BY LARA ALI.
Mallam Saliu Mustapha is the Turaki of Ilorin. He is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Kwara central senatorial district election in 2023. He has money. He spends it. This is all we know about this man. But is this all enough? Is this all that we need to know about the man who wants to represent the state capital at the highest legislative institution in the country?
So, we ask: Who is this Saliu Mustapha, and what else do we know about him? The truth is that only a few people can speak with a degree of confidence about who this man really is. Public information about him is either scant, in some cases absent or inconsistent. His background, family, age, education, career, work experience, and trajectory, leave too much gap that none of us can beat our chest and say we really know him.
Mustapha, who clocked 50 recently, first showed up on the political scene in 2014, around the time of the merger of ACN, CPC, and ANPP which formed the now All Progressives Congress (APC). Before then, he was unknown. He had never distinguished himself in any capacity, no known work record or record of public or community service. This was why when he first set his sight on Kwara politics and started to package himself as a philanthropist, people were mistaking him for Lukman Mustapha, the banker and owner of Sobi FM.
Being a smart guy, he quickly realised that he needed to repackage himself for a new identity. He then began to patronise the traditional institutions. It worked. That was how he went overnight from an unknown entity, mistaken for someone else only a short while ago, to become the holder of one of the highest traditional title holders in the emirate as the Turaki of Ilorin. With this title, he became the index Mustapha. But he was not done. The Turaki title was only a means to an end. He had been told stories of how the late Dr Olusola Saraki acquired pre-eminence among the people. He appeared determined to play by that manual. He has crossed the first hurdle. He is now the Turaki of Ilorin. Next, is a political title. Experience has taught him about how to achieve things in Nigeria.
As his party, the APC, shopped for new leadership in 2021, Mustapha saw an opportunity and he threw his hat into the ring. Lo and behold his turbaned pictures began to appear on every public transport in Abuja. But Abuja people too have money. And they don’t so much care for any traditional title. So, people started to ask, who is this guy? More accomplished people could not hide their irritation. Have things gone so bad that this upstart, who they knew only a few months back as one of President Buhari’s CPC hangers-on, would now think he could be chairman of the ruling party?
The chairmanship bid was dead on arrival. So, what next? He started by promoting the idea that the senate was to be his consolation prize for losing the chairmanship bid until the party announced that there was no such thing. Then, he deployed his “artillery” and got the incumbent senator shunted off at the primaries. If the game was about pedigree, accomplishments, impacts, and track record, Dr Oloriegbe would have just walked over the two other contestants. But it was a money game. Nothing more. So, Oloriegbe stood no chance.
But since Mustapha has emerged as the candidate of the APC for the senatorial position, the same questions that have dogged his entire life are beginning to surface. The only thing people have to say about him is that he has money and that he is generous. But after the initial excitement, people are beginning to ask questions. Who is this guy? How did he make his money?
Up till now, nobody has an idea what work he is doing, has done or intends to do. Essentially for a man at 50, it is strange that all that is seen is his money, nobody can say with confidence what work he has done to make such money. He does not own a factory, industry or legitimate business that is known to the public. Those who try to find legitimacy for him often describe him as a businessman but the question has always been what business?
There is also no record of any previous work or experience in the public or private sector, locally or at the national level. Even as a young man, what was he doing during his early years? He has never been associated with any career or accomplishments in life.
The story of Saliu Mustapha is, however, not as hidden as many who now seek to repackage him think. There are many who are quite familiar with the story of his early days in Command Secondary School, Kaduna, up to how he became an overnight millionaire and “philanthropist”. The thing about this man is that the more answers you find about who he really is, the more questions you encounter. But if he wants us to vote for him to represent us, we must dig into his background. We must know who we are voting for. We know he is from Ilorin. He claims to have come from Gambari Ward, but we also know that his family was once stationed at Baboko. The story of how they arrived at Baboko and how they ended up in Gambari is deep. So, let’s reserve that for another day.
More to follow…
*First published by TheCable on Wednesday, 28 September, 2022