BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, BEN AGANDE, DEMOLA AKINYEMI, HENRY UMORU & EMMAN OVUAKPORIE
LAGOS — “HE has been battling cancer for about five years. He was fine this morning. He was comfortable and even said his prayers. He died in the presence of one of my brothers, my mother and my two sisters. He gave up the ghost at about 6 a.m.”
With these words, Olaolu Saraki, son of Second Republic Senate Leader and kingmaker of Kwara politics, Dr Olusola Saraki, told reporters how his father died yesterday in Lagos, aged 79.
Recalling Saraki’s last moments, Olaolu, who spoke at his father’s residence on Cameroon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, said though Saraki had been battling with cancer for five years, his demise took them by surprise because “he was fine this morning. He was comfortable and even said his prayers.”
As the late political icon was being interred at 4 p.m in Ilorin, Kwara State, yesterday, the polity was hit by a torrent of tributes from all parts of the country.
Announcing the death of the Waziri of Ilorin yesterday, the Kwara State Governor, Dr. Abdulfatah Ahmed, in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Alhaji Abdulwahab Oba, immediately raised a 20-man burial committee, which organised a befitting Islamic burial for the Great Oloye. He declared three days of mourning and made yesterday a work-free day to allow Kwarans attend Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki’s burial.
One of the late Saraki’s closest political associates, Alh Sheu Usma Mustapha, an octogenarian told Vanguard that the elder statesman would surely be missed by all and sundry.
He described him as an exemplary leader, a philanthropist per excellence and a de-tribalised Nigerian.
He also said the elder Saraki had foresight by tutoring his son, Dr Bukola Saraki, a two-time governor of Kwara State to take over political leadership from him before his death.
Among those who paid glowing tributes to Dr Saraki, yesterday, were President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President David Mark, House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, Governors Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun) and Rauf Aregbesola (Osun).
Second Republic politicians and senators such as Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Senator David Dafinone, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai also showered tributes and urged Nigerians to emulate Saraki’s virtues.
Also on hand to condole with the Sarakis were the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN; Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP; Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu; Deputy House of Representatives Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha; ACN National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; and Kwara State House of Assembly, Senators Joy Emordi and Christy Anyanwu.
We’ve lost a political colossus – Jonathan
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan yesterday commiserated with the family and people of Kwara State on the death of Saraki whom he described as “one of Nigeria’s most prominent leaders, medical practitioner and democrat”
A statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said 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”.
While urging his family and the people of Kwara State to be consoled by the knowledge that their departed father, leader and mentor lived a very successful and fulfilled life, the President said the late Dr. Saraki would be “long remembered and eulogized as a consummate politician, an astute grassroots mobiliser, and a political colossus with awe-inspiring powers of political organisation.”
Said Abati: “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.
“The President further notes that 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.
President Jonathan urges Nigerians to emulate Dr Saraki’s patriotic commitment to national unity, politics without bitterness as well as his magnificent spirit of philanthropy”.
He was a consummate politician – Senate
To the Senate, Dr. Olusola Saraki was a politician who represented in all its ramifications what a grassroots politician ought to be.
According to Senate President David Mark, Saraki was political tactician and political engineer who navigated the political environment like a colossus.
The Senate President also noted that as a parliamentarian, Saraki distinguished himself and unarguably laid the solid foundation for today’s National Assembly.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Kola Ologbondiyan, Senator Mark who also portrayed the late Saraki as a political giant and shinning star of the Nigerian politics, stressed that the political sagacity of late Saraki helped to midwife the modern day Nigerian politics.
According to him, “Saraki was a political leader who stood to be counted when it mattered. He stood on the side of the people and worked assiduously for the liberation of the down trodden. He was a leader who lived and worked for others.
“We shall miss his fatherly counsel. We shall miss his candor. We shall miss his humility. We shall miss his robust political debate. He was one our brightest and focused political leader.
“Saraki has left a vacuum that would be difficult to fill. The nation has lost one her best and fertile minds”.
In a text message to Vanguard, Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Publicity, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP, Abia South said he was “a consummate politician, Senator and a true man of the people. He epitomized what a grassroots political leader should be. Nigeria will miss him.”
Saraki was a quintessential politician -Tambuwal
SPEAKER of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, described late Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki as a quintessential politician and father-figure, who gave his all for the development of the country.
In a message of condolence issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, the Speaker said Saraki had earned his place as one of Nigeria’s most consistent advocates of democracy.
He said Saraki would be best remembered for his pioneering role in the formation of leading political parties in the country especially during the Second Republic which led to the establishment of the then National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and in the present dispensation, the All Peoples Party, now ANPP.
Tambuwal said as the Senate Leader in the Second Republic, Saraki, along with his colleagues, worked assiduously to entrench parliamentary democracy by putting national interest above personal and other parochial interests.
