Leadership (Abuja)

15 November 2012

Nigeria: Saraki Takes Final Bow - the Life, Times of Strongman of Kwara Politics

Photo: This Day
The late Chief Sola Saraki

Second Republic Senate leader Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki died yesterday at age 79. Saraki, who is also the waziri of Ilorin, reportedly died at his Lagos residence but was buried in Ilorin.

Until his death, Saraki was the kingmaker of Kwara politics and was instrumental in the election of Alh. Adamu Attah, Chief C.O. Adebayo, Alh. Shaaba Lafiagi and Dr. Bukola Saraki (his eldest son) as governor of the state at different times.

The Kwara State government has declared three days of mourning beginning from yesterday to allow Kwarans to attend the burial of the late politician.

It also set up a 20-man burial committee that would ensure a befitting burial for Saraki.

The Kwara State governor, Alh. Abdulfatah Ahmed, in a statement signed by his chief press secretary, Alh. AbdulWahab Oba ,announced the demise of Saraki.

The governor announced that "the political icon died this morning at his residence in Lagos and will be buried Wednesday 4pm in Ilorin according to Islamic rites".

Ahmed commiserated with the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, the Baloguns and other traditional title holders, Alfas and the entire Ilorin community and Kwara State at large on the death of the Waziri of Ilorin.

The statement added that "the governor urged community, religious and political leaders to troop out en masse to receive the remains of this illustrious son and Nigeria's political icon later today (yesterday) at the Ilorin International Airport. The Janazah prayer for the former Senate leader will hold at the Yidi praying ground, Ilorin at 4pm today".

Saraki was a political colossus - Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday described Saraki as a consummate politician who will be remembered as a political colossus.

Dr. Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, said in a statement that Jonathan joined Nigerians in mourning Saraki who was also one of Nigeria's most prominent political leaders, a medical practitioner and a democrat.

The statement made available to LEADERSHIP reads in part: "President Jonathan extends sincere commiserations to the elder statesman's family and the people of his home state Kwara to whose service and uplift he selflessly devoted his long and very successful career in politics.

"He urges them to be consoled by the knowledge that their departed father, leader and mentor lived a very successful and fulfilled life, rising to national prominence by dint of hard work, uncommon generosity, political sagacity, dedication and wholesome commitment to the service of his people and the entire nation.

"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 prays that God Almighty will grant his soul eternal rest."

Saraki was a political giant - Mark

President of the Senate David Mark lamented over Saraki's death, describing him as a political giant and shinning star of the Nigerian politics.

Reacting to the demise of the late political icon, Senator Mark said he was a political tactician and political engineer who navigated the political environment like a colossus.

He noted the political sagacity of late Saraki who helped to midwife the modern-day Nigerian politics.

He said:"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 downtrodden. He was a leader who lived and worked for others.

"We shall miss his fatherly counsel. We shall miss his candour. We shall miss his humility. We shall miss his robust political debate. He was one of our brightest and focused political leaders.

"Saraki has left a vacuum that would be difficult to fill. The nation has lost one of her best and fertile minds."

Senator Mark added that Saraki left his positive footprint on the sand of time, adding that the only way to immortalise him is to uphold the virtues of hard work, honesty and dedication to the ideals of nationhood which he stood for.

Tambuwal, Ekweremadu mourn

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, described the late Dr Saraki as a quintessential politician and father figure who gave his all for the development of Nigeria.

The speaker's message was issued by Malam Imam Imam, his special adviser on media and public affairs, in Abuja on Wednesday.

Tambuwal said Saraki earned his place as one of Nigeria's most consistent advocates of democracy and would be best remembered for his pioneering role in the formation of leading political parties.

He said the effort led to the establishment of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the Second Republic as well as the All Peoples Party, now ANPP, in the Fourth Republic.

Tambuwal said that, as the Senate leader in the Second Republic, Saraki with his colleagues worked assiduously to entrench parliamentary democracy by putting national interest above personal and other parochial interests.

Also, the deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, described the death of the former Senate leader "as the exit of a people's democrat".

He said the late politician was a people-centred leader who "lived for the people, politicked for the people and was totally and consistently committed to the people".

Ekweremadu said Saraki's death was a great loss to the nation, considering that he distinguished himself as one of the most charismatic and vibrant Senate leaders in Nigeria.

He said he would forever be remembered in Nigerian politics for "promoting the philosophy of people's welfare as the crux of politics".

Exit of a titan - Northern Governors Forum

Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) also described the death of Dr Saraki as painful, saying it was the exit of a titan.

The NGSF commiserated with the government and people of Kwara State over the death.

The chairman of the forum and governor of Niger State, Dr Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu, said the fact that Dr Saraki passed on at a time of increasing intolerance in the country makes his death more painful as he was always in the lead for ensuring peace and unity in Kwara State, the north and Nigeria as a whole.

The condolence message of the forum was contained in statement signed by Governor Aliyu's chief press secretary, Danladi Ndayebo, yesterday in Minna.

The forum said it's sad that Saraki, who was a man of peace and a rare patriot, passed on at a time the country needed the wisdom and guidance of all important leaders like him to help end the security challenges confronting the nation.

It noted that Saraki was " a bridge builder and a conciliatory force who helped to bring together his people, irrespective of their political differences or whether or not they were in the political mainstream or in the opposition'.'

End of an era - Gov Fayemi

Ekiti State governor Dr. Kayode Fayemi condoled with the people and government of Kwara State over the death of Dr. Saraki.

Fayemi, who also commiserated with the immediate family of the deceased, described the death of the Second Republic Senate leader as "the end of an era of one of Nigeria's political legends".

The governor, in a statement by his chief press secretary, Mr. Yinka Oyebode, said Saraki bestrode the political terrain of Kwara State and the north-central like a colossus during his lifetime.

