2019: Middle Belt ’ll stick to Olawepo-Hashim, says Dan Suleiman
A MIDDLE Belt Forum leader, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (retd), has said that the forum will stick to its earlier endorsement of the Peoples Trust (PT) presidential candidate, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim.
Suleiman, who stated this at a meeting with members of the forum in Abuja, said he and a number of the forum’s members were not carried along in the adoption of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate former Vice President Atiku Abubakar by ethnic groups cutting across the North and South.
A faction of Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Northern Elders Forum (NEF), the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Pan- Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Middle Belt Forum had on Sunday announced the adoption of Atiku as candidate of the regions in the February 16 election.
But Suleiman, who addressed members of the Middle Belt Forum in Abuja, said the majority of the members were not carried along before the announcement.
He stated that the region was part of a broad-based approach towards arriving at a common candidate, but that the Middle Belt expected to be carried along before the other regions announced their adoption.
He added that since the emergence of Atiku as PDP candidate in October, a number of the ethnic nationality groups have been doing things differently.
“We in the Middle Belt shortlisted three candidates, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, Dr. John Dara and Dr. Obadiah Malafia. We asked the three of them to meet and pick a single candidate, but they could not arrive at a single candidate. After that they asked you to help them pick a single candidate and we picked Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim here.
“If we will change that, the other regions should talk to us, ” he said.
He added that the Middle Belt expected support from the other regions, having supported the causes of the Southwest and other groups in the past.
According to him, since Atiku knows that he is a leader of the Middle Belt and he has not told him why the region should vote for him, he would abide by the earlier decision to adopt Olawepo-Hashim as candidate of the Middle Belt Forum.
Some of the youth leaders at the meeting expressed divergent views about the adoption of Atiku as the zone’s preferred candidate.
Some of them edged to stick to Olawepo-Hashim. But, some expressed the desire to vote for Atiku.
Olawepo-Hashim, who also attended the meeting, expressed shock that some leaders of the Middle Belt Forum, who attended the enlarged meeting where Atiku was adopted, failed to defend the choice earlier made by the Middle Belt Forum.
He said despite moves to force him out of the race, he would keep pushing for his election in a bid to liberate the Middle Belt.
He told the gathering that being a “self-funded” candidate, he has faced series of attacks by certain forces.
He insisted the he would keep the flag flying till the election day.
“Even though our collective resolve remains anybody but Buhari, we will not sell out your mandate; we will continue to push for the election as forcefully as we can and God willing, victory is assured,” he said.