Describing him as an enigma is certainly not out of place, calling him an icon, a political Kingpin, godfather and philanthropist are most appropriate. It was Rosa Parks that said, “Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others”. No doubt this is indeed a truism of life.
To say the fact, all the adjectives strongly and aptly described him. He was one of the mysteries of God to mankind. Till he passed away, one never could aptly describe him or know what he was thinking neither could anyone really explained his motives for doing those things he did.
The subject here is no other person than the iconic enigma, late Abubakar Olusola Saraki, father of the former senate president, Dr Olubukola Saraki, of former senator, now Minister of Roads and Transport, Senator, Oluwagbemisola Saraki, Tope Edu and Olaolu Saraki.
Olusola Saraki was born on 17 May 1933 at Kwara State and died in Lagos 14 November 2012, but buried in his Ilorin home according to Islamic rites. Said to be of Malian origin, he was popularly know as ‘omo Tahiru Labijan’ of the Ilorin Agbaji quarters stock.
He was a medical doctor, with his private hospital in Surulere area of Lagos, a politician, charismatic leader and philanthropist. A one time Senate leader and political kingmaker. He actually made so many kings, albeit political kings across Nigeria, but especially in Kwara state.
Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki Turaki and later Waziri of Ilorin, was a man to be reckoned with in his days, he wielded so much power and influence that major issues were taken into consideration based on his involvement. He was a man you loved to hate and hate to love but interestingly, it is your own emotion that you had to put in check, when it comes to him.
I had my first personal contact with baba Saraki back in 1975 at ‘ile film’ where my mother was the directress of the restaurant/bar, the popular Sweet Banana Alhaja Ile film, and after chatting my younger brother and I up, he was impressed and gave me two bundles of mint 50 kobo notes and my brother a bundle.
He left an impression on my young mind then and even when in 1979, the NPN and UPN were the major parties of the day followed by PRP, I tilted towards UPN in sympathy, and Alhaji Babatunde Alanamu would call me ‘omo Awo and jokingly urge my mum not to give me food, because she was a woman leader of NPN, but Baba Saraki and Alhaji Kola Balogun, Alh Onikaun would have none of that. They were always urging me on to hold to my belief but that as I grow older, they would rather I consider NPN a party to follow.
Years later, during the All Peoples Party, APP days, baba was always calling for me. I remember vividly how daddy, Prof Ogunsola bought me the Nitel Call card for easy access to them and how I get to talk to both of them on regular basis for facts about political happenings while in Jos, Plateau state. That’s story for another day!
The Turakin and later Waziri of Ilorin, Dr. Olusola Saraki, the main patron of Kwara Politics and second Republic senate leader from 1979 to 1983 when the second Republic was truncated, recorded enormous successes and touched very many lives as a medical doctor and very many more as a politician and philanthropist. Late Saraki was a visionary leader, a detribalised Nigerian, sagacious and honest business mogul. His foes and detractors would if honest, attest to the fact that he was a man with unparalleled spirit of true charity. Oloye was a benevolent leader and politician, he helped many up the political ladder to become what they never thought the could become in politics. Many became governors, members of National and State Assemblies, Ministers, Ambassadors, as well as commissioners among other positions that include board memberships at the mere mention of his name, which was enough ticket to any political post, even when they were not members of his immediate family.
Dr Sola Saraki actually had a way with his followers, some of who often than not betrayed him. Perhaps those who actually were loyal usually don’t benefit or benefit less than those who were traitors, this of course seems to have robbed off on some of his scions. No grudges really!
Perhaps it is because he trusted too much and believed they could change.
As a presidential aspirant in the platform of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, I witnessed first hand a betrayal that was fundamental but interestingly, these traitors and their wards benefitted so much from him and his children that no one would have believed that these are persons that also betrayed the son and worked hard towards breaking the family to fragments and celebrated it.
To say the least, Nigeria has surely lost a great man in the political arena and a benevolent soul when it comes to welfarism. I remember when I had to work at Benin, Edo State branch of my paper, Citywatch Magazine then, I met someone who became very nice to me because of the fact that my mother was Dr Sola Saraki’s woman leader. She recounted how baba Saraki aided her studies in UK when she thought she could no longer go further in her educational pursuits. Certainly, there are so many benefits derived from this trail blazer that could take years to recount.
A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself” so says Joseph Campbell. Baba Saraki’s capacity to spread joy and give comforting hope is not such to wave aside. These attributes he shared with his soul mate and friend, Professor Albert Ogunsola. No wonder they were such wonderful friends and compatriots. The duo shared lives governed by selflessness and high moral behaviour and attitude that was loud to the high heaven. Baba Olusola Saraki’s enthusiasm and optimism towards life and helping others was rather unparalleled, even when it is at the expense of his own comfort.
I was opportune to be on a table with Baba Oloye, as popularly called, when looking at the CCTV, he saw an attitude of some of his aides towards some old women, to say he was seething with anger was an understatement as he rushed out and we had to run after him. Believe me, he shocked me by his reaction and was ready to suspend his aides but for the pleas from the old women.
He loved the women, especially the aged and took care of their medical bills and in some cases took a number of them on vacation. There was a time he took some women to the United Kingdom to understudy some international trading, some of them, among Alhaja Onaolapo Alata, who came back with scientific knowledge of how to go about their businesses, in spite of their western educational limitations. He repeated the same gesture to many members of the Constitutional Conference in the Abacha era where he acted as the facilitator, and of course, this was across party lines.
Now back to the eighth day prayer in his remembrance on 14th day of November, 2020, it was history made, and very nostalgic one at that. Of all that was done on the day, it was the reconciliation of his children, the two major players, The leader, former governor, former senate president of Nigeria, Dr Bukola Saraki and his beautiful, charitable sister, erstwhile senator and current Minister of Transportation in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Gbemisola Saraki.
What transpired was an affirmation of the fact that blood is thicker than water and that family ties are not easily broken. I feel so happy for them and I guess baba Saraki’s soul will rest in perfect peace. I presume it is the beginning of more good things to come.
I join others in saying rest in peace to the man that we cannot forget in a hurry. Baba Saraki will live in the hearts of many for whatever you choose tobut his good deeds to humanity and legacies will remain in the heart of his beneficiaries and admirers.