The name Alhaji Ibrahim Abubakar Batati may not ring a bell in the media or national political circles. But the Niger state-born politician has been a serial political kingmaker, playing critical roles as a grassroots political mobilizer. He has had a hand in the electoral victories of virtually all Nigerian presidents since 1999 – from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC); from President Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, Muhammadu Buhari to the incumbent President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Alhaji Ambassador Dr. Batati is the National Coordinator and leader of the APC National Supporters Centre, nationwide and worldwide, one of the topmost support groups that played pivotal roles in the victory of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, candidate of APC in the February 25, 2023 presidential election. Against the background of the ground work he and members of his group put into the project and his life-long experience in political mobilization and organization, Tinubu’s victory did not come to him as a surprise. “I am never associated with failure. I do my research and calculations very well. I have professors, other professionals and politicians who work with me as researchers and analysts to ensure that we get our calculations right. That is why I am always on the winning side,” he said in an interview with the Top 10 magazine.
Those close to Alhaji Batati who are familiar with the length and depth of his political mobilization exploits can affirm that his support group’s contribution to Tinubu’s victory is not an idle claim. He started out his activism in his secondary school days where he was one of the student leaders. As a little boy, he saw his father who was a farmer, petroleum products marketer and politician mobilizing support for Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the candidate of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) who served as Nigeria’s elected President between October 1979 and December 31, 1983 before being overthrown in a military coup. Like his father, Alhaji Batati is today also a farmer, petroleum products marketer and politician. He is the Managing Director of Sadiq Energy Limited, Managing Director of Ibrohat Investment Limited and Batati global links limited and farms, member of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN). “I inherited petroleum marketing from my father; I am also a farmer, I inherited farming from my father; I also inherited political movement from my father,” he explained.
As a youthful political activist, he was a member or trustee of several youth political organizations and of the youth wing of major political parties. He recalls that he was “one of the Professor Jerry Gana boys,” referring to the former Director of MAMSER and Minister of Information under the former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida. Professor Gana dominated not only Niger state politics, but also national politics under PDP for several decades. Under his tutelage, young Batati became a key player in a youth political support group called Total Victory which worked for the election of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. For Obasanjo’s successor, Batati’s group visited Babangida, a northerner from Niger state, to persuade him to run for the presidency on the platform of PDP. The former military President, however, turned them down, with thanks, on the ground that it was not their time and turn. They then turned their support over to Yar’Adua who also won in 2007.
Yar’Adua died in office half way into his four-year term and was succeeded by Goodluck Jonathan. After mobilizing support for the election of three PDP presidents – Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan – Alhaji Batati shifted his political allegiance and membership to APC in the build-up to the 2015 election. “Things were no longer in order, we did not feel a sense of belonging again and we were young guys, so we had to listen to our elders like Professor Jerry Gana and Baba Kure (former Governor Abdulkadir Kure of Niger state). We now said let us back out of PDP because our elders were not being carried along,” he explained.
Another reason for ditching PDP, according to Alhaji Batati, was the political permutations for the 2015 presidential election. Batati who describes himself as a political ‘calculator’ and ‘researcher,’ reasoned that President Jonathan who completed the two years left on late Yar’Adua’s term and served another four years of his own and was seeking to be the PDP presidential candidate for the 2015 election would not be acceptable to the North. Another four years would have extended his stay in power to 10 consecutive years in office. When Jonathan emerged PDP’s presidential candidate, Batati and his associates decided it was time to leave the party.
To determine which other party to join, they turned to the late Emir of Borgu, (Baba Haliru Dantoro Kitoro), whom he describes as “my father in this political movement.” In fact, Batati credits the Emir for inspiring the emergence of Tinubu as the president of Nigeria. It was also the emir’s inspiration that led Alhaji Batati to form the APC National Supporters Centre which he used to mobilize support for Tinubu’s presidential aspiration.
