•TRANSPORT Minister, ROTIMI AMAECHI Talks To City People
One of the most popular ministers in the country today is the former governor of Rivers State, His Excellency, Rotimi Amaechi, the honourable Minister for Transportation. There are several reasons why this outstanding politician and an integral member of the APC is very popular. Apart from the fact that he’s a former governor, he is also a dogged and fearless personality. Nothing, nobody, scares Rotimi Amaechi. He confronts situations head-on, no matter how undaunting such a situation may look to an average person. He likes to be challenged. He cherishes being underestimated and told it’s impossible for him to achieve a set target. That is when you’ll see the hunger in him. This explains why the minister has been able to turn the Nigerian Railway system around. This is the same Rail system that had been left to rot and waste away by past governments. People had already given up on our Rail system believing it can never work again. But the Minister has proven everyone wrong. Not only are our trains working again, they have all been changed and transformed into modern train carriages that can compete with that of the most successful countries in the world. This is why the president is so proud of his minister and speaks glowingly of him all of the time. At the THISDAY’s 25 years celebration and Awards ceremony held last week Monday at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL (08037209290) spoke to Rotimi Amaechi shortly after he was honoured as the Minister of the Decade. He spoke about his many Railway projects and why many believe he is very close to the President, Muhammadu Buhari.
How do you feel, sir, winning the minister of the decade here tonight?
Like I said on stage moments ago, I am deeply grateful. It is humbling and it also motivates one to work harder. Nduka is somebody I’ve known a long time ago when his company, Leaders and Company was just starting out. Those were the days when we were still hustling. But he’s done well for himself, I must say. I forgot to say he was a young handsome man then. Nduka has done extremely well for himself. He’s moved from that youthful person we used to know. This is the second time they are given me an award, the only difference is in the quality of the plaque. For us, we’re grateful to God, we are grateful to Nduka and his management team.
I am wondering, sir, how do you find time to relax? You are always on the move, working round the clock to ensure you meet set targets in terms of delivering on the projects you promised Nigerians.
Well, to be honest, it is always difficult to make out time for any kind of relaxation. I had to be here tonight because Nduka invited me. I just completed the tour of the Standard Gate project that runs from Apapa to Ibadan. I had to get here at about 10 pm to be part of this programme. It’s also a way of relaxing for me. You get to see friends, many people that you haven’t seen in a long while and lots of new faces as well and congratulate those who will be given awards.
Okay, but, seriously, sir, there must be some other ways that you relax outside of events like this…
Let me try and be sincere with you, I hardly have time to relax. There is so much work to be done. There is a lot yet undone, so how can you be going out to relax when there is plenty of work to be done. But having said that, I really enjoy spending time with family. When I’m at home and not under work pressure, those are precious little moments for me. Outside of that, it’s always tough to squeeze out a particular time for relaxation.
There is this passion that you evoke, sir when you go about your work. You are like a man desperate to see changes and transformation take place not just within your ministry but in the country as a whole, what exactly drives you, sir?
Well, it’s because there are assignments that the president has given me. There are assignments the country has given me and which I must deliver. They must be delivered not because there is competition, but because the much-needed infrastructure that the president said we must deliver, we must deliver them. And to deliver them after he has delivered the funds, you need a physical presence, you need a mental presence. You need to be in the office regularly as well. So, what you do is that once a month you step out to participate and to see what they have done.
What should Nigerians expect from you, sir? I ask you this because you are one minister that has raised the bar yourself in terms of transforming our railway system and giving us hope that the entire railway system in Nigeria will become fully operational again?
We have done quite a lot in the Railways, we’ve done quite a lot. We are about to complete the Lagos-Ibadan, we have completed Abuja to Kaduna. We have almost completed Itakpe to Warri. We are about to start Kano to Kaduna, Ibadan to Minna and Minna to Abuja. Finally, we want to see if we can get the money to fund Lagos to Calabar and Port-Harcourt to Maiduguri.
Candidly, sir, do you sincerely think you can complete all of these projects before the end of your tenure?
Really, everything depends on funds. Our target is to achieve everything before the end of this tenure.
Many believe you are one of the closest ministers to President Buhari, how true is this, sir?
(Laughs) Is that so? Well, I don’t know if I am close to Mr. President or not, all I know is that Mr. President gives me a job to do and I try my best to deliver on the job. And again, people don’t understand that Mr. President is passionate about infrastructure and he wants the right person who can get the job done on his behalf for Nigerians. So, really, it’s not about me, it’s about his passion for infrastructure.