Featured Opinion

Saraki at 58: A man for all times

OPINION

By Yusuph Olaniyonu

Even outside public office, the Waziri of Ilorin has not stopped the philanthropic endeavours he inherited from his late father, Dr. Olusola Abubakar Saraki who was the immediate Past Wazirin Geri Ilorin.

Since he left the Nigerian Senate in June 2019 as its president, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has remained relevant and on top of his game. He has proved that politics goes beyond seeking and holding top political office. A good politician is one who contributes to policies and programmes directed at the development of his constituency at every point, in and out of office.

The good politician is the one who at all times attends to the problems and seek the progress of his immediate and larger constituency. Since last year, the former Governor of Kwara State has immersed himself in discourse and engagement with individuals who have the experience in policy formulation and execution. Snippets of some of the sessions he has had appeared in the various newspaper op-ed articles he recently authored and the tweeter messages he posted to air his views on key national issues.

In the same manner, Saraki has given speeches at some fora, on and offline, both at home and abroad. On several occasions, his views had been sought by diplomats and the country’s development partners on key issues. These engagements have also created opportunities for him to seek support for Nigeria and her various institutions.

The last 18 months have also been utilised by Saraki to organise his various businesses and get more involved in supervising them. It is now that he is directly involved in the co-ordination of his businesses that we got to know that he owns a packaging company somewhere in Kwara State where over 100 youths are gainfully engaged. There are many of such endeavours aimed at creating employment and helping to grow the economy that are not mentioned in the media. The interesting thing is that at the driver’s seat of most of these private companies are youths who are having the best experience in showcasing their managerial ability.

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His love for the youths has been demonstrated in his pre and post-Senate years. Issues concerning the youth touch him more and elicit passionate, incisive and brilliant response from him. This passion about the youth is however not new. Since his days in the private sector up to his years as governor, senator and Senate President, Saraki has always surrounded himself with young, brilliant and committed ladies and gentlemen.

Perhaps, he holds the record as the Senate President with the highest number of people between ages 24 and 35 serving as key aides. Even now, most of the people around him are still within that age bracket. One remembers how, working with his colleagues in the Eighth National Assembly, he championed the realisation of the demand of the YIAGA group to get a constitutional bill passed that will lower the age requirement for various public offices to enhance and facilitate the participation of young people in governance. The Bill is known as the Not-Too-Young-to-Run Bill. It was one of the 12 Constitution Amendment bills passed by the 8th National Assembly and given assent by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Perhaps, the most symbolic representation of his love for the youth came when during his address to national delegates of the Peoples Democratic Party at the Port Harcourt convention where he sought the Presidential ticket of the party, Saraki was accompanied to the stage by then 24-year old Aminu Waziri Mohammed, a special assistant in his office as Senate President. It was a message to the nation that the aspirant would give adequate posts, space, say and recognition to the youth, if elected.

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He has also spent more time with family and the post-Senate years have seen him become a grandfather. As for a man who at the age of 38 started occupying public office and continuously held key posts for 19 years, the huge time that he probably has for his children and grandchild in the last 18 months, must have been unprecedented.

Even outside public office, the Waziri of Ilorin has not stopped the philanthropic endeavours he inherited from his late father, Dr. Olusola Abubakar Saraki who was the immediate Past Wazirin Geri Ilorin. From Ile Arugbo where hundreds of old women were provided with food, money and health care, to the mass distribution of food and cash items during Ramadan and other Muslim festivals and the distribution of health materials and food items as palliatives during the lockdown resulting from the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, Saraki continues to provide succour and support for the less privileged in his immediate constituency.

That is why in his first publicised visit to Ilorin, his home town, after leaving office, the entire people of the emirate and other parts of the State of Harmony turned out en mass to welcome their hero, political champion and most influential personality back home. It was a weekend which was only reminiscent of how people usually rejoiced when they welcomed his late father back home any time he stayed out of the state for a considerably long period of time. In recent years, the only time the entire state poured out to welcome an individual was when the younger Saraki visited Ilorin after his victory at the Supreme Court in the case on asset declaration filed against him by the Federal Government.

*Wiki – Yusuph Olaniyonu is a journalist, lawyer and public administrator, who serves as the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President of the Nigeria Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki.

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