However, to be sure that his effort would not be in vein, he needed to convince himself that Tinubu would actually run for the Presidency. Like he did with Babangida before the 2007 election, Batati organized members of his group to go and meet Tinubu to persuade him to contest. He went to the extent of threatening to go to court if Tinubu refused to contest. He contacted leading APC stalwarts across the country to join him “do whatever was within their power” to persuade Tinubu to enter the presidential race. Notable among them were Sadique Abubakar from Sokoto state, Dr. Amos Gizo from Plateau State, Senator George Akume, former Governor of Benue state and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, former Governor of Edo state. His message was that since the presidency was zoned to southern Nigeria, anyone from the South-South, South-East or South-west would do. But to him, it was Tinubu that best fitted the bill because of his political track record and pedigree. They accepted to talk to Tinubu. Batati’s efforts paid off as Tinubu joined the presidential race.
The National Coordinator attributed his passionate support for Tinubu through the APC National Supporters Centre to two factors. The first was his desire to sustain the initiatve of his late political father, the Emir of Borgu, on the Tinubu presidential project. “That is why I invested my money, resources and time in it. We did not collect a dime from Tinubu, APC and PCC (Presidential Campaign Council). My members also used their own money and resources to support the organization.” The APC National Supporters Centre did not levy its members to raise funds for the organization. “From the inception of this organization, all the funds and the expenses were done by the National Coordinator himself,” Isah Adelana Adelagun, National Chief Whip of the Supporters Centre, said. Funding that came from each of us was voluntary, not much money; we support him because we see his vision; we take the risk because we see his vision. There was no levy imposed or collected from anybody. No financial support from the party, PCC or even the principal.”
Israel Legbara Elijah, an indigene of Rivers state, former Financial Secretary, now promoted Secretary-General of the group, corroborated Adelagun’s statement. He said Alhaji Batati’s contributions were borne out of pure passion. “Alhaji Ambassador Ibrahim Abubakar Batati has contributed immensely to the emergence of these two great leaders, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his Vice President, Senator Kassim Shettima. He did that out of his burning passion. No Kobo was given to him. So, you can see the genuine passion in this leader for the party to enure that we have the best leaders that will rescue this country from its myriads of its challenges.”
Elijah said that already Tinubu has started doing very well, citing the removal of the fuel subsidy and the reopening of the country’s borders which he believes are the best policies for the country. “Really, the National Coordinator did his research very well, perfectly, before commiting his resources.”
Alhaji Batati revealed that even when Tinubu and his running mate called to ask whether he needed something he said no. “I said I don’t need anything. What I wanted from them, I needed to see them in the (Aso Rock Presidential) Villa to lead our father land.”
The second factor that made him commit to the Tinubu project is his belief in the ability and capacity of Tinubu to fix Nigeria’s problems. He said that Nigeria which was “bleeding and sinking” under the weight of its “mess” was in need of someone with the appropriate pedigree who could bail it out. He found that trait in Tinubu who had excelled in his previous positions as a pro-democracy advocate, state Governor and Senator.
The Batati-led APC National Supporters Centre, according to its officials, has a membership strength of over 20 million people – men, women and youths spread across all the 36 states and FCT Abuja and outside the country. It has the full compliment of structures at all levels, with Alhaji Batati as its leader in Nigeria and worldwide, backed up with the National Executive Council (EXCO). Each geopolitical zone, state, Local Government, Council ward and polling unit also has a coordinator and EXCO. The polling unit has 20 special coordinators charged with the responsibility to deliver 10 votes each.
The message which members of the group took to the nooks and crannies of the country was that of ‘Renewed Hope’ which was Tinubu’s campaign slogan. The group broke it down further to PSHEER, with P standing for Power generation, S for Security, H for Health sector, E for Economic sector, E for Education sector, and R for Rural Infrastructure, to indicate the critical areas of need and priority of a Tinubu administration. The National Coordinator went further to use his surname, BATATI, as acronym for Bola Ahmed Tinubu Already Tackling Impossibility to indicate that the Tinubu administration would usher in a better Nigeria.
