“Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.” – A. Sachs
DR ABUBAKAR Olusola Saraki (Waziri Ilorin), a university of London medical doctor graduate was an epitome of selflessness commitment characterized by democratic zeal. He was mistaken to have ventured into politics by accident but it was instinctive. He was so predetermined by nature, going by the enormous success and many lives he touched in his life of politics than in the field of medicine.
The nation has certainly lost a great political gladiator and in fact, it is presumably the end of an effective old brigade political era. His capacity to awaken joy and a sense of serenity in others, often at the expense of his own was a marvel to watch. A life governed by selflessness and a high moral rectitude carried out with unparalleled enthusiasm and optimism that proclaimed that life was worth living for.
When I reflect on my long period of direct involvement in the Saraki dynasty in both business and politics, I feel sad to miss a father figure, a visionary leader, a detribalized Nigerian politician, disciplined, sagacious and honest business mogul. I feel sad to miss a leader acclaimed even by his foes as a man with uncommon spirit of true charity. Oloye was a benevolent leader and politician, he ensured that many,
though not from his immediate family, became governors, members of National and State Assemblies, as his name was enough ticket to any political post.
In the Second Republic (1979 – 1983), many colleagues of his in both Houses of the National Assembly enjoyed his large heartedness when he took care of their medical bills and in some cases took a number of them on vacation, this was across party lines. He repeated the same gesture to many members of the Constitutional Conference in the Abacha era where he acted as the facilitator.
He was truly a man of the people, a grassroots politician admired by big and small in his hometown and countryside. He was a source of inspiration to political practitioners and politicians across party lines. Indeed, for many years, Oloye remained the only leader who could boast of delivering his state on time in any election without suspicion, debate or argument. This, he achieved, because his people always believe in him and he never failed them.
I recall several meetings with political leaders across the country regarding the certainty of our political success and fortune in any forthcoming elections; it was always a consensus among us all whenever Oloye was in such a meeting that we had Kwara State in the kitty for a take-off. That was vintage Oloye.
Oloye was always giving without counting cost, being able to fight for others and not heed his own hurt; labouring and toiling without asking for any reward. He was a staunch advocate of adherence to rule of law, transparency and good governance. In fact, nothing captures more precisely his spirit of resilience and doggedness than first stanza in Maya Angelo’s poem “Still I Rise”. It reads as follows:
“You may write down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trot me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise”.
My experience with him during 1992 electioneering season under the Social Democratic Party, SDP, gave credence to the claim when he said: ”I am a medical practitioner but by accident, I found myself in politics and I don’t regret it in the sense that I am satisfied that I am doing what I like. I am happy with it even though the road has been very rugged and rough. But if you are honest and sincere, and this is what has happened to me, you will feel fulfilled.”
In 1998, when we founded the All Peoples Party, APP, in which Oloye was a major financier, the late Senator Mahmoud Waziri was the National Chairman and my humble self the National Secretary, we flowed easily with Oloye in terms of providing resources for the party since the three of us were shareholders and directors of Societe Generale Bank.
As time went by, in preparation for primaries of our party to produce the party’s presidential candidate, there was a conspiracy by some former military leaders who successfully infiltrated members of APP leadership, including, unfortunately the Chairman which led to them to successfully denying Oloye from picking the nomination form, talk less of contesting the primaries. That was the first time I noticed Oloye being politically disturbed and unsettled.
However, he soon regained his fighting spirit and went ahead to mobilise support for the emergence of the first set of nine governors of the All Peoples Party.
However, as a good man heaven rewarded him before he left the stage of Kwara politics leaving a strong political legacy with a son as two-time Governor in the State and now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria after the younger sister had served as member House of Representatives and a Senator, respectively.
Alas! – Nigeria has lost a master political tactician, a benevolent capitalist, and grassroots leader, benefactor of the downtrodden and generational strongman of Kwara politics. Oloye, will live in the hearts of many for his good deeds to humanity and legacies he left behind.
To the family, we can only say that there cannot be enough words to comfort you in this great loss of yours. Your loss is our loss, too. Kindly allow this hero and a people’s man to go to his last resting place in peace and tranquillity. He has seen more of the world because he stood on the shoulders of democrats and republicans, yet he himself, is ironically, an advocate of justice and equity.
Adieu Oloye. May your soul rest in peace.
Dr. BEN OBI is SA Inter -party affairs to President Jonathan.