks back.
This interview granted to asabeafrika months before Abdulahi was redeployed to the Ministry of Sports where he recoded so many breakthroughs before he was politically sent away by hawks in the PDP infested presidency that saw him as too loyal to his Godfather few weeks ago, was done beside the lagoon side of Redison Blu Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.  The former Minister told us the entire story of his humble rise to stardom and why youth development remains a problem and passion rolled into one for him. Abdulahi regretted that Nigerian youths are too feeble minded to aspire to the common task of taking their destiny in their hands.  Sit and enjoy the encounter as presented by your number one African Celebrity encounter blog, asabefarika.
The former minister....The Nigerian Youth need a total re-orientation
The Youth and the challenge of Self Discovery
The former minister thanked asabeafrika for taking the initiative to meet him before telling us what he think is the major problem of the youth  “I think the biggest challenge for youth in Nigeria is that they live under a lot of pressure; a lot of pressure because the youth age is a very critical period of transition. Weather you talk about those that are newly translated in to the youth age from the age of 17 to 18 or you are talking about those who are at the end line of 34 to 35. They are under tremendous pressure of this transition.
This is not only in terms of value system but in terms of who will I become, what will I do? What would I become? Right? They are also under pressure in terms of the kind of society they live in, the limited opportunities available to them and how they can use the talent that they have got. So, the average Nigerian youth is under very serious pressure. And I am not talking in terms of the normal psychological pressure that goes with growing up. I am talking about social-economic pressure. They see what is happening to their contemporaries in different parts of the world and because they are the best users of technology, the information is on their finger tip. They watch the digital satellite television, they are on face book. They make friends with people from different parts of the world. They see what is happening to their contemporaries all over the world and they can’t understand why their own situations can not be like that. And because of the successive failure of our leaders, the Nigerian youth have grown very cynical. They have grown very cynical to the extent that even when there is a genuine effort to want to help the situation, they are reluctant to embrace it because they are cynical. So, the greatest challenge that I face as minister, is how to break that world of cynicism and to make them believe that we can truly do something about our situation”.
Abdulahi.....The most important thing a parent can do
for the country is to raise a well behaved child.
 Sports Development & others as catalyst for Youth Development
Abdualhi....My father taught me to
 always be close to the ground
no matter my high levels
 When asabeafrika put the question to Malam Bolaji Abdulahi if sport development can act as a catalyst for youth development in Nigeria, his mood lightened up with a rare expression of appreciation on his face, his reaction “Thank you for that question. You see, the issue of youth development has cross-sectoral implication. So, when you talk about youth development, you are talking about platforms where opportunities exists for young people to express themselves and to exploit opportunities that could be available to them. And when you say that, you are talking about one, education. Like I emphasized at a recent seminar, education has very serious implication for youth development. Health has very serious implication for youth development and the next is the entertainment and the sport industry”.
Abdulahi who was appointed Sport minister few weeks after the interview continued “When you look at ICT, which is information technology, you will see the opportunities therein. If you look at all these various sectors, they do not only represent arenas of opportunities for young people, they in fact represent arenas of development for young people. So, when you look at sport in isolation you probably need to step back and take a global view of the whole thing and say sport represent the a great opportunity not only for job creation but even for development of young people. So, I agree with your submission that we have not done as much as we should be doing in that sector. We have not done as we should be doing in other sectors as well and that is what the transformation agenda of Mr. President is about.
Things have happened in the past and the question is how we can take advantage of existing opportunities to transform this country in various ways. So, one of the things that my ministry is developing at the moment is a frame work for cross-sector collaboration because it is a very difficult one; you are not minister of education, you are not minister of sport, you are not minister of ICT. You are just minister of youth development. So, that is the challenge as a minister ‘how do we create a frame work?’ It is easy for me now to take advantage of the relationship I have with various ministers to say ‘lets do something for young people. But the point is that when I don’t have that kind of relationship with my colleagues, how would i do the frame work that ensures that this various ministries that have implication for young people are necessarily able to work together in the interest of the youth industry? Because I have the responsibilities for the development of young people in Nigeria but I don’t have agriculture. I don’t have ICT, I don’t have sport, I don’t have education(ministries) etc; so, my success will depend on my ability to develop a robust productive relationship with this various other sectors. So talking about sports, I agree with you completely that it is one of the areas that we most focus on very aggressively. Yesterday when we were coming to Lagos, I saw on the flight Jay-jay Okocha and Victor Ikpeba and we were chatting and I told them that ‘look, there are lots of things that you guys who are ex-internationals can contribute to the development of young people. I see us working together times ahead”
Bolaji Abdulahi....How we made teachers fail Primary 4 exams in Kwara
Youth & the culture of fast lane; the way Bolaji Abdulahi sees it
The immediate Minister of Sports....We can use sports
and other sectorial platform to develop our youths
 When asabeafrika asked the minister what he feels about the culture of fast lane among the Nigerian youths that has made some of them go into Yahoo-yahoo-related crimes and other forms of social ills, Abdulahi frowned and reacted thus “I don’t agree with you. I actually think that the average Nigerian youth believes he can do something for himself. Right? The average Nigerian youth believes in own ability; I have not met a single young person that does not have an idea. When you meet a young Nigerian weather a male or a female, all they are discussing with you is one idea that they have or the other and how to achieve it. And to me, that is the greatest advantage that this country has. So, the responsibility that we now have is how to harness all these potentials that they have. I am telling you that even a Nigerian that did not go beyond primary school has ideas. He has something that he wants to do; I am telling you. Right? And each time I meet this young people, I take special pride in being their minister. I agree with you there will be some young people with some aberrant tendencies, doing yahoo-yahoo and all kind of social misdemeanor. But I listen to their opinion, I engage them in conversations, I watch them and I tell you that the average Nigerian young person believes he can change this world. I am telling you even those ones on the street, talk to them. They will tell you about one thing they can do and several other ideas they can exhibit and if given the chance they will do it. They can be abusing Government that ‘oh, government is useless or government is not doing this for them’. But when you listen to them, you discover that they have something to offer.
There are so many and of course there will be so many young people with ideas in a huge populated country like Nigeria. The unfortunate aspect of it is where you have one percent of young people that are aberrant who are into yahoo-yahoo, 419, armed robbery or something like that. It looks like a huge population. Then you begin to think that is the representative of the Nigerian youth, no, it is not. But I agree with you that we have the responsibility to continue to drive the issue of value re-orientation. And I can assure you that we already created an orientation concept that will help us achieve that. We are going to launch the ‘Drive the Future’ Nigeria campaign (That also did not materialize before Abdulahi was removed from that ministry) The ‘Drive the Future’ Nigeria campaign is our advocacy platform for the re-orientation and value adjustment project of the Nigerian youth. The campaign will take off anytime early next year  So, that is what we are going to use to drive the young people’s industry not only in terms of giving young people voice to express themselves but in order to enable them reckon with their own dream and achieve such in a most exemplary manner. Because the young people in Nigeria always has something to say and you have to give them the opportunity to say those things they want to say”.

