Politics

2023: The return of endorsement groups

 

Groups back Tinubu, Atiku, Tambuwal,  Bello, others to succeed Buhari

 

FELIX NWANERI reports on the uncountable reasons that some political pressure groups have advanced to justify their support for the 2023 presidential aspiration of some individuals even when most of them are yet to officially declare their intentions

 

 

The build-up to the 2023 general election, especially, that of the presidency, has forced most politicians and political groups across Nigeria to return to politics of endorsement given the gale of support for the respective ambitions of those angling to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

However, the rush to endorse the various gladiators is even when most of them have not publicly declared their interest for the presidential contest besides crisscrossing the length and breadth of the country, consulting with different groups and stakeholders, including former leaders as well as testing the political waters either directly or indirectly through what some analysts and observers have termed the “poster game.”

 

As the campaign posters for the presidential election continue to flood major cities across the states of the federation and the social media, refutation has been the response from the camps of the various politicians linked to them.

 

Perhaps, the reason for the denial is because the development contravenes Section 99 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, which states that “campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day.”

 

Among those whose posters for the 2023 presidential election have surfaced are the National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi.

 

Other APC chieftains, who have their posters either on the streets or the social media are the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi; Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello and Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba.

 

There have equally been campaign posters linked to some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said to be nursing presidential ambition. They include former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; ex-governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi; a former governor of Kano State; Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso; Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal and Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike.

 

There are also campaign posters linked to some presidential hopefuls, who are yet to declare the platforms through which they intend to realise their ambitions.

 

A former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof Kingsley Moghalu and expresidential aide, Doyin Okupe, who have already declared their respective ambitions, fall into this category. In some of the campaign posters, the gladiators were presented as presidential aspirants, while as vice presidential aspirants in others.

 

But as lull is the word in most of the political camps for now, New Telegraph gathered that the unresolved issue of zoning among the two main political parties as well as cash crunch are reasons why most of those nursing ambition to contest the 2023 presidential poll has publicly declared interest.

 

It was further gathered from some chieftains of both parties that the lingering debate over where power will shift to in 2023 between the North and South, is slowing down politicians, who want to succeed President Buhari from launching their respective bids.

 

The newspaper also learnt that the harsh economic situation in the country explains why most of the presidential hopefuls have refrained from making their ambitions public. The belief is that this will help them to avoid unnecessary spending ahead of the primaries and main election.

 

Some party chieftains also pointed to the battle for the structures of the leading parties by the presidential hopefuls and other interest within both parties; the likelihood of a fresh political alignment that may produce a third force ahead of 2023 and President Buhari’s disposition over his successor.

 

The President seems not to have any candidate in mind for now. It would be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had announced February 18, 2023 as the date for the next presidential election, but unlike in previous presidential elections, no member of the APC or PDP has publicly declared interest for the tickets of their respective parties.

 

Some of the gladiators, hoping to succeed President Buhari within the APC and PDP folds, have mainly announced their ambitions through campaign posters sponsored by either cronies or support groups on the various social media platforms, thereby raising concerns over the seriousness or otherwise of their aspiration among party stakeholders.

On paper, power is expected to shift to the southern part of the country by the time President Buhari’s tenure elapses in 2023 given the zoning arrangement between the North and South, which took effect in 1999.

 

However, recent developments in the polity show that the 2023 presidency will go beyond a southern affair as gladiators from both sides of the country’s political divides – North and South – are gearing up for the contest.

 

This has left the leadership of the APC and PDP at crossroads as both parties, unlike during the 2015 and even the 2019 general elections, are yet to declare their stand on the zoning arrangement, thereby, leaving their members and the rest of Nigerians in the dark.

 

Despite the mind game being played by most of the 2023 presidential gladiators, the likes of Tinubu, Wike, Saraki and Kwankwaso, Moghalu and Okupe have been receiving endorsements from some individuals and groups.

