The lifetime ambition achieved by President Bola Tinubu at the recent general elections did not come on a platter of gold. Starting from the build-up to the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries in May 2022, President Tinubu’s electoral success in the struggle against odds was achieved through prayers, determination, dint of hard work, political experience, general acceptability, networks, mostly through a few fanatic foot soldiers, who were strong believers of his political ideology and school of thought.
Even, when the kingmaker’s chances of leading the most populous African nation are seemingly high and brightened in the Northern region of Nigeria, it was not so in his Southwest base, as the region appeared opaque, nebulous, vague, and unpredictable due to obvious threats from his then political sons who had once reaped from his benevolent leadership as they did not only desperately showed interest in the ‘Aso Rock Villa’ race, but pursued it vigorously and were bent on making him unattractive for the race.
At the eruption of the violent and destructive ENDSARS protests that rocked Nigeria, especially Lagos State, it became obvious that political enemies and traducers were not just satisfied with being calumniators of the ‘Lion of Bourdillon’ but have finally gone for the jugular” of the one who brought most of them into political limelight as he became the target of a coordinated attack that initially started like a child’s play but ended claiming scores of lives, ruining businesses and livelihood and razing Asiwaju’s Television Station to the extent that some business owners had to put out public notices that their businesses do not belong to nor have anything to do with Tinubu. What a time to be alive!
This was the lowest point in the political Journey of the “master political strategist” and it was the regenerative turning point for his rise again like the mythical phoenix as SWAGA’23 was formally birthed, with its inaugural meeting and launch in Ibadan on 15th December 2020.
The South West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA’23) became the pivotal group with a clear-cut programme of advocacy, sensitization, and mobilization of support for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to contest the Presidential elections in 2023.
The group targeted the traditional institutions, opinion molders, political stalwarts across party divides, and youth in the southwest of Nigeria to wake them up to the possibility and reality of Asiwaju Tinubu’s presidential contest, the need to encourage him to step out, the essence of supporting him from home as “charity begins from home” and the importance of reconciling the home base with him once again. Although It is clear that most mentees of Asiwaju Tinubu that rose against him, competed, or worked against his presidential ambition overtly or covertly did not do so because they didn’t find Tinubu intelligent, capable or worthy of the exalted office but because they were driven by personal ambition and envy.
From 2020, despite the onslaught of Covid-19, SWAGA’23 traveled across the six (6) States of South West, visiting traditional rulers to plead for their support whilst urging them to call out Tinubu to contest the presidential elections. The response was not only encouraging, but it was also energizing as it provided the inspiration to even go beyond the South West to South-South and North Central Regions with visits to Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Plateau, Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Benue States, and FCT where groups like the North Central Agenda for Asiwaju (NCAA), Akwa Ibom Stakeholders for Asiwaju Tinubu (AKISAT), Delta State for Bola Ahmed Tinubu (DESBAT) and CrossSwaga were formed and inaugurated for the Sensitisation and support drive towards 2023.
In all, the leadership and members of the group visited over 300 traditional rulers and none of the monarchs had anything negative to say about President Tinubu, rather their interests were ignited with a passion for Asiwaju.
The birth of SWAGA inspired the formation of various Asiwaju support groups in their hundreds, although many of them didn’t have the plans, purpose, and programme of SWAGA’23; therefore they existed more on social media platforms, without clear-cut direction than on the streets to preach the gospel of Asiwaju Tinubu.
SWAGA ’23, with a well-defined aim, mission, and purpose-driven agenda, did not only strategize politically to market President Tinubu but the group also came out on a very strong conviction that the former governor of Lagos state will be the best president that Nigeria would ever have.
Conceived and convened by a former lawmaker, who represented the IJERO/EFON/EKITI WEST federal constituency of Ekiti State at the House of Representatives, a Political, Peace, and Conflict scholar and son-in-law to the Asiwaju; Oyetunde Ojo, the foremost political group, SWAGA’23, which committed itself and personal resources, both human, material, and networks, has in its fold former lawmakers, including Senators, House of Representatives members, state House of Assembly members, and local government chairmen among others.
Interestingly, the Central Working Committee leading SWAGA ’23 is made up of veteran politicians cum technocrats led by Its chairman, Senator ‘Dayo Adeyeye; a former Minister of State for Works, former media Adviser to Late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola (MKO) for the 1993 elections, ex-media and publicity adviser to Chief Olu Falae (when he contested Presidential election), former spokesman of Afenifere (The Pan Yoruba Group), an astute lawyer and Media Manager.
