Dateline October 13 2022: It was meant to be a simple back-to -base trip for Mallam Saliu Mustapha after a short trip abroad ahead of the formal flag- off of campaign activities for his bid to represent Kwara Central in the 10th Senate.
But it turned out to be one long street carnival right from the airport, where different groups of supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had converged to welcome the man that is better known as Alanu Mekunu (helper of the masses), to the palace of Emir of ilorin, His Eminence Dr Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari.
The crowd at the airport had started gathering even before this writer arrived from Abuja at 11am and by the time the plane carrying the Turaki of Ilorin landed just before 2pm, his supporters had virtually taken over every available space in the premises.
It was perhaps the largest crowd seen at the airport in recent history to receive any political personality.
And much In line with his reputation as a man of the people, the Turaki who was accompanied from Abuja by his main opponent in the race for the APC ticket Yahaya Seriki, was in no hurry to jump into his waiting vehicle on seeing the crowd.
For someone who was last in the ancient town just a few weeks ago, the show of love for Saliu Mustapha was exceptional and according to one of the supporters, it is a reflection of the respect ilorin indigenes have for him.
But this was just the beginning. It took us two and half hours to move from the airport to the emir's palace.
Snail's speed is the best description for vehicular traffic on the route leading to the palace from the airport as Ilorin people lined the streets with some on balconies chanting Sai Turaki while others were capturing the sight and sounds for posterity on smartphones.
It was wonderful seeing the usually quiet philanthropist from the open roof of the vehicle, accompanied by Yahaya Seriki, acknowledging the massive show of love on the streets by waving and exchanging banters with the cheering crowd.
After more than 2 hours, the convoy arrived at the palace and was led in by royal horse riders through another large gathering of people who had already taken up all available spaces within the palace.
And after receiving royal blessings,and most importantly, a solid endorsement from the Emir ahead of the commencement of campaign activities, the Turaki of Ilorin and his team then proceeded, again at snail's speed, to the Banquet Hall of the Government House where a large chunk of his supporters from all the 4 council areas in Kwara Central had literally camped since news of his arrival went round the town.
The hall was filled to capacity by the time Saliu Mustapha was led in to brief campaign coordinators and grass root mobilizers on the task ahead.
It also provided him an opportunity to send a salvo in the direction of one of his rivals in the race whom he challenged to show evidence of what he did in previous roles in government at state and federal levels.
Mustapha equally charged his supporters to pray and work for the success of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq and all APC candidates at the polls.
And outside, many supporters continued the street party with several one-man bands singing the praises of a man whose reputation precedes his name in modern-day Kwara politics.
For many, it was an affirmation of Turaki's street credibility as a man of the people and it was no surprise to hear expressions of hope that a Senator Saliu Mustapha with his network of contacts and ability to play productive politics at the national stage would be a harbinger of further progress and development for Kwara Central.