By Mohammed Abdulkareem
It was on a fateful Friday, and it was supposed to be just like any other. But in the life of Sen. Gbemisola Saraki and her larger political family, it was a Friday that they would never forget in a hurry. It was a day the first daughter of the late strongman of Ilorin politics, Dr. Olusola Saraki, was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as a Pro-Chancellor. Although, it was not something they all saw coming, but it came nevertheless. Today, Gbemisola Saraki sits atop the Governing Council of the Federal University, Otuoke, Bayelsa State as its chairperson and Pro-Chancellor. And with pride and prestige, she’s quietly revolutionizing the governance of the budding higher institution.
First, the appointment is symbolic in many respects. Of the over 50 people appointed so far into various federal boards by the present administration, Gbemi was the first and only indigene of Kwara State who has had the rare privilege of an inclusion so far. But as if this was not enough, Gbemi also got an unsolicited privilege of talking for and on behalf of all those inaugurated same day at the auditorium of the National University Commission (NUC), Abuja. And she gave a good account of herself in the midts of countless professors with intimidating credentials, captains of industry and notable political figures! If this is not a reflection of the level of respect and confidence Mr. President has of Gbemi Saraki, I wonder what it is.
But how did she come about this appointment? So many people, particularly Kwarans who have keenly monitored the quite but impactful rise of Gbemi Saraki have consistently asked why she ended up in far away Otuoke as a Pro-Chancellor. The answers are not farfetched.
One, since she joined public life several years ago, Gbemi Saraki has consciously and deliberately dedicated herself to a life of educational philanthropy. For someone who cherishes scholarship and favours merit over mediocrity, Gbemi has consistently awarded scholarships in several millions of Naira to young and brilliant Kwara youths. From 2003 till date, Gbemi has awarded scholarships in excess of N100 million. Of this sum, I know I have assisted to supervise the disbursement of close to N20 million in scholarships for law graduates who were proceeding to the Nigerian Law School and recently to students who went abroad in far away Sudan for graduate courses in Islamic Banking, Modern Dawah and Sharia Law. I was also directly involved in the coordination of scholarships to over 50 brilliant but indigent Kwara youngsters who have just finished their first semester examinations in far away International Institute of Education, Kangere, Bauchi State, a UNESCO assisted College of Technical and Non-formal Education.
Still on scholarship, Gbemi Saraki has become a big name within the circle of school proprietors in Kwara and even beyond. I know as a matter of fact that she has some biases for schools like Adesoye College, Offa; Roemichs International College, Ilorin; Iqra College, Ilorin; Flora Nursery and Primary School, Ilorin; Nigeria-Turkish International High School, Abuja; Lead British School, Abuja; Funtaj International College, Abuja and a host of others that space may not permit me to mention. Mention Gbemi Saraki in these schools and they will regale you with testimonies of her enduring legacies in the education of otherwise deprived or less privileged pupils.
However, the most intriguing of it all is that she bothers less about the look or creed of the beneficiaries of her gestures. It is instructive that Gbemi Saraki didn’t know I benefited from her scholarship scheme some 10 years ago as an undergraduate in the University of Ilorin. It was in the same year that the likes of Barristers Oniye Shauib, Sanusi Taofiq, Basambo Aliyu, Issa Abdullahi and Ali Jubril to mention but a few benefited from a merit-based scholarship scheme. These set are all doing great in their area of callings today, and I am sure won’t forget the gesture by Gbemi in a hurry.
Gbemi appreciates education; she believes that it is the only viable empowerment you could bequeath anyone. She believes in the ability and the energies of youths in the transformation of any society. It is little wonder that she surrounds herself with brilliant and energetic Kwara youths who she mentors and nurtures to higher grounds. Need I say more?
That’s why for someone who has monitored her trajectory over the last few years, I am not surprised about her appointment as a Pro-chancellor to an academic institution. Whether it was mere coincidence or providence at play, what is not in doubt is that President Buhari has only succeeded in taking Gbemi to her first and only love – education. From me and all of us, this is wishing GRS a memorable and fulfilling sojourn in the lands of the Jonathanians!
Ilorin, Kwara State