Ahead of the 2019 elections, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum in Abuja on Sunday met with a presidential aspirant, ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar, on his programmes and policies for the country.

The forum also extended an invitation to other aspirants including President Muhammadu Buhari to present their development blueprints and plans for the nation.

Regional leaders at the meeting included Niger Delta leader, Chief Edwin Clark;  President-General of Ohanaeze, John Nwodo; Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; President, Middle Belt Forum, Dr Bitrus Pogu and a host of others.

The People’s Democratic Party chieftain told the SMBLF about his plans in the areas of restructuring, security, economy and national unity.

Clark, who hosted the meeting at his Asokoro, Abuja residence, stated that the invitation to presidential aspirants was across party lines, noting that the SMBLF was a non-partisan group.

“We are not partisan, we are inviting all the presidential aspirants; we will invite Buhari, if he would come,” the elder statement said in a response to a question from journalists.

Addressing newsmen before going into a closed-door meeting, Nwodo stated that the former VP was the first presidential aspirant to honour their invitation, adding that the forum planned to meet with all presidential contestants.

He observed that the nation was faced with various socio-economic and political issues which required strong leadership.

“We wanted to rub minds with them (aspirants), 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 countrymen and women will like it to be,” Nwodo explained.

Atiku, in a brief remark, said he was delighted to be the first aspirant to meet with the forum, noting that the nation was beset with many challenges which if left unaddressed might lead to a national crisis.

Atiku said, “The structure of our country, is it working?  Is it what we want? At least, it has been there for a number of decades, maybe 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 secured? Are law and order protecting the majority of our people in this country? Of course, we have a social sector to contend with.”

He said he would like the forum to place an emphasis on the structure of the country, unity, economy and security.

Speaking after the meeting, Nwodo noted that the former VP presented his blueprint for the nation in a vigorous manner.

He explained that the meeting recorded the aspirant, noting that he would be held to his pledges should he win the 2019 presidential election.

The Igbo leader, however, said the SMBLF had not endorsed Atiku, adding that the forum simply wanted to hear his plans and programmes for the nation.

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