A front-line businessman, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, was prominent amongst four Presidential aspirants shortlisted by the Middle-Belt Forum for the 2019 Presidential election.
Olawepo-Hashim was named alongside former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, and former Plateau State Governor, Senator Jonah Jang amongst a dozen candidates that went through the rigorous screening.
Chaired by Air Commodore Dan Suleiman, the panel reportedly shortlisted Olawepo-Hashim, the youngest amongst the four, for his deep knowledge of the economy arising from his successful business endeavors, spanning the breadth of oil and gas , power, communications, and marketing.
The businessman’s urbane and cerebral qualities partly reflected in his feats in the University of Lagos and the Buckingham University, where he was best student in his cohort, winning the MaxBerlof award for Global affairs were also advantages.
The first elected National Deputy Publicity Secretary of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Olawepo-Hashim, the youngest of the aspirants screened, is seen as a potential force from the Middle-Belt region, good enough to attract first time voters on the national voters register numbering over nine million apart from potential voters from the region, and elsewhere.
Other than this are his pro-democracy credentials beginning from his University of Lagos days, and growing into his real life experiences, leading to his recognition as Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience in 1989.
Detribalized with strong bridge-building credentials, his international exposure additionally appealed to the eighteen member screening committee, spread across fourteen Middle-Belt states.
The other candidates from the Middle-Belt who made the list of four were noted for also being formidable, given their respective pedigrees as minister, and experienced politician (Prof. Jerry Gana); a former state chief executive (Senator Jang); and a former Deputy Governor of the central bank providing a good ground for understanding the economy, even though lesser known in politics (Dr. Mailafia). The four are to be presented to leaders in other geo-political regions including the South-East, the South-West amongst others for their inputs.
Aside Commodore Dan Suleiman, who is former military administrator and one time Nigerian envoy to Russia, other personalities on the screening panel include former Adjutant-General of the Nigerian Army, Major-General Zamani Lekwot, former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Ishaya Bamaiyi, former Governor of old Gongola State, Mr. Wilberfore Juta, former Governor of old Kwara State, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Mr. Sam Ada Maagbe, and Chief John Odakun.
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The Middle-Belt region is an important section in the determination of the nation’s presidential politics, as it comprise notable states like Kwara, Kogi, Niger, FCT, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Borno (South), Bauchi (South), Kaduna, Kebbi, Taraba, and Nassarawa. The Middle-Belt invariably accounts for fourteen of the nineteen States in the North.