Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi’s foray into public service is charismatically enigmatic, divine and historically rooted like the Macedonian call to spread the gospel of liberation to mankind.
His first stint at public service began at the University of Port Harcourt where he was elected to serve as the National President of the National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS) as an undergraduate of the University of Port Harcourt.
Upon his graduation, his charismatic attributes endeared the young but dynamic Amaechi to Dr. Peter Odili who engaged him as Secretary at Odili’s PAMO Clinic where they built a relationship of confidence and mutual trust.
The Ubima-Ikwerre born son of a civil servant humbled himself to the political tutelage of Odili. So, when Dr. Peter Odili was eventually elected Deputy Governor of old Rivers State in 1992, like a team united in one accord, Amaechi served as his Special Assistant, a position which further exposed him to new friends and new macro political relationships.
This relationship between him and Odili blossomed into very cordial relationship between the Executive and Legislative arms of government in Rivers State when in 1999, Dr. Odili contested and won the governorship election of Rivers State, while his political godson, Amaechi, emerged as Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, an office in which he served meritoriously for eight years.
In 2006, the confidence of the political godfather and son soared when Amaechi got the PDP ticket to contest the governorship election in Rivers State.
Amaechi legitimately won the ticket but was shut out by some political hawks within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who felt that power belonged to man but Amaechi depended on God, being a child of destiny, eventually he reclaimed his mandate through legal means, when the Nigerian Supreme Court, on October 26, 2007, annulled the illegality of wrongful exclusion and consequently inaugurated him as governor of Rivers State.
While some of Rotimi Amaechi’s supporters basked in the euphoria of victory, a section of Rivers State were pessimistic and expressed misgivings about the new governor whom they metaphorically described as a chip of the old block, obviously referring to his relationship with Odili.
This was hinged on the spate of cultism and politically related killings in Peter Odili’s administration when militancy held sway, while night life associated with the garden city suddenly disappeared due to insecurity occasioned by activities of dare devil men of the underworld.
Love him or hate him, Amaechi is a man that cannot be ignored. He is ever determined to achieve a goal if he is convinced that it is in the best interest of the people. He is altruistic in disposition, selfless, highly principled and above all, God fearing.
His landmark achievements during his tenure as governor left an indelible mark in the lives of all Rivers people, prominent among these was the restoration of peace and security in Rivers State.
The criminal gangs and cultists who were literally known as ”bad boys”, who held the state to ransom took to their heels as they had no hiding place in the new order of peace, security and prosperity during Amaechi.
Burdened with the quest for development and peace, Ameachi quickly set up a peace and reconciliation commission, headed by a revered and retired Honourable Justice of the Supreme Court, Hon Justice Koyade Esho, to unearth the remote and immediate causes of cult clashes in the state and identify perpetrators and victims with the hope of pursuing prosecutions and granting compensations.
A man passionate about the welfare of his people, Amaechi built over 110 health centres in virtually all wards in the state and constructed referral facilities such as Prof Kelsey Harrison Hospital at Mile 2 Diobu, Dental Maxillo Facial Hospital at Garrison, General Hospital at Etche and Khana Local Government Areas and commenced the construction of the Mother and Child Hospital which was over 50 percent complete at the end of his tenure as governor.
Over 7,000 health workers were employed and over 600 medical doctors were also employed with each doctor receiving an official car.
Not satisfied with the level of food sufficiency in Rivers State then, Amaechi embarked on direct agricultural intervention programme by acquiring 200 hectares of land in Tai Local Government Area, for the cultivation and export of Banana in partnership with a Mexican firm, San Carlos Nigeria Ltd.
At Buguma community in Asari Toru Local Government Area, the Buguma Fish Farm was constructed to produce 1,000 tonnes of fish annually.
Songhai farms located at Bunu-Tai/ Ban-Ogoi in Tai Local Government Area was set up with over 314 hectares of land. This farm had livestock, arable farming, snail farming and poultry. It served as a resort for visitors and citizens of the state.
Some may accuse him of arrogance but those who are close to him dismiss it as an unfair remark affirming his sense of honesty and humility in service. According to one Mr. Igoniboyefe Martin, ”Rotimi Amaechi is a phenomenon. He’s being misunderstood by people who don’t understand him. He’s humble, honest, fears God and prays as if he is the General Overseer of a Pentecostal Church. Unlike some public officers, Amaechi has self-discipline. I think these are virtues that keep him ahead of his adversaries such that they say he’s arrogant, which is a fallacy.”
Little wonder, when he was appointed Minister of Transportation in 2015, the appointment was received with great celebration, despite the attempts to stop him at the senate. Amaechi received the news of his appointment with humility and told his supporters to go on their knees to appreciate God, rather than engaging in what he called self-glorifying celebrations.
When he took over as Minister of Transportation, he was already aware of the importance of the ministry as a critical focal point of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration’s plans towards its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
Addressing journalists during a media parley, Amaechi revealed that; ”The transport sector is the second most important sector of the economy after oil and gas. This sector is the one that affects all sectors, including oil and gas”.
In line with his transformational principle of leadership, who does not entertain excuses but results, he swung into action by fashioning out what the minister described as a ”Multimodel Approach” in reviving and restructuring the long abandoned rail system in Nigeria.
It is in the light of the new vision, he said, ”We are currently upgrading all modes of transport, including rail, roads, sea and air”.
Over N4trillion have been earmarked for rail projects under the Buhari’s administration, which is an unprecedented investment in the history of the transport sector.
These railway projects include the Abuja-Kaduna railway and the Lagos-Ibadan railway cutting across Ogun State to mention a few.
Until he left office a few days ago, the ministry had also embarked on the construction of rail lines passing through Itoro, Awowo and Wasimi communities all in Ekwekoro Local Government Area of Ogun State.
So far, the Kaduna-Abuja railway has been completed. It started with one locomotive but now runs with two locomotives. In addition to that, the Itakpe-Warri rail project has been completed and is currently in use with 17 coaches.
Furthermore, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, an agency under the supervision of the Minister of Transportation, initiated several reforms which resulted in an exponential increase in the internally generated revenue of the agency amounting to over N20 billion.
Apart from commencing work this year, on the Port Harcourt and Lagos to Calabar rail projects, the ministry has also started work on the river ports at Onitsha, Baro and Lokoja. Interestingly, the river port at Onitsha and Baro are ready while that of Lokoja would be ready soon.
The ministry, according to Amaechi, ”has opened talks with Chinese companies to see how we can capitalise on Nigeria’s internal water ways and use them as a means of transportation”.
The construction of two, deep-water ports are also underway in Lekki, Lagos State and another one at Ibaka in Akwa-Ibom State.
These projects are critical to reviving the transport sector, especially in boosting transportation of goods and services across the country as well as accelerating economic growth among countries in the West Africa Sub-Region.
The vision of the Ministry of Transportation under Amaechi is to ensure that all the state capitals in Nigeria are connected by rail. This is indeed in line with the campaign promise of President Muhammadu Buhari to connect every state by rail.
Humble and goal oriented, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is a most valuable asset, not just to the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, but to the nation at large.
– Prince (Engr.) Aganaba (MNSE) wrote in from Port-Harcourt