FEATURED: Bolaji Abdullahi’s ‘Omoluabi’ Narrative and the Bad Argument of Joseph. By Lara Ali

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Election time represents a season for all characters to offload their opinion on the populace, because then everyone has suddenly acquired the right to volunteer perspective on issues and persons they scarcely know. Therefore, I am not surprised when a friend drew my attention to a disjointed piece written by one Joseph Johnson seeking to question the integrity of Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi. Although I know the so-called ‘JJ’ is a pseudonym for one backend guy working for a candidate who is still struggling to explain the source of his wealth to his constituents, I will nonetheless oblige him a response.

As writers, we all know how difficult it is to taint someone who has little or no blemish, hence I am not surprised that ‘JJ’ had to waste the first three ‘precious’ paragraphs of his essay talking about one French man. I do not have that sort of wasteful time, so I will just dive straight into correcting the wrong claims contained in JJ’s writeup and allow the fair-minded readers draw their conclusions.

The point of departure for JJ, after quoting his favorite French man, was the interview granted Arise TV last Thursday by Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi where he said the most difficult assignment he had undertaken in his life was that of the Spokesman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), concluding that “there’s no way you will do that assignment and not tell lies.” JJ, in his shortsightedness, concluded that Abdullahi must have told lies “like every other person that has held the post,” and as a result does not deserve to be regarded as an Omoluabi. Perhaps JJ used to live in the moon until now.

In a March 24, 2017 interview granted The Cable Newspaper, Bolaji Abdullahi, still in office as APC National Publicity Secretary, was asked why he had not been very active in his role as the party’s spokesman. The reporter asked, “Besides occasional press statements, you have not been very “visible”, are you keeping a low profile?” In response to the question, Abdullahi retorted, “I think it is partly deliberate. When you find yourself in the situation we have found ourselves as a party and government, I think it is a time to hunker down and begin to work to change the situation; because if you are not careful, there is a thin line between communication and propaganda. If you are not careful you will find that most of the time when you come up, you are indulging in propaganda.” Abdullahi was still in APC when he said this, but he said rather than indulge in propaganda (another name for lies), he would rather keep quiet. That is the vintage Bolaji Abdullahi, whose ‘Omoluabi’ narrative is built on verifiable record of integrity!

Also in a September 30, 2019 feature story titled, “Publicity: How APC fared under 3 Kwarans”, Blueprint Newspaper had this to say about Abdullahi’s time as the ruling party’s publicity secretary: “The party witnessed structured publicity engagements that were pivoted on intellectualism and brand building.” This was consistent with Bolaji Abdullahi’s promise on assuming office that he will not deploy propaganda in his new role, which explains why all through his stay in that office, like The Cable interviewer noted, he would rather remain ‘invisible’ rather than appear in public to tell lies on behalf of his party.

Joseph Johnson also made reference to the well-acclaimed book (On A Platter Of Gold: How Jonathan Won And Loss Nigeria) authored by Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, someone with a verifiable career trajectory compared to the other person the writer obviously works for. He quoted a former aide to Goodluck Jonathan, Reno Omokri as saying that the account of events contained in Abdullahi’s book was “a tissue of lies.” JJ used Omokri’s words to support his claim that Bolaji Abdullahi was a ‘liar’ and not an ‘Omoluabi.’ I must say it is shameful that this writer does not even have the capacity to get credible evidence to support his claim. But beyond that, his ignorance and obvious lack of religious understanding about who could testify to issues further compounded his woes.

For anybody to testify that someone lied about an issue, he must have been part of what transpired or witnessed it. But Reno Omokri, whom JJ quoted, was a very junior person in the government of President Goodluck Jonathan. As a Personal Assistant on New Media to the President, he had no front seat in any of the issues Bolaji Abdullahi reported in his book. It would then take a Joseph Johnson and his paymasters, who are shopping for a means to put a stain on a sparkling reputation of Bolaji Abdullahi, to believe the assessment of issues and persons by someone like Omokri who was probably somewhere harassing Natasha Akpoti when the events happened. Moreover, anyone who attended the public presentation of ‘On A Platter of Gold’ in Abuja must remember that Chief Dele Momodu, as the book reviewer, confirmed that former Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko personally confided in him on some of the issues reported in Bolaji Abdullahi’s book. Now, between a Mimiko that was a governor at the time and a junior aide like Omokri, who is in a position to confirm whether someone lied?

In any case, ‘Omoluabi’ is not a narrative built by Bolaji Abdullahi to promote his run for the Senate. And this is why it is often difficult to write rejoinders to some of these hired writers, because they do not even write from position of knowledge. They just picked up their pens, stitched words together without first doing the basic research to clearly understand what they seek to write about. But those who were old enough in 2011 would remember that ‘Omoluabi’ was a name given to Bolaji Abdullahi by the David Mark led Senate when he was being screened as a ministerial nominee, it was not a narrative deliberately built by Bolaji Abdullahi himself like Joseph Johnson wrongly asserted. Those blessed with fine attributes and character need not pay for titles to whitewash their social standing or build any narrative; they are who they are because that is what they actually are.

Bolaji Abdullahi once said that he is no saint. But, according to him, what makes the difference between him and so many other politicians and public figures is that he has drawn a line for himself which he must not crossed, no matter what. I will expect that the candidate because of whom Joseph Johnson vainly seek to question the integrity of Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi would also place such a demarcation for himself. Before then, those who hide behind the acquired traditional title should tell us the work they have done and the address of their business locations from which they made the money they now throw around.

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