Nigeria has never been at crossroads than it is now. A country that was the pride of Asians, other Africans, especially Gambians, Ghanians and whites of different origins in the 70s and 80s has gradually become “coffee dregs” in the comity of nations. The spiraling sentiments from South Africa’s authorities at the break of the current resurgence of xenophobic violence in South Africa that Nigerian leaders should create jobs to take up her populace who have become a leech on South Africa shows the strength of our weakness. Ghana is deporting Nigerians every month in hundreds, prisons and slavery camps in Middle East are holding Nigerians captive, many countries have applied strict visa conditions for Nigerians, and America is currently calling for the heads of over seventy Nigerians classified as scammers.
Internally, the scourge of insecurity and maladministration is poignantly baring its pangs on the people. Nigeria has never been this bad in spite of her rich natural and human resources. This scourge has largely been attributed to bad leadership with manifest corruption. Consequently, every public office holder is a suspect and therefore not a saint. At this point, should we as a people be searching for saints or performers as public office holders?
Ambassador Princeton Lyman, a former U.S. Envoy to Nigeria and South Africa, delivered a speech recently at the Chinua Achebe Colloquium at Brown University, USA in which he shared a striking experience for Nigerians to make a choice.
“I served in South Korea in the middle of the 1960s and it was time when South Korea was poor and considered hopeless, but it was beginning to turn around, later to become, to every person’s amazement, then the eleventh largest economy in the world. And I remember the economist in my mission saying, you know it did not bother him that the leading elites in the government of South Korea were taking 15-20 per cent off the top of every project, as long as every project was a good one, and that was the difference. The leadership at that time was determined to solve the fundamental economic issues of South Korea economy and turn its economy around”.
The conclusion of Ambassador Lyman’s speech was captured by a commentator thus: “Nations are never governed by saints but by performers who may be crooks but are straightened out by strong institutions. Nigerians, unfortunately, continue to delude ourselves that there are Angels who will help turn every one into good guys while ignoring and neglecting the priorities of good governance.”
It is on this plank that the recent convergence by transport stakeholders, politicians of note, leading business elites in the country at Eko Hotels, Lagos to honour the reappointed Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi found relevance.
Amaechi: A Saint Or Performer?
It was like a postscript of a public life chapter written by Team Maritime Nigeria, chaired by Barr. Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi, Chairperson of Nigerian Shipowners’ Forum. A flame of honour, stoked by business and political associates, friends, transport and maritime industry stakeholders. They were gathered in their numbers, power and might. An emotional night, chaired by the chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, and a night to remember in years to come. Songs of eulogy filtered from one person after another in honour of Amaechi who was at that time hoping to be reappointed as the Minister of transportation. Could that night of statement have played a role in his reappointment into the same office? He had said he knew would come back. Anybody that was anybody in the maritime community was there. The maritime agencies and railway for the first time showed some synergy of purpose as their heads maintained stubborn presence.
The quality presence of Gov. Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, among other governors, like Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, reinforced talks in some quarters that the day was a subtle test of popularity of the rumored El-Rufai/Amaechi ticket for 2023. Trust Nigerians and their imaginations!
The occasion was equally graced by the “big boys” in the business space: Tony Elumelu, Tonye Cole, Otega Emerho, Uchechukwu Oga, Uju Ifejika, among others.
It was an unprecedented outing for any minister in history of political leadership in Nigeria, but not without flakes of criticisms.
Many of the critics believe that he did not deserve the praises because there are no achievements to justify that. They were quick to enumerate the challenges in the maritime industry yet to be fixed, the dilemma of rail to port and hinterland connectivity he was battling with before his tenure ended, the indecision in airport concession, the national carrier miscarriage in aviation and maritime sectors, the boiling security concern in the nation’s waterways and the underutilization of the eastern ports with its attendant lopsided Lagos port patronage as well as the port access roads challenge, among others.
