2023: Every Yoruba should rally behind Tinubu - Tunde Badmus


The presidential ambition of former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, which had been an open secret since he led the Southwest geopolitical zone into a merger that birthed the All Progressive Congress (APC) in 2013, and ultimately produced President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, was finally, even if not officially, announced on Thursday fortnight ago, with the formal flag off of his campaign train, the Southwest Agenda 2023 (SWAGA ’23) in Lagos State by the incumbent governor of the state, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

First inaugurated in December 15, 2020 with Ibadan, Oyo State, the political capital of the Southwest as its headquarters, and chaired by former Minister of Works and Media Adviser to the late Chief Moshood Abiola, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, SWAGA’23’s stated mission is to rally support for Tinubu’s ambition. And it has since begun mobilisation tours across the six Southwest states.

The movement’s mission is clearly spelt: to rally the support of the Southwest for Tinubu; a cleverly crafted agenda that seeks to pass off the former governor’s ambition as being a collective aspiration of the zone.

At the inauguration ceremony held in Oregun, Sanwo-Olu, who was accompanied by all members of the State Executive Council, lawmakers in the State House of Assembly, and members of Conference 57, said the group was formed based on the belief in Tinubu’s vision and political philosophy that prioritise development of human capital and economy.

“Asiwaju Tinubu’s story has been a legend in vision, passion and action. These three values stand him out among his contemporaries in national politics today. It is no wonder the man stretches his arm of fellowship beyond Lagos, the State he led for eight years as a Governor and in which he bequeathed the legacy we are building on. He is nationalist in thinking and progressive in action,” he had declared.

“The SWAGA we are launching in Lagos today is a demonstration of Tinubu’s enduring political principles and strong vision. Those behind the movement took the three values and push them with passion. What we are witnessing today is the action from the vision and passion; this is what SWAGA represents. By the grace of God, we will drive this agenda to logical end and we will all witness the inauguration of our political icon come 2023.”

Barely 24 hours after the inauguration, Tinubu, who had been been away to the United Kingdom on a medical trip for about three months – he underwent a knee surgery – during which time he received guests ranging from President Muhammadu Buhari, to virtually all the governors of the Southwest, including other national assembly members from the North, returned to the country, amid brewing crisis in the party in the state, to hit the ground running.

Social media campaigners have since been mobilized to push for his candidature. Though it is proving to be a hard sell among Nigeria’s younger generation who hold him partly responsible for the #EndSARS catastrophe of last year, and who dismiss him as part of the ruinous old generation. But the next weeks and months promises to be interesting as the Jagaban stages what will be his most defining political battle – probably his last, too – years in the making.

“Tinubu is very popular across Nigeria, even in the North, and his popularity is growing,” said Umar Ibrahim, DG, Tinubu Support Organisation. “He is somebody who can win presidential election. We have to give him credit for the success of APC. If not for him, APC may not be in power today.”

Support groups – which sometimes are also avenues for making money off politicians – are springing up. And Tinubu’s team is upbeat, understandably so. Speaking on Channels TV last week, SWAGA’s chairman, Senator Adeyeye claimed that he already has 12 million votes in the bag ahead of the 2023 presidential election.

On social media, his hired influencers are already on overdrive, confident in their benefactor’s chances of taking power after Buhari. But for Tinubu, it’s not as straightforward. If anything, it’s been a battle full of hurdles, and going into 2023, the hurdles may yet become more pronounced.

Since Buhari took power in 2015, different tactics have been deployed to clip the Jagaban’s wings; from the politics that led to the emergence of Bukola Saraki as Senate President, to the emergence of Rotimi Akeredolu as governor of Ondo State in 2016, even when he had backed another candidate, Segun Abraham for the position.

The list goes on. But Tinubu, like a cat with nine lives, has kept coming back, picking his spot to score his victories, even if they ultimately prove to be pyrrhic. In 2018, he succeeded in getting rid of Chief John Oyegun as APC national chairman to pave the way for the emergence of his loyal friend, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as chairman, in preparation for his power bid. And while he was outmatched in 2015 by Saraki, he eventually succeeded influencing the emergence of Ahmad Lawan as Senate President and Femi Gbajabiamila as speaker of the House of Representatives. But there will be debates about whether or not it’s been worth the effort, especially given Lawan’s unalloyed loyalty to Buhari.

