ROTIMI AMAECHI: GIVING NIGERIAN TRANSPORT SYSTEM THE NEEDED STEROID BY BAMIDELE OGUNDANA
When former Rivers Governor, Rotimi Amaechi was appointed Minister of Transportation and Aviation during Buhari’s first term in office, many wondered what he saw in the Ikwere-born fiery politician that he was rewarded with such a big and sensitive ministry. While some explained it away in terms of political patronage, others saw a need to give the former Governor a desired challenge that would bring the best out of him.
Given the importance of good transport system to the development of the country, many sceptics never gave him a chance. Of course they never gave Buhari a chance on many fronts. Nigeria has had her fair share of misplaced Messianism, leaders who were expected to perform and they ended up disappointing their followers who had seen them as the expected savior.
But Amaechi knew what Nigeria needed- a well thought out Transport policy that is built around but not singly on all important railway system.
The rail system in Nigeria before the advent of Buhari was not what Nigeria as the giant of Africa could boast of. Indeed, it was a situation in which monies were spent but there was little or nothing to show for it. Given the increasing insecurity on Nigerian roads, moving from one spot to another was becoming a deadly affair. Indeed, this writer had to raise an alarm sometimes early in 2017 that the Abuja- Kaduna road was the deadliest in Nigeria in terms of kidnappings, armed robbery attacks and other forms of crimes. Hardly a week passed without a form of attack or loss of lives through accident on the road.
Ordinarily, the existence of rail transportation would have offered an alternative to travelers who felt the pangs of insecurity most. And so what happened was a situation in which the people were at the mercy of criminals as well as pot-hole filled bad roads, which turned a trip that would ordinarily have taken ninety minutes to close to three hours in criminal infested environment.
The completion of Abuja- Kaduna rail way offered a major water shed in transportation in the area and indeed in the country. Nigerians now realized that indeed, with good leadership and sense of responsibility, some of the major challenges facing the country could be tackled. That singular effort created a lot of awareness among the citizenry and they now see that with good leadership the country’s transport sector could be reinvigorated to play its role in making the country better.
After the success of the Abuja-Kaduna rail system, Lagos Ibadan as well as many others are already in the pipeline. In the next couple of months, thousands who want to move from Lagos to Ibadan and vice versa would not have to risk traveling by road. Haulage would also be easier as time goes on.
One question on the lips of many Nigerians, in all these has been why did we have to wait this long before we could get it right. The answer to this is not far-fetched. Leadership means a lot. It is perhaps one of the most important defining factors in success. Organisations can make plans and strategise on how to get things done, without the necessary leadership impetus, most of plans would be still born. Nations fail not because they do not have good plans on paper but because they do not have leaders who are willing to go the extra mile, offer purposeful leadership, see through plans and ensure that things get done.
This is what Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi has offered. Beyond politics, he has been one of the revelations of the administration at the Cabinet level. Nigeria has been lucky to have a few of such leaders at the centre and their Midas touch had been the saving grace for many administrations. Such men, after national service have easily been snapped up at the world stage by international organizations or have moved on to become icons. Only a couple of years back, Akinwumi Adesina was the country’s Minister of Agriculture. He laid the foundation for the successes the country is currently building upon. After he left office, he was snapped by African Development Bank where he is also acquitting himself very well.
He is not alone in this. The incumbent Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations also falls into this group.
The lessons in this are manifold.
If Amaechi continues at this pace, by the time this government leaves office, he would have been able to link up the whole country with the rail system and solved one of the major problems that the country has battled since the colonial era. His contributions in the rural urban linkage would have written his name in gold and single him out as one of the major discoveries of this administration. And then prepare him for a Steeler assignment in the nearest future.
Happily, he is on the way to this. With each single day in office he has continued to prove doubters wrong and chart a new course for the Transport sector.
The fact that he is devoid of ethnic bias in the activities of the Transport Ministry also speaks volumes of the type of leader he is. In a nation where people clamour for ‘me and my people’ first, then others last, Amaechi seems to be different. When the story of the success of the Buhari administration is written in 2023, we are sure Amaechi’s achievements as Mr Railways would be indelibly captured.
He has started and he will hopefully achieve this.
BAMIDELE OGUNDANA Publishes abujareporters.com in ABUJA