 

SWAGA leads others for Tinubu

 

The APC national leader has not officially declared intention for the 2023 presidency, but there have been pockets of endorsements in that regard from different quarters. Equally, some groups have commenced moves to draft him into the race. Some of the groups have even gone to the extent of printing campaign materials in Tinubu’s name to show how serious they are.

 

One of the support groups is the Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) Network Vision. There have also been endorsements for Tinubu by the Lagos State chapter of the APC, which said the APC National Leader has what it takes to rule Nigeria.

 

But Tinubu, in denouncing one of the groups, promoting the 2023 campaign on his behalf – Asiwaju Reloaded Ambassadors’ Nigeria – said he did not authorise such. Despite the disclaimer, a political pressure group known as South- West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA), has emerged on the political scene to push for Tinubu’s quest for the APC presidential ticket

 

The group, led by a former Minister of State for Works, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, has as members, former members of the National Assembly including Senator Soji Akanbi (deputy chairman), Hon. Bosun Oladele (secretary), Hon. Oye Ojo (networker), Hon. Oloruntoba Oke (treasurer) and Hon. Rotimi Makinde, and has been launched in most of the six states of the South-West geopolitical zone.

 

In a recent interview with New Telegraph, Adeyeye said SWAGA is pushing for the candidacy of Tinubu for the 2023 presidential election because he has the political will and experience to turn the country’s fortune around.

 

His words: “SWAGA is not advocating for Tinubu because he is going to champion Yoruba interest. We are rooting for him because post-2023 is critical to Nigeria and if not managed well, might plunge the nation into more crises.

 

So, we believe that Tinubu is the right man for the job because he is experienced enough to ride the wave at this time that Nigeria is at crossroads with centrifugal forces trying to destabilize the country.

 

“He believes in true federalism and has the political capacity to push that. We are clamouring for Asiwaju but he is not going there to serve Yoruba interests only. He is going to serve the people of Nigeria. He has demonstrated this as the governor of Lagos State.

 

He has been fair to all groups. So, he is not going to be president of Yoruba people but of Nigeria, working for the interests of all Nigerians. What we need in this country to arrest the centrifugal forces is for leaders to be fair to all. You just make sure that everyone is represented in key positions. Reminded that his group may be on a wild goose chase because Tinubu has not indicated interest for the 2023 presidency,

 

Adeyeye said: “Honestly, I do not have any assurance from Asiwaju Tinubu that he is contesting but I can tell you that he will contest. He will not back out from the presidential race. He cannot back out because there are forces in politics that will not make it possible for him to back out.

 

I am telling you that even though Asiwaju Tinubu has not given us any assurance, you can reasonably be sure that some of us in SWAGA, with our little experience will not be wasting our time if we don’t think that he will come out and do it.

 

Diaspora group, sports, entertainment stars root for Bello Governor Yahaya

 

Bello’s presidential ambition started like a joke, when his campaign posters surfaced on the social media late last year.

 

The posters with the APC logo and colours, have the message: “All Progressives Congress Continual of Good Governance. Vote for Governor Yahaya Bello as President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.” However, like other presidential hopefuls, who are yet to publicly declare their aspirations, Bello quickly distanced himself from the campaign posters.

 

The governor said he has no prior knowledge of the purported materials, and that he had no links with the group or individuals behind them. The picture, however, became clear, when members of the Kogi State House of Assembly called on the governor to join the 2023 presidential race.

 

The lawmakers, in a motion on behalf of all the members by the Majority Leader of the House, Hassan Abdullahi, predicated their call on the “sterling performance” of the governor since he assumed office in 2016.

 

While many thought the Kogi governor’s move was to make himself relevant ahead of the 2023 polls, recent developments in the polity show that he means business.

 

An indication to this emerged, when Bello dismissed claims that the APC had a zoning arrangement. He was apparently reacting to calls for the ruling party to zone its 2023 presidential ticket to the southern part of the country.

 

Bello, who maintained that anyone from any zone is free to contest for the party’s presidential ticket for the 2023 elections, said: “There is nothing like zoning in our party. In 2015, there was no zoning; many aspirants, including former Governor Rochas Okorocha contested.

