The death of Dr Abubakar Saraki marks an important era in Kwara nay Nigerian political terrain. Here Laaro attempts a synopsis Saraki’s rise in politics that led to what some have referred to as hegemony.
And the Journey starts : he contested and lost a federal house election in 1964. Legend has it that his ballot box was filled with ‘ewe eko’, solid pap leaves; in despise of his brazenness to stand for election in the midst of titans of Northern Progressive Congress like Alhaji Saadu Gbogbo Iwe Alanamu,--the second Waziri of Ilorin and the maternal grandfather of Dele Belgore, The Buari Eduns etc and masses-pulling, grassroot movement of Talaka Parapo, a nightmare for the ruling elites of Ilorin then.
The first community recognition: his turbaning as the second Turaki of Ilorin to succeed the late Alhaji Sanni Okin. The title is now with Bukola Saraki following the installation of Baba Saraki as the 3rd Waziri of Ilorin.
The political leadership vacuum in Ilorin: by 1975 there was vacuum in the political leadership of Ilorin for participation in national politics. The politicians of the first republic had become old or had gone on voluntary retirement. Saraki stepped in; it was strategic for Ilorin to accept him.
Concretising a fledging political journey: the 1975 LGA elections, the constituent assembly, the NPN formation, his contesting as presidential candidate in NPN primaries, the chairmanship of NPN Kwara chapter, his election into the senate of second republic and as the senate leader
The Kingmaker: installation of Ilorin Local govt council in 1976, his critical endorsement of candidates and appointments in the second republic:- the election of Adamu Atta as governor, the appointment of Alhaji M Oniyangi as minister in Shagari government; the critical and strategic support in electing Chief C.O Adebayo as the Governor in 1983, the decider in Alhaji Shaba Lafiaji as Gov in 1991/1992, the preferential choice of Admiral Lawal against some popular choice to the Governorship post in 2003 and the replacement of Lawal with Bukola Saraki.
The battles: the Adamu Atta standoff, the Oniyangi/Salake challenge, the clash with the palace (Ilorin), the Lawal “apostate”/Khalifa Bukola project
The legend/invincibility around Saraki: his foretold birth by a sage, the fall/oblivion/death, one by one of oppositions figures and the prediction by a woman of the succession of Bukola (see Fatai Dare’s Book the Honorary Title holders of Ilorin), his palpable covenant with the Alfas that fortified him spiritually and this funny one: his citron car he drove in the 70s post Turaki turbaning can sail on water in the case of excessive flooding while driving!!!.
The travails: the detention by the Buhari/Idiagbon regime alongside other politicians. The loss of the presidential ticket alongside other candidates like MKO Abiola, Umar Dikko to Alhaji Shehu Shagari in NPN primaries at Gboko in 1978. The loss of the presidential ticket in the SDP primaries during the never ending political transition of IBB. The loss, narrowly, with a lot of high wired manipulations; of the APP presidential ticket at Kaduna in 1999. And the last, more fresh one: the rejection of Gbemisola as Governorship candidate in the run for the 2011 elections, by the Ilorin core elites - the Alfas, the educated younger ones, the traditional chiefs.
Moment of triumph: resignation of the entire six commissioners but one from the Ilorin Emirate in solidarity with Saraki against Adamu Atta’s ‘effrontery”; his deft in managing and surviving the squabbles with the palace and the vital if not the most sweet one, the Lawal’s defeat in 2003.
The philanthropist: paying of tax for tax detainees. He was said to have intervened and paid the tax of some people arrested by agents of the Balogun arguing that they were poor and unable to pay. This marks his fabled philanthropic gestures. The empathetic feelings for Ilorin women. He himself related his observance that most menial job seekers he used to see in Lagos were mostly women from Ilorin. This made him wonder why; and he resolved to do something. By his reckoning politics is the best vehicle to alleviate masses’ welfare challenges. So he joined politics to help the poor masses. Annual Ramadan gifts; he maintained for years; an annual distribution of grains, cattle and beverages without discrimination except those who reject on principle. And there were many rejecters just as there were many enthusiastic collectors. The sponsoring of people on Hajj pilgrimage and educational scholarship.
Community service: the intervention during water scarcity. Ilorin experienced a water scarcity in the early seventies. It was so severe that women and children left their homes as earlier as 4am to scoop water in springs mostly found in swaths or swamps. He intervened through provision of water tankers to supply water to Ilorin metropolis and built water reservoirs in different locations. The constant support for mosque projects. The highest single donor for IDPU Ilorin township road projects, in the 70s (see LAK Jimoh’s Ilorin the Journey so far). Ilorin new mosque project, 1977. Ilorin Comprehensive High Schools project and the support for the building of Amule bridge fondly call “biriji Saraki”.
Saraki and the oppositions:
(a) The partisan opposition:- the UPN of Olawoyin and C.O Adebayo, the DPN of Gbenga Olawepo, the rather subtle, rivalry like opposition from the Abdulrasaq family and the ACN of Dele Belgore.
(b). The dissenters: intraparty disagreement in NPN of Adamu Atta/ Haliru Dantoro (now Emir of Borgu), /Oniyangi/Salake coalition.
(c) The Laval’s stoop to conquer approach,
(d) The filial “principled” uprising of Bukola in 2011 elections.
(e).The principled opposition: Those who have no personal grudges nor create any major altercation. eg the silent but stoic opposition like that of Alhaji Rasheed Salman Alada ever in PDP never a Sarakite and that of the intellectually endowed late Alhaji S.A Lawal and at times that of LAK Jimoh and scores of other Kwarans.
(f) Opposition based on substance: the charge that his politics is intolerant of merit, loathes the intellect, it is mercantile, rent paying politics, insincere/inaltruistic philanthropy, the almajiri building politics, creation of hoards of dependent followers, lacks philosophical/ideological content, it is deceitful, far from being altruistic.etc etc. And the SGBN collapse remains a source of constant derision by opposition.
Personal attributes:- non materialistic life style his buildings in Ilorin and Lagos are modest going by his material endowment. Unlike his peers he could afford the most sophisticated cars but used utility ones, he could attempt using private jets but he did not; his humility, generosity and free mixing and accessibility to the downtrodden.
Praise songs for Saraki:
1 By the late Aremu Odolaye: ojo weliweli Kwara, ti oba file roo, bi ara tin tu talika nitu ijoba, saraki oloye Baba Bukola. Ile tio bat ti woo, odile ile owo ile olaa, aga ti oba fi joko odi ijoba. Translation: The morning Dew of Kwara that heralds comfort and tranquilly for both government and the populace, the Oloye father of Bukola/ the house Saraki enters is instantly transformed into house of wealth and prosperity; the chair he sits on is the actual power/throne..
2 By late Waka king Alhaji Labaeka of Agbarere Emo pe saraki, ni kan ko lowo, ni na to le na lanfi yo nbo e. Translation: Say it loud, chorus it, Saraki is not the only wealthy one/ we sing his praise because he spends/shares like no other..
3. Saraki omo abu na bu danu translation: Saraki, the carefree spender of money (common remarks in public gathering by MCs).
And this last one by Baba Miliki : Enle ki Saraki olooyee Baba ki ope, Eroo ki agoro too wa la gbaji, eki omo Muktair to mo eto. Well, no matter how one lives, there is an end one day.
Adieu Baba Saraki. You played your part. Like all human beings, you exhibited vice and virtues. Where the balance lies is left for history to judge. May Allah overlook his and all the dead ones’ failings and accept them to His mercy. Aamin