Last week at the Adokie Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt, Transportation Minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi decided to put paid to speculations by publicly declaring his intention to run for the 2023 presidential race under the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The declaration was pretty low on substance but high on meaningless drama; flanked by burly, muscle-bound, gun-toting minders, aspirant Amaechi did a jog round the stadium’s tracks to apparently demonstrate his fitness to run what portends to be a gruelling presidential race. Political observers were not slow to cotton to the fact that Amaechi was aiming a subtle dig at fellow presidential aspirant; the octogenarian, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed who many believe does not have the stamina to go the distance in the race.
- Buhari swears in commissioners for NPC, ICPC
- Bandits didn’t fire single shot’, witness speaks on fresh Zamfara college attack
But many, however, found the manner of Amaechi’s presidential declaration distastefully insensitive. At least, he has healthy legs to jog round the stadium and security details to protect him from harm round the clock.
But scores of his hapless kidnapped compatriots have been held by terrorists who recently bombed the Kaduna-Abuja train and were being forced to march to camps deep in the vast contiguous bad lands of Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina and Niger States.
In the aftermath of the train bombing, Daily Trust, in its comments, last Sunday, detailed how officials at the Kaduna and Abuja train stations engage in ticketing fraud, which not only results in massive revenue loss for the government, but engenders the type of security breaches that give rise to such unfortunate incidents.
As minister of transportation under whose watch the train services in the country are, aspirant Amaechi is vicariously responsible and accountable for the massive corruption in the ticket racketeering going on in the rail stations. Did Amaechi do anything about this discovery in terms of instituting an immediate investigation?
To the best of our knowledge in the aftermath of the unfortunate incident, he seemed more interested in directing blame at Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo for not approving a questionable contract proposal to secure the tracks he brought before the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by the VP for securing the rail tracks.
It did not matter to him that he may have to canvass for the votes of those same people who fell victim to the bombing incident, their relations and kinsmen, in his bid for the presidency of this country.
How will he feel if in the course of his presidential campaign tour he comes against those who lost loved ones on the train and also those who may have been traumatised by their brutal experience in the hands of their assailants on that train? If as minister of transportation he could not rein in the sharp practices under his watch over one of the several critical national infrastructure, how does he hope to handle the larger issues that will inevitably confront him as president of Nigeria, which he now seeks?
As a young man in his fifties, Amaechi has an opportunity to prove what has always been said about allowing the younger generation of Nigerians hold the reins of leadership. He certainly started on that trajectory when the civilian democratic dispensation commenced in 1999. Since then he has served unbrokenly as Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, and as governor of the state for eight years right to his present position as minister of transportation.
It has been a mixed bag for the man from Ubima in Ikwerre Local Government Area. Coming in as a rookie politician, he was catapulted straight as speaker under the Peter Odili administration to whom he was a protégé. It was to his credit that he was able to steer the state house of assembly of fellow JJC politicians through the learning curve presented by the new civilian dispensation in the state then.
His tenure as governor witnessed some of the worst incidents of militancy and violence between rival gangs of militants in the state. At the height of the violence and criminality, kidnappings, bombings and killings were taking place almost on a daily basis. And again, Amaechi moved to take the fight to them destroying some of the known criminal hideouts like the notorious Bundu waterside in Port Harcourt.
His tenure as transportation minister since the coming of President Buhari has, however, drawn mixed reviews. On the one hand, he is credited as being the mastermind of the often called ‘’train revolution’’, which has seen the construction and expansion of the moribund rail services in the country. The Kaduna-Abuja rail corridor first started by the previous Goodluck Jonathan administration was completed and commissioned for use under his watch. Same can also be said of the Lagos-Ibadan rail services now in use. There are also several others criss-crossing the country now under construction.
But the criticism is that the loans procured for the projects from the Chinese government and the terms are too prohibitive and burdensome. It has been observed that similar projects executed elsewhere in Africa were way below what was expended in Nigeria raising serious probity and accountability issues. Many Nigerians are also concerned that the loans procured from the Chinese authorities will burden the country with unpayable loans thereby mortgaging the future of the country.
There are also lingering questions as to how Amaechi has handled the administrative issues in the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), one of the parastatals under his ministry. The substantive Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman was removed unceremoniously over allegations of impropriety and replaced by the Director of Finance and Administration, Mohammed Bello Koko.
In his declaration to contest the presidency, Amaechi made a case to continue the anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari administration of which he is a principal figure. How then can he reconcile this pledge with the serial questions being raised about the happenings in the transportation ministry under his watch.