Leaders in the middle belt of Nigeria have explained why they are backing the candidature of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, even as some have taken their stance for the People’s Trust (PT) candidate, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim.
Some leaders who addressed hundreds of groups that converged on Abuja took a swipe at politicians who are allegedly causing divisions within their fold.
The Middle Belt leaders included, among others, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (retd.), Dr Musa Moda, Elizabeth Jibrin, Dr Emmanuel Enecheyo, Dr Ene, Captain Agada Joe (retd.), and Hon. Jonathan Asake.
They said they had resolved to leave no stone unturned in actualizing the political emancipation of the region.
Chairman of the Middle Belt Elders Forum (MBF) and former Governor of Plateau State, Air Commodore Suleiman (retd.) said the time had come for the Middle Belt to remain united and focused for the region to progress.
According to him, “recent happenings in the Middle Belt have indicated that there are moves to divide us.”
Suleiman expressed delight that many groups in the Middle Belt were now in the vanguard of propagating their political ideals and choices.
He tasked them to move Middle Belt forward as well as encourage the unity and progress of the region.
According to him, “This is very heart warming because there are some events happening these days which begin to give one doubt as to whether Middle Belt is splitting.
“Last Sunday this meeting was called and another meeting was called elsewhere and some of our Middle Belt elders went there. Today the same thing happened. This is not by accident.
“I am beginning to feel that there is an effort to sideline Middle Belt or to sidetrack Middle Belt. We have to be very careful that we are not dragged to the sideline.”
Suleiman said that the decision from the outset which was reached in concert with the south of the country was for the Middle Belt to produce a Christian presidential candidate.
He stated that the group was given four names from which to choose, adding the elders deliberated and picked one of the four names submitted to them.
Suleiman further said, “They say that’s a Middle Belt affair. But what happened next? The same people they said they didn’t want before, they started inviting them for interviews. We began to see that their agenda in the Southwest was how to get the Vice President.
“It was no longer Middle Belt get us a president. But if we do, it is obvious that a president from the Middle Belt would be a Christian. Was that our original plan? No.”
He recalled the contributions of Middle Belt leaders, particularly Jonah Jang and himself in the actualization of democracy in Nigeria and advised against effort to sideline Middle Belt.
He also called on the region to stand together to frustrate such effort to sideline the region.
Suleiman said the election on February 16 was a step towards the actualization of the region’s agitation for the Presidency, assuring that this would continue in 2023.
According to him, “Some of us are old but will not die until we see the emergence of a Middle Belter as president.
“These are people who are saying let’s follow him but has Atiku ever called a meeting of the Middle Belt for once, to consult with them? This is the second time he is doing that because, although he is Fulani, he is from the Middle Belt.
“Whatever we would do to preserve the ticket of the Middle Belt on February 16, let’s do it.”
Meanwhile, a coalition of some other groups in the region led by Mr. Suleman Dauda Sukukum pledged to work assiduously for the success of Olawepo-Hashim .
Dr.Moda described Olawepo as a bridge builder and unifier of the Northern and southern Nigeria,saying he is the contemporary ” amalgation of the North and the south .”
Excited Olawepo-Hashim appealed to Nigerians to remain peaceful and united even as he urged them to vote for a credible alternative that would uplift Nigeria to greater heights.