However, the chairman of the organizing committee or body, Team Maritime Nigeria, Margaret Orakwusi justified the event with Amaechi’s show of commitment and drive to create change, which was very manifest in the number of stakeholders’ engagements with the government, giving hopes of results to come. No, doubt, Amaechi engaged stakeholders more than any other minister of transportation. He is indirectly working and fixing the systems with his appointees. Amaechi, said this much in his speech at the event.
While results are awaited, especially with his second coming, one philosophy of his that is striking is his efforts to complete projects started by the previous administrations.
However, that night would have been more apt if it was dedicated to celebrating him for his human capacity building efforts, especially as it concerns discovering the leadership potentials in people and believing in their capabilities. Amaechi is highly detribalized in his choices of leadership appointment and generously gender-sensitive.
Among others,he brought Ms. Hadiza Bala- Usman, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, Mohammed Koko, and ensured that the maritime industry did not lose the expertise and brilliance of Hassan Bello. He searched out the Rector, Maritime Academy of Nigeria( MAN), Commodore Emmanuel Effedua.
The Return Of Amaechi
When Hon. Rotimi Amaechi was first appointed as Minister of Transportation in 2015, he was seen as a greenhorn in the sector and he didn’t claim otherwise. He had made some landmark achievements during his stint as the governor of Rivers state, although his administration wasn’t devoid of allegations which became amplified as soon as he decamped from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
As a Minister, Amaechi continued to be outspoken, bold and brash as he took on all comers without fear of the consequences. However, he soon realized that his passion and dictatorial tendencies wouldn’t lead to the same results he obtained as Rivers State Governor; hence he aptly deployed collaboration, synergy and stakeholder engagement.
Amaechi was born on May 27th, 1965. He possesses the Gemini traits of being bright, a workaholic, and an attention seeker. Geminis are usually persistent and dedicated, they can work for years without incentives, and when they go out, people flock to share in the spotlight. By the way, this feature often brings them good luck. A Gemini man is good at almost anything he puts his mind to and can be comical and clever. However, the Geminis can be impulsive, indecisive and boisterous.
Amaechi, like a true Gemini, is very fond of traveling, and he believes that great good fortune awaits far from home. He isn’t afraid of the role of outsiders, he is happy to build the capacity of others around him and willing to start things from scratch in a new place and as a result are settling there and find the fortune. It is also said that Geminis overcome various obstacles and interference, so the building life from scratch seems to them a challenge, an interesting experiment for which they happily take. These people are generally very fond of experimenting.
Gbemisola Saraki, Minister of State for Transportation
Gbemisola Ruqayyah Saraki is the new Minister of State for Transportation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. She is the female legislator with the highest number of sponsored bills in Nigeria.
Former Senator Gbemi, a Leo born on August 21st, brings her peculiar traits of being active, ambitious and honesty to the transport sector and the ports in particular. She shares the same zodiac sign with Jennifer Lopez of the music fame, whose beauty and elegance are eloquent. Gbemi’s beauty and elegance are on the dazzling side, too but shares the personality traits of all Leos: Hate injustice, ready to blaze a trail, bold and courageous but inflexible. Gbemi as a Lioness, has also shown to be incorruptible in her previous assignments, a testimony of a highly placed industry chieftain. “ She will not EAT and you must not EAT but the right thing must be done.” That is her disposition, the person said.
Her dynamism as a Leo saw her play an active role in the following House Committees: House Committees on Aviation; Foreign Travel Habitat; Legislative Budget and Research Office; Navy; Privatization; Special Duties; Transport.
At the Senate, Gbemisola Saraki chaired several high profile committees, including, the Senate Committee on National Planning, Poverty Alleviation and Economic Affairs and the Senate Committee on Corruption. Her last duty call was the Senate Committee on Marine Transport. Apart from being the chairperson of the above mentioned committees, she has also acted as Vice-Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and belonged to the following Committees: Media and Publicity; Women Affairs and Youth development; Environment and Ecology; and Public Accounts; Senate Committees on Commerce; Rules and Business, Police Affairs; Intergovernmental Affairs and Aviation.
