After many rumours of his death, the Second Republic Senate Leader, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki yesterday passed on at the age of 79, amidst disbelief in his Agbaji Quarters of Ilorin, Kwara state.
The late politician, who would have been 80 years on May 17, 2013, had wished to join the league of octogenarians before his death, but his wish never came true.
Like the previous rumour of his death, news had filtered in the early hours of yesterday that the politician died after a long period of undisclosed illness.
As at 9 am yesterday, uncertainty enveloped his Agbaji home in the Ajikobi ward of Ilorin West local government area of the state when the news started as a mere rumour.
When our correspondent visited the area there were only few people seen around waiting to confirm the authenticity of the news.
Some of them, who spoke with Blueprint, said they would only believe the news of his death after a formal announcement on radio.
“We have heard so many rumours of Baba’s death in recent times, which turned out to be false. So, let’s hear it on radio before I can tell you anything,’’ said one of them who preferred anonymity.
And at exactly, 11:20 am, a call was put through to our correspondent’s line from one of the respondents saying “it has been confirmed, Baba is dead”.
And moments after, what they initially considered to be the usual rumour became a reality when Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed announced on the Kwara Radio that the Waziri of Ilorin had passed on at the early hours of yesterday and declared the day a work-free day.
Students of Shayk Abdulkadir College, Ilorin, and others were seen in their numbers on the streets. When asked by our reporter why they were out, they said, “We were asked to go back home and that Saraki is dead.”
Similarly, policemen and other security agencies were mobilised to Agbaji quarters to provide security where the crowd was already building up.
The body, conveyed in a brown wooden casket, had arrived a private terminal at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, (MMIA), Lagos, about 3:20pm in a long convoy accompanied by his senator-children, Bukola and Gbemisola as well as political associates.
Blueprint observed that four private jets were used to ferry the deceased, his family members and their sympathisers.
While three jets belonging to the Rivers state government conveyed the children, an aircraft marked 5N-BCR operated by Overland Airways carried the remains of the late politician.
His unfulfilled wishes
In one of his interviews, some three years ago in Ilorin during his birthday celebration, Saraki had said he was looking forward to 80 for a big celebration. “If I can live up to 80, I will be grateful to Allah,” Saraki said.
Since then, Baba Oloye, as he was fondly called, had not been attending birthday programmes organised in his honour until he passed on.
On one or two occasions, he only breezed into the town and splashed birthday gifts on his supporters, most of whom were aged women.
Another of his unfulfilled wish was political. Perhaps, the late Kwara kingmaker would have loved to see his daughter, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, installed as the first female governor in Nigeria, a dream aborted by his son, Bukola, who preferred the current governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, to succeed him.
The inability of his daughter to secure the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led to the formation of of Allied Congress of Nigeria (ACPN) by the late politician who consequently defected with his supporters. The daughter ultimately lost out in the 2011 April governorship election.
But shortly after the election, a reconciliation meeting was initiated by the incumbent governor of the state where a prayer was held at his political house (Ile Arugbo), located at his Ilofa Road, GRA, Ilorin.
At the reconciliation prayer, the ACPN and PDP supporters fused into one party and agreed to work together as one big family which they were before they had what the late Saraki described as “political differences”.