…Who’s who behind the groups
The similarities between politics and football are unparalleled. Both are games that generate extreme passions. Both can unite the worst of enemies and or destroy the best of relationships, depending on how far and where passion takes their fans or supporters.
In today’s world, the two games are the highest rewarding financially for winners and most devastating for losers – emotionally in the case of football; emotionally and financially with respect to politics. Without fans, football matches or tournaments are drab, unexciting, lacking in thrills and frills – and so is politics without supporters during elections.
In preparation for a new football season or a major football tournament, fans and fans clubs prepare elaborately for activities to support their clubs or teams in their own way, with or without the financial backing of the clubs or teams. In return, the clubs acknowledge the support of their fans when they win or perform well.
This has also always been the practice in politics in most democracies across the world where party supporters engage in activities to mobilize support and votes for their parties or candidates during elections. Since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, the country’s politics has been part of this practice. In every election cycle or period, supporters of political parties or candidates, as individuals or organizations, form themselves into support groups that strategize and engage in campaigns and related activities for the sole purpose of securing victory for their candidate or party.
For instance, in the build-up to the latest general elections which took place in February and March, 2023, hundreds of such political support groups were formed for various parties’ candidates at different levels. At the presidential level alone, one media report estimated that more than 500 such support groups campaigned for four politicians – Atiku Abubakar (PDP); Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (APC); former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu (APC); and Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello (APC). Many of them came into existence before their principals officially declared their intention to contest. There are no authentic records of the number of support groups but what is known is that many more groups sprang up as more presidential contenders emerged before the party primaries. And after the primaries, a number of them fizzled out while other weaker, local groups collapsed into stronger, national groups.
As is our tradition to celebrate excellence in different endeavours, the Top10 magazine set out to examine the activities of the varous support groups that claimed responsibility for the victory of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The objective was to pick the 10 support groups that contributed the most to that victory. Our shock finding was that a number of the so-called formidable national support groups exist only in the media space but are not found on ground. Those in this category created social media hype about their existence and activities in expectation of accessing funding from the political parties or their principals. Conversely, some that were scarcely heard of in the media were solidly on ground working quietly to deliver their principal.
Many of the groups have structures or officials in all the states of the Federation. They claim membership running into two-digit millions across the country. Based on their membership strengths, they promised to deliver huge number of votes, also running into millions, for their principal.
Almost all the groups say they were attracted and motivated by Tinubu’s track record as a performer when he was Governor of Lagos state. The common reasoning was that if he is given the opportunity of being elected president, he would replicate that performance in the country as a whole. They say only Tinubu had the capacity and the ability to tackle most of the challenges facing the country.
Also, almost all the support groups claim they used their personal resources to fund their activities and that the party and Tinubu did not give them a dime to execute their mobilization programmes. Contrary to the popular notion that the initiators of the support groups were making investments in expectation of earning returns in form of political appointments and other forms of patronage, they say they were motivated solely by patriotism and belief in Tinubu’s ability and capacity to be the president they yearn for.
Although they could not calculate the actual number of votes each of them contributed to Tinubu’s victory, they nonetheless all claimed responsibility for the victory which Tinubu secured in the February 25, 2023 presidential election.
In spite of the many unverifiable claims of many of the support groups, the magazine was able to identify the credible ones out of the lot. From there, it has identified 10 of the most formidable ones that unarguably contributed to the President’s victory. They include: Coalition of Support Groups for Asiwaju/Shettima (COSGAS), Tinubu Support Organization (TSO), APC National Supporters Centre, Tinubu Support Group (TSG), and South West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA).
Others are: Disciples of Jagaban (DOJ), Tinubu/Shettima Network (TSN), The Bola Ahmed Tinubu Ambassadors (BAT Ambassadors), Tinubu-Shettima Ambassadors (TSA), and APC National Integrity Movement (ANIM).
A number of the support groups, particularly those featured here, have continued to function after the election, to defend the president’s mandate. Some have promised to continue to stand by the president to enable him deliver good governance for the country.
TINUBU SUPPORT ORGANIZATION (TSO)
Of the numerous support groups that worked for the victory of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 2023 Presidential election, one of the most sold and best organized is the Tinubu Support Organization (TSO).
Unlike many other support groups which exist only in the media propaganda, TSO, founded and directed by Hon. Aminu Suleiman, has very active, complete and verifiable structures (Executive Committees) at all levels: ward, local government, state, zonal and national. Hon. Suleiman, also known as Jagaban Gwandu, made it a point of duty to personally inaugurate all the state Excos, mostly in the respective state capitals, but sometimes, in the Federal capital, Abuja.
At the Federal level, in addition to the National Exco, headed by Hon. Suleiman as National Coordinator and Director-General, the group has the full compliment of a Media Team, led by Engr. Shafiu Shuaibu, which comprehensively reports all the activities of the organization to ensure that its messages get across to the electorate.
Hon. Suleiman brought his sterling leadership qualities, strategic thinking, people management skills, political experience and dexterity to bear on the leadership of and success of TSO. He put at TSO’s disposal his impeccable track record of political experience, which has distinguished him as one of the most reliable and leading politicians in Nigeria. Having been a member of the House of Representatives since 2007, Suleiman brought to the table a wealth of political experience that was invaluable to the organisation’s campaign. All these contributed handsomely to the victory of his principal, Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the polls.
TSO under the leadership of Hon. Suleiman is still the largest, most vibrant and most widely known support group for the RENEWED HOPE agenda that has been working vigorously round the clock for almost four years ago.
The seed for what is today called TSO was planted in 2019. From the little known Asiwaju Movement, Hon. Aminu Suleiman expanded his dream for the Tinubu presidential mission to become Arewa Next Step for Tinubu (ANEST), concentrating it in the northern region before transforming it into the present Tinubu Support Organization (TSO) aiming to achieve both national and diaspora coverage. Since inception, Hon. Suleiman has been able to navigate the complex political terrain in Nigeria, building bridges and forging alliances with different interest groups across social, political, religious and ethnic divides.
He showcased his brilliance and competence as a man to watch in the Nigerian political space, and his contribution to the success of Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s victory cannot be overstated.
As the leader of Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Support Organisation, Suleiman demonstrated his exceptional leadership qualities by leading his team effectively, motivating them, and ensuring that they all worked towards the common goal of victory.
