The Disciples of Jagaban (DOJ) was one of the early birds among the support groups formed to mobilize support for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s victory in the recent presidential election. The nucleus of the group was formed at the Eagles Square, Abuja, on May 29, 2019, immediately after the inauguration of Muhammadu Buhari for his second term as President.
“We moved to the Kano State Tourism Camp in July 2019 for our official inauguration which made us the oldest political group for Tinubu 2023 agenda,” Comrade Abdulhakeem Adegoke Alawuje, founder and National Coordinator of DOJ.
The retired soldier and Kaduna-based business man had nursed a secret admiration for Tinubu and his political exploits for many years. He was enchanted by the Asiwaju’s accomplishments as Governor of Lagos state and wished he would become Nigeria’s President so he could replicate same nationwide. That was what gave birth to the idea for the formation of DOJ, to not only encourage Tinubu to join the 2023 presidential race but to also campaign for him to win. Alawuje met Tinubu for the first time in 2016 when the Governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasiru Elrufai, introduced them during the launch of KIA Motors in Kaduna.
That meeting set the ex-soldier on fire for the Tinubu presidential project. He viewed every objection, opposition or threat to the project, direct or indirect, remote or immediate, as a battle to be won. The dogged fighter became so passionate that he was prepared at any time to defend Bola Tinubu with his blood and life. In 2019, he led members of DOJ to meet and persuade Tinubu to declare his interest in the presidency and threatened to drag Tinubu to court if he declined to contest.
Such was Alawuje’s passion and commitment that he spared no risk and expense in pursuit of the cause. He reportedly sold some of his property in different locations to fund DOJ and the other groups which he formed – Progressive Minds for Good Governance and Yoruba Welfare Group – to fund the Tinubu presidential project.
He led the Yoruba Welfare Group (YWG) to a press conference in Kaduna to dissociate the Yoruba community in Northern Nigeria from the call by Chief Sunday Igboho, the self-styled Yoruba nationalist agitator, for the Yorubas to cecede from Nigeria. He confronted and condemned the hijack of the #EndSars protests in which many lives and property were lost especially in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Osun states. He openly criticized Pa Ayo Adebanjo, a chieftain of the Youruba socio-cultural organization, Afenifere, and Chief Olabode George, the Lagos-born chieftain of PDP, for not supporting Tinubu’s aspiration. When challenged to explain what gave him the temerity to openly criticize such elders, Alawuje said anyone who worked against Bola Tinubu’s presidential ambition had declared war against him, the entire Yoruba race and Nigeria at large.
When the issue of Fulani herdsmen and Chief Sunday Igboho reared its head in Igangan in Oyo state, Alawuje hit the road from Kaduna to try to intervene. He met the Adigangan, the Oba of Igangan, and sued for peaceful cohabitation among the different ethnic groups resident there. Some months later when another clash broke out between Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba in Shasha, Oyo state, he returned to Ibadan from Kaduna. He met the elders, visited the scene of the incident and people of the community.
From his assessment, what transpired at Shasha and Igangan were not enough to call for the cecession of the Yoruba from Nigeria. To him all the incidents were premeditated and targeted at scuttling Tinubu’s presidential aspiration by isolating the Yoruba from the Hausa/Fulani and the rest of Nigeria.
Alawuje took the battle for the defence of the Tinubu project to Muhammadu Buhari when he sensed that the President was not supporting his principal. In a lengthy open letter to Buhari, titled ‘The Bitter Truth’, Alawuje reminded the president of the time he served under him as a soldier, how he had supported him in all his presidential contests in 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. The DOJ founder also recounted how his principal, Tinubu, collaborated with him, sacrificed for him and supported him to win APC nomination in 2011 and to be elected President in 2015 and 2019.
Writing before the party primary in 2022, the DOJ National Coordinator said: “Your responsibility is to provide a level playing ground. Making Tinubu go through too undue stress to win the 2023 ticket is not in the interest of your integrity. Many have contended without equivocation that your integrity is fake, saying you will eventually betray Tinubu. We have severally replied to them that the Buhari we know is a man of integrity and won’t in any way betray the trust reposed in you.
“It is crystal clear that, as I type these words, Tinubu remains the most popular candidate among those who have signified interest in stepping into your shoes. At least, if you cannot manifestly deploy your support for Tinubu, please, do not clandestinely work against his interest, no matter your reservations. You don’t have to win all wars, particularly the one that its consequences may be too devastating.”
When Tinubu started consultation, at least 12 DOJ members were able to follow him up to 90 percent of where he visited, according to its National Coordinator. “We, as well, initiated the sensitization of voter registration in Kaduna for which all our members across the country gathered at Hamdala hotels in 2021. We set up sensitization of voters’ registration in 550 Local Government Areas across the country.”
Before and during the primaries, the group met with many prominent northern leaders, including some former Heads of state, traditional leaders, political leaders, leaders of Arewa Consultative Forum, etc. During the primary, Alawuje served under the leadership of Hon. Ade Kuye, who assigned him to the Nicon Luxury Hotel as the team leader in charge of Oyo, Bauchi, and Adamawa states. “I led delegates of these three states from the hotel to ICC (International Conference Centre), then to the Eagle Square for the primary.”
Several months after Tinubu’s victory and inauguration as President, DOJ’s activities in his support are still very much on, according to Alawuje.