The port sector should be excited that Leo- born never seem able to sit still and find comfort in being stagnant. They are always pushing to be productive and often challenge themselves to reach new levels of success.
Saraki attended the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom and earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics. She did her national service at the Nigeria Bank for Commerce and Industry, Lagos. She worked for the Societe Generale Bank (Nigeria) as Head of Money Markets and later as Head of Domiciliary Accounts. From 1994 to 1999 she was Executive Director of Ashmount Insurance Brokers, Lagos. She is widely known for her intelligence, philanthropy, and love for education. It is on record that besides her father, Dr. Olusola Saraki, no politician from the North-central zone has given out as many scholarships as Gbemi Saraki. Gbemi Saraki is Kwara’s biggest grassroots mobilizer.
Her father is Abubakar Olusola Saraki, who was a leading senator of the Second Nigerian Republic (1979–1983). Her brother, Abubakar Bukola Saraki was Governor of Kwara State, Nigeria from 29 May 2003 to 29 May 2011 and was the President of the Senate in the 8th Senate in Nigeria.
Sirika’s Second Term: The Jeers, Cheers and Expectations
Senator Sirika Hadi is a male Pisces with some interesting personality traits. Born on 2nd March 1964, he is a member of Pisces zodiac signs, which covers those born from March 1st to March 20th. Pisces men are inclined to being attractive to many and close to few. But every Pisces man is on a mission. There are often too many expectations that he sets for himself and may have trouble meeting them all. However, his huge minus could be being unpredictable. Pisces, is the twelfth astrological sign of the zodiac.
He also is a former pilot, former General Manager, Katsina State Transport Authority, former Member, House of Representatives, and Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who represented Katsina North Senatorial District under the platform of Congress for Progressive Change(CPC). Sirika held the position of (Vice-Chairman) of the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) Committee set by the Nigerian Senate. He became a senator in 2011. In 2015, he was appointed as the Minister of State, Aviation. In 2019, he was re-appointed as the Minister of Aviation.
Although the minister has shown determination and zest to improve the country’s aviation sector, there are a lot that still needs to be done in the industry. The questions on the lips of stakeholders are: Will he continue the projects that he failed to complete in his first tenure? Will he meet the expectations of stakeholders in the industry and Nigerians?
At the beginning of his first tenure, Sirika had promised that he would concession key airports; establish Maintenance, Repairs and Overhaul (MRO) Centre, aircraft leasing company and refloat the national carrier. Other plans included the upgrade of aviation infrastructure, completion of the ultra-modern airport terminals in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Enugu and Port Harcourt, establishment of Aviation University, and development of aerotropolis (airport cities).
Some improvements were made in improving the infrastructural standards of the aviation industry in his first tenure; however, the country’s aviation sector is still far from reaching international standards. The 15 million passenger-capacity terminal at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) was inaugurated under the Minister’s administration to enable it assume its leadership position in the aviation sub-sector in Africa.
Within the last four years, federal government embarked on the construction of four new international terminals and two of them have been commissioned last year and that includes the Port Harcourt International Airport Terminal and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja terminal which are functional. However, the Minister said the Kano, Lagos and Enugu airports would be completed within the year.
Several Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) have also been installed in various airports across the country by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) with plans to commence installation of CAT II ILS at Maiduguri, Jos and Minna airports in the northern parts of the country. The Kano Tower Automated Air Traffic Management and Meteorological Systems was also completed.
He also reconstructed the Abuja runway as well as the isolated taxiway and apron. The new Abuja international terminal was also linked to the rail station. The installation of solar airfield lighting at 10 airports – Akure, Port Harcourt, Sokoto, Yola, Kaduna, Minna, Enugu, Maiduguri, Jos and Ibadan were also done by the minister. He also completed a 1,300-capacity multi-storey car park at the International Terminal in Lagos.
In the area of security and safety of the aviation sector, the minister showcased his commitment to ensuring security in the industry. In his first tenure, no accident was recorded which has made the flying public rest assured. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority also played a significant role in achieving this feat. The authority ensured that all safety recommendations were implemented and sanctioned defaulters. In December 2018, it sanctioned four operators for violating the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NigCARs). The AIB also made about 147 safety recommendations and in 2017 alone it made 66 recommendations which have been helpful in ensuring more safer skies.
