It is now five years that a special soul returned to its divine source. It was in the morning, on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 as the cool breeze of dawn ferried the prayers of the faithful to heaven for assent. He left on a Wednesday, the same day of the week his Maker chose for him at birth, 79 years previously.
The son of Mouktar [an abundantly wealthy Ilorin merchant] and Humuani [a princess from Iseyin in present day Oyo State] was born into the world on Wednesday, May 17, 1933. At the time of his return to his maker that November morning, five years ago, he had expended 79 years, 5months on earth; roughly 29,036 days!
Olusola Saraki was an avatar of peace. He was passionate about all aspects of Nigeria’s political emancipation and evolution. He detested military dictatorships, unconstitutional grandstanding and all forms of misrule. He believed that men and women with genuine socio-developmental cum political agenda should renounce violence, brigandage, armed revolts and militancy; that we must necessarily embrace acceptable, civil and democratic methods in the pursuit and realisation of genuinely positive dreams and aspirations. He had many detractors who were relentless in fanning furnaces of hatred against him throughout his lifetime. For each one of them however, he had hundreds of thousands of others who loved him legitimately and passionately for the true leader, gentleman, man of great friendship and quintessential statesman that he was.
Olusola Saraki was the greatest among them all! In the history of Nigeria’s political theatrics, no other politician achieved so much and consistently for so long. This was not an accident. Saraki was a keen and meticulous player who employed three core principles to build discipleship, nurture followership, elicit loyalty and broker amity with discordant camps. Dialogue, consultation and a political family sustained on the principle of equality of all men are the three strategies that helped to achieve his success. Consultation was a skill he used with his disciples and followers with ease; dialogue was the tactic he mastered, especially for those on the ‘other side’. Violence was never one of his methods, never.
Like the famed Ghandi and Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister [with whom he shared months of birth and death in reverse order [Nehru was born on November 14, died in the month of May] Saraki would not sit down to a table of dialogue with a man in a cloak of war and violence. The greatest weapon he depended on was the ‘goodwill’ of the people and how he could champion it to achieve political success at the polls. He charted his journeys with consultations; he punctuated his travels with persuasive ‘buy-in’ discussions. Saraki never went to the field with machetes, never with guns. Never also did he go without his toga of dialogue.
The other part of the triad is the most remarkable. Oloye was egalitarian to the core. All those who knew him, worked with him, even his opponents who encountered him in the field, will attest to this. To him, with him and before him, equality (with equity) was the only strand that has the capacity to keep everybody in line; an assurance that whoever you are and irrespective of sentimental pedigree [religion, social status, education, family lineage etc], you can aspire and participate in political interactions, freely and without fear of prejudice or bias. Apart from several other unwritten ethos and virtues, egalitarianism stands out as the strongest code inside the Great Hall – the political nerve centre of the Saraki Political dynasty. Inside that Hall, elitism is subdued and the dignity of all men upheld, be they tall or short.
It was therefore commonplace to see Saraki mingle freely with the widest possible spectrum of personalities inside the warm chambers of the Great Hall and even in the open streets of Ilorin and rural townships across Kwara. As far as he was concerned there are no walls around humans; everyone is equal and climbing high horses is an art employed by the ignorant. Saraki may not have attained ‘high office’ like Awolowo, Azikwe, Tafawa Balewa and the rest of that ilk [he aspired and contested for the Presidency unsuccessfully a number of times: in 1979, during the failed IBB transition fiasco and in 1999 on Nigeria’s return to democratic rule] but it is to his credit that the political family he founded, as symbolised in the Great Hall, remains the most successful and efficient political apparatus in Nigeria’s history. No other individual, institution or entity, with so little has achieved so much in such sustained manner.
Today, the Great Hall is an enduring and lasting legacy of Olusola Saraki and the virtues and ethos upon which it was founded stand undisturbed. After 29, 036 days on earth, this rare man went back. From that moment in 1964 when, putting his feet into the murky waters of politics, he was stung first with defeat, to the time of his passage, he never looked back. He was elected into the Senate in 1979 and served as Senate Leader from 1979 to 1983. His second tenure in the Senate was however cut short by the Buhari/Idiagbon coup d’etat that ended Nigeria’s democratic chapter at that time. His daughter, Senator Gbemisola Rukayat Saraki was also elected twice into the Senate [2003 – 2011] after a term in the House of Representatives.
His son and scion, Sen. Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON (two term executive governor of Kwara State) is the de facto and de jure successor of Olusola Saraki. Like a true scion, he has over the past years raised the bar and entrenched even more deeply the famed tenets of the Saraki political family. Not only is he holding on to the political reins firmly, attaining the Presidency of the Senate and Chairmanship of the National Assembly (Olusola Saraki was Leader in the Senate during his own time); more importantly, Bukola Saraki has widened the entrance door to the ‘Great Hall’, opened the courtyard alleys and ushered several men and women from behind the backdrop into the centre stage.
When the beloved Waziri, His Eminence Olusola Saraki was taken away by the divine messengers of silence five years ago, all eyes swiftly swooped on Senator(Dr.) Bukola Saraki, Turaki of Ilorin, the political leader of Kwara and de-facto head of the Great Hall; custodian of the egalitarian and populist traditions of the Saraki Political Family. The eyes that swooped on Bukola Saraki five years ago were an admixture of anxiety, trepidation, and hope. Today, just as five years ago, all eyes are still on him, but unlike that time all the eyes are now filled with pride, admiration and unreserved respect!
Senator Bukola Saraki has not only proven that the Great Hall is in a tested and veritable hand; without faltering, he has provided robust needed leadership for Kwara, the entire North-Central and indeed Nigeria! He, by sheer dexterity, stamina of mind and foresight, provided a stabilising flux and served as fulcrum for the Nigerian nation at a time of great uncertainty and seeming confusion. At no time in Nigeria’s history is the National Assembly as united as it is today in the 8th Republic under the leadership of Senator Bukola Saraki. One cannot say the same thing for other strata of Nigeria’s politburo.
Olusola Saraki has therefore not just left us with varying endearing mementos that make his memory evergreen, he has left us himself, incarnate and present, embodied in the person and persona of Senator Bukola Saraki! He is Olooye’s greatest testament, an undying legacy and a gift to Nigeria!
With the Waziri’s departure five years ago, an important chapter in Nigeria’s political history was closed and a new and enterprising one opened. May divine breaths continue to comfort and console Morenike Saraki, his wife and earthly companion of many years; may divine hands uphold the beloved children of the Patriarch – Bukola, Gbemisola, Loalu, Tope.
“When the angels take the lives of the righteous, the angels say to them: ‘Salaamun Alikum, enter paradise, because of the good deeds that you used to do (during your life)’ “(Quran 6:32)
To the patriarch and founder of the Great Hall, the Waziri of Ilorin, Abubakar Olusola Saraki, I say Salaamum Alikum, may the Mercies, Comforts and Lights of the Almighty God continue to abide with you in the place of your rest. Ameen, ameen.
DR. SEYI ADIGUN, M.B.,B.S(Ib). AIIN.
Medical Doctor & author of Prayer for
the Mwalimu & A Child of Smell.
Chairman, Governing Council, Kwara
State College of Nursing, Oke-Ode.