In 2019, there was no zoning; people in APC were not courageous enough to contest with President Muhammadu Buhari.” Asked if he is interested in the 2023 presidency, Bello said: “If it’s the will of God for me to become president in this country at the right time, I will be.”

 

He added that he will defeat any candidate if he decides to contest for the 2023 presidency by a wide margin. I will record votes that have never been recorded in Nigeria by the grace of God. But that’s not the issue right now; the issue is there must be Nigeria before we talk of 2023,” he said.

 

Since then, Bello has been warming himself into the hearts of some Nigerians as well as groups. One the groups is Arewa Youth Forum (AYF), which recently called on the Kogi governor to run for the presidency in 2023 because it was time for the youth to take over the country’s leadership.

 

Speaking during a courtesy visit on Bello at the government house, Lokoja, president of the group, Comrade Gambo Gunjungu, said the youth are tired of recycled leaders. He added that Bello has made remarkable achievements in the areas of security, infrastructure, youth and women inclusion in governance, as well as his firmness against the politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

His words: “Like many other young Nigerians wanting to change the narratives of political bandwagon and recycled politicians, we are looking up to Bello as the hope of the Nigerian youth.

 

We are discussing with our patrons and we already have the network it would take to propagate their message all over the nation.”

An international press conference was also held in London, United Kingdom to draw the attention of Nigerians home and abroad to the Bello presidency project. With participants from other countries joining via zoom, speakers eulogised the Kogi State governor for what they called his inclusive governance model, women empowerment and visionary leadership.

 

Speaking under the auspices of Bello Diaspora Support Movement (BDSM), convener of the conference, Amb. Akinmosun Kolawole, said the gathering was simply “a Diaspora support movement for the actualisation of the youth presidential project as represented in Governor Yahaya Bello.”

 

He described the Kogi governor as the right man “to reposition the nation on the path of progress and shared prosperity,” adding that BDSM “is assiduously mobilising Nigerians across the globe to support Governor Yahaya Bello.” Similarly, a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, in his comment on a picture taken during a recent visit by Bello to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, wrote on his Twitter page: “Beautiful shot and pregnant with meaning! When both PMB and OBJ honour and respect you then you are truly blessed. I am happy for you my brother Yahaya. Let God’s will be done!”

 

Coalition says it’s time for Tambuwal

 

There is no doubt that Sokoto State governor is aiming to take another shot at the presidency after a failed bid in 2019. He has visited some eminent Nigerians, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, ex-Minister of Defence and Chief of Army Staff, General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) and a former President of the Senate, David Mark, which many viewed as part of his strategies to test the political waters before launching his 2023 presidential bid.

 

Besides the visits, there have been posters, showing that Tambuwal is ready for the battle ahead on the platform of the PDP even as scores of groups under the aegis of Tambuwal Save Nigeria, have publicly declared support for him.

 

The Chief Convener of the coalition, Abdullahi Bakura, who said that the time has come for the Sokoto State governor to lead Nigeria, added that they are not relenting in mobilising Nigerians to support Tambuwal for the 2023 presidency. Tambuwal, Bakura said, holds a promising future for all Nigerians.

 

He added that the governor has proven his capacity to manage a multicultural diversity in an unbiased manner, citing his track records since his days as speaker of the House of Representatives.

 

APGA group, northern students mobilize for Atiku

 

The former vice-president (1999-2009) was the candidate of the PDP in the February 23, 2019 presidential election, but was defeated by President Buhari. Atiku has not indicated interest in taking another shot at the presidency, but campaign posters announcing his 2023 ambition have emerged. While some of the posters are silent on the platform Atiku will use to actualise his ambition, others have the PDP logo on them, and they had inscriptions such as “Atiku 2023,” “Vote Atiku Abubakar for 2023 presidency,”

 

Movement 2023: Atiku is coming” and “Atiku, my choice 2023.” among others. The former vice-president has not associated himself from the various support groups promoting the 2023 campaign, but his media aide, Mazi Paul Ibe, at a time said “the support groups are everyday Nigerians who believe in an idea, and most times, they express themselves without recourse to anyone.”