Hurdles on the Way

With 2019 election in view, Buhari and his Northern clique, who never hid their opposition to Tinubu’s ambition, conceded grounds to him, allowing him to get rid of then governor of Lagos, Akinwunmi Ambode – denying him a second term ticket in favour of Sanwo-Olu – as well to bring Oshiomhole as APC national chairman. Many interpreted it as a win for the Jagaban, and a huge boost to his quest for power.

He was to take over the party’s structure with Oshiomhole at the helm. And while that happened to be the case in the months leading up to the 2019 polls and shortly afterwards, the North inevitably fought back, taking advantage of Oshiomhole’s rift with Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, to force him out, and with him went Tinubu’s dream of being the ultimate power broker in the party.

Oshiomhole’s ouster paved the way for Buhari to appoint Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni as caretaker chairman of the party, despite Tinubu’s protestation, and it is an outcome that is proving to be his ultimate nemesis.

Tinubu’s supporters attempt to present him as the Southwest candidate for 2023, and the whole essence of SWAGA is the idea that his aspiration is the zone’s agenda. They have a point. He is easily the most popular political figure in the region, but he is not the only one interested in power, and he has his enemies too.

Right there in Lagos, his political base, the Jagaban is facing a battle of his life, as indigenous Lagosians, determined to end what say is a hegemonic hold on their state, are determined to end his grip on the state.

Rallying around Lagos4Lagos movement, a group led by the resolute Olajide Adediran, Chairman of Core Media Group, the indigenous population, have since made a a point of duty to end Tinubu’s hold on to state. And while he had survived many political battles in his eventful career, this is proving to be his toughest yet, and could put paid to his presidential ambition, even before campaigns officially start.

APC’s state congresses held on Saturday, produced parallel chairmen in many states of the federation, including Osun, Ogun, Kwara, Akwa-Ibom, Niger and Abia, as the party slides deeper into crisis, one Lagos, Tinubu’s yard, turned out to be its epicenter, with three parallel congresses held and three chairmen and state executives produced.

And like the previous ward and local government congresses in which those held by the Lagos4Lagos group were reportedly endorsed by the Buni-led national leadership of the party, the state congress appear to have also gone against Tinubu, part of an apparently well orchestrated plot to take Lagos from his grip.

Though Buni had declared that only congresses endorsed by state governors will be recognized, it’s been gathered – but not confirmed – that the Buni-led national leadership, may be inclined to  recognise the state congress organised by Ambode’s faction and his list of executives, in what is yet another plot against the APC national leader.

Ambode, who was humiliated out of office by Tinubu in 2019, is proving to be handy figure in the quest to clip the Jagaban’s wings. In May, he was named chairman of the Southwest subcommittee of the APC Contact and Strategy Committee, after being earlier appointed as member of the high-powered 61-man committee chaired by Jigawa State governor, Mohammed Abubakar.

Among those elected by the Ambode faction included Beatrice Omotayo Tugbobo, Chairman; Alhaji Dauda, Vice-chairman; Hon. Prince Adedeji Osho, Secretary; Hon. Akewushola Onoyemi, treasurer; Balogun Adekunle Hameed, Publicity Secretary; Youth Leader, Buhari Babajide Jimoh and Woman Leader, Ashafa Salawat.

Others are: Financial Sec, Prince Moruf. A. Anibire; Organizing Sec., Olamiji Alilu; Auditor, Adeosun Iyiola Abiodun; Legal Adviser, Wasiu Adeyemi Sulaimon; Youth Leader, Adelaja Moruf; Welfare Officer, Olusegun Moruf Bello; Ex-officer 1, Ibrahim Misbau Omoniyi; Ex-officer 2, Babatunde Collins Davies.

In yet another congress organised by the Lagos4lagos Movement, held at the Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja, Sunday Ajayi, emerged as state chairman.

Meanwhile, the mainstream APC in the state backed by Tinubu and Sanwo-Olu, which held its Congress at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, produced Mr Cornelius Ojelabi as chairman, with Mr Olanrewaju Maiyegun as the deputy chairman.

