Dr. Olusola Saraki (1933-2012) Senate Leader, Second Republic Senate
By Eric Dumo
As emotions were still pouring in over the sudden demise of Alhaji Lamidi Adesina, former governor of Oyo State, the nation woke up yet to another shocking news, last Wednesday, when the death of Dr. Olusola Saraki, a former senate leader, hit the country’s airwaves. It was not the type of news anyone looked forward to especially the people of Kwara State, his kinsmen, to whom he had become more than just a political leader. To many Kwarans, Saraki was the pillar upon which their hope of development and progress was built.
So, the big question on the lips of mourners the day the remains of Dr. Saraki were returned to mother earth was: there goes Oloye (the chief, as he was fondly called), when comes another? It is a multi-million-naira poser only time would answer. In a condolence message issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, President Goodluck Jonathan, apart from extolling the virtues of the late politician, described him as a man who stood on the side of his people and cherished their welfare above all other things.
“President Jonathan extends sincere commiserations to the elder statesman’s family and the people of his home state, Kwara, to whose service and upliftment he selflessly devoted his long and very successful career in politics,” the statement began. “Saraki will be “long remembered and eulogized as a consummate politician, an astute grassroots mobiliser, and a political colossus with awe-inspiring powers of political organization.
“The President has no doubts that this public-spirited politician will always occupy a place of honour in the hearts of his people, supporters, friends and associates across the nation. He believes that the ordinary people of Kwara in particular will always remember the Oloye with great affection because of the constant support they received from him.
“Dr. Saraki’s brand of people-oriented politics and his success in building on his strong support base to contribute positively to Nigeria’s political development as a powerful voice in the nation’s dominant political parties, as the Senate Majority Leader in the Second Republic, and as the ultimate reference point in the politics of Kwara State for decades, have assured him of a place amongst Nigeria’s heroes of democracy,” the statement read in parts.
It was not only Aso Rock, the nation’s seat of power, that expressed sadness over the demise of the Kwaran strongman. Eulogies and emotions have been flowing in from far and near as well. Many, who knew Oloye closely during his lifetime, say the ideals he represented and the path he took would remain a constant reminder of his contributions to developing his society. ‘’Dr. Saraki defined his era,” the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, said, in a statement released by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
“Since his entry into politics several decades ago, politics has never been the same again, especially in his native Kwara State, where he became synonymous with the politics of the state. ‘’Any politician who ignored him in his lifetime did so at his own peril, and only the casualties of his deft political maneuvering can appreciate his clinical political efficiency.’’ Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy President of the Senate, says Nigeria has lost one of its wisest political leaders. “Saraki lived for the people, politicked for the people, and was totally and consistently committed to the people. His death is a collective loss for the Senate where he distinguished himself as one of the most charismatic and vibrant Senate Leaders.
He would forever be remembered as a man who promoted the philosophy of people’s welfare as the crux of politics.” Ekweremadu spoke through his Special Adviser, Media, Uche Anichukwu. From Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, former special adviser on National Assembly Matters to ex-president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Saraki’s exit, signals the end of an era, one, which, he says, would be tough to replicate. “The death of Senator Abubakar Saraki is a great loss not only to his family and political associates but to the people of Kwara State and the nation in general.
His demise signals a painful end of an era, as it will take a very long time for Nigeria to replace him. “Saraki was able to master the loyalty of his people for decades and was able to use that position to forge a strong national unity. “By his death, Nigeria has lost one of its leaders who worked hard to sustain and strengthen democracy in the nation. He established bonds of friendship across ethnic and religious divide in Nigeria. He died as an embodiment of national unity. “May Allah forgive his sins and grant an abode in Jannatul Firdaus.
May Allah grant his family the fortitude and courage to bear the irreparable loss. May his gentle soul rest in eternal peace.” Chief Segun Oni, national vice chairman (South-West) of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, labeled the late politician as an exceptional professional, grassroots man and inspiring leader. “Baba was truly a political timber, a colossus of wide diameter and a wonderful political strategist. He was unarguably one of the most successful politicians in this part of the continent of Africa, having controlled the politics of Kwara State for over 40 years.
“Indeed, we have lost a great man, a great man who loved his people passionately and served them diligently. We have lost a kingmaker par excellence and a man who always exemplified commitment to the betterment of peoples’ life. We have lost a great man who made an enduring foundation for our party, the PDP in Kwara State. May his soul rest in peace.” For Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, Nigeria, as a country, has lost a totally detribalized Nigerian, a huge reservoir of experience, and a bridge-builder who traversed all the geo-political zones in Nigeria. He said Saraki was an exemplary party man who was influential in formulating the legislative agenda of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, in the Second Republic.
“A chapter in the history of Nigerian politics has closed with the death, Wednesday, of the death of Senator Olusola Abubakar Saraki,” Ndoma-Egba said in the statement. “Nigeria has lost a wealth of political experience with the passage of a great tactician and politician. “In his time, he was a consummate party man who never deviated from the tenets of his party and was able to galvanize his colleagues to achieving the goals of the NPN in the Second Republic Senate. “Senator Saraki was an enigma to so many people and it is a testament to the way he practiced his politics such that he was able to endear himself to his kinsmen.
His political sagacity produced governor after governor in Kwara State. “He built, nurtured and sustained an enviable political dynasty which saw his first son, Bukola, become not only a two-term governor of Kwara State, but who is now a senator. Under his tutelage, his daughter, Gbemisola, was also a parliamentarian who started from the House of Representatives and also became a two-term senator. He was a man of the people.”
The barrage of heartfelt messages and outpouring of emotions following the demise of Dr. Saraki have, indeed, been overwhelming. From politician associates to the ordinary people on the streets whom the late politician represented more than a few things, the grief and frustrations of his exit have been very evident. Born on May 17, 1933, at Ilorin, capital of his native Kwara State, Saraki had a flourishing career as a medical doctor before vying into politics in the early 1960s when he ran in the parliamentary election for Ilorin as an independent candidate. Rising from that defeat at the polls, he returned to Lagos to concentrate on his medical practice before being lured back into politics years later, around 1978.
Eko Boys High School, University of London, and St George’s Hospital Medical School, London, are some of the notable institutions he attended while as a medical practitioner, he worked with the General Hospital and Creek Hospital, both in Lagos. Between 1979, when he was elected a Senator in the Second Republic, and when he passed on during the week, he had a strong influence over the way politics in his native Kwara was played.
He was chairman of the defunct Societe Generale Bank, SGBN. According to his son, Olaolu, Saraki died of cancer after about five years of battling the diseases. He would surely be missed by all who knew him.