Recently, two former aides of the Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, were served disengagement letters in a manner that is still being questioned in the court of public opinion. One of the former aides, Sheikh Tajudeen Imam, who was Special Assistant to the Minister on Special Duties spoke with GLORIA USMAN on his working experience with his former friend turned boss. Excerpts:
You and your colleague, the former SA, Media to the Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, were served disengagement letters; what led to the development?
I would say the disengagement was most 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 minister, there were at the time SA (Political), PA to the minister and SA Media. These were the three foundation SAs. Later, SA (Technical) joined us, then SA (Administration), who is a civil servant, was posted from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), to serve him too.
On assumption of 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 minister that my emolument will be discussed and paid promptly. After one week in 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 will recall that in 2015, the Oyo State chapter of the APC placed a full page advert in The Nation newspapers, declaring that they rejected Barrister Adebayo Shittu as ministerial nominee from the state. In the advert, the 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.
The Minister accused you of meeting with his political opponent, Dr Yunus Akintunde, former Commissioner for Works in Oyo State. 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 gotten to the minister and he 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.
I told the person that there’s no problem, I can never deny Dr Yunus Akintunde, wherever I see him, I will acknowledged him and thank him for all he has done to support us. Incredibly, I used to know him to be best friend to the 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 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.
Were you taken by surprise?
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 Katsina 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, before 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 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 yesterday when I received the letter. As a matter of fact, I went to represent the minister at an assignment he sent me in Abuja yesterday 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.
Any regret working with the 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 been my company’s lawyer and partner in progress for the past 16 years. I have 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’s 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.
If he pays the money peacefully-fine, if he decides not to, 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, it was because of that relationship, that I became loyal to him. 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 as he has 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.