Former Senate leader and strongman of Kwara politics Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki breathed his last yesterday morning at his Lagos residence. A victim of cancer, he has since been buried according to Muslim rites.
There is no contemporary Nigerian politician with the kind of mythical grip he had on his home state Kwara. For decades, he singlehandedly determined who got what, where and when in the politics of the state and the federation.
No one dared him, except his son Bukola (now a senator), who ironically was the fifth civilian governor he installed at the Kwara Government House.
The seeming disagreement between father and son was seen by pundits as a transition in the Saraki political dynasty because the elder Saraki was in his twilight.
To underscore the essence of the archetypal elder statesman, Gov. Abdulfattah Ahmed of Kwara declared yesterday a work-free day to allow residents of the state to receive the body of the late politician. He also ordered a three-day mourning for the departed politician.
Saraki, fondly known as Oloye, was the Waziri of Ilorin. He was a consummate politician, an astute grassroots mobiliser, a political colossus with awe-inspiring powers of political organisation. President Goodluck Jonathan remembers him as "one of Nigeria's most prominent leaders, medical practitioner and democrat". ACN leader Bola Tinubu has described the late Saraki as a statesman of immense prodigy.
Born on May 17, 1933, in Ilorin, he was elected to the Senate in 1979 on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria. Saraki was educated at Eko Boys' High School, the University of London, and St George's Hospital Medical School, London. He worked as a medical officer at the General Hospital, Lagos, and the Creek Hospital, Lagos, before veering into business and later politics.
But it is in politics that he made an indelible mark. He first entered politics when he ran in the 1964 parliamentary election for Ilorin as an independent, but failed to win. He however made sufficient business success as a boardroom guru and chairman of the defunct Societe General Bank to re-launch his political career.
Subsequently, he produced governors, state and federal lawmakers, and ran for president at a time. In 1977, Olusola Saraki was elected as a member of the Constituent Assembly that produced the 1979 Constitution. In 1979, he was elected a senator of the Second Republic on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria and became Senate leader.
In 1998, he became a national leader and member of the Board of Trustees of the All Peoples Party, contributing to the party's success in Kwara and Kogi states. Later, Saraki switched allegiance to the Peoples Democratic Party, and, in the 2003 elections, supported his son as candidate for governor of Kwara State.
Kwarans and party politics would miss the acumen of this legendary fixer and selfless political godfather. The vacuum created by his exit would be difficult to fill even by the scion of his political dynasty.
Saraki was a man of uncommon compassion - Atiku
Former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, has described the death of Dr. Olusola Saraki like the fall of a big star from the galaxy of Nigerian politics.
In a condolence message released by his media office in Abuja, on Wednesday, the former vice president said the late Olusola Saraki was not only tremendously influential but also uncommonly compassionate.
According to him, his uncommon compassion was the source of his political relevance and influence among his people. The Turaki Adamawa acknowledged that, despite occasional controversies that trailed his politics, a few Nigerian politicians could rival Saraki’s compassion towards the ordinary people, adding that he touched so many lives while he lived.
Atiku recalled with fond memories the role of the late Saraki in the formation of political parties – from Nigeria Peoples Party (NPN) the Peoples Front (PF) and the defunct All Peoples Party (APP).
Turaki also recalled the role the late strongman of Kwara and himself played in bringing Kwara State and its leading lights back into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2003 after the state had initially strayed into the APP.
The former vice president said one of the greatest virtues of the late Ciroma of Ilorin was that he lived for the people and they loved him in return.
He advised other politicians to borrow a leaf from the compassionate virtues of the late Grand Patron of Kwara politics.
While condoling with the family of the deceased and wishing them the emotional strength to overcome this great loss, Atiku Abubakar advised the government of Kwara State to immortalise this political icon.
Saraki was a leader of Northern Nigeria and Nigeria - Gov Aliyu
Niger State Governor, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, has described the famous late politician and Senate leader, in the defunct Second Republic, Senator Abubakar Olusola Saraki as a political giant, who won for himself friends across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
Dr. Olusola Saraki died in Lagos, on Wednesday, during a brief illness. He was aged 79 years and had since been buried same day in Ilorin, Kwara State capital, according to Islamic rites.
Paying tribute to the late frontline politician (aka Oloye) Dr. Aliyu described him as one of the fathers of Nigeria.The governor said the deceased contributed tremendously to the development of not only Kwara State in particular, but Nigeria in general.
‘He gathered goodwill for himself and his family because of his generosity,’ Dr. Aliyu said, adding that the deceased was a leader of Northern Nigeria and Nigeria as a whole.’ ‘I am touched by his departure and I pray that Almighty Allah will give him eternal rest.’
The governor also prayed that God gives the family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
Meanwhile, Governor Aliyu has said that he would personally lead a high powered government delegation to the fidau prayers of the late politician , depending on the time fixed by the deceased’s family members.
The chairmen of Mokwa, Edati, Lavun and Borgu local government areas of the state are expected to be on the delegation with the governor, at the fidau prayers for the late political icon.
Saraki’s death, a great loss - Mimiko
Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, has expressed shock over the demise of Dr. Chief Olusola Saraki, saying that the exit of the political gadfly, is a great loss to the generation of political icons and nationalists in the country.
Governor Mimiko said Chief Saraki would be greatly missed, for the roles he played in the nation’s political history, especially his pre-eminence in Kwara State politics where he was the numero uno.
The governor said the deceased elder statesman would be fondly remembered for the stabilising role he played while he was the Senate Leader of the Second Republic.