Nigeria also recorded 96 per cent in International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Universal Security Audit in 2016. In the areas of State Safety Programmes, Nigeria has attained Level 3 out of 4, thereby moving Nigeria from red to green on the ICAO dashboard. In line with ICAO and WMO standards, in July, 2017, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency became the first Agency to acquire ISO 9001 2015 certificate, which qualifies it to offer aeronautical and meteorological services.
Recall that the minister also introduced zero import duties on aircraft, engine and for spare parts as well as the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) from all shared transportation, including commercial flights.
Passengers now enjoy better air travel experience as a result of the various measures put in place by the minister to enhance passenger experience.
There were also improvement on lounges at several airports in the country particularly the Lagos airport as well as provision of new facilities, new flight information display and signage .The Authority also reduced the facilitation process for passengers to go through the lounges easily and have enough time to shop and relax before boarding their flights.
However, in terms of airfares, passengers still groan over the high amount of airfares charged by airlines in the country. There is about 100 percent relative increase in local flight fares compared with what Sirika met on ground.
The plans to establish the national carrier was not achieved under Sirika’s four years in office. In September 2018, the Federal Government suspended the planned commencement of operations of Nigeria Air. Although no reason was given for the suspension, it was gathered that the national carrier project had been put on hold in the interim.
The plans to build an MRO centre also failed under the minister. Speaking at the last stakeholders meeting in Abuja last year, the Minister had explained that many of its programmes for the industry would have been accomplished if there were more time. The Minister noted that the plan to build the maintenance facility and the aviation leasing company was at advanced stage. A source also disclosed to MMS PLUS that these projects were at the procurement stage and has passed the developmental stage.
Meanwhile, the airports were not also concessioned as the minister had earlier promised at the beginning of his tenure. However, it has to be noted that aviation unions have not supported the plan to concession the airports by the Federal Government, but despite their campaign against it, Sirika stressed that it would be the solution to infrastructure decay in the sector.
Sirika disclosed plans to build an Aviation University but no efforts was put in to establish the institute to promote research, development and production of high level manpower as earlier promised by the minister.
Why Team Maritime Nigeria For Amaechi?
Barr. (Mrs.) Margaret Orakwusi, Chairperson, Nigerian Shipowners’ Forum
We are gathered here for a great celebration today. We are here to celebrate a great leader and achiever, a distinguished gentleman. A man that is loved by everybody in the maritime industry, including regulators and stakeholders. He came and decided to carry all stakeholders along. Distinguished guests, I will like to define leadership because we found a leader in Rotimi Amaechi. May I quote Peter Drucker, an American thinker, economist, professor, author, father of management thinking. He defines leadership thus: “Effective leadership is not about making speech or being liked. Leadership is defined by results and not attributes”.
In Nigeria, it is challenging to find political leaders, captains of industries or ministers who ignored their sense of interest and left behind indisputable accomplishments. But we have found one of such leaders in the man, Mr. Rotimi Chibuke Amaechi, former Minister of Transportation. He came into our industry, maritime and transportation, reshaped it, spread his wing over it like an eagle, he hit the ground running as they would say in this country. He engaged the private sector, he brought us together and we worked together for a brilliant result. We are honouring him today and celebrating excellence and service to our country through his stewardship in the transportation and maritime sector. Rt. Hon. Amaechi transformed the maritime and transport world in the country and left in its wake a benchmark by which all subsequent ministers will now be measured.
This is a unique occasion, the very first time a minster is honoured by his own. Team Maritime is our own Oscar. The stakeholders came together to form an association called Team Maritime to celebrate excellence in the industry and Amaechi has contributed immensely to the growth and modernization of the industry.
