Vanessa Obioha writes that Tokunbo Abiru, candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the Lagos East Senatorial by-election is not a green horn, afterall, having once served as the Lagos State Commissioner for Finance
As the Lagos East Senatorial by-election draws near, the constant name on many lips is Tokunbo Abiru, the former banker and one-time Commissioner for Finance in Lagos state. He is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election.
Abiru is considered a bit of a cypher in the political landscape by his critics. Their reasons are not far-fetched. First, his niche has always been in the banking industry. There are few people who have left the suit and tie business to join the political sphere. Having Abiru who spent three decades in the banking sector to replace the late Senator Adebayo Osinowo expectedly raised eyebrows. Thus, they questioned his political pedigree, milestones and acumen.
As much as many would want to believe that he fell down from the sky like an alien or was imposed on the party by the acclaimed godfather of Lagos politics, Senator Bola Tinubu, Abiru is not entirely new to the game of politics. He recently cleared all doubts at a meeting with journaliss, positioning himself as the right Senator to represent his constituents in the Red Chamber.
Arguably, Abiru has been a silent observer and political player. The former Group Managing Director of Polaris Bank is the son of a politician. His late father Mudashiru Akanbi Abiru was a two-term Senator under the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). His father established the first club in Ikorodu division, The Exclusives, in 1965. Abiru has also been a member of the foremost club in Ikorodu, Oriwu Club since 2006.
In his division, Ikorodu, he is well known. According to him, he’s been part and parcel of the community, contributing to the development of the area as a private sector person. During the lockdown period occasioned by COVID-19, it was revealed that he gave palliatives to over 8,000 people in the community.
Also, as the former Commissioner for Finance in Lagos, he initiated tax reforms, Abiru has a taste of governance. Although he only spent two years in the office before returning to the banking field, his resignation from the lofty position is one of the doubts cast on him by pundits. Will he also abandon his people if elected for another enticing offer in the banking sector?
Abiru made it clear that he already made up his mind to retire this year and go into public service.
“I have fully accomplished my mandate with Polaris Bank which was to set the bank on the right track again. The next thing for me was how to partake in the public space in terms of public conversation and public development. So when the opportunity came to serve my people, I thought it was the best environment for me to put together all the skills and discipline in terms of my career and give back to society. Public service is a life-long service so you can be assured that I’m here to serve,” he explained.
Frowning at the thought that he was anointed by party leaders, Abiru made it clear that he spent the past few months holding consultations with the party leadership.
“I’ve been having extensive consultations with the party leadership starting from the Governors Advisory Council (GAC). They are spread all over Lagos; from Ikorodu, Kosofe to Epe. They are everywhere. I have been able to meet with over 70 per cent of them so by the time I am meeting them formally, I was already convinced and I received encouragement from them.”
He added that he met with other opinion shapers in the party, therefore his consultation was very wide.
Regarding his relationship with the incumbent governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Abiru emphasized that he has a very cordial relationship with the governor and discarded the news making rounds that there is no love lost between him and the governor as a seed of discord sown by the opposition party.
“I have known the governor since 2000 and we have been friends all along. He is my major source of inspiration and a supporter of my mission.”
From all indications, Abiru is positioned to win the senatorial seat on October 31 when he faces the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) contender. Since the country returned to democratic rule in 1999, only members of the party have won the seat. But Abiru’s critics hope that the political permutations will be upended this period.
Notwithstanding, if Abiru should emerge the winner, he is poised to bring about the necessary changes that will uplift the Lagos East Zone: Somolu, Ikorodu, Kosofe, Ibeju-Lekki and Epe.
Top on his priority list is to bring about the necessary infrastructural development to boost investment in the district and to continue to champion special status for Lagos State.
“I will continue to join hands with both the present and former leadership of Lagos state, the legislators to push for a special status in Lagos to become a reality. We need it. It’s not something we should shy away from. Yes, Lagos is doing well as a state but it needs more support.”
Other plans which he is still keeping close to his chest revolve around social development and poverty alleviation.
Overall, Abiru stands for continuity, competence and discipline as he takes the next big leap in his over five decades of life.
I have fully accomplished my mandate with Polaris Bank which was to set the bank on the right track again. The next thing for me was how to partake in the public space in terms of public conversation and public development. So when the opportunity came to serve my people, I thought it was the best environment for me to put together all the skills and discipline in terms of my career and give back to society. Public service is a life-long service so you can be assured that I’m here to serve,” he explained