 

But in what seemed a confirmation of the former vice-president’s ambition, a youth group under   the aegis of APGA Movement for United Nigeria (AMUN), recently launched a campaign bid for the former Vice President and a former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo.

 

Addressing newsmen at a press conference in Abuja, the group’s National Coordinator, Comrade Andy Ekwe, said Nigeria is on the brink of collapse and only decisive action in getting good leadership can save the country.

 

Ekwe explained that in consideration of the unity and stability of the country come 2023, the members unanimously endorsed the alliance of the two main opposition parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) to produce the presidential and vice presidential candidates.

 

Similarly, Association of Northern Nigerian Students (ANNS) has called on Atiku to vie for the country’s presidency in 2023.

 

The group said it was moved by Atiku’s plan to empower one million youths and women through his National Open Apprenticeship Programme, which according to it will address the lingering question of unemployment.

 

Describing the former vice president as business-oriented, the National Vice President of the association, Comrade Sani Adamu, said the group resolve to throw its weight behind Atiku was to salvage Nigeria from the looming economic doom.

 

Sani, who claimed that his group will mobilize for about 12.1 million students of northern extraction for the 2023 3l3ction, said of the former vice president: “Atiku is a bridge-builder, strategist par excellence and someone with the best mind in terms of practical ideas on youth development and nation-building.”

 

Kwankwasiyya Movement behind Kwankwaso

For Kwankwaso, a two-time governor of Kano State, former senator and ex-Minister of Defence, the arrowhead of his presidential project is the Kwankwasiyya Movement, a political movement he founded, while in office as governor.

 

The group has relentlessly been using the social media to reach out to the people. It has also been pushing out campaign posters with different messages and in different languages, particularly English and Hausa.

 

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, Kano state chapter has enjoined former Kano state governor and erstwhile senator representing Kano central Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso to jostle for presidency in 2023.

 

Also rooting for Kwankwaso is the Kano Sate chapter of the PDP, which through its chairman, Shehu Wada Sagagi, said Kwankwaso processes the requisite skills to govern Nigeria.

 

Kinsmen rally for Wike

 

Although the Rivers State governor, in January, denied authorising the 2023 presidential campaign posters bearing his name and with the message: “Rescue Nigeria,” sayin that he has not informed anyone that he is interested in the presidency, he recently said in a media interview that nothing will stop him from contesting the 2023 presidential election.

This, perhaps, informed his subsequent endorsement for the nation’s number one position by the South-South Forum of the PDP.

 

The forum, through its chairman, Chief Anthony Ekpelu, not only called on Wike to run for presidency in the 2023 election, but assured him of its support.

 

The forum said it is backing the Rivers State governor over what it described as his “superlative performance.”

Youths for Okupe

 

For the former presidential media aide, who in March, declared his intention to run for the 2023 presidency, with a promise to be a one-term president and a mission to restructure, reset a new agenda for the nation and reunite the country, he has the endorsement of a youth group, Noble Youths Mass Support Association (NYMSA).

 

The group’s National Coordinator, Mr Godwin Onmonya, who spoke on why they are rooting for the former National Publicity Secretary of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), described him asGod-sent and capable of turning around the country’s fortunes in areas of the economy, youth employment, agricultural innovation and protection of lives and property.

 

“Okupe will create enabling environment for businesses to thrive, restore respect for the rule of law and job opportunities for the development of the country. He is a thoroughbred grassroots politician, who understands Nigeria and Nigerians’ challenges and can provide acceptable solution to them all,” he said

 

Transporters throw weight behind Moghalu

 

The former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who was the candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) in the 2019 presidential election, has also declared his intention to vie for the post of Nigeria’s president in 2023, saying that his decision was born out of the need to serve and rescue the country.

