New Telegraph

Encounter With An Uncommon Politician

Today, Senator Mukhail Adetokunbo Abiru, is a year older. Abiru, who represents Lagos East senatorial district, has chosen to engage select media personalities on a tour of his Senator Abiru Innovation Lab (SAIL) at Ikorodu, as a way of celebrating his 60th birthday. He also used the occasion to showcase his achievement as a senator under three pillars of Legislative, Empowerment/Facilitations and Endowment, ISIOMA MADIKE, who was there, reports

As a developing country, Nigeria is plagued by the problems associated with underdevelopment, which includes poverty, mass illiteracy and acute shortage of high skilled manpower. This is coupled with most uneven distribution of the skilled youths that are available as well as woefully inadequate socio-economic infrastructural facilities. This, often, is one of the reasons Nigerian politicians, who are supposed to chart the right course are knocked by critics, who consistently believed them to be self-centred and individuals who derive joy in inflicting pain and suffering to the mass majority of the populace.

In the midst of this seeming confusion though are some determined individuals who seem naturally inclined to rendering a selfless service that aligns with the fundamental ethos of politics. One of such is Mukhail Adetokunbo Abiru, born March 25, 1964. He is an accountant who chose banking as a vocation before joining politics where he is now a Senator representing the Lagos East Senatorial District at the National Assembly. In August 2023, Abiru was named the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking. He was the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Polaris Bank Limited, which came into being from the ashes of a dying merger of other banks.

He and others were saddled with the task of reviving it and positioning it to the path of profitability by the apex bank. He was appointed a Commissioner for Finance in Lagos State, shortly after he resigned from the board of Polaris haven fulfilled the mandate of the CBN. Abiru, who turns 60 today, is like everyone but different. Instead of rolling out drums like many would have, he chose to engage select media professionals for a chat and conducted them through a tour of his little contributions that is reshaping humanity, especially the Nigerian society with emphasis on youths, who characteristically live a life with blighted hope in silent agony.

As part of his effort to impact on his community, the youth and the larger Nigerian society, Senator Abiru operates under three pillars of Legislative, Empowerment/Facilitations and Endowment. Through his Foundation, Tokunbo Abiru Constituency Team (TACT), he was able to establish a bursary scheme for indigent residents in Lagos East. Over 600 individuals received grants at the maiden edition of the annual bursary held in October 2021. The selection process, according to him, was supervised by an independent advisory board comprising scholars with high integrity from tertiary institutions.

Since then, the recipients have remained in an upward trend with this year’s edition taking place towards the last quarter of the year. He has also supported over 2,500 vulnerable people with cash every month under COVID-19 Relief Support Scheme. Over N150 million has so far been disbursed in this regard. As part of his endowment programme to drive youth empowerment and entrepreneurship, Abiru created the Community Innovation Space Entrepreneurs known as Senator Abiru Innovation Lab (SAIL) in partnership with Co-Creation Hub (Cc-HUB) in Ikorodu, Lagos.

His aim is to use SAIL to train youths in his senatorial district and beyond on relevant digital and innovation skills, and to build the best entrepreneurs that can compete in the ever-dynamic global economy. SAIL is a gigantic edifice, reputed to be Africa’s first innovation centre dedicated to accelerating economic prosperity. It is run under the Tokunbo Abiru Constituency Team (TACT) Foundation with support from his wife. Established as a unique community innovation space for young people in Lagos East, SAIL’s primary purpose, according to Abiru, is to create employment opportunities, inspire grass-roots innovation and build partnership and networks that will drive economic prosperity and solve significant social and business problems.

From the over 4,600 young people across his senatorial district that applied for the SAIL programmes when it birthed, the number has since quadrupled with many eligible applicants, who for one reason or the other could not be at the centre to physically trained receiving their training online. The programmes are categorised into five. The Tech Talent Development, Startup Accelerator for Businesses, Lagos East Teacher’s Fellowship, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education for Senior Secondary School Students and Business 101 for Artisans and Creatives.

The subsets of the programmes were carefully chosen to accommodate a larger spectrum of the societal youths. The Tech Talent Development is aimed at identifying young people who are interested in a career in technology. Selected candidates are taken through a learning plan that transforms them from complete novices to entry level software engineers in six months, at the end qualifies them for an entry level job or internship. The Startup Accelerator for Businesses on the other hand is also designed for young people who have business ideas that can be amplified by technology. The aim is to accelerate their growth with hands-on business support.

