Dr. Olusola Saraki determined the political landscape of Kwara State for more than a generation would have been 80 years old today if he had not died last November. Not even death has stopped the flow of appreciation to a political icon.
Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, should today have witnessed an unprecedented assemblage of the country’s greatest living political stars.
The occasion that would have been the 80th birthday of the man who personified the politics of the state for more than a generation alas was cut off with the death of Dr. Olusola Saraki, popularly known as Oloye on November 12, 2012.
Today, two gigantic billboards with screaming inscriptions “The Titan Lives Forever” at the Unity/Challenge junction round about and Geri Alimi/Asa Dam, junction both in Ilorin, are physical depictions of the extent the state government is going to pay its dues.
A more lasting legacy is the administration’s plan to rename the State University at Malate after the political icon.
His perch on the people’s hearts was even before the advent of politics. It is easily recounted how even before the advent of politics when he had just qualified as a medical doctor in the sixties how he showed empathy towards the squalor of his people. He provided water tankers to supply water, built mosques and churches and provided funds for school buildings and even paved roads to give access to the people.
But his first political outing in 1964 for a seat in the House of Representatives ended as a failure. But he was unrelenting.
In 1978, when the then Federal Military Government lifted the ban on partisan politics, he became a foundation member of the then National Party of Nigeria(NPN) and with his financial prowess he helped to enthrone the party’s candidate, Alhaji Adamu Attah at the seat of government in Ilorin in 1979.
He, however, took his seat in the Senate and became the Senate Leader, giving a clout and muscle to the seat that has not been rivaled till date.
Saraki was to show his hold on the politics in the state when he successfully stopped Attah from a second term in 1983 after both men disagreed on issues of the party and governance. His quarrel with Attah was to become a tradition that followed the other governors he successfully and subsequently stopped from a second term.
At the beginning of the fourth republic he joined the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP but was no soon entrapped in the high stake intrigue that made him lose his cherished presidential ambition in the 1999 election. He subsequently laid low for some time before openly joining the PDP and using the party’s platform for another fight against his one time political son, Governor Mohammed Lawal.
The 2003 gubernatorial election ushered his son, Dr. Bukola Saraki who became the first of his protégées to govern the state for two terms. But that did not mean that his own son left office without the traditional combat with Oloye.
The source of Bukola’s conflict with Oloye was over the former’s succession. While Bukola favoured his own commissioner for finance, Abdulfathah Ahmed, Oloye favoured his daughter, Senator Gbemisola Saraki. In the bruising fight that ensued, Bukola led the rebellion that for the first time brought about a defeat for Oloye in a generation.
It was a bruising defeat that retired the old man from politics and painfully not long after from the earth.
Not minding the political squabbles that tore the family apart, over the governorship ambition of Senator Gbemisola, Bukola before the father’s death led a mission for reconciliation.
Bukola was said to have sent close friends and associates of his father to profusely apologise to him over the election that pitched them against one another and following the forgiveness, he Bukola brought the then newly elected governor, Ahmed to his father in a colourful ceremony at his GRA, Ilorin, home.
Oloye not only accepted the governor calling him his son, he also ordered the PDP members who followed him to the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria(ACPN) to return to the PDP to work with the governor and the government.
But the damage had been done and Oloye never recovered from it!