The national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, seems to have found new foot soldiers leading his campaign, especially at a time when his major political godsons, such as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Babatunde Fashola, Rauf Aregbesola and Kayode Fayemi are yet to openly identify with his presidential ambition.
Tinubu, who had declared that no intimidation or blackmail could stop him from stepping into the shoes of President Muhammadu Buhari, has been consulting traditional rulers and party stalwarts in his bid to achieve his ambition. However, his entourage is devoid of godsons like Osinbajo, Fayemi, Fashola and Aregbesola.
Osinbajo had acknowledged at different fora that his emergence as vice president was facilitated by his former boss, who first appointed him as attorney-general and commissioner for justice in Lagos State in 1999.
Tinubu also singlehandedly imposed Fashola as his successor in 2007 despite opposition from other prominent aspirants in the party. The Minister of Interior, Aregbesola served as Lagos commissioner for works before Tinubu supported him to win the Osun governorship seat – serving two terms. Fayemi’s campaign and legal battle against the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti were oiled by Tinubu.
These men, who are believed to be the high-profile beneficiaries of Tinubu’s political struggle, are yet to openly identify with his current ambition to lead the country. There is the likelihood of at least two of them contesting the ticket of the APC against him. Osinbajo on Monday declared his intention to succeed Buhari, while Fayemi is expected to also throw his hat in the ring after the Ramadan and Lent period.
However, Tinubu seems to be unfazed by this challenge, especially with the emergence of new marshals leading his campaign. Some of these men are not known to have benefitted from Tinubu’s struggle in the past but they seem committed to his ambition.
The former governor of Borno State has remained a constant face in the campaign train of Asiwaju. He has travelled with him to almost all the places visited. And whenever the former Lagos governor decides to have a few members of his team for strategic visits, the Borno senator is always there. Although not announced, he acts as the director-general of the campaign, always the closest man to Tinubu during consultations.
Shettima has not hidden his commitment to the campaign, urging President Buhari and the North not to disappoint Tinubu, who he credited with the electoral victory of the president in 2015. He also countered those questioning Tinubu’s physical ability, famously noting that true leadership isn’t the ability to lift a bag of cement.
His open support for Tinubu seems to have also altered the permutation that his successor in the Borno Government House, Professor Babagana Zulum, would be considered for the vice presidential slot if Osinbajo picks the ticket. The relationship between Zulum and Shettima has been extremely cordial.
Senator Dayo Adeyeye
The national chairman of the South West Agenda for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (SWAGA), 2023, started consultations and rallying the Yoruba to support Tinubu, even before the former Lagos governor declared his ambition. The SWAGA was the main campaign group for Tinubu before his declaration. However, the activities of the group seem to have slowed down in recent times. This can be attributed to the fact that Senator Adeyeye, a former minister of works, is always with him.
Analysts argued that Adeyeye abandoned his ambition to succeed Fayemi in Ekiti in a bid to concentrate on the presidential campaign. The former Ekiti senator has maintained that Tinubu is the best candidate for Nigeria, noting that the group is not threatened by other contestants, especially those from the South West.
Senator Abu Ibrahim
The longtime ally of Tinubu, who is leading the Arewa Organisations Movement for Tinubu, 2023, has maintained that his former colleague in the Senate has the largest political base in the country.
Senator Ibrahim is a rallying voice in the North West for Tinubu.
The Katsina-born politician, who said he linked Buhari with Tinubu in 2010, said Osinbajo and Fayemi were no match for the former Lagos State governor.
He also urged President Buhari to fully support Tinubu to pick the APC ticket and win the election as a way of payback.
“If we don’t support Tinubu, North West politicians will suffer in the future as nobody will trust us again. So we have to make sure that this understanding is for our future politics,” he said in an exclusive interview with this paper.
Senator Iyiola Omisore
The newly elected national secretary of the ruling party and former deputy governor of Osun State is no doubt one of the lieutenants of the APC national leader and presidential hopeful.
His emergence as the APC national secretary has been described as highly strategic, although there were protests from some parts of the South West where the position was originally zoned to.
Feelers within the party revealed that Omisore became the choice of the stakeholders, especially Tinubu, because of his capacity to command followers for any political contest.