His people management skills were top-notch, as he was able to bring together people from different backgrounds, political affiliations, and religious beliefs, and galvanize them towards a common goal.
The Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Support Organisation’s political campaign strategy was a perfect mix of online and offline platforms, which proved to be highly effective in mobilizing Nigerians across social, political, religious, and ethnic divisions.
Suleiman’s team was able to utilize social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to create a buzz around their candidate and rally support from young Nigerians who are tech-savvy and who were able to take advantage of the social media to neutralize the negative vibes created by opponents.
He was quick to adapt to changing circumstances, and his ability to make strategic decisions at critical moments was invaluable.
The campaign strategy was designed to reach Nigerians across social, political, religious and ethnic divisions. That way, Suleiman’s team was able to use social media platforms to reach millions of Nigerians across the country.
The organisation’s social media handles were constantly updated with news, information and events related to the campaign, keeping the electorate informed and engaged.
This approach was particularly effective in reaching young people who are more inclined to social media platforms. In addition to the online platforms, the campaign team which was led by Suleiman also utilised offline platforms to reach voters across the country.
The team organized rallies, town hall meetings, and other political events, which helped to create strong grassroots support for the Tinubu campaign.
This approach was particularly effective in reaching voters in rural areas who have limited access to social media platforms.
The team’s offline strategy was also commendable as they held rallies, meetings, and door-to-door campaigns in various states across the country. They were able to reach out to rural communities and connect with voters who may not have had access to social media platforms.
The Director General, Hon. Suleiman, continually organized working meetings and visits across the country with their principal, Bola Tinubu, and his running mate, Alhaji Kassim Shettima; relevant party officials at various levels, APC Presidential Campaign Council (PCC); TSO officials, women and youth groups as well as other interest and local support groups. A typical example of such activities took place in Abuja early August 2022 when the Director General was joined by the National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Philip Wale Adelena, North-West Coordinator, Hon Usman Ali Maitsidau, Chief of Staff to the DG, Barr UsmanYakubu, PAs to the DG Abdurrahman Lawal and Hassan BalaYa’u as well as the Director, TSO Media Team, Engr Shafiu Shuaibu met with leaders of North-East Grassroot Movement for Asiwaju and those of Candido Progressive Network For APC and Tinubu North-East Concern Movement.
During the separate meetings, the Director General, the National Organizing Secretary and the North-west Coordinator all commended the groups for what they had been doing for Asiwaju and for their decisions to collaborate with the TSO.
The groups were also asked to submit relevant information that would enable TSO know if the groups were really on ground and if they were relevant to the success of APC Presidential candidate during the poll.
Another good example was the inauguration of North-West Women Mobilization and Strategy Committee in Kano early September 2022 by Hon. Suleiman. The Occasion was attended by several Zonal and States Leaders of the APC and support groups as well as over 4,000 women leaders from across all the seven states of the region, including Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi.
During the event, the Women Mobilization and Strategy Committee under the leadership their Director and Women TSO Coordinator, Kano State Chapter, Hajiya Hauwa Shehu Tahir, also formally welcomed G9 group into their fold. The organization distributed over 20,000 textbooks and notebooks, branded with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s pictures, to selected primary and secondary schools in the state.
The National Coordinator was accompanied to the colorful inauguration ceremony by the APC National Women Leader, Mrs. Dimka Hezekiah; Director Support Groups, Dr. Aminu Abdullahi Gwandu; Kano State TSO Coordinator, Hon Aminu Gaya; Assistant National Secretary, Barr UsmanYakubu; Director, TSO Media Team, Engr. Shafiu Shuaibu; PA to the National Coordinator; Mallam Abdurrahman Lawal; and several other state and local government officials of the TSO.
Through these and other efforts, TSO was able to mobilize a broad coalition of Nigerians from different social, political, religious and ethnic backgrounds, all united in their support for the organisation’s candidate.
This all-around approach helped to create a formidable campaign strategy that was hard to match. Suleiman’s political experience and dexterity were also evident in the way he handled the campaign. He was able to navigate the murky waters of Nigerian politics, negotiate with other political parties, and forge alliances that helped to strengthen their campaign.
His understanding of the political terrain in Nigeria was invaluable, and he was able to use this knowledge to Tinubu’s advantage. Tinubu’s victory can be largely attributed to Suleiman’s competence, capabilities, and leadership skills. Therefore, his contribution to the campaign cannot be overstated, and he has proven himself to be a man to watch in the Nigerian political space.
Suleiman demonstrated his political acumen by being able to foretell the outcome of the presidential campaign and by putting in place strategies to ensure the success of the Tinubu campaign. In the words of the great Nelson Mandela, “A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind!”
Suleiman exemplifies this quote, as he was able to create a movement that brought people together to achieve a common goal. He stayed behind the flock, directing and guiding them towards success.
His capabilities are traits that are essential for any successful political campaign. In the words of the former United States president, Barack Obama, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Suleiman embodies this quote, as he was the change that the Bola Ahmed Tinubu campaign sought. He was the catalyst that brought about the change that Nigerians desired. Hon. Aminu Suleiman is a man to watch in the Nigerian political space. His leadership and organizational skills are exemplary, and his ability to mobilize Nigerians across social, political, religious and ethnic divides is a testament to his political savvy.
The success of TSO in the just concluded presidential elections was a testament to the competence and capabilities of Sulieman as its director. His leadership and political acumen were the driving force behind the organisation’s victory, and his strategic thinking, people management skills and political experience were critical factors that contributed to the organisation’s success.
As Nigeria prepares for the future, leaders like Suleiman who contested for the House of Representatives seat for Birnin Kebbi, Kalgo/Bunza constituency under APC in 2019 must be allowed to utilise their experience, skills and natural ability to serve the Nigerian people in this critical moment of national unity.
COALITION OF SUPPORT GROUPS FOR ASIWAJU/SHETTIMA (COSGAS)
It is reported that over 300 support groups worked for the victory of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Nigeria’s February 25, 2023 presidential election. If only few of them were to be counted as those that were actually instrumental to that victory, COSGAS must be one of those at the very top.
COSGAS (Coalition of Support Groups for Asiwaju/Shettima) was floated by Engr. Johnbosco Onunkwo, an Anambra State-born APC Chieftain, 2023 House of Representatives candidate, oil and gas expert and founder of Johnbosco Onunkwo Foundation.
