THE death toll continues to rise following a stampede in Ilorn, Kwara state when some People’s Democratic Party members scrambled to grab a share of Senator Bukola Saraki’s Sallah largesse.
Senator Saraki, a two-term governor of Kwara State, in his usual practice had come to celebrate the Sallah festival in his hometown, Ilorin and in his usual manner had ordered that Sallah gifts be shared among party faithful who had come to pay him homage, and in the process there was a stampede which resulted in deaths and injuries. Four persons were reportedly dead on Wednesday, October 16, 2013, when the incident happened as confirmed by the Kwara PDP PRO, Alhaji Mas’ud Adebimpe. The figure of casualties rose to 11 later, and on Friday, October 18, 2013, 17 people were said to have passed on and their bodies deposited at Sobi Specialist Hospital, Ilorin, Kwara State while others injured are still recuperating at the state Civil Service Clinic.
Senator Bukola Saraki’s media aide, Billy Adedamola who spoke with ENCOMIUM Weekly on Thursday, October 17, 2013, revealed that his boss (Saraki) is still in shock over the unfortunate incident. “As I speak to you, Senator has not been himself since the incident. He is still in shock. We spoke today and he felt so bad about it all. He is just downcast. You know how it feels when people die. This is not the first time he (Saraki) would be giving out gifts for Sallah and nothing bad would happen. This incident is so unfortunate. I can’t explain how the whole thing degenerated into a stampede. The gifts would have gone round, had it been the people were peaceful. The problem was that some wanted to take more than others. Next time, we will know how to go about giving out gifts without attracting crowd to the Saraki house. The family is not known for violence and this incident should not be used to tarnish their image.”
The incident which occurred just as Muslims worldwide were celebrating their annual Sallah is not the first. It was reported in 2011, two separate scenarios played themselves out when party loyalists were rushing for rice and other items provided by Senator Bukola Saraki. Many people died in those two incidents.
Senator Bukola Saraki, presently representing Kwara Central Senatorial District, is not new to free giving. Earlier this year, he doled out N100 million to party faithful to mark the commencement of the Muslim fasting period. His base in GRA, Ilorin is described as a place where people go daily, seeking one favour or the other and he (Saraki) doesn’t hesitate to answer their requests which sometimes involve money and other things.
– FOLUSO SAMUEL