By Michael Jegede
Since the immediate past Transportation Minister, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, formally joined the 2023 presidential race on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), he has with inexhaustible agility been traversing the country from one state to another, to canvass for the votes of party delegates and consult with stakeholders.
The convention of APC is slated to hold from May 29 to 30, 2022, in Abuja, where delegates from the 36 states will assemble to choose a candidate from the over twenty aspirants seeking for the presidential ticket of the party.
Amaechi, who many strongly believe has the capacity to offer good governance to Nigerians, considering the extremely impressive exploits he made in the different positions of authority he has occupied at all strata of government, appears to be gaining ground in his engagement with the delegates and stakeholders, as can be seen from his consultation visits so far.
Better placed as the bridge between the young and old generations, the 56-years-old ex-Rivers governor, has within the last two to three weeks showed great vim, energy and strength, as he moved with high speed from Delta to Rivers, Cross River, Edo, Bayelsa, having earlier covered the entire states in the Southwest and Southeast. His train moved progressively to Kaduna last Sunday from where it headed to Adamawa, Nasarawa, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, FCT, Niger, Benue and Plateau between Monday and Thursday.
The acceptability of the Ikwerre-born consummate grassroots politician, a pragmatic and visionary leader highly respected for his courage, doggedness and strength of character, could be seen from the level of support he is getting from the delegates.
For instance, in Taraba State, convinced that Nigerians will be the ultimate beneficiary of Amaechi’s stewardship, the APC delegates vowed to give him at least 90 percent of their votes on the day of the convention.
Speaking on behalf of the delegates, the APC Chairman in the state, Barr. Ibrahim Tukur El-Sudi said: “Our delegates know how to separate the chaff from the grain. Sir, we are assuring you that 90 percent of our votes will go to you. Our Emir has already spoken, therefore you should be guaranteed of 90 percent delegate votes.”
In Kaduna, the delegates were touched after listening to the testimony of their governor, Nasir El-Rufai, about the character and person of the former Transportation Minister and immedately endorsed him as their preferred choice, while dropping their earlier declared support for Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, another APC Presidential aspirant. From the narration of their governor, they feel Amaechi truly deserves the APC presidential ticket.
While in Adamawa State where he equally got the assurances of the party delegates, the Lamido of Adamawa, Alhaji Muhammadu Barkindo Mustapha, gave Amaechi his blessing and prayed for his victorious emergence as Nigeria’s president in 2023. The monarch believed that with what he did in his eight years as Rivers helmsman, Nigerians will enjoy the true dividends of democratic governance under his leadership as president.
The Chairman, Bayelsa State Council of Traditional Rulers, King Bubaraye Agada the 10th, was highly elated to receive Amaechi in Yenagoa during his visit to the state to interface with delegates.
He said: “We are delighted to have you, you are an aspirant who has come to do the needful. You are our son, I have never seen a resume or profile of your type being two times Speaker, two times Governor and two times minister, we must give you the needed support.”
Governor Muhammad Badaru of Jigawa State, likewise an APC presidential aspirant, tacitly stepped down for Amaechi when he visited the state to engage the delegates.
According to Badaru, “One thing I respect about my big brother and friend (Amaechi) is that what you see is what you get. He doesn’t lie; he doesn’t pretend. He says it straight, and that’s the quality of leaders this country needs.
“So Jigawa delegates, when you think of me, think of Amaechi because we are the children of President Buhari, so on that day, it’s either I run or he runs, but for sure, I cannot run against him.”
In Plateau, the delegates in one accord with their governor, Simon Lalong, unanimously adopted Amaechi, as their sole candidate, while revealing that he was the first APC presidential aspirant to visit the state ahead of the convention.
The story is the same from state to state. Majority of the delegates are at home with Amaechi and determined to gladly give him their votes at the forthcoming APC convention. They are of the notion that the vast experience he has garnered in governance, having been privileged to have consistently remained in the corridors of power since 1999, will stand him in good stead to perform as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Like many other well-meaning Nigerians, the delegates see Amaechi as the most qualified, competent and suitable candidate for the Presidency among those aspiring to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
Amaechi, the lion of Ubima was elected into the River State House of Assembly in 1999 and served as the Speaker for eight years during which he was equally the Chairman of Conference of Speakers. He became Rivers governor in 2007 and held sway for eight years with an exceptional record of achievements in the areas of security, education, agriculture, housing, healthcare, road construction, social welfare and sports.