His words: “we are going to miss this great political avatar of our time, who was a stabilising force while he was the Senate Leader of the National Assembly of the Second Republic,” adding that this loss is, indeed, a colossal one.
Governor Mimiko, who condoled with members of the bereaved family and the people of Kwara State as well as the Federal Government of Nigeria, was of the view, that Allah will grant the deceased Aljana Fidau, as he served humanity well while here on earth.
However, he enjoined the bereaved family to take solace in the fact that their patriarch has lived a fulfilled life, as he will remain a reference point in the Nigerian politics forever, even as he prayed to God to grant them the fortitude to bear this loss.
Saraki was most compassionate and generous - Fanikayode
I have just been informed about the passing on of Dr. Olusola Saraki, and I am in deep shock. This news saddens me immensly. He was one of the greatest, kindest, most compassionate, most generous and most selfless leaders that we have ever had in this country.
His power and influence stretched from the Second Republic when he was the Leader of the Senate, on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) up till today. He made the dreams and aspirations of many come true and throughout his lifetime he brought nothing but smiles to many faces. He was my late father’s close and loyal friend and he was like a father to me and so many others. This is not a good time for him to go because Nigeria needs him now more than ever and we shall all miss him dearly.
My heart goes out to the Saraki family. I mourn with them and I stand shoulder to shoulder with them today. Like David said about the passage of Saul, I say about the passing on of Dr. Olusola Saraki ‘’how are the mighty fallen in the midst of battle, how are the mighty fallen and the weapons of war perished’’. May the soul of this great son of Nigeria rest in perfect peace.
Nigeria has lost another political icon in Saraki - Aregbesola
The governor of Osun State, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, has described the death of Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki as unfortunate and sad.
In a statement issued by his Director of Comunications and Strategy, Mr Semiu Okanlawon, on Wednesday, he said the death of Saraki was a great loss to the nation.
Aregbesola stated that Saraki’s experience, knowledge, versatility and ingenuity in the art and dynamics of lawmaking and politics in general, would be missed greatly.
Second Republic Senate Leader and the Waziri of Ilorin Emirate, the governor observed, had a very active and successful political career, stressing that the history of Kwara State as well as Nigeria politics will be incomplete without a chapter devoted to the contribution of Oloye.
His words: “He was a Second Republic Senate leader on the platform of the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Dr. Olusola Saraki for decades, bestrode the political firmament of Kwara State like a colossus.
“During his time, he was a shrewd politician, though a conservative medical doctor by training, who excelled more on the political turf; an astute administrator, a religious leader, bridge-builder, leader of men, and a firm believer in selfless service to his immediate people of Kwara and by extension Nigeria in general.
“No doubt, the personality of this great, old political warhorse, would be hard to come by again. Indeed, a huge gulf has been created with the demise of Wazirin Ilorin.
“On behalf of myself and the people of Osun, I offer our condolences to the entire family of Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, the people of Kwara and Nigerians as a whole. We pray that Almighty Allah grants the departed soul Aljaana Firdaus.”
His passion for the poor was unequalled - Smart Adeyemi
Chairman, Senate Committee on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Senator Smart Adeyemi, has described the demise of former Senate Leader, Senator Olusola Saraki as a huge loss, which has left a big vacuum in the hearts of the masses of Nigeria.
Senator Adeyemi, in a message, on Wednesday, said that the late Saraki had passion for the poor, which according to him, remained unequalled till his demise.
Senator Adeyemi, who represents Kogi West in the Senate, said of Saraki: “The way he attended to people, his passion for the poor affected me, and it made me to make up my mind to join politics.
“As a journalist, I once asked him how to succeed as a politician, and he told me I must help the poor, the women and the youth. He said that when you help the poor, they write your matter in their hearts,” adding that Saraki was a detribalised person, who remained faithful to his desire to uplift the poor.
“I recall that in the Second Republic, there was no community that wanted to set up a school in the old Kwara State that Saraki did not donate to. I do not know of any Nigerian that is as passionate about the poor people as Dr. Olusola Saraki. He believed in raising the standards of living of the poor people, and that has influenced the way I do my politics,” Senator Adeyemi stated.
The Senator further said that Saraki was an exemplary Nigerian who never discriminated on the basis of religion or ethnicity.
“He was a wonderful man who contributed immensely to the socio-economic development of the old Kwara state. He did not know religion or tribe and as a Muslim, he sent people to Jerusalem more than many Christians. The power of Baba Saraki was that he helped many people. He was a great man,” Senator Adeyemi said.
Saraki’s death marks end of an era - Oyinlola
Former Osun State governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, has described the death of Dr Olusola Saraki as the end of an era.
Prince Oyinlola, who is also the National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in a statement, described Dr Saraki as a colossus in the politics of Nigeria, who left a vacuum that would be difficult to fill.
He described the deceased as a leader per excellence who ensured the development of democratic culture in his political life.
The PDP national secretary said the death of the Waziri of Ilorin ended a phase in the politics of Kwara State and in Nigeria.
"He was a principled supporter of the masses. He dined with both the high and the low without losing touch with the realities of his leadership. He was a leader who was loved across all social and political divides. The poor people, especially of his Kwara State base, have lost a benefactor and a mentor.
"In his years in politics, it is instructive that he never lost any battle. He was as altruistic as he was patriotic in all his dealings. Nigeria has lost a gem and his exit, no doubt, marked the end of an era.
"While all of us who were fortunate to be close to him and to his immediate family feel a personal sense of loss in his demise, the consolation is that he lived well and died well. We pray that God will grant his soul eternal peace and give his family the grace and fortitude to bear the loss," he said.
Source: Nigerian Tribune