Engr Onunkwo who trained in Organizational Politics, Team Development amongst others, at Paradigm Services, Manchester, England, brought his knowledge and experience to bear on building COSGAs. He initiated the group in 2018 as a movement with a name called Estate Nigeria.q Using the structures of the movement, Engr. Onunkwo, in 2022, built the coalition from 200 other existing APC groups from across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT. They consisted of support groups whose members were, at the time, aggrieved and on the verge of decamping from the party based on ill treatment by those who set them up. When he brought the groups under the umbrella of COSGAS, High Chief JohnBosco Onunkwo nurtured them, paid their bills and made sure that they all worked assiduously for the APC Presidential ticket of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu & Senator Kashim Shettima.
High Chief Onunkwo who was already reputed for his humanitarian, philanthropic, youth empowerment and community development activities, deployed his experience to make COSGAS one of the most formidable political support groups in the country. In October 2022, he collated the composite data of the various support groups across the 36 states and the FCT, including members with Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) for verification and accreditation. After the exercise, Chief Onunkwo constituted several committees of the support groups and inaugurated them at the Women Development Centre in Abuja. He then mandated them to go to their various polling units and deliver for Asiwaju/Shettima. The 800,000-member group which enjoyed maximum support among youths and women went down to the grassroots across the federation and generated visible and massive support for the APC Presidential candidate.
By election day, when many members of the support groups complained of lack of money to go out and vote, High Chief Onunkwo provided logistics which enabled at least 600,000 members of the group to go out and vote for Tinubu/Shettima.
After the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Tinubu winner, Chief JohnBosco Onunkwo still brought them together and organised a victory party in Abuja where he gave out souvenirs and appreciated COSGAS and all those who made Asiwaju’s victory possible.
In his opening remarks, High Chief Onunkwo described Tinubu’s victory as hard-earned, saying it was victory for all Nigerians who must be appreciated for their contributions.
“We are here to celebrate the victory of the man we trust and know is full of capacity; and the man we know that God Himself had brought at this material time to be the leader of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he said.
The Director-General of APC Amalgamated Support Groups (AASG), another big coalition, Dr. Nasir Ladan, described COSGAS as one of the first coalitions of APC support groups to have demonstrated strong zeal in the Tinubu/Shettima project. He said he had been keenly following the coalition’s activities before and after the election. He maintained that Asiwaju is a man known for rewarding loyalty and hardwork and that the era of ‘monkey dey work, baboon dey chop’ had come and gone. He praised the efforts of High Chief Engr. Johnbosco Onunkwo in bringing together the coalition of support groups and moving to the grassroots to deliver the Tinubu/Shettima mandate.
Engr. JohnBosco Onunkwo, National President and Convener of COSGAS is a man of many parts. He is an engineer by training, entrepreneur by career, politician by vocation and a philanthropist by passion.
An indigene of Anambra state, he was born on October 31, 1975. He graduated from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, with B.Eng, Second Class Honours (Upper Div.) in Electrical/Electronics & Computer Engineering.
He was trained in Organizational Politics, Team Development, Capital Project Evaluation and Decision Making in the oil industry at Paradigm Services, Manchester, England, 2008. He worked at Nigeria Agip Oil Company as Asst. Global Maintenance Engineer, 2004 -July 2007; Production Officer, August 2007-December, 2008; Global Maintenance and Rotating Equipment Engineer, December 2010; Maintenance Engineer, Jan 2011- Dec 2019; and Senior Maintenance Engineer in Production Operations Dept, January 2020 till…
He later joined politics and was Gubernatorial Aspirant, Anambra State, in 2017; House of Representatives Aspirant for Aguata Federal Constituency, 2019; and Governorship Aspirant again in 2021. He was the APC House of Representatives candidate for Aguata Federal Constituency for the 2023 election.
Apart from being National President and National Convener of COSGAS, he has played many leadership roles in different spheres of life at different times. Some of them included being a founding Member of ACN; Grand Patron, Ohaneze Ndigbo Youth Worldwide; Grand Commander of Anambra Youths by Forum of Anambra Youth Organisations; Two-time Chairman of the Installation Planning Committee of Rotary Club of Port-Harcourt Central; and Chairman of the Rotary Club Foundation.
A man with a generous heart, High Chief Onunkwo has been involved in numerous humanitarian and philanthropic activities. He founded a humanitarian NGO, Johnbosco Onunkwo Foundation, which operates under the four critical areas of health, education, youth empowerment and community development services. He launched ‘back to school’ project during which learning materials and school fees were given to indigent pupils in rural Anambra communities. In addition to carrying out free medical outreach in Aguata, Orumba North/South and Anaocha LGAs, Engr. Onunkwo donated Covid-19 protective kits and relief funds to 5000 poorest families in Anambra during Covid-19 lockdown.
He also empowered Anambra youths from 21 local government areas during the launch of the New Conversation 1&2; built and donated a skill acquisition centre to People Living with Sickle Cell Disorder in Agulu, Anambra State; and sponsored a public dialogue on Albinism during International Albinism Day.
Other humanitarian and philanthropic activities of High Chief Onunkwo include the building of a hospital for the rural populace in Umuchu, Aguata LGA; building of a fully-equipped music edifice at the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, Onitsha; building of a bus station at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.à
To these could also be added the development of an agric farm project at Orumba North and South LGAs; building of a lawn tennis court at Amawbia, Awka South LGA; and donation of fire extinguishers to major markets in Anambra State.
In appreciation and acknowledgement of his services and accomplishments in different endeavours, High Chief Onunkwo has been bestowed with numerous awards, honours and recognitions. They include: Most Outstanding Oil & Gas Personality of the Year 2022 by Champion Newspapers; Outstanding Humanitarian of the Year 2018 by New Telegraph; and over 80 Other Awards.
SOUTH WEST AGENDA FOR ASIWAJU 2023 (SWAGA)
The South West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA ’23), one of the groups that mobilized support for Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s victory in the recent presidential election, stands out for two things. One: From day one, it started out as a collective initiative of a group, unlike others which came as individual initiatives before others were invited, drafted or volunteered to join.
