BY BODE GBADEBO
Senator Mustapha Sani Mohammed represents Niger South in the Senate and he is the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes. In this interview with journalists, he bares his mind on the activities of the Red Chamber, his legislative interventions for his constituents, among others. BODE GBADEBO was there for LEADERSHIP Friday.
As a first-term Senator, how much do you understand the legislative nuances and what is your assessment of the 8th Senate?
Starting with your question about how much I understand the Senate, I think, for human beings, learning is continuous. It never ends, and nobody can know everything. But before I declared my intention to contest for my current seat, I vigorously studied what it is and what it entails and what my duties are if I eventually won the seat. So after assuming the seat, I didn’t face much difficulty understanding the workings of the Senate.
Talking about the 8th Senate, everybody is seeing the giant leaps we are making. I was impressed how prompt actions were taken after I raised a motion on the floor of the Senate about a major bridge that collapsed in my constituency, stopping the movements of people and their goods. Many other motions were greeted with the same type of swift actions, which is a pointer to the viability and activeness of the Senate as an institution. Last month, you saw the 33 major amendments the Senate is trying to make to the 1999 constitution. All of them are hinged towards institutionalising positive change for the benefit of an average citizen.
It is widely believed that lawmakers hardly visit their constituencies after winning elections. How frequent do you interface with your constituents?
As a representative of the people, one’s number one job is to know their problems, taking the problems forward and trying to get solutions for them. Now without interfacing with them, how would one understand the issues and try to proffer solutions? After getting into office, it was realised that it won’t be possible to be everywhere in the eight local government areas and every ward that makes up Niger South senatorial district. So, the people themselves nominated full-time coordinators, who were appointed in each of the ward and local government area in the zone to routinely collate what the issues with the people are, get them to me, and I promptly take them forward. I meet with these coordinators every month. Sometimes we could meet three times in a month, depending on what is on plate. The strategy has been working, and we have been solving a lot of problems through it.
In specific terms, what have you done for your people since your assumption of office?
We came in when the times were hard, when the whole world was hit by a financial strait. But the strait won’t make us to rest on our oars from making positive impacts on the lives of the people we represent, even if it is not up to the extent one wishes. For the first two years, we facilitated the release of a number of prisoners, empowered dozens of widows from various local government areas, sunk boreholes in Lapai, Pangu-Mayaki, Kuchi, Kpada, Kpachitagi, Malungi, Gulu-Kandi, etc to curb the problem of lack of potable water. We have been consolidating on the drive for urban power development and rural electrification by providing transformers and connecting some villages to the national grid. In terms of education, we have renovated schools and made the environment conducive for proper learning and we also give scholarships to indigent students every year. Personally, I believe only education will spur the kind of development we all are clamouring for, hence my honest contributions to its causes. On the empowerment of youths, just months after assuming office, dozens of youths were empowered to start commercial transportation business. I see and receive reports that most of them are doing well in the business till date with what we gave them. Hundreds of them were also trained in various artisan works and given tools and seed capitals to establish themselves and quit roaming the streets due to unemployment. We also facilitated the employment of many of them in various government agencies. As a country, if we harness our agricultural potentials, many of the challenges we are facing will be greatly ameliorated; that is why, according to my capacity, I am always contributing by helping farmers from my senatorial district with extension trainings and sensitisation to boost their knowledge in modern methods of farming. I also help by giving tools and fertilizers free of charge to boost yields.
What challenges are you facing as a Senator?
First, my hunger to do more for my people but the impediment being posed by the financial constraints I mentioned earlier. Secondly, Nigerians are yet to understand the difference in responsibilities between the executive arm of government and lawmakers. I think Nigerians need to understand the two divides very well for proper appreciation.
You were a successful businessman before now, why did you quit your lucrative business for politics which is said to be a rough water to swim in?
I am into it now, so I can readily confirm the roughness of the water and how difficult and turbulent it is to swim in it. But what would one not do if it is in service of humanity, if it is in service of his people? As a business man, my doors were always opened for my people. Any time I visited home or any time they visited me in my base, especially the young people, probably because they were seeing my dexterity in the handling of my businesses, they were always urging me to come home and serve them. Whatever one is into in this world, once it is legal, there is a way or two through which you can touch people’s lives. However, I felt if I held an elective post, I would have more opportunity of touching the lives of my people positively. And to God be the glory, in 2015, I contested and they overwhelmingly gave me the mandate. Right now, I and members of my team are leaving no stone unturned in making lasting and sustainable positive impacts on their lives.
For the records, can you tell us about yourself sir?
I was born on June 22, 1974 in Bida, Niger State. But all my schooling was in Kaduna State. I attended Command Children School, Kaduna between 1979 and 1985 for my primary education. For my secondary education, I attended Federal Government College, Kaduna, between 1986 and 1992. Then I studied Architecture at ABU Zaria.
Before I delved into politics I was a businessman. I started out so early because right when I was in 200 level at the university, I joined the Board of Mushab Absan Nigeria Limited. We exported hooves and horns to Germany, India, London and other places. I think my father understood how proliferative unemployment had been in the country and did not want me to be a victim, hence he started training me from such a tender age. Before I launched myself into politics, I also did excellently in the real estate sector. I managed a lot of projects. After my graduation, I did my youth service at Abuja Property Development
Company (APDC). Between 2008 and 2014, I was the managing director of Diamond Properties Development.