We are no longer in an analogue era, we have moved on. Thanks to our celebrant. Today, guests have walked the black carpet and had the opportunity to see some of his achievements on display. We saw him performing his duties with passion and obtained a feel of the measure of the man they are celebrating. I want to reveal a secret to those who are not in the maritime industry. Rotimi Amaechi would easily jump an ‘okada’ just for him not to be late to answer our calls. As most of us call him ‘Oga Amaechi’, he would drive himself from Lagos to Seme border and his mission would just be to count how many illegal road blocks that hinder trade in the country without minding his security. That is the kind of man we are celebrating today. He has achieved a lot, people don’t know him and so we decided to celebrate our own. He has been ensuring that our ports are viable. Discussions on ports reforms are now held on lunch tables. Our sleeping railway system woke up suddenly and trains began rolling through hills and forests. One unique thing is that there is nothing like abandoned projects where the honorable minister is. Other people dream but don’t actualize their dreams. Our beloved minister did not only dream, but also actualized his dreams. As a matter of fact, he finished abandoned projects and this is one thing that is unique about him. He ensured that the dream of private sector maritime investors became a reality.
Memories of him, the zeal with which he tackled his mission and made great personal sacrifice for his country and for God resulting in unprecedented contribution will remain in our hearts forever.
Let me also welcome Mrs. Judith Amaechi. We talked about the sacrifices he has made and that also includes the family time that he has donated in the maritime industry. For this and many more, we say a big thank you. We congratulate and thank him and we will always remain his leadership as he continues to soar like an eagle to even greater triumphs in his future undertakings. We are going to showcase why we are the major stakeholders in the maritime industry.
Amaechi Will Not Let You Down – Eze Woluchem
His Royal Majesty, Eze Victor Woluchem
During his time, as the Governor of Rivers State people saw a performing government. When he was called to the Federal Executive Council, some of us were not surprised at the height he has attained today. Without mentioning specific projects, I can tell you that the last time I saw railway was in the 60s, but today, railways are increasing in the country.
Amaechi is somebody that won’t let you down. I want to also call on the Federal Republic of Nigeria to acknowledge the man and allow him to continue what he has started. This is not politics, we are talking about administration. There is need for continuity. My Dear President, I am speaking on behalf of Rivers people, Ikwerre nation, South-South, that this man we have given to you will serve you and serve you again. He has proven his worth and please let’s go with what he wants. Thank you Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi. Thanks for not letting us down. Thank you for being the man we know you to be.
The Other Side Of My Husband- Judith Amaechi
Mrs. Judith Amaechi, Wife Of Rotimi Amaechi
I want to say that it’s a very special event and I am short of words to speak about my husband. I probably would be emotional if I start talking about him. However, in very few words, I want to say thank you to the organizers of this programme, thank you to Mr. President and his family for seeing something in this young man who is seated here.
I also thank my darling husband for doing a lot. Beyond being my husband, he is a wonderful father and a wonderful friend. I see a workaholic. He has committed to the Nigerian work all his life and has been serving in one capacity or the other. He is a man that gives his heart to whatever he finds himself committed to. He is a goal- getter and if you have him as someone working with you, you can be sure to go home and sleep. You can never find him working against your interest. There is something I learnt from him during this process. Life is full of challenges, but there is something I want you to take home. Anytime he was going out to support any candidate or work for anybody, he used to say this, “if we win, we win and if we fail, we fail but I stand where I stand”. He is highly committed to work, very honest and very blunt. If he believes in something, he goes for it. He speaks his mind and the next minute, he has forgotten about it. He doesn’t harbor evil or pain in his chest. He would advise you the way he would advise himself, most times, better than himself.
He is one person to have as a friend, a brother to have as a brother. Unfortunately, people tend to misunderstand him because he is very blunt. He is a very good example to others. He is very strict and he starts with me. He is always telling me not to do this or that. He knows my weak parts and my best parts. The man that I married has a very kind heart. Therefore, I am not surprised that he has been able to get this far. I am only asking that Nigerians should understand him and pray for him and also the system that he has found himself. I believe that this system has come to change Nigeria and that’s why my husband is there. It doesn’t matter what people say. God is the author and finisher of Nigeria.