Two: SWAGA began as a local or regional support group and expanded to national prominence. This sets it apart from hundreds of other groups which started small and got swallowed up by other, better structured and funded counterparts.
The idea that resulted in the formation of SWAGA was mooted sometime in 2020 by a group of politicians from the South West. At that time, the 2023 Presidential election was still three years away and Tinubu’s participation in it was still in the realm of speculation. The idea was part of an effort by the group to awaken the consciousness of the people towards the need for a President from South-West region in the post-Muhammadu Buhari dispensation – and they had Bola Ahmed Tinubu in mind. “We looked at how this could be achieved and we decided that a group could be the pivot,” Hon. Bosun Oladele, a former member of the House of Representatives and SWAGA National Secretary, said in an interview to mark the first anniversary of the official launch of the organization.
The initiators of the group set membership criteria to include prominent politicians from the South West who had the time and resources to devote to such a project. The other criterion was to admit those who could either be automatic delegates during indirect presidential primaries or had the capacity to pull a large followership for direct primaries.
“The only set of people that we felt will have the time and some resources to be able to do that are former members of the National Assembly,” Oladele who represented Irepo/Olorunsogo/Orelope Federal Constituency of Oyo state from 2015 to 2019, explained. “The idea is that every former member of the National Assembly, be it Senator or Reps are automatic statutory delegates. If they say it is indirect primary tomorrow, even if they have gone to another party, wherever they are, they are among the delegates that will vote by rights and by law for all the parties…So, we decided to bring former members of the national assembly together, with the belief that we already have some votes in the kitty in case indirect primary is adopted.”
With the benefit of hindsight, Oladele and group also looked at the possibility of direct primary where all party members would vote. So, they decided to bring in notable politicians at the grassroots level that had a bond with the people at the grassroots. These included former and serving local government chairmen, House of Assembly members, councillors and other party leaders that could mobilise support for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. “That was the concept of SWAGA. At the time we were forming SWAGA, we just believed that we should have a political pressure group for advocacy on behalf of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.”
The emerging group started by constituting the Central Working Committee made up of two members per state. But in Lagos state, they had to accommodate four members because of the size of the state. “Honourable Oye Ojo did a great job in terms of networking. We were all driven by the passion to see what we can do for Asiwaju given the fact that he has done so much for the South West and the progressive family,” Oladele said.
The new group had its first meeting in November 2020 where the name, South West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA’23), was adopted. Its official launch took place on December 15, 2020 in Ibadan, the political capital of South-West Nigeria.
The occasion was attended by the likes of Senators Musiliu Obanikoro and Adeseye Ogunlewe and many dignitaries. Interestingly, people came even from Northern Nigeria, including the Arewa community.
After the launch, the group, led by former minister of works, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye (Ekiti) and former Senator Adesoji Akanbi (Oyo), decided to meet some traditional rulers beginning with the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi. The traditional ruler told them that the idea of canvassing support for Asiwaju tallied with his own thought and advised them not to chicken out from what they had started.
They later met the Olubadan of Ibadan who gave SWAGA his blessings, saying the project was in the interest of South-West Nigeria. The next port of call was Osun state where the group was received by the government and people of Osun state. They met the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, who also gave his blessings, hosted about 300 of them to lunch and prayed for Asiwaju to succeed. The group met the Ataoja of Osogbo and Oluwo of Iwo who were present at SWAGA’s launch in Osogbo. There were over 40 traditional rulers in attendance during the launch, according to the National Secretary.
From there, the group went to Ogun state where all their coordinators down to the ward level were present. The Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo said SWAGA had brought home his own candidate. He promised to pray for them because it would be to the glory of Yorubaland for Asiwaju to fly the APC flag and become the next president. The group also met the Akarigbo of Remoland who also prayed for Asiwaju to succeed. The visit to Ogun state was rounded off with a senatorial inauguration, a massive event, which brought Ogun Central, Ogun East and Ogun West senatorial districts together. Several traditional rulers in the state who attended the event spoke glowingly about Asiwaju. From there, the group went to Yewaland to receive blessings from the Olu of Ilaro, the paramount ruler.
From Ogun, SWAGA moved to Ondo state where it met Papa Reuben Fasoranti, former Afenifere national leader who said the time could not have been more appropriate than now for Asiwaju to contest for the presidency. He also prayed for Asiwaju’s success. “For us, that was an endorsement in a million,” the SWAGA National Secretary said. After three days traversing the entire landscape of Ondo state, the group went to Ekiti state for a full day of activities that virtually locked Ekiti down.
Oladele described the event in Lagos state as the mother of all inaugurations. The group went to virtually all divisions in Lagos state, from the Badagry division to Ikorodu division, to Lagos Island division and to Epe division. Oladele: “It was a week-long activity, from street advocacy to visitations to all the Kabiyesis and the reception was awesome. You could see the expectant enthusiasm in the traditional institutions and the people. Everybody wanted to participate in what we were doing, to the extent that people started buying Ankara (aso ebi), fez cap and t-shirts with SWAGA name and logo printed on them. The youths had street rallies and all strata of the society were fully represented from artisans, transport union workers and even professionals. We also got keynote speakers, people from the academia to speak on the day of the launch. The Governor, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu came out to give us the necessary support. He commended us and said our courage was awesome because we threw everything into the project without fear that it may not spread as we wanted.”
Within one year, SWAGA which was conceived as a regional support group had spread to many other states across the country. States which had established affiliates of SWAGA in the first year included Akwa Ibom, Delta, Rivers, Niger, Kwara, Kebbi, amongst others, as well as FCT Abuja and North Central.
Apart from geographical growth, SWAGA also expanded demographically in its first year of existence. Women and youth wings sprang out. The women’s wing, called Women for SWAGA, is headed by Hon. Ayo Omidiran, a reputable grassroots politician and federal lawmaker. She is the State Coordinator for SWAGA in Osun State and doubles as the General Coordinator for Women for SWAGA. Omidiran had twice represented Ayedaade/Irewole/Isokan federal constituency in Osun State at the House of Representatives on the APC platform. She was a special guest at the “Greet and Meet” event organised on December 5, 2021, by the Lagos State for SWAGA, led by Hajia Fatima Bello.