Others elected officials are: Sunmi Odesanya (State Secretary), Biodun Aigbe (State Treasurer), Doyin Banjo (State Financial Secretary), Adewale Ayodele (State Organising Secretary), Oluseye Oladejo (State Publicity Secretary).

Others include: Kehinde Adeniyi (State Welfare Secretary), Doyin Pikudan(State Auditor), Jumoke Okoya-Thomas (State Woman Leader),Dr Muritala Seriki (State Youth Leader) among others.

Speaking after the Congress, Sanwo-Olu, insisted that any other congress held anywhere else in the state remained a tea party.

“I am not aware of any other congress,” he said. “Maybe because of your work, you are able to see those who are engaging in a tea party.”

A loyal member of the Tinubu clan, Sanwo-Olu’s commitment to the his agenda is not in doubt. But same cannot be said of many his would be disciples, notably the country’s vice president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, who is himself is nursing ambition of his own.

The Osinbajo Challenge

When in 2014, Buhari rejected the idea of having Tinubu as his running mate, and only offered the former Lagos governor the choice of nominating two candidates and allowing him to ultimately decide who, between the two, would fly the APC flag with him, the president had expected him to nominate Osinbajo and Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, for him to settle for the latter. But in the event, Tinubu nominated only Osinbajo, considering him to be the more loyal political son.

However, in politics, only interest is permanent. Ahead of 2023 polls, Osinbajo, has broken ranks and set out on power bid of his own, with both expected to collide going forward.

The vice president, has continued to run subtle campaign, and only few days ago, the APC leadership recognized his support group, the Progressives Consolidation Group; a group canvassing support for him to emerge as presidential candidate in 2023.

Although he is yet to formally declare interest in the job and has not identified with support group formally, it is not unexpected, given that it would be too early to do so.

Indeed, apart from the Progressives Consolidation Group, another group, Osinbajo Grassroots Organisation (OGO), led by Folusho Ojo, has been canvassing support for the presidential ambition of the vice president.

There is yet Osinbajo Support Group chaired by Alwan Hassan, who argues the vice president is the ideal candidate for president in 2023.

“Buhari should present Osinbajo to Nigerians,” he said. “He is a good thinker and a man of sound intellect who has all it takes to lead Nigeria.”

Hassan noted, however, that ultimately, the Southwest would have to meet and achieve a consensus, while expressing confidence that Tinubu would eventually stand aside for the vice president.

However, Mr. Tunde Ajibulu, a member of the ruling party, argues that it would be impossible for Osinbajo to contest for president without the support of Tinubu, and that “If Tinubu comes out to contest, there is no way Osinbajo will not support him.”

Tricky Religious Balance

When in 2014/2015, Tinubu aspired to be vice president, the key argument against him was his Muslim faith. With Buhari being Muslim, many argued that in an increasingly polarised polity like Nigeria’s, a Muslim/Muslim ticket would serve to increase religious tension.

The consideration ultimately led to the choice of Osinbajo, a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, as Buhari’s running mate.

Amid Tinubu’s positioning for the ultimate job, the question of religion is reemerging. Perhaps more so than in 2015, the country is polarised along religious lines, and for many eight years of a Muslim president should only be followed by eight years of a Christian president to strike a balance.

“The major factors determining the political equation in Nigeria in relation to zoning and rotation are geographical location and faith. Indeed, from experience, the latter seems more potent than the former,” argued Ebun Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, in an article last week.

“President Buhari is a practicing Muslim by all accounts and this is known to all. In fact, some have gone as far as tagging him a religious fanatic or a fundamentalist, citing some of his close cabinet members that he has entrusted with key positions of power in places like ministries of Justice, Works and Housing, Defence, Finance, Communications, Internal Affairs, FCT, Aviation, Education, Information, name it.

“So, if there is going to be a power shift in the true sense of the word, then the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the South and he/she should be a practicing Christian. It is as simple as that or else there should be no basis for insisting on zoning or rotation. By all known parameters, Jagaban is a PRACTICING Muslim and it is very strange that anyone would seek to drag him into the political equation of 2023.”


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