Nigeria has lost a political guru and titan – PDP
THE national leadership of PDP yesterday said that the death of the Second Republic Senate Leader, marked the gradual extinction of the last of the Mohegians.
According to PDP, Nigeria as a country has lost a political guru and a titan who must be compared in all its ramifications with the generation of the independent Nigerian leaders.
In a statement by the Party’s National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, the PDP said: “Here was a fine medical doctor, philanthropist, humanist and an astute politician. Here, most importantly was a game changer, a man who changed the destiny of his people. Like the great Zik of Africa, like Ahmadu Bello and like Awo, he was.
“The National Chairman of our great Party,
Dr. Bamanga Tukur on behalf of the National Executive Committee (NEC) wishes to convey our sadness on the passing on of this great Nigerian ; a huge loss to the nation.”
The PDP also commiserated with the government and the people of Kwara State on the death of the Elder Statesman, and prayed God to grant them, especially the immediate family the fortitude to weather the storm of this irreparable loss.
A man of immense character— Tinubu
Meanwhile, ACN leader Tinubu has described the late Saraki as a statesman of immense character.
“Saraki was a national hero to many of us in this country and had greatly contributed to the freedom and political emancipation of Nigerian democracy,” said Tinubu, who spoke with newsmen at the Saraki residence in Lagos. His death came as a shock but he has lived a very fulfilling life. His death is a loss to the country.”
Tinubu said that the country should learn from Saraki’s political strategy and maturity.
“The ability to create a political platform that endures is part of his legacies. He understood the country’s political terrain so much and that made him contribute greatly to the evolution of democracy and sustenance of welfare programmes. We have lost a man of immense political strategy at the time Nigeria needs to promote and further our democratisation in a free and fair election that will elect true leaders.”
South West Chapter of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, described Saraki as a nationalist, whose death as a tremendous loss to the nation and Kwara State.
The South West Secretary of the CNPP, Mr. Austin Nnorom said: “A vacuum has been created by his death.”
Nigeria has lost another political titan— ACN
Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, expressed shock and sadness at the death of Dr. Olusola Saraki, saying the nation had lost another political titan and a legend of his time.
In a statement issued in Lagos, yesterday, by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party described Dr. Saraki as a colossus, who possessed an efficient political machinery that he used effectively to rally the people.
“Dr. Saraki defined his era, and 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 manoeuvring can appreciate his clinical political efficiency,’’ it said.
ACN said the death of Dr. Saraki, coming a few days after the passing of another great politician, Lam Adesina, is a big loss to Nigeria, especially at a time the nation needs the wisdom and rich experience of its great sons and daughters to help steer it to less-turbulent waters.
Kwara House, politicians mourn
THE Kwara State House of Assembly in its reactions, via a statement by the Speaker Hon Razak Atunwa, said Dr Saraki was a a true democrat, who championed the cause of democracy of Nigeria.
“He contributed immensely to our nation’s political development in various capacities. He was a philanthropist, kind hearted, generous and God-fearing family man. May Almighty God grant his soul eternal peace”, he said.
In his reaction, Kwara ACN leader, Mohammed Dele Belgore (SAN) said Nigeria had lost a politician who touched the lives of many people and whose contributions would be debated for years to come.
Belgore, who was ACN governorship candidate in the 2011 poll, was among the early callers at the Ikoyi residence of the late politician on yesterday morning.
Belgore’s media aide, Rafiu Ajakaye, issued a condolence statement quoting the lawyer as saying: “We are saddened by the sudden death of our father, Abubakar Olusola Saraki who passed away today. No doubt, Nigeria has lost a political giant.
Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Kwara State chapter in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Mas’ud Adebimpe, said: “The exit of Baba Oloye at this critical period of Nigeria political history is a colossal loss not to us in Kwara alone but also to the entire nation as a whole considering the unprecedented role this great leader played to sustained the Unity of dear country.
“The selfless service and unrivalled generosity of the former Senate Leader and Northern Union, NU, and indeed his love and concern for his country, people of Kwara and Ilorin Emirate would remain an indelible mark in our memory for a very long time.”
It’s a painful exit of a People’s Democrat- Ekweremadu
DEPUTY Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu viewed Dr. Olusola Sakari’s demise as a grave loss to the nation and the exit of a people’s democrat.
In a statement by his Special Adviser, Media, Uche Anichukwu, Senator Ekweremadu said the Second Republic Senate Leader was a people-centred leader, who “lived for the people, politicked for the people, and was totally and consistently committed to the people”.
Condoling with the people of Kwara and Sakari’s family over the grievous loss, he urged the political class to emulate his brand of politics by directly and positively impacting the lives of the people.
Senator Ekweremadu added that Saraki would be forever remembered in the annals of Nigerian politics for “promoting the philosophy of people’s welfare as the crux of politics.”