Asiwaju Bola Ahmed TinubuNational Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, also known as the “Lion of Bourdillon” appears set to roar into action as the race for the 2023 presidential ticket of the ruling party in the country begins in earnest.
Insider sources close to the APC chieftain, who also holds the traditional chieftaincy title of “Jagaban Borgu”, told THEWILL last week that moves to unleash a political masterstroke had already been perfected to disorganise Tinubu’s major challengers, especially the powerful and influential associates of President Muhammadu Buhari in the Presidency as well as other opposition forces in the South West who are out to not only scuttle but also frustrate his 2013 presidential ambition.
Foot Soldiers Deployed
These revelations are coming as THEWILL gathered that foot soldiers in the forefront of the political power game had already been deployed across the country ahead of the official declaration for the presidential race by the former Lagos State governor, whose body language appears to be a more powerful signal of his intentions than words. His foot soldiers who are keeping up the public tempo, were in Kano last week, to draw on a political capital recently brokered with Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.
Our Reporter gathered from insider sources that the 12th Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Colloquium organised to mark his 69th birthday which held in Kano on March 29, was well-organised ahead of time, almost to minutiae political detail.
Few days to the summit, an advance party of his front men led by the Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa and National Coordinator of Bola Ahmed Tinubu Movement, BAT, Ambassador Aliyu Lawal Saulawa, had stormed Kano to replicate a similar meeting of former and serving Speakers of the Southwest geo-political zone they organised in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, on January 26.
Also, on a separate tour of the ancient city for the pre-colloquium event were select senior editors from Lagos based media firms, detailed to give maximum publicity to the event.
Top Lawmakers Declare Support
At the top lawmakers’ meeting held in Kano on Friday, March 26, the senior lawmakers declared their support for Tinubu as their choice to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari when his tenure ends in 2023. Unlike the crack that attended a similar meeting among their colleagues in the Southwest geo-political zone early January, the Kano declaration was resolute. Tinubu, for them, was best equipped and ready amongst the pack of aspirants within the party to succeed Buhari and they would mobilise to help him realise the ambition.
Obasa, flanked by lawmakers from Lagos – Victor Akande and Temitope Adewale – and two former speakers of Ogun and Oyo, said they were in the zone “to interact with their colleagues to stimulate discussion and harmonise views on how to move the country forward.”
He said: “2023 is by the corner and the first thing is to look within us for the person that is capable, that has all it takes – the knowledge and capability – to deliver. To achieve that, there is a need for us to come together and talk and extend the discussion beyond our boundary to every part of the country to make it easier for us in Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the man that we believe can deliver.”
Host Speaker, Mr Hamisu Ibrahim Cidari, who addressed journalists after the meeting, said with 2023 approaching, there was the need to source for a flagbearer “who can stand on his feet and effectively direct people.”
He said, Tinubu already has their support and promised that he would win in Kano during the 2023 presidential election.
Ambassador Saulawa said the organisation was formed to solicit the support of Nigerians for Tinubu ahead of 2023. He stated that it was time for the North, which got the support of the South West and Tinubu in 2015 and 2019, to reciprocate the support.
“We have held an initial meeting in Ibadan in the Southwest where past and current speakers agreed to support the movement. We are now here,” he said, adding that the next meeting would be in the Southsouth and Southeast.
Others who added their voices were Mr. Yau Abdullahi Yanshana, a former speaker from Kano; Abu Dauda, a former deputy speaker in Jigawa, who posed the intriguing question, “If not him, then who? If not now, then when?”
Abdu A. Dauda from Jigawa, Moh’d W. G. from Sokoto, Hon. Aliyu Auwal from Kaduna. Aliyu Sabiu Muduru from Katsina, also made up the impressive list of attendees.
Challenge From South West
Unlike the fractious Southwest meeting, obviously because it did not enjoy the support of the governors on whose behest Nigerian Speakers function smoothly, the Kano meeting had the full support of Governor Ganduje, whose interests had converged with that of Tinubu ahead of 2023.
A day after the meeting in the Southwest, news reports showed that the meeting was not called to endorse Tinubu’s presidential ambition. Those from Ekiti were said to have disclosed that the meeting did not endorse Tunubu. For a lawmaker, whose governor, Kayode Fayemi, is said to be in contention for the coveted crown, it would be political suicide to tow a different path.
