Abiru has revealed that he will offer quality representation ahead of senatorial by-election in Lagos East District, The Nation report.
The candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Saturday’s senatorial by-election in Lagos East District, Tokunbo Abiru, spoke with reporters in Ikorodu on his agenda, preparations for the poll and other partisan issues.
Deputy Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU was there.
People are saying the way you are going about the campaign is like you are contesting a governorship election. Why the elaborate campaign?
I will not describe it as an elaborate campaign as such. If you are familiar with Lagos East, you will come to this conclusion. First, it largely comprises indigenous people of Lagos. We are talking about Epe, Ibeju-Lekki, Ikorodu, Kosofe and Somolu. Outside Ikorodu, which is my origin, I am not sure I am well known in these locations. Second, if you look at the composition of people along this belt, you will find a commonality there. And that belt is composed of Ijebu-speaking people, especially in Epe, Ikorodu, Ibeju-Lekki and Somolu. For somebody, who has spent his life in the private sector, I cannot take things for granted. Let it be that people actually know me. I have to move around and explain myself to them. Also, I crisscrossed all the local government areas (LGAs) in Lagos East. We have five LGAs as constituted under the 1999 Constitution. We equally have 11 local council development areas (LCDAs), making 16. I needed to crisscross all these local councils. Part of what people are saying is that they do not know me. This is what actually galvanise me to move round and secure public acceptance so that people will not think we are taking them for granted. It was important to garner people’s acceptance. Part of what I learnt on the campaign field is that our democracy may be young, but it is gradually getting deepened. People too are asking questions regarding who their leaders should be. As that was coming to my consciousness, the issue of apathy was also coming up. When you talk to people, you find out that they are remote and not happy generally. The reasons for the apathy are not far fetched. One is the state of economy. Two is the compounding case in the issue of COVID-19. As a result, there is need to make myself well known. We, also, need to moderate the issue of apathy. This takes me to something critical. I think the bye-election is more difficult than the general election. That is the reality. A general election is like carnival. There are other candidates contesting for different political offices. We have those contesting for the Office of the President. We also have those contesting for governorship and legislative positions at the federal and state levels. It is like a carnival in town that everybody feels. But the bye-election is so tricky. We have to wake people up that something is going on. A lot of people do not even know. We have to let them know. It is not meant to be a presidential or governorship election campaign. We are just doing the right thing a democratic setting should embrace.
You are just coming into politics, though you once served as commissioner. What are the things people lack and what are you likely to do to get things done?
If I compare where I am from and where I am going into, honestly, there is a common feature. That common feature is what I can call service. Banking, for instance, is about service. I am sure you will agree with me because all of us are account owners or holders. Even if you go to ATM and it does not respond to you, you know all the crisis you can create. So, it behooves on the bank to just get some arrangement whereby people get their money. Politics, to me too, is about service. That is one belief that I hold. This tells you that I have just handled one type of service and I am getting into another type of service. What do I do to meet the need of my people? First, the answer is almost obvious to all of us. People need all things that can improve human development index (HDI). People need good roads, stable power supply, good governance and accountability, among others. Given my background, what I am going for is not an executive position. So, I will see it in terms of good governance and accountability. All through my career, I have been guided along the path of accountability and good governance. I will also use this as an illustration. If I have had the privilege of saving a bank, it is like you have saved a community. The staff strength of the bank is about 10,000 people. If that bank went under, it means 10,000 people would have lost their jobs. It, also, means over 40,000 dependents would have been in disarray. Then, it was a bank that has four million customers with over N1 trillion deposit. You can imagine what will happen if that bank collapses. That means I am coming with the background of someone, who has been tested both human and material resources. With all sense of modesty, I have delivered on it. With the kind of experience I have gathered over the years, it tells me clearly that part of conversation around this country today is somebody who can bring quality representation. I must tell you that this is not an executive role. I cannot tell you that I will go and construct road here. I cannot tell you that I will go and provide water there. I see a legislative role as more of facilitation and influencing. The kind of background and pedigree I have will come into play. Let me give you some examples. When I visited Epe, I went from Ikorodu. I have not travelled from Ikorodu to Epe by road for a very long time. But I was shocked as to the state of the road when I was going. I was really shocked. So, we had this session in Epe. It was a raining day and the journey was tortuous. I was so tired that I told my campaign that if you were returning to Ikorodu, I was going to Lagos. I did not realise that I was going to have another experience. Coming from Epe through Lekki was another bad experience. This is where ones background and pedigree come to play. I just picked my phone and called my former boss, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who is today the Minister of Works & Housing. I told him that if you did not want people to stone you, you had to do something on this road. I equally called the governor and told him the same thing. I told him that Ikorodu-Itoikin-Epe road was a federal road. If you are talking about Lekki-Epe road, it is a state road. I have known the governor for more than 20 years. We were in banking together. Even his deputy, we served together under Fashola. While he was the Commissioner for Works & Infrastructure, I was the Commissioner for Finance in the same cabinet. Why am I bringing this up? Because you have a pedigree that has a wide influence, it is going to make the job easier. I may not have executive power, but I can reach out. I can confidently tell you that we have gone far on the Lekki-Ibeju road, mainly from Abraham Adesanya Housing Estate to Epe. We have to mount pressure on the governor to do something about the road. The pressure also gingered him that he could not leave the road that way. For me, we can serve role models for the upcoming youths. We can shape them because they can just assume leadership roles blindly.
How can the aged, youth and the less priviledged in the senatorial district feel your impact?
