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OPINION: Why Saliu Mustapha Chose Agric And Rural Development

During plenary on Monday, 7th August, 2023, the Senate President, Distinguished Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio announced the chairmanship of standing committees of the Senate. One of the prominent names was that of Senator Saliu Mustapha, representing Kwara Central, who was announced as the chairman of the senate committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. Considering his closeness to the senate president and his deep involvement in the politics that predated the election of the leadership of the 10th Senate; many had expected Senator Mustapha to go for what they described as a “juicy committee.”

Normally, what you get in the Senate, as an institution that plays host to people who mostly stand as equals, is determined largely by your ability to lobby and negotiate; a skill that Senator Saliu Mustapha has displayed with his vantage positioning as an ally of the Senate President. It goes without saying, therefore, that the senator could have negotiated for any committee he wanted, especially those considered ‘juicy’ and from which he could have amassed tremendous personal wealth if he so desired. But as a dispassionate man, and one with the necessary clairvoyance, he settled for a committee that aligns very deeply with his longstanding perspective about service and impact.

From his days as a private citizen, long before he won election and became a Senator, Saliu Mustapha has displayed an unmatched interest in seeing to the protection of the poor, especially the greater majority who earn their livelihood through subsistence farming. He understands how the daily toil of this category of people determines whether or not they are able to feed themselves and families. And as someone with a deep passion for helping the poor, a passion he has displayed through the work of his Non-Governmental Organization, the Saliu Mustapha Foundation, it is no surprise that he chose a committee that affords him the opportunity to continue to assist the people at the lower rung of the societal ladder. 

From given financial support to businesses and individual market women, widows, orphans etc as a private citizen, Senator Saliu Mustapha has never left anyone in doubt as to where his heart belongs. He is someone who has displayed a genuine interest in assisting the poor and the needy. And where else do we have majority of Nigeria’s poor if not in the rural areas where a sizeable number of them work to produce a greater percentage of the food consumed in the country. Indeed, with many rural poor working as small scale farmers, it goes without saying that Senator Saliu Mustapha, in his strategic role as chairman of the senate committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, now has a unique opportunity to drive interventions that will reform the agricultural sector as a means of improving their living conditions. So, it's safe to say that Senator Mustapha made the conscious choice to chair a committee that affords him the opportunity to make greater impact, rather than greater wealth for himself. 

What is more, those who are familiar with the agenda of Saliu Mustapha as a senator would readily admit that his choice of committee carefully factored in the interest of his constituents, an interest he has obviously placed far and above his own personal desire. As many may already know, agriculture is a major preoccupation of a sizeable number of Kwara Central people, majority of who specialize in animal husbandry. For instance, in Asa local government, one of the local government areas Distinguished Senator Saliu Mustapha represents, many communities are agrarian, with exclusive focus on the farming of staple produce such as maize, cocoa, cashew etc. Therefore, considering the prospects of agriculture in the areas of job creation, food security and enhanced incomes for poor households, Senator Saliu Mustapha, as senate committee chairman on Agriculture and Rural Development, has no doubt made a choice that may not fatten his bank account, but one that would most certainly deliver long-lasting impact, both to his constituents and other average families across the country. 

Clearly, Senator Mustapha has shown by this most selfless choice that he is, indeed, in the senate to represent the people and not himself. Kudos!

Alabi Abdulkarim, a lawyer and public affairs analyst, is based in Ilorin, Kwara State.

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