In 2015, after leading APC, the then opposition party, to a glorious triumph, as the Director General (DG) of the presidential campaign council, and pushing out the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) out of power at the centre, Buhari appointed him into his cabinet and gave him the portfolio of the Minister of Transportation. He held the ministerial position for seven years before he recently resigned to focus on his presidential aspiration.
As Rivers governor, Amaechi put in place measures that helped to effectively tackle the issue of insecurity which was one of the major challenges he inherited when he assumed office in 2007.
Working vigorously round the clock with a zero tolerance policy against kidnapping, militancy and other forms of criminality, by 2008, he successfully brought to normalcy the hitherto dreadfully chaotic security situation which had completely crippled the economy of the state.
He is about the only presidential aspirant that has had to govern a state where there was heightened insecurity and frontally dealth with it.
Many Nigerians have reasoned that a man who had once faced the challenge of surmounting the menace of insecurity as a state chief executive would have the requisite knowledge to find lasting solution to the problem at the federal level as a president.
Amaechi’s giant stride in the improvement of education earned River State local and international recognitions. For instance, under his watch, Rivers won a prize of N400 Million as a reward for emerging the overall best state in terms of the proper utilization of FGN/UBE Intervention Funds in 2011. Port Harcourt entered into the history book as the second African city and first sub-Saharan African city to be named and honoured as UNESCO World Book Capital in 2014.
The man who made job creation his number one priority, was the only governor in his time to employ about 13,200 teachers at one go. Determined to change the face of education in Rivers, he built over 350 modern primary schools in the various communities of the state and 24 world class secondary schools across the 23 Local Government Areas in the state. He sponsored over 3500 citizens of Rivers State on foreign scholarships and offered free education from Primary to Secondary School level. The free education policy provided an opportunity for the underprivileged Nigerians in the state to be educated.
No sector of the economy in the state is devoid of Amaechi’s indelible footprint of achievements. In the health sector, he constructed over 160 modern primary health centres, a world-class Rivers State Dental and Maxillofacial Hospital (RSDMH) and Prof. Kelsey Harrison Hospital. Reports have it that he employed over 7000 health workers in Rivers State in addition to about 600 medical doctors.
Under Amaechi as governor, Rivers became the hub of agricultural development in Nigeria with the various innovative projects and programmes he initiated. In realization of the fact that there is a direct connection between the state of infrastructure and economic advancement, he embarked on massive construction of roads and bridges. Reputed to have built more roads than all his predecessors in the history of River State, the Dan Amanar Daura, spent over N104 billion on federal roads out of which N78 billion was refunded in 2020 by the Buhari administration as influenced by same Amaechi in the interest of Rivers people.
As Minister of Transportation for seven years, Amaechi worked tirelessly to revolutionize the transport sector. All the agencies that were under his watch received greater boost in their operations as a result of the remarkable transformational projects he embarked upon. The previously moribund railway system was resuscitated with the completion of the Abuja –Kaduna, Itape-Warri and Lagos-Ibadan rail lines. As part of his continuity plans, Amaechi has vowed to ensure the completion of the $1.9 billion Kano-Maradi standard gauge railway and the $11 billion Lagos-Calabar rail project if elected President.
Also, under Amaechi as transport minister, the Lekki Deep Seaport, first of its kind in Nigeria and West Africa was taken to almost 90% completion and the Deep Blue Project, the first integrated maritime security strategy designed to stop regional piracy was launched. The Lekki Deep Seaport is expected to create over 170,000 jobs and serve as a huge revenue stream for the government while the Deep Blue Project will help to protect Nigerian waters up to the Gulf of Guinea.
Amaechi’s campaign philosophy has been ‘Judge me by my track records’. Indeed, his records are speaking loudly for him. He has told his adherents never to attack his opponents, but continue to show Nigerians his achievements for them to decide.
• Jegede, a journalist, writes from Abuja