Omidiran told her audience that her group had been going around the states of Nigeria, visiting its affiliates, especially in the South-West States to rally support for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. “We have boasted that we (SWAGA ’23) have 12 million votes ready for Asiwaju in 2023… “but this morning in Lagos, Women for SWAGA Lagos have promised to mobilize 2million women in Lagos alone to vote for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 2023. I know they can do more than that. That’s why they say in the minimum. I believe you, I know Nigerians believe you and the calibre of women we have here say much about that belief.”
Oladele said that SWAGA ’23 is self-financing and sustaining. “Every money we have spent so far has been from our personal contributions without support from anyone, including Asiwaju himself. Till today, we have not gone to ask him for any financial support. It is a cause we believe in and are convinced about and so our members have resolved to put in everything they can, both physical and material resources to ensure it succeeds.”
Assessing SWAGA’s standing after one year of existence, Oladele said: “there are other groups supporting Asiwaju and canvassing for him but SWAGA has become the number one group and brand mobilizing support for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu across Nigeria today. Till tomorrow, SWAGA ’23 is the number one pressure and support group for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Following Tinubu’s victory at the APC primaries, SWAGA issued a statement, jointly signed by Adeyeye and Oladele to appreciate their principal, Tinubu, and members. They commended all members of SWAGA’23 for voluntarily, relentlessly and passionately working to ensure the emergence of Asiwaju Tinubu as the Presidential flag bearer of the APC. “Now that the first stage of the process is over and won by our principal, we must embark on the final and crucial stage which is the general elections and the race to the Presidential Villa. Our group SWAGA’23 must, therefore, continue at the forefront of the campaign and mobilization at the grassroots for support and votes to win the race for our Principal.
“We must appreciate our principal for according us this recognition and responsibility at this time and we undertake neither to relent nor disappoint.
“We shall, therefore, embark on our mapped-out programmes very soon and we urge our members and affiliate groups to be ready for the mother-of-all campaigns. Together with God, victory is assured”, the statement added.
Of course, Tinubu won, and is now the President and Commander-in-Chief, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
That SWAGA was able to play such a pivotal role in the electoral victories of Tinubu in the party primaries and presidential election was not surprising. The group benefitted immensely from the wealth of experience of its leadership under the National Chairman, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, and National Secretary, Hon. Bosun Oladele, respectively, and others.
Senator Adeyeye, 66, a political scientist and lawyer, has had a work experience spanning three major professional fields – teaching, journalism and legal practice. He has been a successful politician who has played major roles on Nigeria’s political stage for decades.
As a pro-democracy activist, Adeyeye was a member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO); Director of Publicity, Falae for President Campaign Organisation (1990-1992); Adviser on policy and Press Matters, M.K.O. Abiola for President Campaign Organisation (1993); Spokesperson for the Alliance for Democracy (AD); and a member of the South-West Delegation to the Nigerian leaders of Thought Conference, Abuja.
Adeyeye was an Ekiti State governorship aspirant twice – in 2006 and 2018 – losing twice in controversial primaries. Adeyeye was also nominated twice for appointment as a minister, lost the first under President Umaru Yar’Adua but was confirmed under Goodluck Jonathan to become Minister of State for Works between 2014 and 2015.
Adeyeye’s election as Senator for Ekiti South Senatorial District in 2019 was later upturned by the election tribunal in favour of his closest rival, Abiodun Olujimi, after the recalculation of the results. Since then, he has been playing one political role or the order, including National Chairmanship of SWAGA ’23 since 2020.
APC National Supporters Centre
(Founder, Alh. Ibrahim Batati)
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.
TINUBU SUPPORT GROUP (TSG)
One of the frontline support groups that aided the victory of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the February 25, 2023 presidential election is the Tinubu Support Group (TSG). It was one of the earliest to emerge on the scene and remains the most visible after Tinubu’s election as Nigeria’s President.
Its formation predates Tinubu’s formal entry into the presidential race by a couple of years. And after the election, TSG staged a grand event in Abuja, lasting for over a month, to celebrate, defend and protect the mandate as well as offer free empowerment opportunities to needy and available Nigerians.
TSG was founded in 2019, four clear years to the 2023 elections, by Hon. James Abiodun Faleke, former member of the House of Representatives representing Ikeja Federal Constituency, with friends and likeminds. It was formed with a full-fledged secretariat at Abuja from day one to coordinate the activities of supporters of the APC National Leader.
Its aim was to draw support for and encourage Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to contest the 2023 Presidential election. Eventually when Tinubu declared his aspiration, TSG was in the forefront, engaging in activities geared towards propagating the Tinubu agenda and achieving its objectives.
Since then, the Maitama, Abuja, headquarters of TSG has become the rallying point for hundreds of thousands of Tinubu loyalists and support groups involved in mobilizing support for Bola Tinubu across the federation.
The group opened registers for members and volunteers and began mobilization of members to join.
Ahead of the APC presidential primary election in 2022, TSG mobilized delegates for the emergence of Bola Tinubu as the party’s presidential candidate. It did this by way of establishing channels through which names and contacts of delegates across the federation were compiled for onward permutations ahead of the primary.
Also, through Tinubu Support Group, other support organizations were mobilized across the federation which enabled the Tinubu camp to have links to all the nook and crannies of the country.
These groups, in turn, canvassed and mobilized votes during the 2023 presidential election for APC. TSG provided the template for incursion into grassroots structure in Northern Nigeria.
Faleke, who was then the Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, and his friends, provided the needed financial and moral support for TSG to operate.
In between the declaration of Tinubu as president-elect and inauguration on May 29, TSG staged an event incorporating a series of activities to mobilize Nigerians and lovers of democracy to defend the popular mandate given to Tinubu. It was a daily sit-out programme at the Unity Fountain, Abuja, lasting for over a month, aimed at countering forces moving against the inauguration of the president-elect on May 29.
The event featured a dancing competition, musical display, and quiz competition on the personality of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Other side attractions included drama, and cultural dancers representing about 10 different languages such as Kanuri, Tiv, Sua, Igbo, Yoruba, Nupe, Hausa, etc. as well as medical outreach for everyone at the Unity Fountain.
