Business Mogul and frontline Presidential Candidate, Mr., Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim has consolidated his presidential bid with his emergence at the weekend as a third force presidential candidate in prime position to challenge the duo of President Mohammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Olawepo-Hashim running on the platform of the People’s Trust (PT) had earlier won the party’s presidential ticket following a fusion of over ten political parties, including the Olisa Agbakoba lead National Intervention Movement (NIM). His name has since been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Reliable sources have also confirmed that more parties are likely to fuss into the growing alliance, following a new zeal to join forces against the duo of President Buhari and Alhaji Abubakar, in what will give a lie to the impression that next year’s election is a two horse race.
The growing integration of the third force includes the majority of members of the moribund Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), even though a tiny fraction of the party still went ahead and presented a presidential candidate.
The Middle-Belt Forum had earlier shortlisted Olawepo-Hashim among four of its prominent indigenes as likely presidential candidates to represent the region in next year’s presidential poll
Others who had made the list were a 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 endeavours, 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 voter register numbering over fifteen 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.
Aside Commodore Dan Suleiman, who is former military administrator and one- time Nigerian envoy to Russia, other personalities on the then screening panel included 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. Wilberforce Juta, former Governor of old Kwara State, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Mr. Sam Ada Maagbe and Chief John Odakun.