Dr. Dakuku Peterside, Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA)
Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi is my mentor, friend, confidant and immediate boss. I will like to speak from different perspectives. This is a man who is seen from different perspective by his people. His friends see him as honest and punctual. His enemies think he is too blunt. His friends see him as a man of vision and courage while his enemies think he is very stubborn.
I have the privilege of knowing him for the past 29 years. I was privileged to serve as the Honorable Commissioner for Works when he was the Governor of Rivers State. One morning, he told me that he wants to expand a road called Rumuola road. In my mind, I thought he was saying something that was impossible. The road at that time was 6.3 meters wide. He said the road will be double lane and each 10.2 meters ,an underground drain, and fully covered. At that moment, I just thought something was wrong because what he wanted to do at that time was totally impossible. Ladies and gentlemen, two years down the line, the project was completed as well as other road projects too.
In the maritime sector, we thought some things were impossible. At a time, we had a challenge of piracy and crime. Today, we have a new maritime security architecture in our country which will eradicate piracy and maritime crime on our waterways when it’s fully functional. He doesn’t believe that anything is impossible. Once you can dream about it and you are determined, he believes that you can accomplish it. His friends will confess to you that he is generous to the poor. He sets his vision clear, gives a target and he is result- oriented. In every area of the maritime sector, he has made significant contribution that even generations to come will remember that we had a transport minister who had a vision, was determined to accomplish results and also change the sector.
On behalf of my colleagues, the superlative hardworking, Hadiza Bala-Usman, the workaholic Hassan Bello, the soft- spoken but super- efficient Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, the Rector of MAN, Oron, Commodore Duja Effedua, whom with his background is a super administrator, we are all grateful to the leadership he gave us during his administration. He gave us his support. I believe that we are the only agencies of government not afraid of anybody. He would never do anything that is outside the law. We are lucky that during our time, we had him with us, giving leadership to our country and sector in particular. Our prayer is that God will continue to use him to bless our country.
What I Learnt From Amaechi- Tonye Cole
Mr Tonye Cole, a Co-Founder of Sahara Energy Group
I have gone through pressure but I have never seen the pressure that comes upon politicians in Nigeria. I once asked Hon.Rotimi Amaechi a question on how he deals with pressure. He said a proverb and what I learnt is that no matter how the pressure comes, you have to endure, that moment will pass. I have held on to that and I now understand one of the secret that keeps him going. No matter what the situation is, no matter what he has in his hands, as soon as somebody comes in with a problem that he can solve immediately, he doesn’t not waste time to solve it. It is one thing to solve a problem for people that you call friends; it is another thing to solve a problem for people who have done negative things to you. I have seen people who should not have the guts to come to him because of the things that they have done but they will come and he will attend to them. You are a rare gem and God will continue to bless you.
A Business Man- Perm. Sec.
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Alhaji Sabiu Zakari represented
Our Honorable minister has been focused and this has made the ministry record a lot of progress in the maritime sector. Under his watch, the antipiracy bill was passed. The development of deep-sea port was also under his leadership. I congratulate the honorable minister for these great achievements including his aggressive development of railway across Nigeria.
Without your type of leadership and patriotism, it won’t have been possible to make this great accomplishment within the short period of three and half years. On behalf of the management and staff of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, we appreciate you for your guidance, kindness, counsel, harmonious and very business-like working relationship which has provided the basis for your success. We therefore pray that you will come back to continue the good work that you have started.
Amaechi Likes Women- Hadiza
Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman,Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA)
A lot of people have spoken about Hon. Rotimi Amaechi as a minister but I’ll like to speak about him as a statesman. I am from the Northern part of the country, I am relatively young and I have no experience in the maritime industry but the honourable minister recommended me as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). He stood by that recommendation. Nigerians were all in awe saying all sorts of things and challenging his decision. They were challenging the fact that he chose this young Hausa woman as Managing Director of NPA. He did everything to ensure that people understood why he chose to put me in that position. This shows that this man is not in anyway a tribalist. He is a stateman. He believes in Nigeria, he believes in the unification of the country. He does not recognize tribe as a barrier. He believes that we are all one people in Nigeria. Three years, down the line, I have not disappointed him. I have stood up in the maritime sector through his support.
