2023: What Babashir Lawal, Senator Shettima told Tinubu support groups

BODE OLAGOKE reports the intrigues, the messages, the strategies and other dramas that characterised the recent gathering of likeminds working towards the actuaualisation of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s presidency ahead of the 2023 general elections.

The presidential ambition of the former governor of Lagos state and the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, received a big boost with messages like arrows from the gathering shaking the political foundation of would-be opponents within the ruling party.
While arguing that Tinubu is a living legend and a political tactician, who has not only made leaders in political offices, his name is also boldly written in capital letters in some other business sectors.

To many political watchers, the name ‘Asiwaju’, which literally means the leader, took the first shot with his recent visit to the seat of power where he met with President Muhammadu Buhari and later told Nigerians for the first time that his “lifelong ambition” was to be president of Nigeria.

The gathering 
At a conference organised by the Support Groups Management Council (SGMC) working to actualise Tinubu’s presidential ambition, groups numbering 2,500 from across the country represented by their delegates converged in Abuja. 

Apart from the delegates, uninvited natural supporters of Tinubu attended the event at the International Conference Centre (ICC) Abuja, which resulted into overflow of men and women in and out of the venue, to openly identify with Tinubu’s “lifelong ambition.”

Tinubu’s health controversy 
However, some commentators had expressed reservations about what they called “weak health condition” of the former Lagos state governor, making reference to Tinubu’s medical treatment abroad last year. 

Those who have volunteered response in defence of the APC national leader philosophically reminded the Tinubu traducers of the popular saying that “only God knows who will die first between a doctor and a patient.”

One of the Asiwaju’s defenders was  the former governor of Borno state and a serving Senator Kashim Shettima, who delivered a speech at the event. To Shettima, Tinubu is not preparing for an Olympic game but Nigeria’s presidency.
“I’m not asking you to tone down critical assessments of your future leaders, but to redirect you to see the bigger picture. We are not here to prepare for the Olympics, but an institution that relies on the superiority of ideas to thrive. Asiwaju’s credentials aren’t only appealing, they are proof of the qualities this country needs to redeem its vast potentials and possibilities. 

“We are here to testify to this power of ideas—one that overturned the fortunes of Lagos state and sustained its supremacy as the largest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa and kept the opposition alive when it was more profitable to sell out. 
“Those who seek to make us go low hope to present the presidency as a brick-laying exercise. But that’s the work of a machine created by an idea, and who else to guide us towards manufacturing the best ideas to redeem this country?  

“The conversations we are prepared for aren’t pedestrian obsessions with the mundane, but comparisons of ideas and track records of service to the nation.

“At the top of our expectations from Nigeria’s next president should be mastery of the dynamics of the modern economy, testified leadership skills and competence, and, very significantly, sensitivity to the complexities of Nigerian sociology.”

Tinubu’s strength 

Narrating his experience, Shettima told the gathering how he and the APC national leader were on a trip. He said, “a few days ago, I joined him on a trip to Zamfara state to condole with the people and identify with their realities, and the experience made a nonsense of the propaganda that he’s unfit to run Nigeria.

“On the eve of the trip, Asiwaju had retired at 6 am, after Subhi prayers, and was already awake and attending to guests by 11 am. We departed for Sokoto around 2pm and had to traverse the menacing hinterland of that part of the North-West for seven hours from Sokoto to Gusau—where he made a generous donation of N50 million as he had in other places struck by tragedies—and then back to Sokoto. 

“On returning to Abuja by midnight, his schedule was entirely a series of meetings that kept him up till 3 am. Now, excuse my curiosity, how many of us here can match or endure such a demanding schedule? 

“Asiwaju’s alacrity, therefore, has never been a subject of scepticism for those who’ve worked with him, and even his critics are aware of this. If he were half the man in their tales by moonlight, they would’ve long succeeded in subduing him. 

Message for cabal 

The former Borno governor also has message for those he described as ‘Buhari’s Church of Later Days Saints’. He asked where they were when Tinubu “In 2015, some aspirants with very huge war chest were itching to clinch the ticket of the APC, like the rock of gibraltar, Asiwaju and his progressive team stood solidly behind the candidature of Presidency Muhamadu Buhari.

“We shall have minimal thresholds below which we won’t operate and the irreducible minimum is that after eight years of presidency in the North, the logic, common sense, equity, justice and fairness demand that power should move to the southern part of the country and who is better qualified? Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu should be given the choice of first refusal. More than any other person, he has sacrificed more for this democracy, for the APC.

“My simple question distinguished ladies and gentlemen, where were the new members of what I call: ‘The Buhari’s Church of Later Days Saints’ where were they? We knew where their political loyalty lied in that particular convention when President Muhamadu emerged as the presidential candidate of the APC. Where were they?  