These messages were transmitted to the electorate mainly through physical grassroots mobilization by way of rallies, town hall meetings, virtual meetings involving diaspora Nigerians, door-to-door campaigns, amongst other activities and channels. The group preferred this physical approach to the use of media as many of its peers did. “When we started, we targeted the grassroots, the Council Wards, the Local Government Areas. If you say you give money to the media and you don’t get one million people, what have you done? Those groups you say use the media, what have they achieved? Where are their people? We have close to 23 million members.” He said that even media people would fear to go to some of the hinterlands in Borno state, Niger state and the creeks of the Niger Delta region where his members go. “We are a grassroots mobilization group. We have our coordinators in the Local Government Areas, Council wards and polling units. We are not a media support group. That’s why our media presence is low. The money we would have used in the media, we use it going round.”
Dr. Aminu Abubakar Gwandu, National Director of the APC National Supporters Centre, said he alone brought over 500 smaller support groups which were collapsed into the Supporters Centre. “Right from inception, we are the only support group in the whole country to have a template for vote generation and mobilization for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Kassim Shettima. In politics, in the northern part of the country, the use of the media is very low; in the south the use of the media is very high but the media propaganda is bigger than the work. So we believe more in networking and working underground to make sure that our principal wins the election. And so he did. Also, we are the only group that networked with our royal fathers, underground, to canvas votes to ensure victory for Bola Tinubu and Kassim Shettima…So, when it comes to working for the victory of Bola Tinubu and Kassim Shettima, there is no group that has worked more than APC National Supporters Centre. None.”
Alhaji Batati said the over eight million votes with which Tinubu won the presidential election was far below projections based on the ground work his organization had put into the project. The group’s targeted votes was over 20 million. He attributed the low votes to the cash scarcity occasioned by the Naira redesign and exchange policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) during the campaign and elections. “We were caged by (Godwin) Emefiele (the CBN Governor) and his team.” Other factors included the acute fuel scarcity during the period and insecurity in some parts of the country which prevented penetration of its foot soldiers to some hinterlands in northern Nigeria.
Batati, however, remains thankful to God that no lives of its members were lost to insecurity, clashes with opposition supporters or accidents.
Even though the APC National Supporters Centre has achieved its objective with Tinubu’s victory, it says its job is not done yet. Batati says that unlike other groups that have fizzled out after the election, his group’s structures are still intact, working to mobilize support for the success of the Tinubu administration.
Alhaji Batati, an oil marketer who is Managing Director of Sadiq Energy Ltd said the removal of fuel subsidy may be painful initially, but good for the country in the long run. “I am calling on Nigerians to bear the pain for the time being, to manage, because I know that by the time the modular refineries, Dangote refinery and other refineries come on stream, the hardships, the high prices will become a story of the past.”
Alhaji Batati said he has not demanded any favour from President Tinubu since his victory because he did not give his support in expectation of any rewards or personal benefits. He said he is not the type that would go to the president taking photographs, shaking hands with them and asking for favours. “What I am after is for my father land to be governed well; good governance. All I want is for the President to put our country in good shape. I just want to hear that the masses are living fine.”
While he and his top officials say they won’t lobby for appointments or other benefits, they are prepared to link any of their supporters who are interested and are qualified to the authorities for consideration. “The people who suffered to see to the victory for this party, millions of them, they are there,” Adelagun said. “If they need anything and they consult us, we are prepared to stand for them. But to lobby for anything, no.”Alhaji Batati added: “If our supporters have a good CV or anything to offer our father land, we can take it and penetrate and let’s see if their CV meets the requirements; we can do that for them. All we want is the stability, unity and peace of our father land.”
As a loyal and committed party member, Alh. Batati was one of the vocal voice in support of the emergence as senate president of senator Godswill Akpabio and Tajudeen Abbas as speaker of the house of the representatives in line with the position of president Bola Tinubu. Before the inauguration of the 1oth Assembly, Alh. Batati was everywhere campaigning for senator Akpabio and Rt hon. Abbas as the two leaders of the national assembly.
In acknowledgement of his numerous contributions to worthy causes over the years, Alhaji Batati has been recognized with several awards and honours by different organizations.