Apart from being the first daughter of the family, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, shared an uncommon bond with her late father, Second Republic Senate Leader and strongman of Kwara State politics, Dr. Olusola Saraki, an affinity that earned her a special appelation from her father: Gbemisola, omo baba e. Olawale Olaleye who had a brief encounter with the former senator during her father’s demise captures a bit of Gbemisola’s fond memories
As she sat down quietly in a small living room upstairs directly opposite the room where the remains of her husband were kept, Madam Florence Morenike Saraki, widow of the late strongman of Kwara State politics, Dr. Olusola Saraki, who died some weeks ago in his Lagos residence, was probably reminiscing on the last moments of her husband, the man with whom she had shared the greater part of her life.
She looked lost but managed to attend to sympathisers who had come to identify with her that morning. Calm, but pained and obviously shattered, she managed to contain her emotions.
Scion of the family and former governor of Kwara State, Senator Bukola Saraki, was busy attending to the throng of early sympathisers. As a Muslim, that the body of his father should be interred that same day was not subject to a debate; as such, burial plans directly rested on his shoulders. Thus, he was running around to perfect the burial arrangements. He had his pains too; but the occasion was not appropriate for him to betray his emotions.
Laolu, the last born of the family had earlier signed a statement, that morning announcing the death of their father. Obviously, he had been assigned other responsibilities with respect to the burial plans. He was equally on the move and at intervals, welcomed sympathisers to their expansive home.
The second daughter, Mrs. Tope Edu, was just on the quiet side, although overwhelmed by the incident.
But of all the children, Gbemisola appeared the most hit by their father's passage. Restless and struggling to accept the fact that he was no more, the former senator shuttled between the living room upstairs where her mother was being comforted by mourners and the waiting lounge downstairs.
As her father's "supposed favourite", Gbemisola still spoke with the ailing man the night before he died in their typical tradition of keeping tab on each other. Indeed, on her father's request, she had flown back into the country two weeks before his demise from the United States of America where she had taken her kids back to school.
Merely obeying that wish made her father all smiles as he sighted her. "Gbemisola, omo baba e", he was said to have spoken, albeit quietly with palpable fulfilment on his countenance. But Gbemisola, like everyone else, had no idea the man was rounding off his earthly mission. And characteristically, they commenced their catch-up trips.
“When I came back, he was so happy and said Gbemi, omo baba e (Gbemi, her father’s daughter) and I am happy I had such a wonderful time with him before he died and I also thank God for giving him such a wonderful life.”
Saraki was not just her father, "he was like my husband", she muttered, as she wiped off her tears and smiled painfully. They shared such intimacy that could spur the curiosity of many. Their bond transcended the usual filial affinity.
“Do you have an idea how close I was to this man? Do you know how close we were?” she asked, fighting her emotions and holding back tears.
“Funny enough, I was just discussing this with some people recently- you know- his birthday and mine are just two weeks apart and I spent it with him in the (United) States. It was such a great time and remarkable. One thing a lot of people didn’t know about him is that he had a great sense of humour, apart from being such a gentleman, a kind man and a family man; he was truly a wonderful person and he would be that remembered.”
Gbemisola could go on and on because she had so many fond memories about her late father on account of their special bond.
“For me, he was more than my father, he was like my friend; we were very close and had many secrets that we shared together. I am really going to miss him. I’ll miss his phone calls and we do this phone call thing because I live in Abuja and whenever I called him, sometimes, he would go like: se o jade ni? Ma pe e pada (Are you not going out? I’ll call you back).
“And each time he said that, I knew there was some gist in the offing; a piece of information to share; something to talk about. That, I’ll miss. I certainly will miss that. I am going to miss all the conversations, the discussions about politics. One other thing about my father was that, he was not just a politician; he was also a scholar of politics,” she noted with emphasis.
“He read vastly and I was always under pressure to catch up with him. So, politics was something that we shared, not necessarily in the active politics but in other aspects of the political society. I will miss those things. And to be honest, he always looked out for me- always!
He was so supportive of me; always looking out for me,” she added.
As she went on to piece together some of the many bits of their intimacy, Gbemisola recalled how the two of them would stay in bed together discussing virtually everything that came to their minds. And if on any of those occasions, her mother was coming in their direction, they would quickly change topic to keep her out of the loop. They were probably discussing Oloye's "privacy" and it was not in her mother's place to know. You bet!
Many a time, they would meet to catch up on all that had happened in the period they had not seen even though they never stopped talking on the phone until Oloye breathed his last.
Talk about her father, Gbemisola has so much to share and has therefore promised to write a book on the late politician as part of efforts to immortalise him by documenting those aspects of his life that many could not have known. Of course, she probably may not be in position to capture those intricate aspects that are completely out of her knowledge; she is confident that those areas she intends to unveil would awe his supporters and admirers alike.
Gbemisola, a former House of Representatives member was also in the Senate where she represented Kwara Central before giving the governorship of the state a shot. Although, she is presently quiet on her political career, she is no doubt not in a hurry to quit the stage so soon.