The Osun APC cannot forget in a hurry how the Ife-born senator delivered victory to Governor Gboyega Oyetola in the last governorship election in 2018, and there are high hopes that he would even perform better in the coming election to return Governor Oyetola, Tinubu’s cousin, to power.
It would be recalled that Tinubu was instrumental to facilitating the talk with Omisore, who was then the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Shortly after the election, he dumped the SDP to join the APC. Since then, his relationship with Tinubu has been very cordial.
He became much handy for Tinubu after the former Lagos governor fell out with his one-time godson and former governor of the state, Aregbesola.
Informed sources said Omisore is one of the candidates of Tinubu in the newly constituted APC National Working Committee (NWC), and he is no doubt ready to work for his principal’s emergence as the party’s presidential flag-bearer.
The former member of the House of Representatives for Kiru/Bebeji constituency, who is the director-general of the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Support Groups Management Council, has been very vocal about Tinubu’s presidency.
Though a northerner, Jibrin is one of the believers in the zoning of the presidency to the South, and he has made it very clear that Tinubu remains the best choice for the presidency in 2023.
He has warned that how the APC manages its primary elections from the state to the presidential would determine the survival of the party, stressing that the party would be doomed if the people’s choice is not allowed to prevail.
Political analysts say this is a subtle warning to the leadership of the party, especially in handling of a consensus presidential candidate, which is said not to favour Tinubu, who wants an open contest for the ticket.
Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe
The former Lagos East senator is a typical example of a critic-turned-supporter. For years, Ogunlewe was among PDP leaders who sought to cripple Tinubu’s political influence. He had described the former governor in unprintable words in the past, but today, he is one of the marshals rallying critical stakeholders and using the media to showcase the benefits of Tinubu’s presidency.
He has weathered the criticisms from his former allies in the PDP to continue his campaign for Tinubu, whom he described as the “rallying point for Nigerian politics today.”
Senator Rilwan Akanbi
Senator Akanbi represented Oyo South senatorial district between 2015, and 2019 and he is one of the forces to be reckoned with in Oyo politics.
He served under the administration of Alhaji Lam Adesina between 1999 and 2003. He was the special adviser on economic and industrial matters when Oyo State had only three special advisers.
He is the vice chairman of the South West Agenda (SWAGA), one of the numerous groups advocating Tinubu’s presidency.
Although he was never known to have any affiliation with Tinubu in the past, he is now considered one of the foot soldiers in his presidential bid.
Akanbi told our correspondent that more than any aspirant that has come out in recent times, Tinubu has the capacity, maturity and experience to pilot the affairs of the country. He said he was the most credible personality to ever come out and indicate interest in contesting.
Comrade Abdulhakeem Alawuje
A retired military personnel, Comrade Alawuje, is the national coordinator of Disciples of Jagaban (DOJ), another Tinubu support group. He is also the president of the Yoruba Welfare Group (YWG), a socio-cultural group. Even before the electioneering commenced, the group had launched a campaign for Tinubu’s presidency.
In addition, the group recently asked President Buhari to openly adopt Tinubu as his preferred candidate as a form of reciprocating his sacrifice towards the formation of the APC and the victory of the party and its presidential candidate in the 2015 and 2019 elections.
Mutiu Kunle Okunola:
A former organising secretary of the PDP in Lagos, he defected to the APC shortly after the 2019 elections, where he contested for the House of Representatives seat of Ikeja constituency but lost to the incumbent, James Faleke.
As soon as he defected to the APC, he floated a group known as Tinubu 2023 Non-Negotiable (TNN). As far back as 2020, he had established the group in at least 20 states all with one message – a Tinubu presidency in 2023. Okunola used to be in the opposition, but he has become one of the foot soldiers of the APC national leader.
It is also worthy of note that Tinubu is enjoying the support of some of his old disciples, including the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, his Osun State counterpart, Isiaka Oyetola, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the founder of Tinubu Support Group (TSG), James Faleke, Lagos West senator, Solomon Adeola, among others.
Although they can’t be referred to as foot soldiers, Chief Bisi Akande and the Kano State governor, Abdullah Ganduje, are also identifying with Tinubu’s presidential ambition.