By RAZAQ BAMIDELE and CHINELO OBOGO
Dr.Abubakar Olusola Saraki the Waziri of the Ilorin Emirate was born on the 17th of May, 1933 at Ilorin, Kwara State and died in Lagos November 14, 2012. His mother was from Iseyin in Oyo State and his father was from Ilorin. His paternal ancestors were Fulanis who came from Mali about 150 to 200 years earlier. He was educated at Eko Boys High School, Lagos. He attended 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.
Beginning of political dynasty
He first entered politics when he ran in the 1964 parliamentary election for Ilorin as an independent candidate, but failed to win. After the election, he returned to his medical practice in Lagos, only to return to party-politics in 1978/79 when he teamed up with like minds to form the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
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, and became Senate Leader. In 1983 Saraki was re-elected into the Senate on the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) platform.
In 1998 Saraki became a national leader and member of the Board of Trustees of the All Peoples Party (APP), later All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), contributing to the APP success in Kwara and Kogi states by winning the governorship election of the two states. He assisted Mohammed Alabi Lawal in becoming governor of Kwara State. In 2001 he was head of a team from the Arewa Consultative Forum, a Northern cultural and political group, sent to meet and discuss common goals with Northern state governors and other leaders. Later Saraki switched allegiance to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and in the April 2003 elections supported his son, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki as candidate for governor of Kwara State while his daughter, Gbemisola Ruqayat Saraki as senator for Kwara State Central Senatorial District.
His many political battles
Dr. Bukola Saraki, over three decades proved beyond reasonable doubt that he was an undisputable godfather and strong man of Kwara politics. In 1978, when democracy berthed in the country for the second time after the military interregnum, he anointed a governorship candidate in person of Alhaji Adamu Attah who eventually became governor in 1979 on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). But by 1983, Attah had fallen out of favour with his godfather and wanted to prove that he could the independent. By the persuation of the party hierarchy coupled with the power of incumbency, Adamu Attah got the party’s ticket for a second term in office to which Saraki said “over my dead body.”
And paradoxically, Saraki then transferred his support to the opposition candidate, Cornelius Olatunji Adebayo of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). Interestingly, Adebayo of the UPN became governor in a state that was predominantly NPN. The administration, however never lived long as the military struck on the eve of January 1994 and sent democracy packing. General Muhammadu Buhari and Brigadier-General Tunde Idiagbon came in as Nigeria’s leaders.
When the whistle was blown by the military again for transition to civil rule in 1978 by Abdusalami Abubakar regime, the elder statesman pitched his tent with the All Peoples Party (APP), that later transformed to All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). And in his characteristic manner anointed yet another candidate in the person of the late Muhammed Lawal. And expectedly, Lawal won and became governor. But before the expiration of his first term in office, he also, like Adamu Attah fell out with his godfather.
This must have informed the strong politician popularly called ‘Oloye’ to decide to anoint his own child, Bukola to flush out Lawal from office in 2003. He must have had it at the back of his mind that either his son would not betray him or that it would be better for his son to betray him as his anointed political sons did.
And by the the last count of the ballot papers in Kwara State in 2003, Saraki once again succeeded in installing another governor, this time his own blood, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who is now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
His last political battle
In 2011, Saraki fought what could be described as his last political battle. And, interestingly and ironically, the opponent was his own biological son and the then sitting governor of Kwara State, Bukola Saraki. The bone of contention between the father and son was succession.
Being a political godfather that he was, Saraki senior wanted another child of his and the younger sister to the governor, Senator Gbemisola Saraki to succeed her brother. But the son saw the arrangement as very untidy and he squared up with his father by anointing another candidate, Abdul-Fatah Ahmed, who eventually, emerged governor of the state. To show his son that he was still the renowned political heavyweight of the state, he floated another political party, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), to fight the battle. But at the end of the day, the son won a battle that political watchers described as “no victor no vanquished,” since it was believed that, it was still the Saraki dynasty in control. Both later reconciled and members of the ACPN were reintegrated into the PDP.