Bola Tinubu: From Political Kingmaker to Sovereign, Redefining Presidential Politics in Nigeria

Nigeria’s political landscape is set to witness a new dimension in election campaigning as the nation moves closer to the 2023 general elections. The elites have decided not to sit on the fence and just watch anymore, they have determined to join the train of Nigerians who are seeking to challenge the status quo. Some Nigerians who have been aptly described in the past as kingmakers are now eying the throne and are expected to jump into the arena in the next elections when the successor of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari will be picked.

One of the strategies they want to employ as the election is drawing closer is adopting the American style of volunteerism where individuals, groups, and organizations will get together to work independently for individual candidates before and during campaigns. Such groups that could be referred to as SuperPAC will canvass for votes to push their candidates across the finish line.

This is the raison d’être of Asiwaju Volunteers, a consortium of groups, that have come together to pull resources and help actualize the ambition of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, National Leader of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) party, as he formalizes plans to run for president in 2023.

Nigeria's Presidential Palace also known as Aso Rock (C) Punch Newspapers

Mr. Tinubu is a strong ally of President Buhari. He is the brain behind the alliances that helped him win defeat incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. Mr. Tinubu, widely known as the “Kingmaker” will be the man to beat by all other contenders when the whistle goes for the race to Aso Rock in 2023.

Timescape Magazine gathered that Asiwaju Volunteers currently is made up of no fewer than 430 groups and counting.  

The Director-General of Asiwaju Volunteers, Mr. Abiodun Lawrence Ogidan told Timescape Magazine that the setting up of the group marks a new dawn in Nigerian politics as it is high time the right thing is done to elect credible leaders into public offices. He noted that if Africans could copy democratic practices from the West, they need to further copy and adopt the strategies that make Western democracies functional and attractive, especially the ingredients and processes through which they elect their leaders.

“That's the reason, we come together to set up the Asiwaju Volunteers. The group consists of professionals in politics with the ambition to support Tinubu who we see as a leader who has the prerequisites to lead Nigeria to the next level,” Mr. Ogidan, a graduate of Engineering Physics/Applied Physics at Kingston University, London told Timescape Magazine. 

Abiodun Lawrence Ogidan, Director-General Asiwaju Volunteers

Mr. Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos State has not publicly declared his intention to contest for the plum position, but the Asiwaju Volunteers say part of their job is to pressure him to contest.

“We are out to give structural support to Tinubu's presidential ambition. We are a group that is coordinating other groups. We are building the army to work for Tinubu without us being a liability to him.

“We are looking at the antecedent of what he has done. He is a builder of men. He created a template in Lagos State when he was the Governor, which can be used to transform Nigeria. He is somebody that is technical and strategic who can move the country forward,” Mr. Ogidan emphasized.

While justifying the action the group to begin mobilization for an aspirant when the incumbent is just halfway gone into his last term of office, Mr. Ogidan said the action of the group is not premature, adding that the campaign for US President Joe Biden, started immediately, former President, Donald Trump won the race to the White House in 2016.

He further argued that volunteer groups need to be on the ground to begin sensitizing the public on why they think their champion, Mr. Tinubu deserves consideration for the highest office in Nigeria. He pointed out also, that American elections are usually built and won by volunteers, insisting that “Until we learn the necessity and importance of mobilization of the populace for a party or a candidate long before elections, we won’t get it right in this country”.

Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, ready for Nigeria's highest office?

“Tinubu has not declared his intention, but we the volunteers are mobilizing for him. We are putting structures on the ground ahead of his declaration. What we are doing is our right, so we can support whoever we want, and it is Tinubu’s right to say he wants to contest or otherwise. We are professionals in politics, we only need Tinubu's endorsement of what we are doing. We have received series of endorsements from well-meaning Nigerians from all over the country,” Mr. Ogidan stated.

Evoking the question of campaign financing, Mr. Ogidan said “In other countries, people donate towards the election of a candidate, which is strictly monitored. We are building our own towards that. We have people who are indicating that they want to support Tinubu, but they are far from Lagos. What we do is to give such people a go-ahead to organize a group that will be registered with us and they will be part of our mobilization in that part of Nigeria.

“Everybody is a volunteer. We are on the ground in all the states of the federation. We are encouraging other groups to register with us because our plan is to have a database so that we will not have groups scattered around working for the same purpose. Volunteer means self-service. We are doing a self-service for Tinubu because we believe in him”.

Taking a question relating to the level of support and coordination between his group and Mr. Tinubu, Mr. Ogidan made clear that “We have not met Tinubu to give us financial support. Our support comes from people who share the same vision with us, donations from friends, and spirited Nigerians. We have received endorsements from across Nigeria. As I speak, the endorsements have been coming in from all the geo-political zones of the country. Personalities who include four serving governors who we have given Special Patrons status are with us, as well as people in business, politics, and other areas of human endeavour”.

Some of the registered groups under Asiwaju Volunteers include Fajo Group, Frontrunners, Integrity, Arewa Community APC Lagos, Egbe Omolere Social Club, Alimosho Asiwaju Volunteers, Asiwaju Alliance Movement, The Patriots, The Adorable, Ideal Political Movement, The Dynamic, Progressive Unique Ladies for Jagaban, among others.