In this piece, ABDULLAHI OLESIN gives blow by blow account of how the eighth year remembrance prayers for the late Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki reunited the immediate past Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki and his sister, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, the minister of state for Transportation
Since Saturday, November 14, 2020, the reunion of the immediate past Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki and his sister, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, the minister of state for Transportation, has remained the talk of town. Anywhere one goes in the Ilorin metropolis, the story of the reunion of brother and sister is the subject of discourse. The gap between the duo had been so wide that people thought a reconciliation was out of the way. But, the events of Saturday 18 November had proved otherwise.
It was the eighth year epochal remembrance prayers for the late strongman of Kwara politics and Second Republic Senate Leader, Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki popularly known as Olooye that provided the platform for the reconciliation of the two children of the late politician.
Since 2011 when Gbemisola Saraki lost the state’s gubernatorial election to her elder brother's preferred candidate, former Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, there had been no love lost between the siblings. At that election, Gbemisola contested under the banner of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) with the full backing of her father while Ahmed flagged the banner of the Bukola-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Dr Bukola Saraki had cited the need for rotation of the governorship seat among the state's three senatorial districts, starting from Kwara South as reason for supporting the PDP's candidate. Ahmed is from Ifelodun local government area in Kwara South. Bukola's argument sounded genuine and logical because at that time two illustrious sons of Kwara Central senatorial district- the late Admiral Mohammed Lawal and Dr Bukola Saraki had governed the state for 12 consecutive years (1999-2011). Lawal served for one term while Bukola served two.
Of course, there were reconciliation moves between the Sarakis after the outcome of the 2011 general elections as some cabinet offices were ceded to ACPN members in the state. However, the conciliation was cut short as Gbemisola still joined forces against the second term ambition of the former Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed in 2015. Senator Gbemisola was on the campaign train of the PDP’s gubernatorial candidate, Chief Simeon Ajibola, while Bukola still backed Ahmed who had defected to the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC) alongside Bukola and his teeming supporters within and outside Kwara State. The APC’s Ahmed eventually won the election.
Also, during the 2019 general elections, Gbemisola worked with other chieftains of the APC in the state to wrestle power from the then ruling PDP under the captainship of her brother - Bukola Saraki. She was handsomely compensated with a ministerial appointment, even to the consternation of some APC chieftains in the state.
Signals that all was well between the brother and sister first emanated at the prayer's venue, when Gbemisola and Saraki sat very close on the same row and frequently bent towards each other for discussion or consultation – a rare occurrence in the past eight years.
The climax of the happy moments, however, came at the graveside of the late Olusola Saraki. The brother and sister had accompanied the Ilorin-born but Lagos- based renowned cleric, Sheikh Sulaiman Faruq Onikijipa, to the late Saraki's grave for a special prayer, as it's the custom since Saraki's demise.
After offering special prayers for the deceased, Sheikh Onikijipa requested Bukola to stretch his palm and asked Gbemisola to put her palm on Bukola's while the cleric also put his own palm on top of Gbemisola and Bukola's. At that point, the cleric offered some words of admonition and told the former "foes" that the "war" between them was over.
The cleric's intervention was to the admiration of the Sarakis and other dignitaries present at the graveside. The reconciliation of Bukola and Gbemisola was indeed the major highlight of the late Saraki’s eight years remembrance prayers.
Earlier, in the morning of that historical Saturday, a mammoth crowd of supporters and well-wishers had besieged the Ilorin International Airport to welcome back home the immediate past Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the Waziri of Ilorin.
Shouts of "Idera de", (comfort has returned) rented the air as chorused by supporters of Saraki along Ilorin International Airport road and adjoining roads in the metropolis.
Meandering through the popular Garin Alimi area, Sawmill road and other communities leading to the Emir's palace became a Herculean task as supporters of the former Senate President crowded the places.
The adjoining streets of Ilofa GRA residence of the Saraki family were a beehive of activities, as crowd of supporters milled around to welcome their political leader back into the town.
Saraki and his supporters also visited the Emir of Ilorin, Alh Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, at his palace to felicitate with him on his 25th year anniversary on the throne of his ancestors.
Saraki and his entourage later moved in motorcades to his Ilofa, GRA, Ilorin residence where his political associates and other well-meaning Nigerians had waited for him to be part of the special prayers in memory of his late father.
Dignitaries present at the event included the minister of state for Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, the state chairman of the PDP, Engr. Kola Shittu, former acting national chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje and former speaker of the state House of Assembly, Dr Ali Ahmad, among others.
The Chief Imam of Ilorin, Sheikh Mohammed Bashir Salihu, led the prayer session.
He was supported by the Grand Mukadam of Ilorin, Sheikh Sulaiman Dan-Borno, Sheikh Sannu Sheu and Imam AbdulRazaq Aduagba.
The clerics, in their separate sermons, admonished parents to bequeath love, good moral and religious teachings to their children for them to benefit remembrance prayers from such responsible children.
Sheikh Salihu said that the late Saraki touched lives in all parts of the state and beyond through his philanthropic gestures, adding that the late politician lived an exemplary life worthy of emulation by all.
The clerics said that the fidau prayer should be part of obligations of every responsible children to their late parents, adding that it attracts reward from God because it is what God loves and commanded.
Chief Mukadam of Ilorin, Sheikh Suleiman Dan-Borno, particularly, expressed gladness over the presence of both Senators Bukola Saraki and Gbemisola Saraki at the event.
"We hold it that with your togetherness, love and unity, people will not see the secret of Ilorin. The late Olusola Saraki planted goodness, peace, prosperity, in all parts of the state. And people benefitted therefrom.
"We are rest assured that Saraki is happy in his grave with what is happening among the children and the people he left behind", he said.
Also, Imam AbdulRazaq Aduagba said that the people of Kwara are happy with the conduct of the children of the late political icon, adding that, “Saraki is a symbol of love."
The cleric urged political jobbers to stop unsubstantiated negative publicity against Dr Bukola Saraki, saying that Allah has His ways of controlling the affairs of life.
"We can all see the difference in what happened before and what's happening now in the political circle in Kwara State Our people, should therefore, change their ways to love one another. Let's forgive ourselves and accept God's ways," he admonished.
Although Saraki choose not to grant any press interview after the prayer session, he, however, issued a thank-you statement the following day, where he said that, "I thank Almighty Allah for this weekend. It has been an utmost success.
"I thank all our well-wishers that joined us as we held the remembrance prayer for 'Olooye' and celebrated with the Emir of Ilorin on his 25th year on the throne. I am grateful to all of you.
"As we head back to Abuja, my heartfelt prayers are with those our supporters that sustained injuries in a car accident on the way back from the airport. I wish you all a speedy recovery."