By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—LEADERS of thought, elder statesmen from four of the six geo-political zones of the country, under the aegis of Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, Sunday, grilled former vice president and presidential aspirant on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, ahead of the 2019 presidential election.
Abubakar was invited to a meeting in Abuja, Sunday, to enable the elders and leaders ask him questions on his plans for Nigeria, if elected President of Nigeria and determine whether such plans would go in line with the aspirations of the regions.
At the meeting which took place at Asokoro residence of South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark, were the leaders of Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF; Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere; its counterpart in the South-East, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and Middle Belt Forum.
The leaders, who disclosed that they were apolitical, said President Muhammadu Buhari of All Progressives Congress, APC, would also be invited to intimate them on his plans for Nigeria and Nigerians as well as other presidential aspirants from all the registered political parties in the country.
Prior to the closed door session between the leaders and Abubakar, President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. John Nwodo, who disclosed that the Southern and Middle Belt Leadership Forum had begun a programme of inviting presidential aspirants to brief it on their plans and for the forum to make reasoned judgment on who it may endorse, said the invitation was necessary, given the nature of the problems facing the country.
Nwodo said: “One of the programmes we decided to embark on is to talk with those who have expressed desire to lead our country to contest for the Presidency of our country.
‘’We wanted to rub minds with them, we wanted to know their views about the things that are of importance to us so that by the time we finish the interaction, we will be able to assure ourselves which of them we think will reflect our aspirations and rejig our country and bring it to where our country men and women will like it to be.
“By sheer force of providence, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Wazirin Adamawa has become the first person to be with us.”
Speaking earlier, Atiku said: “I am particularly delighted that I am the first aspirant that you are meeting. This will provide me the first opportunity to be able to interact with you, representing four zones of our country.
“Like it has been said earlier, Nigeria is beset with many problems. In fact, problems that are so grave that they are likely, if we don’t move fast enough to contain them, bring about another national crisis of which we have witnessed before. God forbid.
“It is, therefore, our responsibility, both as socio-cultural and political leaders, to engage ourselves in meaningful discuss so that together we can resolve the problems confronting this country. Particularly, I will like to mention a few key areas we need to pay attention.”
Others who attended the meeting were Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Albert Horsefall, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (retd), Yinka Odumakin, Senator Stella Omu, Idongesit Nkanga, Simon Okeke, Bitrus Pogu, Godknows Igali, Senator Bassey Henshaw, Prof. Banji Akintoye, Chief Nne Nwafor, Mac Emakpore, Dr. Alfred Mulade, Ambassador Wilberforce Juta, Major- General Collins Rill Ihejine (retd), Elder Francis Doukpola, among others.