He lamented that Saraki's death came at a time when the polity was yet to recover from the shock of the demise of former Oyo State governor, Alhaji Lam Adesina, on Sunday.

The governor noted that Saraki touched the lives of many people in his lifetime through his philanthropy and generosity from which indigent people benefited.

According to him, Saraki had always provided leadership and direction to his political disciples in critical times.

Fayemi explained that Saraki never believed in violence in his political activities and used persuasion in spreading his political ideology.

We have lost a rare gem - Gov Wada

Governor Idris Wada of Kogi State has expressed shock over the demise of the elder statesman.

In a statement in Lokoja yesterday, Governor Wada described Saraki as a great politician with unique political skills who would be greatly missed by all Nigerians.

It added that the late Saraki was one of the very few modern generation Nigerians whose wit, patriotism, political savvy and dexterity transcended his era and comparable with those of the founding fathers of Nigeria, stressing that his demise could be likened to the end of an era.

"We have lost a rare gem. And the big shoes he is leaving behind will certainly be difficult to fill. But, we console ourselves in the knowledge that death is an inevitable end of all mortals. As Allah is the only giver of life, we are convinced that only He can take it whenever He likes. May our departed hero rest in the bosom of his Maker and may Allah grant all Nigerians and especially the immediate family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss,", it further stated.

The governor noted that the death of Senator Saraki called for sober reflection by all politicians to reassess the way they playpolitics, maintaining that Oloye blended quite effortlessly his skills as a medical doctor into his calling as a politician in the service of the people.

Nigeria has lost another political icon - Gov Aregbesola

Osun State governor Mr. Rauf Aregbesola described the death of Dr. Saraki as unfortunate and sad.

In a statement issued by his director of communications and strategy, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, and made available in Osogbo yesterday, he said the death of Saraki was a great loss to the nation.

Aregbesola stated that Saraki's experience, knowledge, versatility and ingenuity in the art and dynamics of lawmaking and politics in general would be missed greatly.

He was a bridge builder - Gov Obi

Anambra State governor Mr. Peter Obi paid tribute to the departed Kwara State strongman, describing him as a bridge builder.

In his reaction to Saraki's passing on, Governor Obi said he received the news of the elder statesman's transition with regret and offered his condolences to the family, the people and government of Kwara State.

Obi said, "As the people of Kwara State try to cope with the grief arising from his transition, I have no doubt that many Nigerians irrespective of class, creed and community also feel a sense of loss.

We have lost a political guru - PDP

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), through its national publicity secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, described the demise of Dr Saraki as the "loss of a political guru and a titan who compared in every respect with the generation of the independence Nigerian leaders".

While commiserating with the government and the people of Kwara State on the death of the elder statesman, the PDP said his death was a huge loss to the nation and prayed God to grant the immediate family the fortitude to bear the loss.

"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 said.

ANPP chairman mourns

The national chairman of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, described the death of the founding leader of the party, Dr. Olusola Saraki, as a great loss to Nigeria and Africa at large.

Onu said: "It is with a heavy heart that, on behalf of our great party, I mourn the transition to eternal glory of one of our distinguished founding leaders, the late Senator (Dr) Olusola Saraki, Wazirin Ilorin.

"He was a great Nigerian and a committed democrat of outstanding convictions. In the formative stages of our great party, he played a resilient pioneering role which helped us build a great party. He was a consensus builder whose warm disposition to all advanced peace and harmony among our members. By his death, we have lost a tireless pathfinder and a timeless fence mender."

Saraki was a man of uncommon compassion - Atiku

Former vice president Atiku Abubakar said the death of Saraki was like the fall of a big star from the galaxy of Nigerian politics.

In a condolence message released by his media office in Abuja yesterday, Atiku said the late Saraki was not only tremendously influential but also uncommonly compassionate.

According to him, his uncommon compassion was the source of his political relevance and influence among his people.

The Turaki Adamawa acknowledged that despite occasional controversies that trailed his politics, few Nigerian politicians could rival Saraki's compassion towards the ordinary people, adding that he touched so many lives while he lived.

On Saraki's extensive and vast political career, Atiku recalled that the late Saraki popularly known as "Oloye" by admirers was a constant feature at every level of Nigeria's democratic experiment, from the First, Second and Third republics.

Atiku recalled with fond memories the role of the late Saraki in the formation of political parties - from national Party of Nigeria (NPN) People's Front (PF) and the defunct All Peoples Party (APP).

Atiku also recalled the role he and the late strongman of Kwara played in bringing Kwara State and its leading lights back into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2003 after the state had initially strayed into the APP. The former vice president said one of the greatest virtues of the late Ciroma of Ilorin was that he lived for the people and they loved him in return.

Nigeria has lost a statesman and political tactician - Tinubu

The death of the man popularly called "the strongman of Kwara Politics" has been described as a monumental loss not only to the people of Kwara State but also to Nigeria as a whole. "Saraki remains one of the builders of modern Nigeria. He was a political tactician who played pivotal role in the political advancement of his people and that of Nigeria," said ACN national leader Ahmed Bola Tinubu.

AsiwajuTinubu described Saraki as a man of purpose and vision who built a political empire that played a key role in the development of Nigerian politics: "From his days in the constituent assembly in 1977-1978 to his meteoric rise to become senator of the Federal Republic where he served as majority leader, Saraki soon became a political institution, a force to be reckoned with not just in Kwara politics but also in national politics. He worked with others to make laws for the development of Nigeria's political culture."

Tinubu recalled that Saraki was one of the brains behind the formation of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, and a party that went on to win the presidency. "A tactician, Saraki's image loomed large during that era as he pursued a populist-oriented politics and became a rallying point for the masses and a reference for political tolerance."

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