For those who have a prototype, the programme will help them with product-market fit as well as build their capacity to be able to attract funding and support for their business. However, those who don’t yet have a prototype will be supported, Abiru said, to develop their ideas for the testing phase. Moreover, the Lagos East Teacher’s Fellowship is another programme aimed at equipping educators with new skills that would lead to better learning outcomes. It is for teachers who are interested in inquiry-based learning, and want to use technology in their classrooms to the benefit of their students.

Whereas, the STEM is a programme designed to introduce students between the ages of 13 and 18 years to the concept of physical computing, the Business 101 is for creative startups in the fashion, crafts, or design sector in order to upscale the approach to business in a fast-evolving world. It helps them to better understand how to use technology to improve their businesses. The innovation lab ultimately provides a comfortable and safe environment for exploring innovative ideas.

It offers basic foundations and cross-functional programmes and opportunities that inspire young people (students, graduates, entrepreneurs, and job seekers) in Lagos East to gather, learn and create. To ensure that graduates take advantage of the opportunities in the area of Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, SAIL partnered with Awarri AI to provide a job placement pipeline for those trained by SAIL.

About 106 participants in Tech Talent and Data Science have so far secured full time employment with Awarri AI at a decent salary. The project which has got an overwhelming support from the public and a strong institutional backing that will ensure continuity, was packaged to empower the youth to be self-reliant economically, and to prevent them from strenuous activities/business which may lead to loss of interest and finance. It is also designed to facilitate the youth’s social and economic reintegration and to equip them to be financially independent, thereby reducing the rate of unemployment and the recurrent circle of poverty.

Abiru’s passion for community development seemed to have also inspired him to lend his support to the education sector where he has facilitated four blocks of 24 classrooms equipped with complements of furniture, 16 toilets and Solar-Powered Borehole. This effort has greatly improved learning outcomes in the Aga Primary School in Ikorodu Central, which before now was overstretched due to high enrolment of pupils to the delight of the beneficiaries. But Aga was not the only school affected by this innovative mind. RCM Primary School Iwerekun, a coastal community in Ibeju-Lekki also benefited as two blocks of six classrooms were built there. In Agboyi-Ketu LCDA, he also facilitated one block of three classrooms at Ajelogo Primary School.

In the same vein, Ikosi-Isheri LCDA got two blocks of classrooms for Isheri Primary School. Igbobi Junior High School, Shomolu also was fully equipped with a computer laboratory. Methodist Primary School, Oke-Eletu, Ijede LCDA as well as Araromi Primary School in Gbagada were not left out as they got two classrooms and a block of classrooms respectively, the same for Aiyeroju Primary School, Oworonshoki with a block of classrooms. Abiru had also defied the odds to respond to the yearnings for health facilities as reflected in his NEEDS ASSESSMENT as he facilitated a 40-bed Health Facility and Dental Centre at the Ikorodu Campus of the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), now known as the Lagos State University of Science and Technology.

Another 30-bed Health Facility Centre at Mascarra Health Centre, Agboyi Ketu LCDA was his brainchild. The people of Isiu and the adjourning communities in Ikorodu North LCDA also got a 40-bed Health Centre. He has equally empowered many communities in his constituency with socio-economic development, water projects, financial assistance to vulnerable people and business capacity development for entrepreneurs. For his legislative role, Senator Abiru has, in the last 20 months in the senate, sponsored 13 private member bills and co-sponsored three others.

Two of the bills are of particular interest to the entrepreneurs (MSME) and the youth. They are: Copyright bill 2021 (Repeal and Re-enactment) and the Franchise Regulation bill 2022. Others are the CBN Act Amendment bill 2024, NDIC Amendment bill 2024, Federal High Court Act (Amendment) bill 2023, the Industrial Inspectorate Act (Amendment) bill 2023, the institutionalisation of the inclusion of Digital Technology in the curriculum of public education bill 2023.

Others are the Flood Management Commission (Establishment) bill 2023 as well as the inflation reduction programme bill 2024 among others. In all, he has helped to push across 14 bills in the upper chamber legislature. His first motion on the ban of crypto currency in Nigeria and motion on the urgent need for the rehabilitation of the Ikorodu-Sagamu-Itokin-Epe roads to further bridge the infrastructural gap and enhance economic growth in the corridor of his district yielded desired results. From Sabo to First-gate, Odogunyan, Ita-Oluwo, Ogijo, Gbaga, Sotubo to Mosimi, almost all critical sections of the road have been reconstructed. This has brought a great relief to commuters, motorists and businesses along the Ikorodu/ Sagamu corridor

Read Previous

AFCON 2023: Troost-Ekong Reveals How He Endure To Play Through Injury

Read Next

AMVCA 2024: Full List Of Nominees Awards