“Some people say everything goes in politics, not everything goes in politics.We shall have minimal thresholds below which we won’t operate and the irreducible minimum is that after eight years of Presidency in the North, the logic, common sense, equity, justice and fairness demand that power should move to the Southern part of the country and who is better qualified? Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu should be given the choice of first refusal. More than any other person, he has sacrificed more for this democracy, for the APC.”

The man Tinubu by Senator Shettima

Shettima described Tinubu as a tested, accomplished and large-hearted leader who has invested his resources in building an extensive network of political mentees who have risen to the peak of their careers. 

“He’s a leader of leaders. A mentor who has mentored some of the best hands in this country. From our erudite Vice President, Osinbajo to Babatunde Fashola our lawyer who has turned into an engineer in the Federal Ministry of Works;  Rauf Aregbeshola, Mamora, of course sitted here is James Faleke, Lai Mohammed, Richard Adeniyi Adebayo and to my friend, the Governor of Ekiti State, John Fayemi Kayode. These were members of the Asiwaju team that have excelled and continue to excell. 

“He has the capacity to forgive and embrace recalcitrant sons that have returned back to base. A lot of his prodigal children have returned back to his camp and he has embraced them, empower them, and make them have a sense of belonging.”

Campaign for direct primary 

For the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Pastor Babashir Lawal, the ruling APC has derailed from the founding fathers ideal of a party and the preffer way to select the next presidential candidate of the party should be through direct primaries.

Lawal said: “We are neither offended or threatened by whichever method the party chooses to adapt for the emergence of its presidential candidate. But of course, being Democrats, we prefer a method that involves all the card carrying members of the party in this choosing process.

“The incapacity of the party to even harmonise and synergise policy direction of the federal government with that of states it controls especially in key critical areas around which the campaigns were ran, speaks volumes about its incompetence. 

“Compounding these problems in the last one year is the apparent hijacking of the party by a self-serving cabal who, driven by personal  ambitions, have failed to organize even simple conflict-free Ward, Local Government, and State Congresses not to talk of a National Convention. As we speak, there are only a handful of states in the country that do not have parallel state executives. 

“This is the current state of our party and it is in this environment that we gathered here must operate to deliver Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the party’s flag bearer at the 2023 presidential election. And this we will do be it through consensus, indirect or direct party primaries by the grace of God.”

The strategies to secure presidential ticket 

Director General of the SGMC, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, said 2023 is about the future of Nigeria and the best person to lead the country is Asiwaju Tinubu. 

Hon Jibrin revealed some of the strategies to employ for his principal to secure the ticket of the ruling party.

The former lawmaker said: “This is a gathering of delegates from over 2500 support groups of Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu. 2500 because we have worked day and night to also streamline the groups and be sure that the 2500 delegates are all rooted from the national level to the state level, to the local government, to the wards and of course the units. So this is purely a gathering of delegates nominated by these support groups.

“I think something is very important, one we must continue to support President Muhamadu Buhari. We must continue, all of us support President Buhari but we havee gotten to a critical point where we are even supposed to double our support for this government to ensure that all of the good intentions that he has for this country and all the good policies are being implemented to logical until he finishes his term. 

“So, I am calling on all of us, support groups spread across the country, we are millions and millions and millions in numbers supporting Tinubu to continue to focus, I know we have being doing it, but we must be very conscious of that and continue to put in our best to see that we continue to support our Baba, Muhammadu Buhari. 

“Secondly, it is important by the time will leave today, as the Chairman mentioned, campaign has not started. This is not a campaign council and we try to explain that over and over again so that we’re not accused of starting campaign when campaign has not commenced. These are all preliminary preparatory activities in our own foresight to continue to organise the support groups for easy management and to be able to achieve the objectives that we set out to achieve.

All you can do now is when we all go back to our constituencies is to continue our aggressive political mobilisation based on volunteering. We must continue to recruit people. Let’s not just assume we have had enough. Let’s continue to recruit people at the state level, the local government level, the ward level and the most important, the electoral unit at the unit level, massive aggressive recruitment and let’s keep these people in the kitty. 

“It is going to come handy, whether it is the direct primaries or the indirect primaries that is adopted, support groups are key. If it is the direct primaries, you are the voters. I don’t see how anybody can defeat us in an election. If it is indirect primaries where delegates are going to vote, these delegates are not going to drop from heaven. These delegates are your neighbors. They are your relatives. They are your brothers. They are your sisters. They are your mother’s. They are your uncles. So if it is in the other primaries, if we have our members of the support groups, of course, it’s an automatic vote. If we do not know, the support groups will play a key role in going door to door, house to house to campaign to these delegates.”