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Nigeria Decides 2023: Lessons from APC presidential campaign in Lagos

By Lukman Olabiyi

The November 26 presidential campaign rally for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, may have come and gone but lessons from it will continue to dominate the political discourse in the country for a while. The event, described as a carnival by many, was an opportunity for Tinubu to tighten his hold on the political structures in Lagos State.

Also regarded as a homecoming for the former governor of the state by many, it was also used to confirm the long held views in many quarters that Lagos remains a stronghold for the APC and Tinubu, as well as an inspiration for ambition to occupy the Aso Rock presidential villa in 2023.

The massive turn out of party faithful and Tinubu’s fans, who love to call him ‘City Boy’ at the venue of the rally was a clear signpost of what should be expected in the 2023 general elections.

It was, indeed, a homecoming for Tinubu, who has been busy selling his candidacy across the country since he kicked off the campaign in Jos, the capital of Plateau State about four weeks ago, as the Teslim Balogun Stadium venue of the event in Surulere was filled to the brim. Even those who live in the nearby areas could testify that, indeed, Tinubu remains a factor when it comes to Lagos politics.

The 24,000-capacity stadium was filled to the brim as members of the party in the state, and Tinubu Support Groups from across the Southwest region and beyond defied the searing heat of the day to receive the APC presidential candidate; his running mate, Sen. Kashim Shettima; members of the party’s national working committee; and the presidential campaign council team.

As early as 8 am, the venue had become agog with political and trading activities, as disc jockeys, local traditional drummers, and ace fuji music stars, king Wasiu Ayinde Marshall (KWAM 1) and Alhaji Sulaiman Malaika entertained party supporters. Itinerant traders and food vendors were not left out as they sold their stuff and souvenirs to participants at the rally.

Tinubu’s supporters, donning various shades of APC-branded vests, caps and Ankara brocade, paraded the venue in styles with placards bearing different inscriptions. His loyalists from the 20 local government areas and 37 local council development areas were also there in their numbers to equally pledge their loyalty and show their political strength.

At 12:45, Tinubu’s motorcade made a grand entry into the venue, moving the crowd into a spontaneous excitement. He was accompanied by the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Minister for Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, and members of the Progressive Governors’ Forum led by their chairman and Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu.

Sanwo-Olu opened the floor with his short remarks, thanking Tinubu for laying the foundation for the physical and socio-economic growth being witnessed in Lagos since 1999. The governor, who described the APC presidential standard bearer as the architect of modern Lagos said his vision, character and tenacity stood him out among the presidential contenders, urging Lagosians to elect the candidate with unprecedented number of votes at the polls. “Tinubu is the builder of the modern Lagos we are all enjoying today. For implementing his vision through character and tenacity, and pushing his ideas to what we can physically see, our candidate is the best choice for the president.

“Aside being a visionary leader, Tinubu has also been an advocate of unity and a figure who has stood firm in support of national cohesion. We are all witnesses to all the outstanding achievements to his name. His reputation stands tall among his peers and he is the right man for the job,” Sanwo-Olu stated

However, when Tinubu mounted the podium to share his message of a “Renewed Hope” with the mass of young people at the rally, he promised that his administration’s priorities would be to improve human capital development and harness the youths’ energy through job creation to accelerate economic growth.

He noted that his capacity to lead the country was not in doubt, adding that Lagos’ growth trajectory from a state in deficit to one of the six largest economies in Africa, best demonstrated his ability to drive the needed change to put the country on the path of prosperity.

When elected, Tinubu said he would do his best to change the country’s fortunes, even as admitted the task would not be easy at the start.

He said: “I stand before you all with a solemn promise that when we are elected next year, we will continue to build on the progressive path laid forth by our party since 2015. We have a clear agenda for the future of the country, and with your support, we will work to achieve a better future for you and your family.

“Nobody will be forgotten when we roll out our development plans. We have great plans for our youths in education and employment. You will not be forgotten. Economic growth is one of our biggest priorities. We will do our best to solve the contemporary challenges facing us, but it will not be easy at the start.”

To sustain the progressive governance in Lagos State, Tinubu urged Lagosians to vote for Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, for a second term. “Dear Lagosians, my appeal to you today is to ask you to renew the mandate of Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat for another four years. Do not allow the execution and implementation of the bold vision of more than two decades to be aborted or suspended,” he said.

Tinubu also urged the electorate to reject the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, noting that the party failed to deliver dividends of democracy to Nigerians for 16 years it governed the country.

Other APC chieftains at the rally included the vice presidential candidate, Senator Ibrahim Shettima, Governors Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Adegboyega Oyetola (Osun), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq (Kwara) and Abiodun Oyebanji (Ekiti).

Also present at the event were the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Minister of Sports and Youths Development, Sunday Dare; and former Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi among others.

Prior to the event, the Lagos State APC chairman, Pastor Cornelius Ojelabi, revealed that Tinubu was targeting over five million votes in Lagos during next year’s poll.

Ojelabi, who unfolded the party’s plan for mobilisation during the inauguration of the 163-member Lagos State APC Election Campaign Committee, said the election would be taken more seriously because it is the first time the state has produced a presidential candidate on the platform of a ruling party since it was created in 1967.

The committee, chaired by the state governor, Sanwo-Olu, was mandated to coordinate the campaigns for presidential, governorship and parliamentary elections in the state.

The committee also has the deputy governor as the vice chairman while Ojelabi is the deputy chairman.

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