One of the Ibadan summiteers told our Reporters that when the attempt was made to propose the endorsement of Tinubu, strong voices against it were raised from more than one attendee, saying, they later agreed, “it would be premature at this time to make that proposition and endorsement until aspirants from the zone openly declare their stand.”
At any rate, Governor Fayemi, whom THEWILL learnt is being canvassed by some very powerful power brokers from the North either for the post of President or Vice President, according to how permutations turn out ahead of 2023, has not publicly denied or confirmed whether he would run, leaving the entire thing in the realm of speculation.
For a man, whose second tenure ends in October 2022, he has enough time to consult and decide and enjoy the wave of promised support that may see him not spending or lifting a finger to wear the ultimate political crown.
The nearest he came to opening a window to that speculation was in an answer he gave to a question posed to him at a recent Channels TV programme, Hard Copy.
“I am laughing. You know why? I get asked this question all the time. I don’t know any serious- minded politician who will have the opportunity to govern a country with the blessings that we have – in spite of the challenges – that will not give it a shot but we are not there yet,” said Fayemi, who was recently endorsed for the presidency by the Ekiti State House of Assembly.
Set To Fight The Cabal To The Finish
Apparently set to give the powerful allies of the President in the Presidency a fight to the finish and probably teach his challengers what observers of the game plan referred to as “real politik”, Tinubu is said to be leaving no stone unturned in destabilising whatever plans the group often referred to as ‘The Cabal’ may be plotting to frustrate his emergence. Tinubu is also already spreading his tentacles far and wide to scuttle the moves of the clique and those his allies described as traitors in the power-play. Sources close to the power-play told THEWILL that some of Tinubu’s compatriots in the Southwest such as Senator Ibikunle Amosun, a former governor of Ogun State as well as the Minister for Works, Babatunde Fashola, also a former governor of Lagos State are allegedly strategizing with some of the members of the Cabal to block Tinubu’s presidential push.
Kano As Strategic Launch Post
In what has been described as a political masterstroke to deal a deadly blow to opposition both at home and far, Tinubu’s choice of Kano for his birthday colloquium might just be it even as observers continue to wonder about the rationale for the choice of Kano for such an event. THEWILL however gathered that for the APC chieftain, Kano was a strategic place to launch out from an outpost at a critical hour as this.
Why Kano? The APC National Leader himself asked, rather rhetorically during an interaction with journalists during the colloquium. He answered; “Why are we in Kano? It is to demonstrate to Nigerians at this critical time. It is because there is a Fulani man, a herder man who gave his daughter to a farmer, Yoruba man. And that Fulani, that Yoruba (sic), and some people are agitating wrongly.
“If we can encourage support to go and spend a couple of days with my brother an in-law in Kano and demonstrate that he has not quarreled with me, he has not seceded from Nigeria, I didn’t need a passport or visa to get to Kano, maybe others will have peace of conscience, live in peace and harmony and be loving to one another. That is what Ganduje and I are showing to Nigerians and that is the purpose of this colloquium end of story.”
Tinubu is said to be leaving nothing to chance while preparing to checkmate those opposing his ambition. In an attempt to outfox his traducers and “teach them some lessons in realpolitik”, as a Tinubu insider told THEWILL, the “political juggernaut decided to open an outpost founded on a support offered to Governor Ganduje at a critical hour.”
One Good Turn Deserves Another
According to the source, that support at a critical hour had to do with a time the Kano governor almost lost his second term to the candidate of the rival party, the PDP during the 2019 election, which later went into a supplementary rerun in some constituencies in the state. Tinubu, stepped in with the “Osun template,” to help secure the win. That template refers to a similar poll in Osun State in 2018, which the rival PDP almost won beyond bookmaker’s predictions, leaving the ruling APC to deploy hire-wired politics and contacts with a better mixture of thuggery and manipulation than that of the PDP and claimed victory in a rerun.
Hosting the colloquium was a pay- back time by Ganduje. The governor also enjoys respect among party chairmen in the Northwest.
Moreover, apart from being the state with one of the largest votes in elections in Nigeria, running into millions, which is often times more than those of some four or five states in the country combined, Kano is also an inroad into the seven most populous voting states in the Northeast.
