Tribute To Baba Saraki: My Personal Knowledge. By Hon. Kayode Omotose
The homegrown melodies of Alhaji Ajadi Alapala Ilorin, Odolaiye Aremu, Jaigbade Alao, Omo Ekee Amao, is the biggest menu of the traditional depth that the man and woman of Ilorin descent revels in his traditional music frills and thrills.
These are the stars that my dear mother the late Alhaja Belawu Omotose often line up at her shop at Okekura Ilorin to provide live performance to the pleasure of late Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki and his guests and friends including Alhaji Babatunde Alanamu.
The sessions began in the year 1972/73 and was a continuum till the middle of the 70s as the military regime of the Murtala/Obasanjo era winded down the road to roll out their disengagement from government : and this began my journey with the Saraki dynasty.
Baba Saraki was a colossus, a man of means and good conduct who made his money by dint of his effort and channeled it to help his kith and kin, the Ilorin people and kwarans in substantial quantum. When there was scarcity of water in town Baba Saraki commissioned several water tankers to bring potable water from Ogbomosho and Jebba. The vehicles would go multiple times per day and drop water in water reservoir which he built in all parts of the town to being succour to the people.
When the price of bread was increased, he established Ayinke bakery in Taiwo road to bake high quality bread and sell to the masses. Most distributors defaulted and Baba left them. When access to loan was lean he opened a branch of his bank the Societe General (SGBN) to give soft loans to the people. When the hardships of going to Hajj via Kano international airport was becoming unbearable, he used his gargantuan influence as the Leader of the Senate to cause the aerodrome in Ilorin to be upgraded to do an International ?airport so that flights to Saudi Arabia would be undertaken from Ilorin and pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina would be easened.
When the old Jumaat Mosque at Idi ape began to get short of space and modern infrastructure, his huge personal contribution and the widows mite of men and women of goodwill brought the new Jumaat Mosque in 1981 and he brought then President Shehu Shagari to commission it. These are a tip of the Legion of big things he did that endeared him into the minds of Ilorin people.
My puzzle in Baba Oloye was at the internment of the late mother of one of his disciples Chief Nihi in Iya Gbede, Kogi state about 2009. I was on his entourage as he was piloted by his comrade in politics and secretary of defunct NPN Chief Tunji Arosanyin. Three very well dressed men walked to the high table and prostrated before him.
Astounded, Baba Saraki asked what the matter was and they introduced themselves : One a lawyer, the other a doctor and the third a journalist. Chief Arosanyin said they were old students of the community secondary school which he contributed most substantially to establish and they travelled all the way from Lagos, Abuja, and Lokoja? to thank him publicly in their community for bringing them to stardom. But alas Baba Oloye said he could not remember he did such a thing in that community.
In retrospect I recall vividly that in 1971/72 Baba Saraki had told my mother of his desire to establish a branch of his clinic in Ilorin to provide cheap or and free medical services to the poor and downtrodden as he did in his Lagos clinics for his Ilorin people. My mother then made available her Okekura shops for this purpose. Unfortunately the Kwara state government could not grant ?the licence sighting the issue that it would not respect the operational distance with the then Gari Alimi hospital at Oja-Oba. And then later the local council elections, the 1977/78 constitutional conference : the 1979 elections et al. And to the glory of God just as the political family was getting bigger his biological family stronger and firmer. Therein came Hon. Gbemisola Saraki into the House of Representatives in 1999 and the icing on the cake Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki as Governor of the state 2003-2011.
Like father like son Sai Buki as he is affectionately called mounted the throes of leadership and made his indelible mark?. In sports he improved the stadium to full - seating and with modern infrastructure. In agriculture he extended loan facilities, built dams, and capped it with the introduction of commercial farming at Shonga and put Kwara on the world map.
He influencedor and completed the Ganmo electricity project, KWASU Malete, Aviation college, Cashew nut factory Ogbondoroko, Dangote cement factory, Tuyil Pharmacy, Oke Onigbin/ Ijara - Owode Ofaro road ;the mandate houses in Kaiama, Offa, Omu- Aran and Ilorin Ilorin. Of great significance was the Baruten road which had been in contemplation since the era of late Sardauna of Sokoto as Premier of Northern Region. Herein I recall the legendary retort of the present Emir of Ilesha - Baruba Prof. Halidu Abubakar, who asserted "we are happy that this road is completed, I never thought it would come in my lifetime ".
In elongation of Baba's effort, Sai Buki played the pivotal role to renovate, refurbish, and rehabilitate the Ilorin Jumaat Mosque beyond any other in the country. And like Baba he brought the highest Muslim in government VP Namadi Sambo to commission it.
Beyond his command performance as Chairman of the Governors Forum that gave him the huge national spotlight Dr Bukola Saraki was a pillar that brought the President Muhammadu Buhari? government into the centre. And today he is the President of the Senate.
If Baba could do as much for Kwara as the Senate Leader to uplift the aerodrome to Ilorin International Airport then one can only conjecture what Nigeria and Kwara would gain in this era - in employement, provision of infrastructure, attention to federal projects especially the poor state of roads into and out of Kwara viz Ilorin/Kabba; Ilorin/Jebba/Mokwa;?
On a glorious note, three years after his exit Baba Oloye lives on.
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