By Comrade Oladimeji Odeyemi
The clock is ticking fast towards the much-anticipated presidential primary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the gladiators are not leaving any stone unturned to ensure their interests see the light of the day. But the most significant interest in the equation is the teeming masses of Nigeria who are itching for hope, progress, and stability in their beloved country.
Expectedly, the ruling APC has a long list of both contenders and pretenders for the party’s ticket to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, who will serve out his constitutional two terms of eight years by 2023. With the long collection, it is pretty easy to take for granted the concepts of proficiency, vision, intelligence, tenacity, passion, diligence, teamwork, among other leadership traits.
But these attributes, and more, conceptualise what true leadership is all about in any formal system, especially for a country like Nigeria which is on a tenterhook. As such, whoever will take over from 2023 as president must be wired with these qualities for any appreciable progress to be seen and felt in the country.
The probing question will now be how do we identify such a leader? The simple answer is that the measure by which such a leader can be identified is largely through their antecedents, both in private and public responsibilities.
This is where the immediate past Minister of Transport, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, comes to focus as a perfect fit for the template of both the APC and the Nigerian masses.
Amaechi has been zeroed on by political pundits as the most sellable and prepared aspirant within the ranks of the APC. Besides meeting the benchmark of outstanding service as a minister, many also averred that he stands as a fitting bridge between the old and younger generation and that at 56 years, he can birth the much-talked generational shift in the political leadership of Nigeria.
Regarded as a home-grown leader who has a breathtaking background as an astute politician and an achiever in public service, Amaechi, a pan-Nigerian administrator, has convincing records showing his capacities and past achievements in fixing spiraling youth unemployment, lethargic educational system, insecurity, economy, uniting ethnics and regions, crises in the power and energy sectors, among others.
Since pitching tent with partisan politics, Amaechi has held many positions, both at the state and national levels. He was Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly for two terms, governor for two terms and he just served his second term as minister, having just resigned last Monday to concentrate on his presidential bid. With his experience and exposure in holding key offices in government for the last 23 years, his supporters believe it is time for him to run for the highest office in Nigeria – the presidency.
Earlier in the year, the conferment of Amaechi with the prestigious Dan Amanar Daura (the trusted son of Daura) by President Buhari’s kinsmen in Katsina, amplified the impression that the former Minister of Transportation is the chosen one by the president and the APC.
For those in the know, the honour was one well deserved given the level of development the minister had attracted to the state as well as the North, and by extension for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Some of the infrastructural development that influenced the honour was the monumental railway project that connects the North and most recently, the University of Transport sited at Daura.
As a core party man, Amaechi has put his heart and passion into the affairs of the APC. He served twice as the Director-General of the Buhari-Osinbajo Presidential Campaign Committee for both 2015 and 2019 presidential elections.
After Buhari emerged in 2014, the permutations appear to be in favour of Amaechi as the running mate to Buhari, but a then little known Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was eventually picked. However, Amaechi was not daunted by this as he dutifully conducted his task as the campaign director-general, mobilising funds and support for Buhari, especially in the South-South region, which is a PDP stronghold
Staying loyal to the president and the party, Buhari rewarded the former governor with a juicy appointment – Minister of Transportation. As Minister, Amaechi implemented the president’s policy of reviving the rail sector. He did this by encouraging the president to obtain controversial but low-interest loans from China worth about $3bn. Several rail projects were launched in different parts of the country, while those started by Jonathan’s administration were completed. He also supervised the construction of a railway from Nigeria into the Niger Republic, a move which the president has commended on several occasions.
When he took over as the Minister of Transportation, his first approach, as is usual of him, was to carry out “human capacity audit” to ascertain the strength and weakness of each staff, especially within the senior and managerial workforce. Secondly, he determined the policy framework and target goals of the Ministry, as envisioned in the Mandate and Agenda of Mr. President. Immediately, the Ministry established its own Strategy for achieving the target goals and then setup a Roadmap for implementing the Strategy. Automatically, everyone knew his role and those who could not fit into the roadmap and speed of the Ministry found their way out, without necessarily causing a feud with either the Minister or the Permanent Secretary, as appeared the case in some other ministries. His third step was the liberalization of communication channels; Directors and Deputy Directors could access the Honourable Minister, including other staff, but in a manner that did not undermine established official reporting lines. The sole aim was to fast track and ease communication within the Ministry and amongst the comprising parastatals.
For analysts, the secret of Amaechi’s success as Minister, perhaps, was the fact that he had been a Governor, who not only did exceptionally well in terms of infrastructural development but also knew how to drive growth and development. Between 2008 to 2015, the period when Amaechi held forth in Rivers State, the State was described by both national and international observers as “huge construction site”, with the construction of over 200 Health Centres, 500 Primary Schools, 9 Secondary Schools etc, all state of the art, and went on at the same time. These were outside the Roads (including a dualised network 1500km of roads, 23 bridges, 2 major flyovers, 2 interchanges, etc), Agriculture (including rehabilitation of the over 30,000 hectares of Rivers State Oil Palm plantation -moribund RISONPALM, the Songhai Farm, over 2,000 hectares of Banana Farm at Tai; commercial-scale Fish Farm at Buguma, etc), Waste Management, Entertainment infrastructures all of which went on simultaneously.
Amaechi’s Security Architecture for the State was also second to none, as the State became a Security Model in the country: kidnapping, armed robbery, and cult-related activities all reduced to less than one percent. Under his watch, Rivers State established and set up an integrated Security Network, with a central Command, Control, Communication, Computer and Intelligent (C4I), a 24hours Camera System that watched over Port Harcourt City. And to close the final loop, the Rivers State Government had ordered for the delivery of two Civilian Security Bell Helicopters before he exited Office in May 2015. The slogan in his time was Rivers State where “you sleep with your two eyes closed”.
According to Wikipedia, Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi was born on May 27, 1965. He previously served in Rivers State as Governor of Rivers State from 2007 to 2015 and Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly from 1999 to 2007.
Amaechi, who holds the national honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), belongs to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He had his early education at St Theresa’s Primary School from 1970 to 1976 and earned his West African Senior School Certificate in 1982 after attending Government Secondary School Okolobiri.
Amaechi received a Bachelor of Arts degree (Honours) in English Studies and Literature from the University of Port Harcourt in 1987, where he was the President of the National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS).
He ompleted the mandatory National Youth Service Corps in 1988, and thereafter joined Pamo Clinics and Hospitals Limited owned by Peter Odili, where he worked until 1992. He also a director of several companies, including West Africa Glass Industry Limited and Risonpalm Nigeria Limited.
His incursion into politics began during the transition to the Third Nigerian Republic as he was Secretary of the National Republican Convention in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Between 1992 and 1994, he was Special Assistant to the Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili – his boss believed in Amaechi as a young man with potential in politics, and brought him under his wing.
In 1996, he was the Rivers State’s Secretary of the Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) caretaker committee during the transition programme of General Sani Abacha. In 1999, he contested and won a seat to become a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly to represent his constituency.
He is married to Judith Amaechi, and they are blessed with three boys.
Clearly, Rotimi Amaechi is literally a colossus in the race to succeed President Buhari. He has the pedigree, network, resilience, and capacity to win against the opposition and also reinvent the fortunes of Nigeria. If anyone can lift the needle for APC in the 2023 general elections, then it is the former Minister of Transportation.
Comrade Odeyemi Odeyemi, a youth activist, security analyst and counter terrorism expert, is also an aspirant for House of Representatives on the APC platform in Oyo State.