As the Minister of Transportation, he has stood by us. He allows us to take decisions and listens to us. He is regulatory compliant, he believes in the rule of law, he ensures that we operate within the rule of law. On the other side, I am a very young mother, my children are 6 and 8 years, so certain times, I might not be able to do things between the short period that is required. He has supported the female gender at work. He believes in supporting women. That’s the kind of minister that we have.
His Leadership Niche Is Railway -Ovia
Chairman of the occasion, Mr. Jim Ovia, Chairman, Zenith Bank Plc.
It’s my pleasure to be selected, nominated and voted in as the chairman of the occasion. What has Rotimi Amaechi done to warrant this level of celebration and recognition? He was one-time governor of Rivers State and some of us tend to forget that he was a governor. He was the governor twice before he clocked 50 and these bare the kind of people that we should emulate. He has also served honourably as the Minister of Transportation. We know that before he became the Minister of Transportation, there had been so much talk about railways, land transportation, sea transportation and maritime. However, today, we all know that if you want to take a transport from Kaduna to Abuja, the safest and quickest way is by taking the railway. The railway works and functions very well and that’s because we have a leader who makes sure that works.
Many people thought the Ministry of Transportation is one, however, they are three ministries in one. Amaechi was chosen because one ministry would not be good enough for his capacity and his pedigree. They decided to make it three in one which is aviation, land transportation and sea or waterways. Despite this, the fact is that he has done so well. There are so many people working with him and they have supported him too. The Lord Almighty has shown mercy on Rotimi Amaechi and he will continue to show him this mercy.
The Lion And The Eagle
Rotimi, the Lion and the Eagle: While the Lion verses were delivered by Dr. Princess Vicky Haastrup, the Eagle verses were rendered by Engr. Greg. Ogbeifun.
Rotimi, the Lion and the Eagle: While the Lion verses were delivered by Dr. Princess Vicky Haastrup, the Eagle verses were rendered by Engr. Greg. Ogbeifun.
We have a man with some very rare characteristics. We are going to talk about him as a lion; Rotimi the Lion. For those who know him well, Rotimi also has the characteristics of an eagle. When we talk about lion, they represent strength and courage. No wonder, Rotimi Amaechi has the strength and courage of a lion. Lions are referred to as the ‘King of the jungle’ and sometimes they are called ‘The King’. Rotimi can be referred to as the lion.
As a lion, he is a man who is never afraid. When an eagle is at the top of the rock, no matter how far that rock is, the eagle has the eye of a periscope that can see the smallest ant no matter where it is. As a lion, Rotimi is a protector of his people, the male lion protects his own. He is a leader of men. Rotimi also teaches like an eagle. As a lion, he fought for the industry and Nigeria. Rotimi Amaechi is one man that is not corrupt. We can all attest to the fact that Rotimi is not a corrupt leader. He is a man of integrity.
Why Nigerians Are Suffering- Amaechi
Rotimi Amaechi, The Celebrant Speaks
I want to appreciate all the governors, royalties and chiefs who came all the way from Rivers State. I know what it took to come here and I have full respect and appreciation for this. I also want to thank all the maritime stakeholders for this. I also welcome all of my friends and relations here today.
When you’re on this side, you think that you’re helping people, you don’t also realize that people have also helped you. My wife doesn’t know that I’m a very lazy man. Most people don’t know that I’m lazy; even my wife doesn’t know. When there is a problem; my wife worries a lot to the extent that it is a worry to me. When there is a problem, what I do is to switch off and at that time I switch off I assume that the problem is no more there and I enjoy myself. My wife wouldn’t allow it be; she would say why did this man do this now? She wouldn’t allow me sleep because she is very active and shows this with her persistent worries but I’m lazy.