 

Though he did not disclose the platform through which he intends to contest the election, he said his decision to contest was informed by the need to salvage the country from impending collapse.

 

He promised that his administration will prioritise poverty reduction, security, education, while delivering good governance in an agenda he titled “SWAG.”

 

While he canvassed for the support of all segments of the population for his ambition, he seems to have gotten that of members and leaders of the National Commercial Tricycle and Motorcycle Riders Association (NACTMORA), popularly known as “Keke Napep” and “Okada” riders in 18 northern states.

 

NACTMORA, in a statement signed by Alhaji Nasiru Amburtsa, the Chairman of the group’s 19 northern states coalition and the heads of nine states chapters representing the three northern geopolitical zones of North Central, North-East and North-West, said its over 10 million members will mobilize for Moghalu because he has what it takes to lead Nigeria out of the woods.

 

“Nigeria is facing a very serious national crisis caused by incompetent leadership, bad governance and corruption and today’s crop of politicians in the country cannot solve our national crisis because they have played bad politics of corruption, tribalism and election rigging for a long time and do not know anything else.

 

“After carefully looking at the situation in our country today, members of our association in 18 northern states have unanimously decided that Prof. Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu is the best potential candidate to be elected president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023.

 

We are therefore unanimously calling on him to run for president in 2023, and we hereby pledge our support and endorsement for his candidacy.

 

“Moghalu is not corrupt. He is not tribalistic. He is a man of truth and courage. He has a good heart for the common man. And he has the global pedigree needed for leadership in the 21st century.

 

We strongly call on him to step forward to lead Nigeria. We plead with all Nigerians, for the sake of our children and our future, to support this patriotic Nigerian. He is the man we believe has the vision, capacity, and competence to lead Nigeria into a better future,” the group said.

Katsina youths endorse Saraki For the former President of the Senate, who wants to take another shot at the presidency after losing at the PDP presidential primary for the 2019 election, endorsement is coming from an usual quarter, President Buhari’s home state – Katsina.

 

Though Saraki, like many others, has not officially declared his intention, the Katsina State Youths Network (KSYN) has urged him to contest for the exalted seat on the platform of the PDP.

 

The group’s leader, Abubakar Nuhu Adam, said endorsement of Saraki, which was formally done in Daura, the hometown of President Buhari, is a sign of “politics without bitterness.”

 

Project Nigeria clamours for Nwajiuba

Posters with the image of the Minister of State for Education, aspiring to be president in 2023 and supported by some members of the APC in the North have also surfaced.

 

The minister, who represented Ehime Mbano/Ihitte Uboma/ Obowo federal constituency in the House of Representatives between 1999 and 2003 before making a comeback in 2019 before his appointment as minister, is however yet to officially announce his ambition.

 

However, Project Nigeria, a political pressure group, has emerged, to drive Nwajiuba presidential project.

 

The group is led by Prof. Armay’au Hamisu Bichi, from Kano State, who is the National Coordinator, while a fourth term member of the House of Representatives representing Ukwa Federal Constituency, Hon. Nkem. Abonta, is the South East Coordinator of the group. Nwajiuba, according to the group, “is a global brand making himself available to serve our country Nigeria as number citizen come 2023.”

 

Buhari’s kinsmen drum support for Amaechi

 

For the Minister of Transportation, his campaign posters have not only surfaced on the internet but the hard copies were at a time pasted on major streets in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

 

Details on the posters show that Amaechi and el-Rufai are vying for the position of president and vice-president respectively.

 

One of the posters was titled “the People’s choice” while another had the message “Today may not be the best, but tomorrow will be better” and sponsored by the National Consolidation Movement although none had the logo of any political party.

 

Like others, Amaechi has not declared his intention but he already has the endorsement of a coalition groups based in Katsina State, with the name, Movement of Ameachi for President, 2023 (MARPS).

 

The group, which said that it was time to start thinking about who will likely succeed Buhari in 2023, believes that ‘Among all the politicians from the South said to have shown interest in the presidential race, Ameachi is the most resourceful and capable.”

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