Former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Governor John Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, are locked in a battle of wits as the clock ticks to-wards the February 18, 2023 presidential election.
While Tinubu’s supporters are moving to secure the support of the All Progressives Congress (APC) members in the South West if he (Tinubu) decides to join the race, Fayemi’s supporters are also boasting that he (Fayemi) is equally interested in the presidency and eminently qualified.
“You know that Asiwaju 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 percent certain. But, part of our strategy is to make sure that the South West wing of our party is in our pocket,” one of Tinubu’s loyalists said.
He added: “If we are able to get the support of our zone (South West), it would be much easier for us to negotiate the ticket for him.
“We want to make sure that our members in the South West 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.
“One of our plans also include meeting the various critical segments and leaders of the party in the South West zone to convince them with the credentials of Asiwaju and the need for the zone to come together so that this opportunity of producing the president will not elude the Yorubas.”
He stressed 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 agreement on zoning between the party leaders before the 2015 elections,” the source added.
The ramping up of support among party members for Tinubu was geared towards checkmating the influence of any contender, especially Fayemi, in the region, who might want to use his or her national clout to get the ticket.
Given this early inroads by the Tinubu group, the source noted that it would be difficult for anyone to dislodge him from getting the support of party members in the South West.
“You know, every politics is local. That is why I consider it a wise move that Tinubu’s supporters are all over the South West trying to convince APC members to join the train,” he said.
Last week, former and current speakers of state Houses of Assembly in the South West met in Ibadan, Oyo State, to drum up support for Tinubu’s 2023 presidential bid. The meeting took place at Carlton Gate Xclusive Hotel, Ibadan.
In attendance were 20 current and past speakers of states in the South West.
Mudashiru Obasa, Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly was the convener of the meeting.
He kick started the meeting by seizing the opportunity to formally introduce Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) Foundation and Movement to the gathering.
BAT Foundation, according to him, was meant to break the shackles of poverty in our society and to create a coordinated humanitarian image for Tinubu.
Obasa stated that though Tinubu had not given the go-ahead to kick start any interest in the presidency, but that there was the need to deliberate on this all important issue on behalf of Tinubu.
According to Obasa, all current and former speakers present should, after the meeting, go back to their respective states to set up the template that would see to the actualisation of the agenda of a Tinubu presidency come 2023.
An address by Ambassador Aliyu Saulawa, National Coordinator of BAT Movement, was emphatic in the movement’s readiness of ensuring power shift to the South West and to be clinched by Tinubu.
However, the Speaker, Ekiti State House of Assembly, Funminiyi Afuye, said at the weekend that he was not aware of any meeting of the speakers in the South West geo-political zone, where they expressed their support for the rumoured 2023 presidential ambition of Tinubu.
Afuye said: “I’m not aware of any meeting, neither was I invited to any such meeting. I can therefore not speak to any meeting I’m not privy or invited to.”
Also, Ekiti and Ondo states former speakers came out to dissociate themselves from the purported endorsement of Tinubu to contest the 2023 presidential election.
In a release signed by Rt. Hons. Victor Olabimtan, Oluwasegunota Bolarinwa, Ayo Agbomuserin, Abdusalam Olawale Taofeeq, Kenneth Olawale (Ondo), Ajigbolamu and Kola Adefemi (Ekiti), made available to journalists, the ex-speakers from the two states maintained that although they attended the said meeting, there was no endorsement of 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 South West 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 auto-matic 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 is Governors Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and 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 South West Region.
“Every state in the South West, 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. There-fore, the issue of drumming support for any particular ‘aspirant’ as being circulated, is out of place and we are not party to that.
“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.”
Meanwhile, a leader of the South West Professionals based in the United States of America (USA), Chief Segun Ajibulu, has admonished stakeholders in the region to approach the 2023 presidential election with all the seriousness that it deserves, if the region must succeed.
Ajibulu, a pro-democracy activist in a statement made available to Sunday Independent, also warned that the South West might be shooting itself in the legs if it jettisons the towering political profile of Tinubu in the all-important contest.
According to him, pulling Tinubu down now would amount to scoring an own goal in an important tournament.
Though, the Ekiti-born chieftain of the APC acknowledged that the region has a lot of competent hands, he however, posited that none could match the popularity of Tinubu for now.
He argued that only selfless and well-coordinated preparations could earn the Yoruba the presidential ticket in the wake of competing forces from other ethnic nationalities.
He said: “While it is the right of every qualified Nigerian to aspire for the presidential position, it will amount to shooting ourselves in the legs, should we overlook a popular candidate like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and fractionalise our efforts.
“The political records of Asiwaju are obviously unmatched by contemporary politicians and this attests to his national popularity.
“We (Yoruba) will be doing ourselves a lot of good this time by quickly settling for the one we know has the weight and capacity to do it without dilly dallying.
“As we give thanks to God, we also have to be conscious of our tomorrow as a people and design a laudable future for ourselves. This could only be attained through, love, unity and sincerity of purpose.
“The Yoruba have to come together, this time, more than ever before, to jaw-jaw and come up with a popular and credible candidate that will represent our party in the coming presidential race.
“The need for this is important, now that we have other contending forces already putting up strategies on how to ensure the presidency eludes us.”
Ajibulu is of the opinion that Tinubu has the requisite clout and political sagacity for the nation’s number one seat and should be considered to represent the South West in the contest for the apex position.
Source: Sunday Independent