It also featured an open discussion on the topic: “Actualization and Sustainability of the Renewed Hope: Expectations and Desirability” with different participants assessed by panellists. In addition, a skill acquisition and empowerment programme was organized from early May through the Pre-Presidential Inauguration Hangout. The training and empowerment programmes included Baking & Catering, Videography, Basic Vehicle Diagnosis/Sewing and Phone Repairing. Other Skills include Hair Styling, Barbing, Nail Fixing and Polishing, General Makeup and Body Therapy, Throw Pillows and General Interior Decoration, Shoe Making/Repairing, Vulcanizing, Tying and Dying, and Corporate Humidity/Multi Print.
The skills acquisition programme was free and open to anyone who was willing to learn any of the skills.
Born in Ekinrin Adde of Ijumu Local Government in Kogi State on 25th December 1959, Hon. James Abiodun Faleke got his O’levels from Abdul-Azeez Attah School, Okene, in 1979.
He graduated as best student at Kaduna Polytechnic with a Higher National Diploma in Purchasing and Supply Management, with Upper Credit in 1986. He proceeded to Imo State University, where he got his Masters Degree in Business Administration (NBA).
Briefly after his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Orientation programme in Lagos State, where he was the parade commander for the entire NYSC members at the orientation camp, he served with National Orthopedic Hospital in Igbobi and did his NYSC community Service with Ikeja LGA. During the period, from his meager NYSC allowance, he constructed and donated dustbins to many households within the LGA of Ikeja LGA towards ensuring cleaner environment.
He was recognised and given the NYSC Merit Award for his leadership roles and community service as a Corper in 1987.
Hon. Faleke wrote his professional examination of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) London and passed with the Final Diploma of the great Institute. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration (FIPA).
After his Youth Service, Faleke worked with various companies in many capacities of Procurement, Clearing & Forwarding, Warehousing and Distribution in Kayo Foods Ltd, Tate and Lyle Industries PLC, Alumaco PLC and the famous Crown Agents of Nigeria, a Training and Procurement company, owned and funded by the British Government.
Hon. Faleke later veered into politics and was elected Pioneer Executive Chairman in Ojodu LCDA on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD) where he served for two consecutive terms from 2004 to 2011. He was the Chairman of Conference 57, the Forum of Executive Chairmen of Local Governments/LCDAs in Lagos State.
In 2011, he was elected as a Federal legislator, representing Ikeja Federal Constituency, in the House of Representatives on the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
He was duly re-elected in 2015 on the platform of APC and then for a third term in 2019 on same platform. As an opposition member in 2011, he was Chairman of the House Committee on Anti Corruption, National Ethics and Values. He became Chairman of Customs and Excise Committee in 2015-2019 and was the Chairman, House Committee on Finance in the 9th Assembly of the House.
Hon. Faleke was one of those who also moved for the Increase in Federal Allocation to States and Local Government.
He presented many Motions and Bills amongs which were the NYSC Act amendment Bill to Provide Life Insurance for Corp members, Establishment Bills of the Nine Federal Universities set up by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Several motions such as: the improvement of Security, by ensuring the monitoring of the over 1400 illegal border routes within the country; Motion on the ban on sales of Alcohol at motor parks; Motions on the ban on sale of Army Uniforms in the open market, etc.
In December 2014 to April 2015, James Abiodun Faleke was the Lagos State Campaign Coordinator for Buhari/Osinbajo Campaign Group, whereby, Lagos State was delivered for APC.
He organized the famous “WALK FOR BUHARI” in Lagos which brought the whole Lagos to a stand still and saw several dignitaries, which includes the National leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, amongst many other party leaders, and members, who walked from Maryland to Onikan Stadium to shore up support and solidarity for the Presidential candidate of APC.
As a grassroots politician, he formed the Asiwaju Grassroots Development Association (AGDF) in Ojodu LCDA as a non-profit organization, which involved charity work for widows, orphans and the less privileged. They also provided public health and gender mainstreaming.
He has attended many international and local courses and Seminars too numerous to mention here.
In recognition of James Abiodun Faleke’s educational achievements, philanthropic gestures and result-oriented services to humanity within and outside his political constituency, he has received several worthy Awards from corporate bodies, NGOs, various communities associations, the media, groups, and many more.
DISCIPLES OF JAGABAN (DOJ)
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.
TINUBU/SHETTIMA NETWORK (TSN)
Dr. Kailani Mohammed is a veteran political mobilizer at the presidential level. He has been at it since 2003. Each election cycle, the All Progressives Congress (APC) loyalist builds a network of party faithful who canvas for support and votes for his favourite presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, under the name of Voter’s Guard and Awareness Group. Even though Buhari, contesting on the platform of different political parties, lost in 2003, 2007, and 2011, Mohammed did not relent. His persistence paid off when his principal won in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019.
With Buhari no longer contesting in this election cycle, Mohammed turned his support over to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of his party, APC. He renamed his group Tinubu/Shettima Network and rebuilt it into a powerful support group that was instrumental to the victory of the party in the February 25, 2023 presidential election. Its national, state and zonal officers were inaugurated in January 2023 in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, for election monitoring, education, sensitization, and awareness, with Mohammed as National Chairman/Coordinator.
Speaking at the occasion, Mohammed said the group was out to ensure Tinubu’s success in the election. “We are here to market the Tinubu/Shettima ticket to Nigerians because of their track records,” he said.
He explained that TSN was a rebirth of the Voter’s Guard and Awareness group, which ensured success for Buhari with about 12 million votes in each of the previous two elections.
“We are assuring this gathering and Nigerians in general that we are strategically positioned for a vibrant result-oriented outcome, more than we recorded in 2015 and 2019. By the special grace of God Almighty, our efforts will not be in vain.
“We shall put in every effort and ensure that all hands are on deck to register election success and ensure that Senator Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima are sworn in as President/Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Vice President, respectively, come 2023. We know that all the presidential candidates vying for the office of the president have credibility but Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu has more credibility than all of them. We want them to step down and support his candidature,” Mohammed said.
On January 19, 2023, TSN organized an awareness-creatiing road walk in Abuja, titled ‘Walk the Talk Trek.’ The walk started from their Wuse Il office through the APC national secretariat to the Tinubu campaign office in Central Area before terminating at the Unity Fountain. At a press conference at the Unity Fountain, the TSN National Chairman said the event was meant to send a strong redemption message to Nigerians. “Our message is simple, clear and critical in the resolve to get our dear country, Nigeria, back on the pedestal of re-invention and development, such that will propel us from the clutches of poverty, insecurity and unemployment, to continue work on the economic diversification template of the President Muhammadu Buhari initiative,” he said.
