OPINION: Saraki: Fond memories of a kingmaker! By Abdulrazaq Magaji

Date: 2016-11-07

There was no ignoring the late Dr. Abubakar Sola Saraki. Those who loved him did so unquestioningly. These were those who saw the senate leader in the second republic as the man of all moments and a man who made things work for the generality of his people. And, those who were so disposed were in the majority. Yet, there were those who saw Dr. Sola Saraki as a man to be kept at an arm's length! It really did not matter that those in this category were in the minority.

For the fifty or so odd years he straddled the political scene, Dr. Sola Saraki literally became the leave that turned into soap because it was for too long used to wrap the soap! He started by influencing the politics of the old Kwara state, meticulously moved his way to cover the north and eventually straddled the national political scene. He was reported to have played a positive role in the creation of Kogi state in 1991 and, to the consternation of entrenched in the old Kabba province, he remained a household name. It is an irony of history that Baba Saraki died, unfortunately, as a frustrated man.

Baba Saraki's frustration came from an unlikely source: a son he doted on. Members of the Sola Saraki political clan claim Baba loved Bukola to a fault. It was not for fun that Dr. Sola Saraki was better known and addressed as Saraki Baba Bukola (Saraki , the father of Bukola). Baba Saraki doted on Bukola and so promoted his son's political ascendancy to the point of angering and estranging many of his supporters. It is for this reason that many thought Dr. Bukola Saraki should have displayed maturity, rather than hyping a needless open confrontation, in talking Baba Saraki out of the not-too-decent attempt to install another child, Ruqayya Gbemisola, as governor in 2011.

The son-father confrontation in which the father came out badly bruised proved the messiest political fight for Baba Saraki. He was a veteran of many political wars but this was also his last because. Aside losing it, Baba Saraki certainly did not overcome his mortification in the hand of a son in whom he was well pleased! Without any doubt, Bukola Saraki succeeded in disgracing his father but he too succeeded in earning a flyblown reputation for himself. Events since those dark days are proving that the son who won a pyrrhic victory over his father is fast discovering that ingratitude and conspiracy carry a heavy price!

Yet, the humiliation in the hand of his son did not diminish Baba Saraki's political standing. Though he had excelled in community service in Ilorin since the mid '60's, Baba emerged on the national political scene with his election into the Senate of the Federal republic of Nigeria in 1979. If anything, his emergence as Senate leader during the Second Republic provided him the opportunity to master the game. That was the beginning of the political invincibility of Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki. He charted the political course for the old Kwara state, which then included present-day Kogi state, and endeared himself to the people to the extent that his words virtually became law.

The elder Saraki's political sagacity was unequalled. In 1979, he single-handedly turned the table against the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria by working for the victory of the governorship candidate of the then National Party of Nigeria, NPN, Alhaji Adamu Attah who, few weeks into his tenure, became the arrowhead of a conspiracy to clip the wings of Baba Saraki. In 1983, Alhaji Adamu Attah lost the governorship seat to Chief Cornelius Adebayo of the rival UPN. This was with the massive support of Baba Saraki who remained a chieftain of the NPN.

In 1999, Baba Saraki threw his weight behind late Alhaji Muhammad Lawal, a retired naval chief and former military governor of Ogun state. Lawal too failed to manage his relationship with his benefactor, preferring to test his popularity at the polls in 2003. Pressure continued to mount on Baba Saraki to look inwards and draft his son because of the misplaced conception that a son will not be disposed to join let alone lead a conspiracy against the father. Analysts say the 2003 electioneering campaign that brought Dr. Bukola Saraki to power ranks among the bloodiest in the history of the country. Unknown to Baba, his son, Bukola, was to spearhead the most vicious and morally-reprehensible anti-Sola Saraki campaign that paled earlier conspiracies into insignificance.

Dr. Bukola Saraki is a bunch of irony! He humiliated a doting father but also remains about the only politician of note to inherit the political structures of his hugely influential fathers. Look round! Till date, there are no politicians of note that bear the names of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Awolowo, Aminu Kano, Akintola, Balarabe Musa and other living and dead political heavyweights. It should not be assumed that surviving children do not aspire to inherit their father's political structures. They do! Problem is, in most cases, they soon fall by the wayside.

The case of Dr.(Mrs) Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu readily comes to mind. From the late 1980's to the mid 1990's, this hitherto politically active daughter of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was a big voice in the defunct PSP that fused into the defunct Social Democratic Party. At a point, Tokunbo seemed destined to be the first child of an influential politician to really make the mark. It was not to be; today, very few Nigerians remember Mrs. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu. Whatever the case may be, Mrs. Awolowo-Dosunmu and other children of notable politicians should be congratulated if what it takes is to inherit political structures is to undo one's parents!

Even before he died, some politicians who rebelled against Baba Saraki had cause to make it up with him. One of them was late Alhaji Sani Adebayo Lawal, who served in the Alhaji Adamu Attah cabinet from 1979 to 1983. The man who was widely known as Baba S.A Lawal fell out with Baba Saraki on the principled ground that it was wrong for party members to work against party candidates when they still professed some form of allegiance to the party. That, exactly, was what Baba Saraki did when he mobilised NPN members to vote against their candidate.

There will be no shortage of words of extolment when members of the Dr. Sola Saraki political family gather in Ilorin on November 12 to mark the fourth anniversary of his death. On hand to host the gathering will be Dr. Bukola Saraki, his son and heir who saw nothing wrong in conspiring against a doting father. Of course, the odiously rude and crude Senator Dino Melaye who doubles as the senate president's bouncer and man Friday will be on hand to lend a helping hand to a fast-sinking benefactor. As both men squirmed in their seats as Professor Patrice Lumumba lashed out at corrupt politicians at a recent outing in Abuja, not a few Baba Saraki loyalists will fail to liken Oloye to the proverbial man who avoided the visit of all manner of flies because he did not overstay his visit to the toilet.

Aside the conspiracy against him, Baba Saraki would have been pained to no end if he had hanged on long enough to see his name being soiled by a son who can hardly pass for a worthy heir.

Magaji is based in Abuja and can be reached at

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