How I will add value to public space —Abiru
With a huge experience spanning the private and the public sector, Mr Tokunbo Abiru, in this interview with journalists in Lagos, gives reasons why he is stepping into the ‘murky waters’ of politics and his vision as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Lagos State chapter for the senatorial bye-election in Lagos East senatorial district. KUNLE ODEREMI brings the excerpts:
WHAT could have explained your decision to leave the corporate sector for partisan politics?
I have always had the desire to serve in the public space. As the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Polaris Bank, I have a specific mandate of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) when I was appointed. I have fully discharged that mandate. In fact, my first two-year term in the bank was renewed. The second two-year term has also expired. We have restructured the bank. We have repositioned it. We know the steps that are required to be taken. So I have been thinking of life after Polaris when this opportunity came.
For you, it is an opportunity to seek senatorial election. Do you see the Senate as an avenue to make more money?
Do you think I can make more money in politics than as the managing director of a bank or as an executive director in First Bank Plc? I resigned my appointment as the commissioner for finance in Lagos State and returned to my primary role of banking when I got the appointment as an executive director in First Bank Plc. I have sought professional fulfillment and I got to the zenith of banking. I am very comfortable financially and professionally. I am looking now to serve the people. That is why I decided to contest the next senatorial election in Lagos East.
What is motivating you to vie for an elective position?
That is a good question. In this professional space, I have reached the peak. I have always had the desire to serve my people and state. I think this is the right time. I can bring a lot of value to public space, taking in account my experience in private sector, as the Commissioner for Finance in Lagos State and my familiarity with Lagos East Senatorial District.
Why the Senate and not other political offices?
In my knowledge of politics, the Senate is the most distinguished legislative chamber in the world. If you take the example of the United States Senate and other advanced democracies, it is the people that are thoroughly distinguished or excellently accomplished that serve in their Senates. That is what I like to do. Of course, it is the highest level of lawmaking in Nigeria. That is where my insight into the banking system and national economy at large can be brought to bear. As you know, all the issues around economy and national laws can only be legislated upon in the National Assembly.
Looking beyond your party’s manifesto, what is your legislative agenda?
First, our party manifesto will be the key focus of my activities in the Senate once I am elected. Second, I will buy into the development agenda of Lagos State governor, MrBabajideSanwo-Olu. As an individual senator, however, I will be preoccupied with issues of banking and finance, technology in banking, improving the efficiency of our financial system, boosting fiscal policy for national economic growth, especially revenue generation at the federal level and bringing succor to our people. This is a hard economic time and we will do whatever we could do from legislative dimension to improve national economic performance and the welfare of Nigerians at large. As a senator, I will also be preoccupied with issues concerning Lagos State and Lagos East senatorial district. I will be interested in the completion of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, reconstruction of the Ikorodu-Sagamu highway, construction of the Epe-Ijebu-Ode road, development of strategic infrastructure and investment presence in Lagos East and Lagos State generally.
If elected into the Senate, how would you want to be assessed?
First, I will introduce motions and bills that will deal with the issues of national economic development. Second, I will offer qualitative representation to the people of my senatorial district. I will establish mechanisms to get their inputs and views on all issues affecting us as a nation and I will channel their views to the appropriate quarters. Third, I will like to be assessed on the direct contributions I can make, as an individual, to the improvement of my constituents and constituency.
What has been your contribution to the development of the Lagos East Senatorial District?
Like I said earlier, I have schooled, worked and lived in this senatorial district my entire life. My wife and I have established a furniture factory that employs many people in this senatorial district. I have made extensive contributions in support of religious and traditional institutions and the people. As loyal party man, I have supported the work of my party not only in Ikorodu, but Lagos East senatorial district and Lagos State generally.
What is your take on constituency projects allocated to members of the National Assembly annually, an issue that often elicits public anger?
From my basic understanding of constitutional law in a federal democracy, there is the executive arm which executes the laws. There is the legislative arm, which makes the laws for good governance and the security and welfare of the people. There is the judiciary, which interprets the laws and resolves disputes. I know the core of my work, as a senator, is legislation, representation and oversight functions, among others. I will focus my efforts on these priority areas. For some reasons, the National Assembly has introduced the concept of constituency projects. When I get to the National Assembly, I will have better understanding of how constituency project work.
You served as the commissioner of finance in Lagos State for two years and reached the pinnacle of your career in the banking spanning over three decades. Why do you want to participate in active politics?
I have had professional fulfilment in my career for three good decades, especially in accounting, banking and public finance. Like I told you, I have lived all my life in this senatorial district. I have always had the aspiration to contribute to the development of my people and state. Having contributed in the corporate sector, I think I have a lot of value to add in the public space. If not now, when will I have the opportunity to add such value to my people?
A section of the media reported a few weeks ago that you had no interest in the senatorial seat. Is that true? If it is true what has changed now?
Few weeks ago, I was the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of a regulated financial institution. Now, I have left that position. I can express myself more freely about politics and political matters. The true position now is that I am a candidate for the Senate representing Lagos East senatorial district on the platform of our great party, the APC.
If elected, you will have about 30 weeks to represent the people of Lagos East in the Red Chambers of the National Assembly; what should they expect?
By way of summary, my people in Lagos East senatorial district and indeed Lagos State should expect excellent representation from me. Also, they should expect me to be concerned about infrastructure, industrial and economic development of my senatorial district and Lagos State at large. They should expect me to be concerned about their welfare, well-being and security. They should expect me to work with our party leaders at all levels and our governments to ensure that their lives are better.
Are there developmental challenges within the Lagos East senatorial district that you will also put on the front-burner by the time you resume in the Ssenate?
Liker I mentioned earlier, I will be concerned with the completion of Lagos-Ibadan expressway. I will also be concerned with the reconstruction of Ikorodu-Sagamu highway. I will equally be concerned with the Epe-Ijebu-Ode road. Beyond these priority areas, I will be concerned about attracting investments to industrial clusters in Ikorodu and the rest of Lagos East. I will be concerned with infrastructural improvements and leveraging tourism opportunities in Ibeju-Lekki; and I will be very concerned with the security, welfare and employment opportunities for people in my Senatorial District.
With the coronavirus pandemic affecting economic activities across the globe, as a financial expert, what areas would you advise the Federal Government to focus on in ameliorating the effects on Nigerians?
First, let me commend the Lagos State and Federal Governments for their efforts so far in fighting the virus, cushioning the effects of the lockdown and easing the impact on the economy. Let me also commend the Lagos State Government in particular for the palliatives they provided for people and the Federal Government for the conception of the Economic Sustainability Plan. Now, one of the things we must urgently do is the implementation of the Economic Sustainability Plan because it has elements that bring succour for industries, small- and medium enterprises (SMEs) and other institutions within the economy. That will generate employment for the people. Also, the Federal Government must come up with policies and strategies aimed at attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs). No doubt, we need massive investments in our economy to generate jobs for our people; develop strategic infrastructure and create conditions that will bring about better economic outlook for our people. I think we are close to exhausting the current capacity of the revenues of governments, especially the developments around oil prices. Now, let us focus on how we can attract both domestic and foreign direct investments into the Nigerian economy.
Grassroots mobilisation is critical in politics and the election of this nature, who are you relying on to do this for you particularly when the campaign begins?
I am relying on the entire political structures of the party. I am relying on our leaders, from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to all members of Governance Advisory Council, all members of the State Executive Council of the party and all leaders across Lagos State and Lagos East Senatorial District. I can tell you I have the support of virtually all these people.
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