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Elders of Southern and Middle Belt Forum grilled ex-Vice-President Atiku Abubakar over his presidential ambition on Sunday.

The elders comprised members of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Niger Delta Forum, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Afenifere, Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, and Middle Belt Forum.

The meeting took place at the Abuja residence of Edwin Clark, leader of PANDEF.

Nnia Nwodo, president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, told journalists Abubakar was the first presidential aspirant to appear before the forum.

“We have been meeting for quite sometime. We are besieged with matters of national importance affecting the health of our country,” he 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.

“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.”

Abubakar, who is one of the presidential aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said it is important to interact and exchange views with the socio-cultural, political and business leaders.

“I’m 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,” he said.

“Like it has been said earlier, Nigeria is beset with many problems. In fact, problems that are so grave, that are likely, if we don’t move fast enough to contain them, to bring about another national crisis, God forbid!

“It is therefore our responsibility both as socio-cultural 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 with socio-cultural leaders, political leaders or leaders of business community, we won’t be able to solve 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 we are likely to embark on so that we can resolve some of these problems.”

At the end of the meeting, Nwodo said the PDP presidential aspirant would be held accountable for his promises, should he be elected.

“We hold his utterances in high esteem and should fortune smile on him and he becomes the president of this country, we will hold him to account,” she said.

“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.”

The forum said it would meet with other presidential aspirants, including President Muhammadu Buhari.

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