●Says I Worked For Him For 25 Months Without Receiving A Kobo
RECENTLY, two of the aides of Barrister Adebayo Shittu, Honourable Minister for Communications, were served disengagement letters, Sheikh Tajudeen Imam, erstwhile SA to the minister on Special Duties and one of the duo, spoke to some journalists in Abuja on the letter penultimate Friday, a day after they were given the letters. Excerpts:
Recently, you and Mr. Victor Oluwadamilare, SA on Media to Barrister Adebayo Shittu, Hon. Communications Minister, were served disengagement letters; what was your immediate reaction?
I would say the disengagementis unfortunate, though not unexpected. I assumed office with my other colleagues in an atmosphere of love and mutual respect for the minister. Specifically, when I joined the Honourable Minister, there were at the time SA (Political), PA to the Honourable Minister and SA Media, these were the three foundation SAs. Later, SA (Technical) joined us, then SA (Administration) who is a civil servant, posted from the SGF to serve him too.
On assuming office, I received letter of appointment which stated clearly that my monthly emolument would be based on the existing practice. It was also agreed between me and the Honourable Minister that my emolument will be discussed and paid promptly. After one week in the office, I met with the minister to discuss my emolument and he let me know that the situation on ground at the time was that there’s no money in the ministry. He said that I should discuss with my principals who requested for my office and our leaders intervened in the matter. These were the same leaders that got him the ministerial job.
You’ll recall that in 2015, Oyo APC placed a full page advert in The Nation newspaper, declaring that they rejected Barrister Adebayo Shittu as minister from Oyo State. In the advert, APC called the attention of Mr. President to the fact that if he mistakenly appointed him as minister from Oyo State they would wait for him in 2019 to vent their anger on the action of the president. But, the revered religious leaders from the North-West got him the job by prevailing on President Buhari to appoint him. These leaders also intervened on my emolument. Unfortunately, it was these same respected leaders that Barrister Shittu disdained and ridiculed.
There is the rumour that the Minister used your meeting with Dr Yunus Akintunde, former Commissioner for Works in Oyo State, his purported political enemy, to get at you with the disengagement letter? How true is this?
Exactly, that was what somebody told me on phone. He said: “I just heard that Dr Yunus Akintunde came to the Ministry yesterday and you were standing with him discussing; the information has got to the Honourable Minister and the minister is boiling now that his political enemy came to his office. He said why should you be discussing with somebody from our state who wants to become a governor like himself? That you’ll be fired with others seen with Akintunde.” That was a day before the letter.
And, what is your own side of the Yunus Akintunde story?
I told the person that there’s no problem, I can never deny Dr Yunus Akintunde, wherever I see him, I will acknowledge him and thank him for all he’s done to support us.
Incredibly, I used to know him to be best friend to the Honourable Minister. He was the one that brought N8million which was used to rent the apartment where the minister initially stayed at Apo Legislative Quarters in Abuja here before he moved to his own house. And, he also gave us his car when we first moved to Abuja for his ministerial appointment. The minister then had no car, so we moved around in Akintunde’s car. He also supported us financially with everything and that was the first time I met the Oyo State influential politician through Barrister Shittu.
You said the letter was not unexpected; how?
Honestly, the threat of the sack is not new, I heard about it three months ago. This was when we travelled for a Conference in Kastina State. I was given N100,000 as allowance to travel for the event while my other colleagues were given N160,000 each. I reported to Director, PRS and I was promised that when I get to Katsina, my balance would be given to me; on reaching Kastina, I requested for my balance but to my surprise, I was told that even the N100,000 that was given to me was a mistake–that N50,000 was due to me and that I should refund N50,000 of which I refused and the matter was reported to the minister who summoned everybody with the hope of resolving the matter.
Alas, in the presence of everyone present, the Honourable Minister told me that if it was recorded that N50,000 was due to me, that was what was due to me!
This was a person that we expected to get justice from; a leader supposed to lead by example in justice and moderation, according to Islamic principle. That was my first greatest disappointment in life. He told me that I must refund the N50,000, retorting: “when did you start turning privilege to right?” That was the last thing he told me.
I am not a nuisance to him, having been one of the forces that made the minister’s appointment possible and having known what I have contributed to his success in the Ministry–I happen to be a stakeholder in his achievements as minister.
This is a retrogressive attitude to my personality, an insult to my person and my countenance was: why would this insult come to me, what have I done wrong to this man; why should he pay me back with such attitude? I have my business; I am a leader, an Imam here in Abuja, leading a very powerful mosque.
I worked till the day I received the letter. As a matter of fact, I went to represent the minister at an assignment he sent me in Abuja that day and I was with him for the feedback on the assignment only to be given the letter a moment later after I have worked for him for 25 months without receiving a kobo.
What is your next line of action giving the scenario you described so far?
My position remains the same that the Honourable Minister is our boss and he will remain our boss, we are going to sit with him for reconciliation, so that we’ll convince and talk to him to see reason why he should pay us our money.
Though conflict is inevitable, either way, there must be conflict, but what happened between the minister and his entire aides is not a new thing in any human relation, but the ability to manage the situation from being destructive is what determines matured relationships.
I suffered untold hardship while serving him. For example, I lost a wife and son-my wife died during child-labour and the son too, because of lack of money and adequate care and I had to pull my children from private schools to public schools due to non-payment of my emoluments for which I was statutorily due as SA to Barrister Adebayo Shittu.
I am calling the attention of well-wishers of this country to come to our aid, to talk to our boss, we’re not in conflict with him, but he should have a rethink, he should know that a leader should lead by example; he should believe there is always the future to contend with and try to make peace with everybody and other aides that have worked with him and having similar, ungodly, unpalatable and dehumanising experience of working with him without payment.
From all of these, is it right to conclude that you regret working for Barrister Adebayo Shittu as Minister of Communications?
The answer is ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. ‘No’ in the sense that he remains my brother in Islam and whatever the situation I will always wish him a successful tenure. We have been friends, he has being my company lawyer and partner in progress for the past 16 years, I’ve being with him for so many years, we took lectures together and went to religious meetings together– we are of the same faith and creed.
My relationship with him is not political, we are so close that he was my legal adviser–my company lawyer, and I never denied him his professional fees and dues as my lawyer before his appointment as minister. Way back, he took me as his Imam and I called him my governor–that has being our relationship for so many years.
I have decided to be loyal to him till the end of his tenure. Thus, if he pays the money peacefully-fine, if he decides not -fine, I know my God will fight for me; I am convinced that the God that I worship will never disappoint me. I will take him to the God we both worship together; it was because of that relationship, that I became loyal to him. I used to support him in prayers; I introduced him to all the clerics from the North-West that went to President Buhari to solicit for help for him for ministerial position.
‘Yes’ in the sense that he has practically turned round to bite the finger that fed him–he has now turned round to render useless the person that refused to sleep because of his success. However, let it be known to Barrister Shittu that my God will not slumber or sleep. I have reported the matter to Almighty Allah to solicit on my behalf to collect my dues from him.
I will like to state that I will trust him again if only he returns to being the Shittu I used to know and ready to change and follow the doctrine of Islam to demonstrate good leadership, character and attitude with kindness and mercy, justice and fairness to all who serve under him without hindrance to anybody’s welfare. I admonish him not to forget so soon that the only thing that is permanent in life is change.