When contacted for his views, Mallam Ameen Yassar, Director General, Media and Communications to Governor Ganduje did not mince words when he said that Tinubu is beloved by his principal even though he contested the view that the choice of Kano for the colloquium had specific political undertones.
He said; “I don’t think the choice of Kano was for pay-back time as you put it. To be frank, Tinubu supported all candidates during the 2019 elections, whether in Plateau, Kaduna, Adamawa or Sokoto. And you know, he is a national politician, he has friends all over the place. So, if you can have Tinubu from the Southwest and Ganduje from the Northeast trying to bring people together and overcome our religious and ethnic differences, would that go a long way in solving our challenges.”
On Kano connection with Tinubu’s presidential ambition, he said Tinubu is a national leader of the APC, stressing, “So if the Speakers choose to support him since President Buhari is on his way out, they are free to rally round one person.”
Asked if a possible Tinubu-Ganduje ticket for 2023 was in the offing, he laughed loud.
“Ganduje and Tinubu? I do not have a problem with that. But his excellency, Governor Ganduje has not told anyone that he has a presidential or VP ambition. Fliers and posters of Governor Yahaya Bello, a much younger person, are being circulated. That is the beauty of democracy, provided he does not infringe on the right of any person.”
Indeed, claiming ones right to vote and be voted for is one of the beauties of democracy. And for the Asiwaju, Kano may just be the foothold to claim that right.
Trouble At Home
For one, the Southwest home front is not a strong as it used to be years ago for the Jagaban, for reasons which are already in the public domain. The Fayemi factor, mentioned above, is indicative of that trend. Secondly, the ruling party and administration has cold bloodedly whittled down Tinubu’s influence and power in the power game of 2023. Apart from sidelining his loyalists from the structure of the party and positions in government, from former Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole to former Federal Inland Revenue Chairman, Babatunde Fowler and Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, to name a few, the recent constitution of the party’s 61-member Contact and Mobilisation Committee ahead of 2023, was the last straw.
A most noticeable member of that Committee from Lagos State is the former Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, who was denied a second term for allegedly acting out of the party’s script in Lagos. His re-election denial that caused some bitterness within the party initially, which even President Buhari tried to intervene and when he failed, tried to compensate Ambode with a ministerial appointment that was successfully blocked by Tinubu on the altar of 2019 politics, appears to have been solved now with this new committee appointment for the only slot for Lagos State.
Party Reorganisation Not Targeted At Tinubu – APC Scribe
As the political game continues, interim Secretary of the party, Senator John Akan Udoedeghe, thinks it is wrong to see the constitution of the committee beyond its charge to mobilise influential Nigerians into the party and give the party more power and wider reach.
He told THEWILL that it is not targeted at anybody or devised to thwart the ambition of any member.
Former Lagos State governor and National Leader of the All Progressive Congress, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
He said; “The party wants to remain relevant. When Ebonyi State governor (Dave Umahi) came into the party, we dissolved the party in the state to give him relevance. Recently some members of the PDP, former Governor Gbenga Daniels and ex-Speaker, Honourable Oladimeji Bankole, defected to our party. They were made members of the contact and mobilisation committee so they can bring in their members who are in the PDP. These are people who are influential members of their former party. Ministers representing each of the zones were also chosen. They were chosen to mobilize influential members into the party, that is all.”
A former Lagos Commissioner under Ambode’s administration, who spoke to THEWILL on condition of anonymity, said, Ambode’s appointment at the central government had been pending since he was unceremoniously prevented from taking a deserved second shot at office. How the appointment will all play out he could not tell, but he was certain Ambode would not go against Tinubu, whom he said the former still has high respect for.
“Ambode had done everything to please Buhari. He supported the campaigns from Kebbi to Sokoto, Kano, Enugu in 2019. He was however disappointed he was not made a Minister. That is why he had kept quiet all this while. Buhari did not want to offend Tinubu, otherwise, Ambode was shortlisted for the post of Minister of National Planning but was removed at the last minute when Senator Olorunimbe Mamora (Minister of State for Health) was forwarded from Lagos as replacement and the President had to merge National Planning office with Finance under Hajia Amina Zainab. This Committee membership is like a compensation of sort. Where it leads, I cannot say for now,” the former appointee said.
Tunde Rahman, Tinubu’s spokesman, declined multiple calls to his phone to comment on this report.