First, they will feel my impact through legislation and facilitation. Beyond this, I have a constituency office here in Ikorodu. It was properly set up with a vision beyond winning the bye-election. I do not hope to replicate the same in other LGAs because it will be a waste in this age of technology. At best, I probably can have satellite offices in LGAs. It will just be a small one so that we do not waste resources we can use for the betterment of the society. But, I deliberately set up the Ikorodu Office up because I am from and it is important I have coordinating office beyond my campaign office. Beyond the primary roles of legislation, facilitation and influencing, a senator is expected to anchor, I, on my own, will establish an empowerment and endowment programme having been around and seen the level poverty, the rate of unemployment and the number of vulnerable people. You just need to go on a campaign trip. Part of it that worries me is the number of young people, young women, older people that are running after us. If these people are engaged or have their means of livelihoods, they will not probably be doing this. If you want to campaign in an estate, probably a well-organised, you have to look for a weekend or else you will not get any person to attend because these are people, who are engaged.
Lagos has been on the issue of special status for a long time. If you are elected, how are you going to address it?
The issue of special status has been with us for a long time. We can trace the origin to 1976 during the time of General Murtala Mohammed. He actually initiated the need to relocate Federal Capital Territory from Lagos to Abuja. He also mentioned that given the level of federal government assets that have been invested in Lagos be it seaport, airport and even flyovers, among others, they will continue to be sources of attraction for those outside of Lagos. That is what we call rural to urban migration. He went further to say that there is need for the federal government to have a special arrangement to sustain these assets for the benefit of all. If we cast our mind to that period and to 1990 when General Ibrahim Babangida, we can see that Lagos still remain both the commercial, entertainment, financial and tourist capital of Nigeria. It behooves on us to find a way to continue to enhance the facilities that are attracting a lot of people here. If you speak to the Lagos State Government, they will tell that the population growth rate of this country is at an average of 2.5 per cent. But the rate of people migrating to Lagos is in excess of 3 per cent. So, the pressure is so much. You see traffic here. You see traffic there. It is welcome. But we need to enhance those structures until we get true federalism. We cannot stop the arrangement for special status. We will continue to agitate for it. That is the way they are treating Abuja as well. Abuja is centrally funded from the national budget. The federal government cannot leave Lagos for the Lagos State Government. If you look at the rehabilitation of the road from the seaport to tollgate, it is rigid pavement concrete structure. You can image the cost of that road and you leave that to just one government. Even if you take a look at the budget of this government, this financial year is about N1 trillion. In terms of size, Lagos is supposed to be the smallest state in Nigeria. That tells you the kind of pressure in this state. Also, you see what happened recently. The good intentioned #EndSARS protest, the hijack and the destruction barely tell us that we do not have a choice than to support the facilities that are attracting people to Lagos State. Special Status, of course, is a just agitation.
You have traversed the length and breath of Lagos East during your campaign. Can you share the feedback you got on the campaign field with us?
For me, the feedback has been very encouraging and supportive. Of course, it is a mixed bag of people’s challenges and their concerns. Without being selfish, I think that I see what I can describe as genuine acceptability. I always make it very clear everywhere I went the kind of background that I parade. I also let them know that it is not all about me. It is all about giving to the society. With due respect to everyone here, I am not an old man. I am full of energy. Part of what I am bringing on the table is the energy I use to deliver my earlier career. I still have that energy to bring to the table. I see a lot of acceptability from the people – the traditional rulers, the youths, the old people, the women and even the working class. Again, part of what we heard from the people is the need to attend to people’s needs. For instance, mothers were pleading to have job opportunities for their children. When you heard that unemployment rate is 27 per cent, in real life, you will see that this is a major challenge. We just have to find a way around it. The solution must be sustainable and enduring. We have to look at the development deficiency of this country. If we have high unemployment rate and look at the demography of the country, people between 18 and 35 account for about 65 per cent. And we have unemployment rate around 27 per cent. It tells you that we have a lot of burning energies that are unused. We have to support policies that create enabling environment for businesses. That is what I mean by sustainable opportunities. If we create a fluke that endure for a short period, it will not help us. We need a development policy that creates employment opportunities. We can only build it around initiatives that will support infrastructure; that will encourage private enterprises and that will allow businesses to grow. We need peace because businesses can only grow where there is security of lives and property. These are things we need to keep our minds to save ourselves from the economic situation of this country.
What is your message to the voters ahead of the December 5 senatorial bye-election?
I strongly believe this is an opportunity for Lagos East to have on board somebody that is experienced; that has the capacity and exposure to play the roles expected of a senator. Also, this is an opportunity to bring on board somebody who can give quality representation as to what is expected of a senator representing Lagos East. It is an opportunity to bring in a personality that is homegrown individual, whom our youths can look up to, learn from and believe as to the possibilities in this country. I am not a foreign trained person in any form. My background is very basic and local. When I look back, I have more to lose if I do not live up to people’s expectation. That is part of burden I carry on this assignment. I have run a very successful career. I will not at this stage do anything that will rubbish it. This is a journey of four years and I have run a career of 32 years unblemished. I will not at this stage of my life mess it up. I think this is an opportunity for Lagos East to have somebody that will not disappoint them; somebody that will live up to expectation and somebody that has listening ears. My life has been of service. I will not be a kind of person that they will only see during election period. I will be that person that will periodically, either quarterly or biannually go back to my constituents to give account of what I have done; listen to them to get feedback and see what I can do to further their cause.