Mohammed said the exercise was a sign of the victory of Tinubu and Senator Shettima as President and Vice President respectively, at the presidential election of 25th February, 2023. “We are calling on Nigerians with PVCs, with a loud voice, not to listen to the voices of dissent but to come out en masse and cast their votes for the Tinubu/Shettima presidency.”
He said the support group wants a better future for generations yet unborn, adding that the only way to guarantee such and ensure the general template for the entire socio-economic and political development of the nation lies in the election of Tinubu/Shettima. “Therefore, for the sake of the country, we ask that all hands should be on the same page with TSN to ensure that the future works for all.”
TSN deployed a data-driven campaign strategy to ensure the success of the APC candidate, a unique strategy that made it one of the most visible and reliable independent campaign organisations that worked and are working for Tinubu.
TSN did not leave any stone unturned in ensuring the galvanisation and mobilisation of the electorate at every nook and cranny of the country, particularly at the grassroots. Since its launch, the group intensified its activities through the deployment of pragmatic and systematic strategies which marked a departure from the old ways of campaigning in Nigeria. The support organisation used its vast network and structures across the country through the tools of the door-to-door campaign to maximum advantage.
The selection and appointment of the leaders of its directorates were based on the level of their loyalty to the APC and its candidate, Bola Tinubu, and their capacity to deliver. Its National Coordinator, Dr. Mohammed an unrepentant loyalist of the Asiwaju and APC is a veteran in mobilisation of men and resources. His bottom-up approach to the group’s campaign made the needed and appreciable impacts on the project. It created awareness of the fact that the stakes in the 2023 presidential election were higher than previously because of the desperation of the opposition parties to use cheap blackmail and empty rhetorics to hoodwink undecided voters.
TSN sold the candidature of Bola Tinubu who is renowned for proactive governance and his favourable disposition towards the common good of majority of citizens.
The group saw its responsibility as that of taking the message of the candidate to every nook and cranny of the country, to every stakeholder, to every voting bloc and to every voter. Its campaigns were robust, enlightening, issue-based and focused on competence, pedigree, the need for structural continuity in the governance of the country and public trust.
THE BOLA AHMED TINUBU AMBASSADORS (BAT AMBASSADORS)
The Bola Ahmed Tinubu Ambassadors (BAT Ambassadors) was one of best organized and most strategically focused support groups that aided the victory of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed in the February 25 presidential election. The reason for this is very simple. It was conceived by a group of technocrats, professionals and elite in the South West. They are people normally driven by strategic thinking in their various professions.
“These are people in the past that don’t vote; they are always apolitical. “These are people that came together to say that past events that had happened in Nigeria should not repeat itself,” National Coordinator of the group, Chief Jamiu Ekungba, explained.
The group has its team in 12 strategically selected states: the six western states (Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti) plus Edo, Delta, Rivers, Kwara, Kogi and Abuja. “What we did was to concentrate on the six South West states because we knew quite well that elections are fought and won at the unit level. ‘So, we therefore, built that structure at the unit level in all the states in the south west. While in the other states, we allowed them to operate at the state and local government levels.
The group has about 500, 000 representatives in the 12 states, with the working executives numbering 1,407 men and women.
The BAT Ambassadors rooted for Tinubu’s presidency because, according to Ekungba, they see in Tinubu, practical and demonstrable evidence of performance, which if allowed to be replicated at the national level, would in the shortest possible time produce the Nigeria many have dreamt of.
“We need a man with the courage to pilot the drifting ship of Nigeria, and in the current dispensation, we see in Tinubu the demonstrable evidence of that type of courage. We mean the courage to take hard decisions where it will hurt for the benefit of the nation.
“We need a man with an unequal passion for the federal system of government. It is only when Nigeria returns to federalism that our peaceful co-existence can produce geometrically exponential social-economic development. We see in Tinubu the un-repentant commitment to the ideas of true federalism.
“These amongst others are the qualities that are propelling members of this group to think that as much as we pray for Nigeria, we must stand up and work… More than 90 per cent of the members of this group are people that will otherwise not be ready to touch politics and politicking in Nigeria with very long spoons, but the reality on the ground has forced them out of their shelves. Work has started and by the grace of the Almighty God, victory shall be achieved.”
To secure victory for Tinubu, the group adopted two major strategies, according to the National Coordinator. The first was the mass movement strategy which involved room-to-room campaign through reaching out to every Yoruba man and woman, boy or girl on a one-on-one basis.
The second was the use of social/conventional media to engage the people. This was targeted at the youths who are glued to their handsets and computer sets 24/7. The group developed a very robust and comprehensively dynamic media architecture with which it bombarded the social and conventional news media.
The BAT Ambassadors promised to mobilize at least one million voters in Lagos state alone. The state coordinator of the movement, Abdurrahman Lekki, disclosed after the formal inauguration of the state, council and ward executives that the group was positioned to achieve its target.
“All the central mosques, the local mosques and several organisations are with us and our target is at least one million votes. We are structured to deliberately mobilize people from other religions and also to collaborate.
He said: “So, the collaboration we are doing is to say that even though we understand our differences, they really do not matter. We have a lot of Christian counterparts who are saying that this is where we want to go and they are with us. So ours is just the one million, they are also saying they’ll do one million, and we are in collaboration and networking strongly with them.
“Asiwaju is the presidential candidate to beat, that’s our president in waiting. I am not sure there are other candidates who have any chances. What pedigree do they have? What network do they have? We are sure of winning this election; it’s ours.”
Speaking after Tinubu’s victory, the National Coordinator of the group said: “We worked within the party and sometimes, we worked solemnly without going through the party where we thought it was necessary.” He said the group also organized a lot of town hall meetings, one of which was to bring Tinubu to Ibadan to interact with the people.
“We were also very strong on social media, where we won the hearts of many young people; the ‘Soro Soke,’ because we knew quite alright that the election was going to be tough, particularly for the president-elect in the south west. Unlike past elections, there was no election that religious and tribal bigotry was so introduced more than this election.”
Ekungba said this was coupled with the effect of the #ENDSARS protest saga. According to him, “we built a formidable strategy to meet the young people on social media.”
