…As Dan Suleiman uncovers plot to split the region.
By Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna
Barely a few days to the presidential election, leaders of the Middle-Belt and groups in the region have reiterated their support for the candidate of the People’s Trust (PT) party, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim.
The leaders, who addressed hundreds of groups that converged on Abuja, took a swipe at politicians, who are allegedly causing divisions within their fold.
They insisted that Olawepo-Hashim remained their choice for the presidency and would vote for him in the scheduled February 16 election.
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. They claimed that the reported Middle-Belt endorsement of the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, was an attempt to divide the Middle-Belt ahead of the presidential election.
The coalition of 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 amalgamation 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.
Chairman of Middle-Belt Elders Forum 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.” He said the Middle-Belt was ‘dragged’ into supporting a particular candidate, Atiku Abubakar, contrary to their earlier stand of supporting Olawepo-Hashim of the People’s Trust.
Suleiman, however, 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 heartwarming 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.”
The elder statesman predicted that the February 16 election would be a runoff, and urged the Middle-Belt to work for the success of Olawepo-Hashim.