EXCLUSIVE: 2023: Tinubu ramps up support in S’West ahead of declaration

*Moves to checkmate Fayemi’s influence Benjamin Omoike

Supporters of the former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, have moved to secure the support of the All Peoples Congress (APC), members in the Southwest as a means of boosting his chances of securing the party’s presidential ticket, should he decide to join the race.

Tinubu, who is also a National Leader of the ruling APC, is yet to formally declare his interest for the plum job, but there is wide speculation that he might throw his hat into the ring within the next few months.

It is, however, reliably gathered from some of his supporters that Tinubu will only come out to indicate his interest, if he was sure of getting the APC presidential ticket. One of his supporters also said part of their plans was to prepare the ground in such a way that when he eventually comes out, he would be the one to beat.

“You know that the boss has not told Nigerians that he will contest any election, but I can tell you that from all indications he is going to run. It’s not 100 per cent certain, but part of our strategy is to make sure that the Southwest wing of our party is in our pocket,” the source said.

He continues: “If we are able to get the support of our zone, it would be much easier for us to negotiate the ticket for baba. We want to make sure that our members in the Southwest speak with one voice that they want Asiwaju to be given the ticket. If we are able to achieve that, other contenders in the zone would find it difficult to make any headway.”

The source, who is also a top APC member declared that their plans also include meeting the various critical segments and leaders of the party in the zone to convince them with the credentials of Asiwaju and the need for the zone to come together so that, according to him, “this opportunity of producing the president will not elude the Yorubas.”

It would be recalled that late last year, a group led by Senator Dayo Adeyeye, South West Agenda For Asiwaju Tinubu 2023 (SWAGA 23), a movement was launched in Ibadan. Even though the group said it was ‘championing a common front for the Yoruba’, not a few people are of the view that it was formed primarily to consummate the presidential ambition of Tinubu.

And just this week, former and incumbent Speakers of State Houses of Assemblies in the Southwest met in Ibadan, to drum support for the anticipated APC leader presidential bid. At the meeting, according to reports, were 20 current and past Speakers in the Southwest. The Lagos House Speaker, Mr. Mudashiru Obasa, who convened the meeting formally told the gathering that though Tinubu has not given the go-ahead to kick start any presidential campaign, “but there is the need to deliberate on this important issue on behalf of Tinubu.”

Obasa, therefore, charged all the speakers, both current and former present at the meeting to go back to their respective states to set up the template that would see to the actualization of the agenda of an Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu presidency in 2023.

Even so, it was reliably gathered that the strategic plan of Tinubu’s supporters is to enlist all major foot soldiers of the former Lagos State helmsman in the project and to ensure that they speak with one voice. “I’m sure you have been noticing the visibility of many Tinubu ‘boys’ in the media circuit, showcasing his credentials, telling Nigerians why he should be our next president and also reminding APC members of the so-called gentleman’s agreement on zoning between the party leaders before the 2015 elections,” the source said.

Meanwhile, sources within the party told said that the ramping up of support among party members for Tinubu was geared towards checkmating the influence of any contender in the region, who might want to use his or her national clout to get the ticket.

A source, who is a former senator, but would want to remain anonymous, stated that given this early inroads by the Tinubu group, it will be difficult for anyone to dislodge him from getting the support of party members in the Southwest.

“You know every politics is local. That is why I consider it a wise move that Tinubu supporters are all over the Southwest trying to convince APC members to join the train. But if what we are hearing that Governor Fayemi or even Senator Ibikunle Amosun, are also interested in the presidency is true, then the coming months will be interesting. We should not however forget the power of the presidency in all this,” the source added.

Meanwhile, Ekiti and Ondo States former speakers have only just come.out to dissociate themselves from the purported endorsement of the National Leader of the All-Progressive Congress (APC), Asiwaju Almed Bola Tinubu, to contest the 2023 presidential election.

In a release signed by Rt. Hons. Victor Olabimtan, Oluwasegunota Bolarinwa, Agbomuserin, Abdusalam Olawale Taofeeq, Kenneth Olawale (Ondo), Ajigbolamu and Kola Adefemi (Ekiti) and made available to journalists, the ex-speakers from the two states maintained that although they attended the said meeting, there was no endorsement for the candidacy of Tinubu and no communique was issued to that effect.

The former-speakers said the meeting was at the instance of Rt. Hon. Titi Oseni, the Coordinator of the Southwest forum of the Conference of Former Speakers of House of Assembly of Nigeria, under the national chairman of Governor Simon Lalong. Rt. Hon. Obasa came to the meeting to solicit support of the ex-speakers, as automatic national delegates, for the aspiration of his mentor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

They said when the issue was discussed, they spoke in unison during the meeting and maintained that they would rather wait for the directive of the leader of their respective states. That’s Governor Akeredolu of Ondo state and Governor Fayemi of Ekiti State, who are in best position to speak for their states. They told the gathering that all candidates from the zone, including Tinubu had legitimate right to aspire to lead the country.

The ex-speakers from Ekiti State also informed the gathering that their Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, is equally interested in the presidency and eminently qualified.

“As much as the issue of national politics is concerned, we are of the opinion that every eligible aspirant deserves equal right and opportunity. As a member of the All-Progressives Congress, APC, we are not against the aspiration of any member of the party from the Southwest Region. Every State in the Southwest, be it Lagos, Ondo, or Ekiti is qualified to produce a candidate and whoever that the leadership of the Party supports, we will support.”

“It is a well-known fact that, our Governors are the leaders of our party in every State, and we will never do anything that is contrary to their interest. If Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is interested in running for the 2023 Presidency, and Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State is also gunning for the position, they are both qualified to run. However, none of them has openly declared interest or intention to do so. Therefore, the issue of drumming support for any particular “aspirant” as being circulated is out of place and we are not party to that.”

These positions were said to have been conversed at the meeting by members from Ondo and Ekiti States, and now re-echoed in a joint press statement issued by the aforementioned ex-speakers.

“We hereby dissociate ourselves from such endorsement when the purported gladiator has not informed the Conference of his interest to run for the exalted position in the country. We are party men, and will support the interest of all our leaders wherever they go.”




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