“Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance”. -Roy T. Bennett.
Few days ago we gathered as usual at Ile Loke, once again to offer prayers for the repose of the soul of our late icon and father, Dr. Olusola Saraki, who transited from this world five years ago, on November 14, 2012.
The occasion expectedly was simple but profound, just in harmony with the personality of the late politician who rose against all odds to become the Senate Leader in the second republic. While Baba was alive, the only thing that distinguished him in a crowd would be the crowd itself; otherwise, he could pass you without your knowing an iroko in the political history of Nigeria had just walked by.
Renowned Islamic scholar, Sheikh Sulaiman Dan Borno reminded us at the prayers, which was supervised by the Chief Imam of Ilorin, on the need to emulate the lifestyle of the late Olooye. Baba was an epitome of simplicity and humanity, and there are several stories told again and again to show this; just as there are heaps of stories to buttress his philanthropy, another quality Dan Borno challenged us to also emulate.
The Sheikh told us there was need for the masses to feel our impact as politicians; stating that it will be the only tested avenue to prove that we are truly offspring of the deceased, whether biologically or through the annexure of politics. The factual Islamic scholar described the late politician as a lover of the masses who used his life to uplift and empower his people and repeated again and again the need for politicians to sustain the philanthropist gestures of the late Saraki to enable the masses feel their impacts.
Baba was a politician with a big heart; he was a politician with a soft heart; he could not bear to see his people suffer. No! And that perhaps explained why he would give, and give, and give, to the extent that people even began to say odd things against this habit. Human beings! Unlike few others, Baba realised early enough that it does not matter how far or how much, but what positive impact or effect you are able to have on other peoples lives. He was conscious of the fact that a thousand candles can be lighted from a single candle yet it does not reduce its illumination.
Baba’s life was a lesson in selfless commitment to the welfare of others. It was a lesson to ignore and overlook many things to provide for the people. He spent for the people like he never worked for his wealth. He never allowed economic expediency and freelance broadcasters dictate political and religious improprieties.
Baba’s action was always dictated by what made his people happy within the ambits of economic exigencies, moral expediencies and political realities. Baba knew that 99% of those who talked evil about him wanted to be like him or prayed for their children to be like him. He knew that when people cannot be like you, they try to bring you down and condemn you. He knew they will tag you and say you do not earn your money legitimately even though they have no fact to support their insinuations. He was never discouraged.
Baba knew that those who live a life of misery will always want to bring you down or put a spanner in the wheel of your progress. So, he never looked back doing what he knew how to do best: putting smile on the faces of people around him. His infectious smile could easily wipe away anybody’s sorrow. His usual “Omo ‘yami” rhetorics is more soothing than other peoples financial gratification.
But Baba Saraki radiated love and humility. He stood with the people and made them happy all the time. He had so many associates within and outside this community but he trusted his people whom he sacrificed every thing for. He knew our mothers and fathers are trustworthy, so he honoured and respected them. He never ignored any one.
Yes, Baba was a great achiever in his lifetime. Yet, I dare say that even in death, he achieved far more than whatever were his success stories while alive. The continuation of the political structure which he began to build in the 1960s is an affirmation of his unique success. How many of his ilks are as endowed as he is even after his demise? To have a successor who keeps succeeding in the same arena, using the same platform? The Almighty was truly kind to Baba. What God has done for Dr Saraki is an eloquent testimony to his honesty and sincerity of purpose. It is a testimony that Allah accepted his acts while alive.
And that is why sometimes I pity our leader, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who has taken over the leadership of the Saraki political structure. It is a big burden; particularly given the fact that his success on the throne would be measured with an eye on the past: this was how Baba did it, this was what Baba did, these were the people Baba helped, these were the places Baba went etc. I am happy that in the last five years, Dr. Bukola has been marching on, enlivening the story of his father’s memory by his acts of heroism and commitment to the people. Bukola has not left the people; he must not leave Baba’s people, he cannot leave Baba’s people who are now his own people. Baba would look out for just an individual in a crowd, because to him, as he often told the media; one vote could damage an electoral victory.
But would stop in the middle of a journey and change the life of an entire community with an unexpected but highly significant lifetime gift. But he was not a spendthrift; he was building a future for his children and preparing his life beyond. Uncountable number of people benefited from his philanthropic enterprise.
Bukola has continued to make his home the home for all. He cannot but do that; it was the hallmark of his father’s politics, the masterstroke of his engagement. You cannot call yourself a man of the people when your doors are closed against the people; you cannot label yourself a man of the people when you cannot sit in their midst and relate with them as co- travellers on a political trip. Bukola, from all indications, have learnt the lessons from his father well and five years down the line, we can say he is striving to beat the record.
Truly, he might not have met the expectations of some people, who I argue have always misunderstood or envied him; people seeking to place his personality on the same pedestal as that of his father, but in all, he has made great progress from being the almost shy PDP gubernatorial candidate in 2003, to being one of the most, if not the most resilient politician of the current dispensation in Nigeria.
I am sure the Senate President is daily conscious of the burden he carries, particularly at home where his father has created a huge appetite of affection and loyalty for himself and his offspring. That appetite must be fed continually with reciprocal affection, generosity of the hand and a continuation of the philosophy of Ile Loke; a home for all and a place where the political destiny of Kwara state would continue to be properly guided.
May Allah forgive Baba Saraki sins and grant him Aljanatul firdous.
Oba can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org