The Secretary; Hon. Bosun Oladele is equally a lawyer of note, a former Commissioner for Information and Orientation in Oyo State, a former House of Representatives and ECOWAS parliament member who once represented Nigeria at the Africa/ Caribbean/Pacific-European Union joint Parliamentary Assembly.
Others are, Senator Adesoji Akanbi (Vice Chairman), who is a former House of Representatives member and ECOWAS Parliament member and who later broke away from the group to form the Coalition Movement for Bola Ahmed Tinubu (COMBAT), Senator, Olugbenga Obadara, also a former member of the ECOWAS Parliament and the Chairman of the group in Ogun State, Senator Tony Adeniyi (SAN); Ekiti State Chairman of the group, Hon. Monsuru Alao; a four-term House of Representatives member from Lagos State and Chairman of the Lagos State Chapter of the group, Hon. Ayo Omidiran, a two-term member of the House of Representatives, one of the pioneer female Soccer administrators in Nigeria and the Chairperson of the group in Osun State, Hon. Ifedayo Abegunde; a two -term House of Representatives member and former Secretary to the Ondo State Government, Hon. Sunday Adepoju; a two-term House of Representatives member and the current Post Master General of Nigeria, Hon. Abiodun Akinlade; three-term House of Representatives member recently elected for the fourth term, Hon. Rotimi Makinde; a former House of Representatives member and a coordinator of the Youth Wing of the group, Hon. Apostle Oloruntoba Oke; a two-term Executive Chairman of Ifako-Ijaye Local Government of Lagos State, media manager and administrator and National Treasurer of the group, Hon. Gani Dauda; former House of Representatives member from Ondo State, Hon. Mukaila Musa; former Majority leader of Ondo State House of Assembly, Hon. Kafilat Ogbara; recently elected House of Representatives member and Hon. Kola Peregrino; the Current General Manager, Lagos State Printing Corporation.
Upon Tinubu’s declaration of interest to contest the 2023 presidency, the focus immediately changed to wooing delegates, and SWAGA’23 tapped into its advantage of deep network among the Statutory delegates. However, the game changed when in a seemingly desperate attempt to pull the carpet from under Tinubu’s feet, the rule changed to having only the elected delegates vote at the primaries; thus the group dug deeper into its well of political network being a group with grassroots appeal due to its composition, and it began the arduous task of mobilizing elected delegates across all states where it has a presence. This paid off as Asiwaju himself toured the states and interacted with the delegates on a first-hand basis.
In the course of campaigning for delegates, Tinubu also took time to reach out to the traditional rulers and politicians of note across the states where SWAG A’23 had been, and he was not surprised when at each stop he was told “Your people have been here earlier to deliver your message” such was the inspiration up to the Eagle Square for the June 7th – 8th Presidential Primaries of the APC that produced Tinubu as the Candidate with a landslide victory.
Then came the ‘Muslim – Muslim Ticket’ political narratives, which became a bigger threat to the actualisation of his cherished ambition to occupy the most exalted position in Nigeria. SWAGA’23 vigorously worked to revive the popularity of its political idol through various branding strategies, wholesale sensitisation, public engagement, and campaigning across all geopolitical zones in Nigeria, which dampened the morale of the President’s political enemies and earned him the “renewed hope” acceptance.
Of all the political support groups in Nigeria for the 2023 elections, SWAGA’23 had the best-coordinated media, public engagements, campaigns, and lobbying strategies and the group has not been in the news or media space for the wrong reasons. The credit goes to its leadership.
To members of the Senator Dayo Adeyeye-led SWAGA, the only reward for hard work is more work. For the self-financed pro-Tinubu group, the clincher was its “Operation Polling Booth by Polling Booth” sensitisation for the general elections, which resonated throughout the States where it operated as it permeated the grassroots.
SWAGA’23 fulfilled its mandate when it cleared the road for the political journey of its Principal to Aso Rock Villa. It has been to the nooks and crannies of Yoruba land and beyond and visited places that some even chickened out from, but for members’ passion and trust in President Bola Tinubu’s leadership, they remain unwavering.
Today, Tinubu’s emergence as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has put paid to insinuation from some ‘opposition quarters that SWAGA ’23 is just a busy-body cannon fodder.
It is generally believed among political watchers that the group will serve a greater purpose of being the cheerleader of this new administration, carrying the actions, developmental strides, and information from the Government to the grassroots always.
Definitely, whenever the story of Bola Tinubu’s presidency is written in the future, SWAGA’s contributions would feature prominently.
Idowu Ayodele,writes from Ibadan, Oyo State