“Drive the Future Campaign” as a solution to Boko Haram & other Youth related problems.
The Minister in a pensive mood during
the encounter with asabeafrika
 Asabeafrika wanted to know if the proposed “Drive the Future Campaign” by Bolaji Abdulahi’s re-invented Ministry of Youth Development could solve other youth idleness induced problems like Boko Haram in the North, Area Boyism in the West and Kidnapping in the South and East and the former minister answered us like this “The Boko  Haram people you are talking about or the ‘area boys’ thing or any other set of young people that are into this kind of criminal conducts have crossed the line. They have crossed the line. You and I can continue to debate from now till tomorrow on why they are like that. The good thing we have is that there are existing procedures for dealing with such situations. But the responsibility we have is that how do we ensure that others don’t become like that.  I mean if you break a law, you will be dealt with according to the law. If you break in to other people’s houses or you shoot other people; it is not an act of misbehavior. It is a criminal conduct. So, the moment society begins to make apology for those kinds of behaviors, then we have lost it. It is like saying that people who go about raping women is a social misconduct; no, it is a criminal behavior that must be dealt with according to the law. But having said that, lets ask ourselves, what are those conditions that make it easy for young people to be trapped in criminality?. Those are the issues that we need to address, not only as a ministry of youth development.
The state government has to be involved because these young people you talk about are inside a particular state.   They don’t reside with the federal government. The local government has to be involved. I agree with you that my ministry can provide the leadership and that is why I said our strength will rely on our ability to collaborate with other people. Not only at the federal level but at the state level and at the local government level. So if a particular state has a challenge, for example, states you mentioned which has the issue of ‘almajiri’; almajiri has education implication and it also has youth development implication. Now, how do we work with the state government and as well as work with the federal ministry of education which I believe is focused very strongly on the  almajiri situation to deal with the problem.  My own perspective is that when you talk about strategy, our best strategy will be that which is able to bring people across board to tackle this kind of youth development problem. Let me give you another perspective, the almajiri situation is like a challenge of desertification, desert encroachment.

Minister Bolaji Abdulahi....I dont believe in being too loud.
For example, if government of Kano is serious about tackling the issue of desert encroachment and the government of Kaduna is not serious about it, Borno is not serious about it, you have not solve any problem. Do you get the point I am making? Good. The same thing applies to almajiri. If Kaduna state government is serious for example in solving the almajiri problem, if Katsina state government is not serious about it, if Kano state or Sokoto state government is not serious about it, they will just drift. If you solve the problem in Kano, they will just simply move to Katsina. You understand. Unless you are able to build a broad platform across these boundaries that is able to decide and say ‘look, we have to deal with these almajiri thing across our states. Not one state at a time but all the states together. Saying we have to deal with it. That is one area that we as the ministry of youth development are looking at. But we have to get our framework right. Some of these things require a lot of thinking; it is not about getting up to award contracts (Laughter) because if these problems are easy to solve, people would have solved them. The difference that we would bring into it is that we have to invest a lot of mental energy; a lot of mental resources across board to deal with this problem”.

(Watch out for the Part 2 of the interview session with Bolaji Abdulahi titled “What My Mother-in-law told me” on this blog tomorrow.)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog


  1. Oooh you mean you guys met the former Sport Minister before he left? Ok, you guys are indeed the number one celebrity encounter blog in the world. Take it or I yab you....