He said that since the election had been fought and won, it was time for everybody to come together to build the country.
TINUBU-SHETTIMA AMBASSADORS (TSA)
The Tinubu-Shettima Ambassadors (TSA) is another group that played a significant role in the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as Nigeria’s President in the recent general elections. The group which was the initiative of Prince Oladele Oyelude, the Director-General and Senator Sani Musa as Chairman, has structures in all the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, zonal and Local Government coordinators.
The Director General of TSA said the core objective of the group was to mobilize eligible voters from the grassroot for the aspiration of Tinubu-Shettima joint ticket by reaching out to the State House of Assembly members, Local Government Legislators and all progressives in general.
He explained that TSA is a united structure with a common mission, vision and goals that hopes to engage major stakeholders in States and strict contact with State and Local Government legislative aides.
He said that as a support group, members of TSA were already following the men who know the roads and called on all Nigerians to go to the grassroot and sweep it clean.
He described both Tinubu and Shettima as men who have outstanding leadership qualities and antecedents.
“We have identified Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his running mate, Senator Shetima as joint patriots in words and action. We congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari for allowing a level playing ground during the presidential primary that produced Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the APC presidential flag bearer for 2023 general election. I must categorically state that the greatest achievement our president will do is by handing over to a progressive successor in person of Ahmed Tinubu who’s his party candidate in the forthcoming presidential election.”
He further said that as a united front, the common goal of the group is to mobilize eligible voters at the wards and units, engage with major stakeholders in the state as well as state and local government parliamentarians. These were his statements before the primaries and the general elections. Graciously God has answered his prayers that his principal, Bola Tinubu did not only win APC primaries, he went all the way to win the main presidential election and has been sworn in as president of the federal republic of Nigeria.
APC NATIONAL INTEGRITY MOVEMENT (ANIM)
APC National Integrity Movement (ANIM) is another standout group that made the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidates in the recent general elections possible. It was formed specifically as a vehicle to champion the interests of APC by canvassing votes for the party’s candidates. The difference between ANIM and other groups is that while other groups operate as support groups, ANIM is formed as a movement to complement the role of APC leadership in mobilizing support for the electoral success of APC and electoral victory of president Tinubu.
Its membership is drawn from several influential groups that have made significant contributions within the realm of Nigerian governance. They include some former members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of APC; members of APC legacy parties; some serving and past zonal leaders of APC); serving and past members of the National Assembly; and some Serving and past members of State Houses of Assembly. Others include some serving and past members of Boards of Trustees (BOT) of MDAs; and some serving and past commissioners and Heads of MDAs. The contributions of all these critical stakeholder groups are considered as invaluable assets to the achievement of APC ANIM’s goals.
Hon. Sadiq Abubakar Sa’adu Fakai, National Leader of APC ANIM, said the movement rooted for the Tinubu presidency because they see in him “a practical and demonstrable evidence of performance in reference to his tenures in Lagos, which, if allowed to be replicated at the national level, would, in the shortest possible time, produce the Nigeria many have dreamt of.
“A vote for Tinubu is a vote for prosperity, a vote for security, a vote for employment, a vote for good governance, a vote for good roads, a vote for quality educational system, a vote for quality health facilities, a vote against nepotism and a vote to destroy the structures of corruption in the country.”
A former Governor of Nasarawa State and a supporter of APC ANIM, Senator Tanko Al-Makura, said the group had so much to showcase to the electorate. “You can prove beyond doubt that Asiwaju has two attributes that stand him clearly above any other candidates: this man was a soldier of democracy, this is a man who saw democracy and he stood up to the challenges and made so many sacrifices for this country to ensure that democracy is surviving in this country.”
To actualize its mandate, vision and mission, ANIM was ably guided and supported by its Grand Patron, His Excellency, Vice President Kashim Shettima (GCON). Under his guidance and support, the movement was able to tour the length and breadth of the country to canvass for support and votes for the Presidential ticket of the party and other candidates across the country. The movement meticulously canvassed for votes right from the polling units, council wards, zones, local government councils, and states nationwide through the use of Canvassers, Mobilizers, Coordinators, Leaders as well as the National structure.
APC ANIM with its national spread, proved its political prowess, strength and undiluted loyalty by its purpose-driven initiatives which were very impactful through programmes initiated before, during and after the elections. The movement, in the build-up to the 2023 general elections, engaged critical stakeholders such as Kashim Shettima, some serving Governors, National Assembly members and others in order to plan its modalities on how best to win the elections. After vigorous consultations the movement went ahead to develop an election strategic pointer, a framework that would ensure victory of the party at the polls. Measures put in place include but not limited to appointment of polling unit Mobilizers, ward Canvassers, Local Government Council Coordinators, State Leaders, and the National Organogram. All these were deployed to the victory of the February 25, 2023 presidential elections.
The group deployed its canvassas across the 774 local government areas to sensitise and mobilize voters for the election and distributed over 10 million campaign materials for sensitization and mobilization across the country. It organized a one-million-man match in Kebbi State in support of Tinubu and Shettima and the party’s gubernatorial candidate in the state, Alhaji Nasiru Idris. There were similar and other activities in Abuja and other states.
After the elections were won by APC, the movement, through a well organized world press conference, congratulated the President-elect and also called its supporters nationwide to come out enmass and defend the mandate which Nigerians willingly gave to the presidential candidate of APC. To do this, the movement collaborated with other support groups by mobilizing supporters for a 40-day count-down gathering, live at the Unity Fountain every day to show support for the President-elect.
The movement later organized an event which was first of its kind, tagged ‘Appreciation Award Night’ to celebrate and appreciate heroes and heroines of 2023 general elections. It was ANIM’s way of instituting a reward system which is very key in managing victory in an election, to motivate recipients to do more going forward as well as to start consultative engagements towards 2027 general elections. “The movement sees beyond 2023 general elections which is why it felt the need that, through this motivational gestures to those foot soldiers who fought hard to ensure the party’s victory, if appreciated, would increase the output of next general elections,” Hon. Fakai said.
The National Leader of APC ANIM believes that, through collaborative efforts, expertise, and a shared commitment to public service, ANIM could contribute meaningfully to Nigerian society. “We firmly believe that, by combining our strengths and unwavering dedication, we can create a future that leaves no Nigerian behind.”