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Middle Belt Forum eyes 2019 presidency

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• Narrows choice of aspirants to four
The influential Middle Belt Forum (MBF), a group of prominent political leaders in the middle belt states, may have decided to have a shot at the presidency to actualize their demand for restructuring of the country.

The MBF, in alliance with other groups across Nigeria, notably Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural and political organization, its Igbo counterpart, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) as well as other political and professional bodies, has raised the bar in the agitation for restructuring.

An important segment in the determination of presidential politics, the Middle Belt comprises states in the North Central geo-political zone with cultural links to the southern parts of the three states of Kaduna, Borno and Bauchi, accounting invariably for 14 out of the 19 states in the northern part of the country.

While the group has been canvassing for a redefinition of the Nigerian federation in a way to protect ethnic minorities, particularly those located between the northern and southern majority tribes and who have always been at the receiving ends of national political intrigues, it has always been doing so through alliance with others.

The recent upsurge in the killings of people in the region as seen in the alleged ethnic cleansing in the states of Benue, Taraba and Plateau, may have prompted the group to seek a shot at the presidency.

To demonstrate its commitment to producing the president in year’s general election, the group has shortlisted four aspirants from which it hoped to pick a consensus candidate, irrespective of political party affiliation.

A committee under the chairmanship of Air Commodore Dan Suleiman, a prominent member of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, was set up by the group to screen all presidential hopeful from the region and narrow the choices down to those who stand the better chance of not only clinching the coveted office but also committed to restructuring the country.

Sources within the MBF disclosed to The Guardian in Abuja yesterday that the team has narrowed its searchlight to four out of the dozens of aspirants that were presented before it.

According to a source, former Information Minister, Prof. Jerry Gana; former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Obadiah Mailafia; former Plateau State governor, Senator Jonah Jang; and frontline businessman, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, have been selected as possible candidates to do the bidding of the region.

Apart from Suleiman, who was on the forefront of the struggle for entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria as a member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), other members of the screening committee included former Adjutant-General of the Nigerian Army, Major General Zamani Lekwot (rtd.), former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Ishaya Bamaiyi (rtd), former governor of old Gongola State, Wilberforce Juta, former governor of old Kwara State, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Mr. Sam Ada Maagbe and Chief John Odakun.

The four selected candidates, according to the source, would be presented to leaders of other geo-political zones of the country for their inputs and support.


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