•Set to invite Buhari, others
•Atiku expresses concern over Nigeria’s security, economy
•••insists on restructuring
Nigeria’s apex socio-cultural organizations, especially the Southern and Middle Belt Forum comprising leadership has began a series of inquires with 2019 presidential hopefuls to interrogate their plans for the country, starting with the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.
Abubakar was on Sunday grilled by the leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Yoruba’s Afenifere, and Middle Belt Forum.
The forum, which met at the Abuja home of Ijaw Leader and elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark also assured that it will invite other presidential aspirants including President Muhammadu Buhari of All Progressive Congress (APC).
Those in attendance are leaders of Afenifere, Ayo Adebanjo, President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, John Nwodo, Albert Horsefall, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman, Yinka Odumakin, Senator Stella Omu, Bassey Ewa-Henshaw, Idongesit Nkanga, Bitrus Pogu, Godknows Igali, Simon Okeke, former German Police Service Commission, Francis Okure, Banji Akintunji, Oladipo Olaitan, Mrs. Nne Nwafor, among others.
Nwodo who spoke on behalf of the leaders, told journalists prior to the closed door meeting with Atiku that the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential aspirant, was the first to appear before “the Southern and Middle Belt Forum composed of sociocultural organizations in each geographical areas of Nigeria”.
He explained: “We have been meeting for quite sometime. We’ve me besieged with matters of national importance affecting the health of our country. 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.”
Nwodo who also spoke at the end of the meeting said, Atiku faced several questions on economy, security and national unity.
“We hold his utterances in high esteem and should fortunes smile on him and he becomes the president of this country, we will hold him to account.
“However, we have not come to a conclusion yet, we are going to listen to other aspirants. He has tremendous convictions of where he wants to go and we wish him well,” he added.
Clark on his part said the forum will meet with other political aspirants including President Buhari.
When asked the forum was going to invite Buhari and other aspirants, he said, “We are very political but we are not partisan. We will listen to all including President Buhari.”
Atiku told the leaders that he was particularly concerned about structure, unity, economy and the security of the country.
He said without interacting and exchanging views and agreeing on how best to resolve these problems with sociocultural, political and business community leaders, the country will not be able to absorb all these problems bedevilling the country.
He 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, it will bring about another national crisis of which we have witnessed before. God forbid!
“It is therefore our responsibility both as sociocultural leaders 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 where we need to pay attention to: one, is the structure of our country, is it working? Is it what we want? At least, it has been there for a number of decades, may be since the military incursion into our polity in 1966. Is our economy working well? What of other sectors of our public life? Security, are we secure? Is law and order protecting the majority of our people in this country? Of course, we have social sector to contend with.
“We have some problems as far as our educational sector is concerned. Our health care delivery, our infrastructural deficit, name them.
“And I think without interacting and exchanging views and agreeing on how best to resolve these problems whether sociocultural leaders, political leaders or leaders of business community, we will be able to absorb all these problems.
“So, I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to interact with you and identify areas we can confront together and what kind of resolution are we likely to embark on so that we can resolve some of these problems.
I am particularly worried or I will like us to place emphasis on structure of the country, unity of the country, economy of the country and the security of the country.
“These four are are very vital and the social sectors cannot survive unless these basic structural foundations are resolved.”