FEATURED: LOM @ 50: Celebrating a selfless life of impact

By Lawal Olohungbebe.

My job as a Community Development practitioner has endowed me with the necessary clairvoyance to see people who live in the service of others and to assess the worthiness of their character by how much impact they made in the lives of ordinary people.

Yes, I have encountered many individuals who, over the years, supported or are still supporting my community development efforts, but the story of how I met Mallam Lukman Olayiwola Mustapha is perhaps worth a recount on this occasion.

After my mentor, the pioneer director of the Kwara State University Centre for Community Development (KWASU CCD), David Hannis, a Canadian left Nigeria and returned to Canada, there was a draught in our development activities at the centre. A lot of relationships previously established with donors became weak and some ‘died’ because the “white man” had left. I experienced moderately unreceptive relationships with some individuals who had no trust in the ‘young local boy’.

As uneasy lied my head for wearing the crown, a friend of mine, Lukman Okin came to my rescue as he mentioned to me one day that he knows someone who is always interested in assisting people. He said he would love me to meet the man whom he said may be interested in what I do and therefore assist more communities through me. Being someone who is extremely careful of meeting people of influence and affluence, I reluctantly agreed to go with my friend to see the man in question.

The man my friend took me to see on that fateful day turned out to be Mallam Lukman Mustapha. I never knew him before that day. When I set my eyes on LOM, as he his called by his many admirers, the first question he asked me was what I do for a living. And when I told him what I do with the Kwara State University Centre for Community Development (KWASU CCD), he again asked to know what I and my colleagues at the Centre have accomplished so far. Sensing I was in the presence of a man who obviously knows how to assess people’s capabilities; I had to momentary switch to the mode of a serious businessman making a pitch for a possible deal.

While I talked about KWASU, Prof. AbdulRasheed Na’Allah and CCD, I brought out my tablet and showed LOM a video of people of a rural community dancing just because they got water. I narrated to the new man I was meeting how my team facilitated a borehole for the community in question, and how the inhabitants began dancing the moment we struck water, even when we were yet to install the machine. “Ah, ah! They are dancing like this because of water?” Mallam Lukman asked incredulously; unable to hide his surprise and pity.

When I answered in the affirmative, he then asked me what it would take to provide a borehole for a community without one. I told him the cost, based on the previous borehole projects I have undertaken.

Lukman didn’t ask me of my State of origin or family house. He wasn’t concerned about my level of education. He was only pleased with the few accomplishments I was able to share with him and my friend who was the link between us.

There and then, he committed the funds for the installation of a borehole each in three rural communities of my choice. And that signalled the beginning of a highly supportive relationship that has impacted the lives of many ordinary people.

The people of Akunyun-Irorun, Magaji Isale-Awe and Ketere got access to water through the first donation.

After doing that, I gave him the report on the borehole projects and he sounded so appreciative to the extent that, at a point in time, I thought he had forgotten it wasn’t my money.

Few months later, he called me and said, ‘can you get me more communities?’ I said, yes. He gave the Centre another fund and surprisingly did not nominate any community for us. He said we could take the projects anywhere, that he doesn’t have anything in mind. Again, he shocked me.

So, after installing the second set of three boreholes at Alapo, Guniyan and Gbagba communities, of course, we had to erect signposts indicating who actually funded the projects. He said, ‘no, no, no, don’t put my name there. I just want them to have water, that’s just it.’

We pleaded with him repeatedly, requesting to, at least, put his mother’s name there, since she is no more. He said, ‘no, don’t worry. I may be doing it in her name, but you don’t have to write it.’

So, his name was not on any of the projects, until later, when a politician went to claim the glory. I personally decided to put it. Since then, we’ve been doing a lot of things together.

Much later, my good friend and partner in community development, Kayode Oyin Zubair made a proposal to LOM for water projects in Kwara South. LOM paired Zubair and I together, and singlehandedly funded the repair of close to 72 faulty boreholes in Kwara South without his name on any of the projects.

From one community to the other in Kwara South, we did not just fix the boreholes, we kept training the people on how to fix it in case it later develops a fault. We got a lot of youths who we trained. As we were installing, we were training.

Unlike an average politician across the globe, during the preparations for the 2019 elections, a group of youths approached me and probed to give them information about community projects funded by LOM. As it was required, I had to seek LOM’s approval before releasing the information.

I was so confident of his nod but I was wrong. Responding to my request, LOM said “don’t give anybody any information about my community interventions. If I lose the election, I shouldn’t lose my reward also”. And that was the end of it.

Beyond his exceptional concern and contributions to public welfare, Lukman Mustapha has ingrained in his character, an uncommon penchant for honoring his promises.

A sister once narrated how LOM actually got her job for her. The way he got her the job is worthy of being shared with the world.

The lady, who now works at a branch of FCMB in Ilorin had a friend who knew LOM. She never knew him, so her friend took her CV to him. Going by her experience and qualifications, he promised to get her a job. LOM hadn’t gotten her that job when the lady’s friend was unfortunately killed by armed robbers in Oyo State.

Few months after he was killed, LOM looked for the lady and said, ‘I had promised the deceased I was going to get you a job because you are qualified, so the fact that he’s no more and I didn’t know you would not stop me from doing it. This is your appointment letter!’

Lukman Mustapha is extraordinary and I wish him all the good things he wishes himself.

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