Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang, has said the Middle Belt region has the numerical strength and great influence to determine the next president of Nigeria in the 2015 elections.
He also identified the region as the tie holding the unity and peace of Nigeria, having sacrificed its noble men, particularly during the civil war, to keep the country united.
Jang said this yesterday, while declaring open the fourth Middle Belt Leaders Conference tagged: â€œStrategic Partnership for the National Conference,â€ held at the Eliel Centre, Jos.
The governor, who lamented that in spite of the laudable role played by the region in fostering the unity of the country, the Middle Belt had not produced a president for the country.
He stressed â€œwhen President Goodluck Jonathan finishes his tenure in 2019 the Middle Belt should work hard and be supported to take over the presidency.â€
Reassuring that nobody would stop Jonathan from becoming president in 2015 despite the intrigues, the governor noted that the minority ethnic groups in the country had suffered intense marginalisation on both ethnic and religious grounds.
He said: â€œNo one thought that a minority from the South-south will ever become a president of this nation. And now that God has anointed Jonathan, some people are saying that he should not contest in 2015. That is not possible.â€
He recalled the strategic and visionary role which the Middle Belt zone had played prior to the countryâ€™s Independence, during the civil war, as well as in the current democratic sojourn, affirming that the sacrifice and service of the region for the survival of the Nigerian nation was unquestionable.
â€œThe Tarkars, the Gowons, the Awoniyis, the Lars, the Danjumas, among many have stood tall in the history books of this nation; they are our sons. They are men that epitomise courage, vision, patriotism, integrity and tolerance. Must we allow these values and symbols of the Middle Belt to fizzle out? No,â€ he said.
He urged the region to be united and have a coordinated voice in charting a new course for Nigeria during the national dialogue, adding that: â€œI can tell the whole world one thing; we love Nigeria and have a heart of peace towards all, and as such, cannot negotiate the unity of Nigeria. We know the pains and sacrifices in our journey to nationhood. Though our land has been under attack, we remain committed to the peace and progress of Nigeria, and we mean no evil towards anybody. This is the heart that the Middle-Belt submits to the national dialogue and will guide its presentation.â€
In his paper titled: â€œMaking the best of the National Conference: Focus on Key Issues,â€ former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae, noted that the national dialogue would give birth to a new Nigeria.
He lamented the comments made by some individuals that Nigeria will break up, saying there was no negotiation to the unity of Nigeria, but only fairness can be negotiated.
Falae said: â€œI donâ€™t think anybody really wants Nigeria to break up; break up and go where? Nobody wants to leave Nigeria for anyone. We have all it takes to make it great for all of us. Letâ€™s work at getting the leadership that will make it the country that we need.â€
Also speaking, a former governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said Nigerians should strive to make Nigeria a greater country rather than deliberating on its break-up.
He said: â€œTell me why anybody will want to leave this country; we have all the clement climates and brilliant people that would move the country forward.â€
The conference, which had delegates from Plateau, Benue, Niger, Abuja, Kwara, Gombe, Taraba, Kogi and Adamawa State had dignitaries from these states, including Professor Jerry Gana, in attendance.