Last month, relatives and associates of the late strongman of Kwara politics, Abubakar Olusola Saraki, gathered in Ilorin to celebrate his 84th birthday posthumously. Hammed Shittu was there and files this report
Last month, the ancient town of Ilorin, the Kwara state capital went agog as associates and supporters of the late strongman of Kwara politics and former Senate Leader in the aborted second republic, Dr. Olusola Saraki , converged in the city to celebrate his legacy.
Highlights of the ceremony included the establishment of a foundation to honour and imortalise the name of the late politician.
The foundation, which was named Sola Saraki Education Foundation, was conceived by his political associates and supporters to mark his 84th posthumous birthday.
Saraki, fondly called by his political admirers during his life time as ‘Oloye’, died November 14, 2012 after a brief illness. He was buried in Ilorin.
During his life time, he supported many less privileged students to pursue their educational both locally and abroad by payroll ng their school fees. In so doing, Saraki ensured that money did not stop brilliant students from furthering their education. Many of the beneficiaries are alive to testify to his support.
In order to ensure that his commitment to helping the less privileged realize their ambition did not die with him, his associates thought it wise to float an educational foundation so as to continue with his good work. This will enable more people to benefit from the gesture and therefore adding more values to the socio well being of the society.
At the official launching of the foundation, his associates and followers demonstrated their love for the god father as they, one after the other, paid tributes to his kindness.
Though, the wife and widow of the late politician, Chief Mrs Florence Morenike Saraki was not in attendance, she however, sent a representative in person of one Mr. Edward Adedapo who donated N1million to support the foundation.
An imposing edifice, named the Foundation House was already in place in Fate, GRA, Ilorin, to ensure a smooth take off of Sola Saraki Educational Foundation. Fate,GRA. Staff have also been recruited to execute the vision.
Members of the board of trustees include, a bosom friend of the late politician, Chief Tunji Arosanyin, Alhaji Saka Opobiyi, Otunba Edward Adedapo Ibidapo, Alhaji Mohammed Bashir Saliu. (OON), Sheik Aminulahi Tantolohun Imam, Mr Koye Sogbola and Alhaji Oba Bolanta.
Others are Senator Ahmed Mohammed, Dr (Mrs) Zainab Ambali, Ambassador Nimota Nihinlola Akanbi and Alhaj Ladi Hassan.
Many of those who donated to the foundation were beneficiaries of his political patronages.
Arosanyin, a lifelong associate of Saraki used the occasion to renew the clamour to rename Kwara State University (KWASU) after the second republic senate leader.
Arosanyin argued that legislative processes had been concluded for the name-change since 2013 and should be implemented without delay. He recalled participating in the public debate on the bill to name the university after Saraki adding that he and other followers of the late politician expected that the state government would would have acted on the bill by now.
“People who know the contributions of Saraki to Kwara state since its creation until he was called to glory are anxiously waiting for the positive decision of Kwara state government in the re-naming, especially when other states in Nigeria are honouring their leaders in such ways”, he said.
Not less than N50 million was realised at the launching of the foundation with the state government doling out the largest contribution of N15 million.
Other donors include the state’s House of Assembly (N10m), Deputy Senate Minortiy Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi (N10m) and Alhaji Moshood Mustapha (N2m).
Scion of the Saraki’s family and Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki was represented at the event by a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Alhaji Kawu Baraje who donated
N1milion in his personal capacity.
Baraje said that the late political leader was a gift from God to humanity and urged Nigerian politicians to emulate his virtues so that the country could be a better place for everybody to live.
He added that the indelible marks the late politician left behind in the state and even Nigeria as a whole would be there for generations to come to see.
The Governor of Kwara state, Abdulfatah Ahmed, the highest donor to the foundation also paid tributes to the late politician whom he described as a legendary philanthropist and a father of all, irrespective of tribe, religion or status.
He noted that the foundation, which would aid the less privileged to pursue their education especially in medical line in the state, was a right step in the right direction as education, “is the foundation of human existence.”
Ahmed recalled that the late politician contributed in no small measures to the educational achievements of many of his followers and as well as indigenes of Kwara state at large and urged his followers from far and near to also support the foundation.
In his address, the convener of the foundation’s Board of Trustee, Hon Ladi Hassan said the idea came to establish a foundation to immortalise the late politician in 2010 during while Dr Bukola Saraki was the governor of Kwara state. According to him, Bukola had directed his political appointees to empower their constituencies with various skills and items.
He however noted that,”the drawbacks were numerous as most of the items eventually ended up at various markets in return for cash. For this reason among others, I felt I should do something different and still achieve the desired or targeted objective.This primarily was the off-shoot of this desire in establishing a foundation.”
He also noted, “More importantly, something struck my mind that we, followers and associates of late Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki have not done enough to immortalise our leader. mentor, father and benefactor who had given so much to us and who had given all his life to the common people.
“To me, establishing a foundation thus become the most desirable in honouring him in such a way that his name will remain indelible in the minds of several Nigerians and mankind from one generation to another”
Hassan said that one of the objective of the foundation was to sponsor indigent medical students pursuing MBBS degree in Nigerian universities, by giving full scholarship to cover the period of their studies.
The objectives, he said also include,”Endowment of academic chairs at faculties of medicine in some Nigerian universities, and university of London where Dr Saraki obtained his MBBS degree in 1962.
He added that the foundation, “will fund the pursuit of medical research in different or specialized fields of medicines, sponsor the medical and surgical correction of congenital health diseases such as hole in the heart and also establish a state of the art cardio vascular Cardio hospital to handle heart surgery and heart related diseases.”
“With this formal take off of the foundation, wednesday 17th May 2017 which coincidentally happened to be the 84th posthumous birthday of Baba, I wholeheartedly say Alihamudulahi and pray for the soul of our late leader and father to continue to rest in peace”he concluded.
Abubakar Olusola Saraki was born on May 17th 1933. He hailed from Agoras compound in Agbaji’s quarters of Ilorin. He was a medical practitioner by profession.
His political career started in 1964 when he contested for a parliamentary seat to represent Ilorin central at the Federal House of Representatives. He however, lost that election.
His first major political victory came in 1978 when he was elected by the Ilorin Local Government of Kwara state into the Constituent Assembly which later ratified the 1979 Constitution. It was at this conference that Saraki widened his political contact and later played active roles in the formation of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, the party that won both the 1979 and 1983 general elections. He was elected Senate Leader during the period.
In order to ensure that his commitment to helping the less privileged realise their educational ambition did not die with him, his associates thought it wise to float a foundation to continue the good work.