By Wahaab Oba
For obvious reasons, I have restrained myself from writing on late Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki. After all, as a beneficiary, I am most likely to be accused of undue sentiment.
More so, when democrats like the Senate President, Senator David Mark, the former governor of Lagos State and Leader of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chief Ebenezar Babatope, Senator Smart Adeyemi, among others, have paid glowing tributes, I felt my testimonies should be reserved for another day.
But when basic facts are deliberately being twisted by faceless persons, there remains no option than to set the records straight. Writing in his article entitled: Really, what is Saraki's legacy, one Abdullahi Ishaq, curiously laboured to stand truth on its head. For anyone, who has followed Kwara politics in the last forty years, Ishaq's assertion that Saraki had government's instruments in his grips for forty years and did nothing, obviously assaults good sense of history.
Wherever he got his tale, it is common knowledge that Saraki never held any political office in the state. So, one wonders where Ishaq expected him to derive the power to 'develop' Kwara State to become another Lagos or Kano. But, if, Ishaq meant that Saraki helped install most governors in the state, there is certainly no argument. Yet, we must put in proper perspective events in those years to sincerely gauge the influence Ishaq and his fellow character hunters, expected Saraki to wield on the respective successive governments in the state.
We will recall that after Saraki helped install Adamu Attah on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria, (NPN) in 1979, barely few months into office, for reasons space will not permit, they parted ways. Then, came C.O. Adebayo, who contested on the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), but earned the blessing of Saraki, who encouraged his followers to vote UPN for the gubernatorial election.
As always, Adebayo won but few months into office, the military took over government and sacked Adebayo. Again, when democratic dispensation returned and two political parties emerged: Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Party (NRC), Saraki gave his blessings to Shaaba Lafiagi of the SDP. He won. Less than two years in to office, the military sacked the civilian government. Instructively, however, before the Khaki Boys struck, Saraki had assisted Lafiagi in securing a N30 million grant from the federal government to fix the Kwara State perennial Water problem.
The exit of the military saw the emergence of Mohammed Lawal as governor. Just a few months in office, fifth columnists succeeded in their acts. Detail of the disagreement is also reserve for another day, the two families having become best of friends now.
Perhaps, it could be said that not until Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki became governor, whatever dreams his Dad had for the state remained only in the imagination, For, as witnesses, we saw the giant leap made by the administration in terms of project initiation and execution. The Shonga farm project, remains a pace setter in public/private partnership initiative in the country.
There were also the first commercial flight, Aviation Training College, the International Diagnostic Centre, various road projects, including federal roads, to make life more comfortable for the people. The educational sector was transformed through a policy that made every child counts. There was also the middle class housing projects ( I live in one of them), among others.
Ignoring the age long culture of not talking evil of the death as ordained by Allah, the unseen hands behind Ishaq's warped tale decided to adopt the mortal philosophy to achieve their ignoble objective. Or, perhaps, out of sheer mischief, deliberately see nothing good in a man, who gave his all and best for the good of the people of Kwara, including fighting corruption as a Senate Leader.
But again, life is a matter of choice: what you chose to see, is what you see. Yet, no matter how good one is at logic chopping, the moment you try to turn the truth upside down, you do violence to facts. This is exactly what Ishaq's apparently ill-informed article did and doing so with shameless audacity.
While he agrees that Saraki was a great politician, having single-handedly installed hundreds of commissioners, ambassadors, special advisers, board chairmen and so on, he shockingly, did not know that it could not have been possible if Saraki was not acceptable to the Kwara people or party members. Perhaps, too, in Ishaq's thinking, Saraki should have after helping people get political appointments, also break down their walls and compel them to teach others how to fish!
Like most people across the country drawn by his unequaled philanthropy, undying love for the less-privileged and unparalleled interest in the affairs and well being of the masses, I added to the growing Sarakite team.
While everyday comes with new opportunities, the man, who says he has seen the light, must do well to share the experience where he is coming from. So, you begin to wonder: where were these emergent liberators when Saraki was constructing schools, building water and health-care projects in communities; feeding and investing in people? Here was a humanist, who invested and threw his gates open for indigent people, while others built high walls with the inscription: 'Beware of Dogs', to scare people away. Where others cared just for their families, Saraki catered for all.
But, really, has it become a crime to have father, mother, wife, husband, sons or daughters or even in-laws, in politics? Across the world, we have families and children that are carrying on with either a business or political legacy established by their parents. In fact, it is the joy of every parent to groom a daughter or son, capable of continuing with the family's legacies. In the United States, for instance, we have the Clintons and Bushs. So, is it a crime because the name is Saraki or Kwara State or because God carved a special role for some people?
Wide as the political stage, every follower knows his or her leader well enough to readily obey his instructions, Kwara State not an exception. Kwara, like most other politically stable states, has a tradition. A tradition of stability and political consistency.
Where were Ishaq's paymasters and co-travellers when Baba was paying bills for children of the poor, sending them to foreign lands they never dreamt of visiting? Where were they when he was picking people's wedding bills and feeding the widows and the ophans? Baba Saraki opened his gate when many baricaded theirs. Every one has a mission. Baba accompanied his mission of carig for the needy. The children of the needy who today are Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers will revolt against Ishaq's clients of imperialism.
Truth remains that the Sarakis will continue to resonate in Kwara politics, having done so much to shape it to the level It is today. So, for Ishaq and his ilks, who are still wondering why the Kwara people love Saraki in life and death, my advice is to keep the right company and identify with the people, particularly, the masses. Saraki loved Kwara and its people and gave his all.
He lived a fulfilled life; conquered poverty and liberated many from its claws. indeed, he was a political maestro, an enigma that never quivered. Little wonder, the people celebrate him, except, perhaps, the few emerging liberators without antecedents that are hiding behind Ishaq's twisted article.
•Wahaab Oba, chief press secretary to the Kwara State Governor writes in from Ilorin.