The first thing I taught my wife is that man is inherently born to be bad. Man is born to pursue his interest and no other interest matters much to him apart from his own interest. I was taught in the University of Port Harcourt that any man who claims to be selfless is probably hiding something about himself. Check that man well and you would find attributes of that selfishness. So, when someone betrays us and people are worried I simply explain that the reason that man betrayed us is that his interest defers from ours. Since he has his interest to be governor and my interest is to support Tonye Cole, he would do everything to pursue his interest. The best thing is to forget the man and focus on your goals. I’m a man who has seen dozens of betrayals, yet it doesn’t shock me. I start with a premise and say “this man will betray me”. So, I ask myself a question: Do I have to stop helping this man because he betrayed me? My answer wouldn’t be yes or no, because there is no guarantee that the next man wouldn’t betray me.
What I do is to help people irrespective of these betrayals because somebody helped me to get to where I am. You must make the conscious decision to always look out for ways to help people. I am someone who motivates people and pushes them to the top. I started this when I pushed Austin Opara up in the House of Representatives. Many people came to me and said if you push this man upward, when he gets up there he will fight you. They told me that there can’t be two captains in a boat but I wasn’t bothered. I just wanted to develop capacity and push him to become the best he could ever be. When he became Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, I was happy and I gladly called him my leader. As the Deputy Speaker of the House of Reps, he was my leader. I don’t want to seem proud; I tell people that I don’t have boys. I only have followers. Dakuku for instance, is one of my followers. God uses men to groom and grow others.
Nyesome Wike was the Chairman of Obiakpor Council and he also wanted to come for a second term but because he comes from my area, I asked him to run and he won. When I became governor, he was lobbying me to be Commissioner for Finance but I said no that he should rather come as my Chief of Staff, the rest is history. I have a conscience and anything that would make me have sleepless nights, I try to avoid them so that I can sleep well. If I say I am loyal to you, believe me, I am loyal to you. No matter what it costs me, I’ll be loyal to you until I tell you that I am no longer interested. I won’t be disloyal until I tell you that I’m no longer with you. I remember my account with the former President Goodluck Jonathan. I won’t tell you the whole details because I’m trying to forget about it. I walked up to him and said that I was tired and he confessed that he wasn’t in control of the situation. He told me that he wasn’t in control of what was happening to me. He said he was helpless, so at that point, I took my destiny in my hands. Today, that fight is also history.
As a person, I have always endeavoured to give people equal opportunity. I have given women opportunities. When I was governor, anytime I gave women contracts, my wife would know at home. When I get home, she will say “you gave Jane contract. Why did you give her the contact?” She would think that I’m dating Jane; but when I give a man contract nobody hears about it. If you’re a Catholic, you’ll agree with me that it is difficult to manage a marriage because it is indeed for better and for worse. At one point, I made up my mind not to give any contract to a woman because I want my marriage to last.
Hadiza Bala-Usman served as my Personal Assistant when I was Director General of President Buhari’s campaign in 2015 elections and she displayed sufficient knowledge to manage people and resources. She was keen to remind me to keep appointments, visit people and places at the right time. So, when the opportunity came I swiftly recommended her for the appointment as Managing Director of NPA. It was time to show that she had been a good example of loyalty and commitment. So, I met President Buhari and premised my decision on the need to strike geo-political balance, but I knew she was capable. When the appointment came she was a bit worried but I reminded her that she had performed excellently as a Chief of Staff for Kaduna State.
The same thing in choosing Dakuku. Remember, I said that I’m a lazy man; I appoint people that can be able to do the job in a way that I can conveniently go back to sleep and be sure that the job would be one efficiently. When I picked up Dakuku he was very young and still in the University. Don’t call him a boy, he is no longer young, but at that time he was still a boy. He met his wife in my house. His wife was leaving with me. I was on the ground floor while his wife’s family were upstairs. All the while he was visiting me I didn’t he was also coming to see his wife.
Nobody knew that things were going on until the day I was invited for the wedding. When I heard about the wedding, I said wedding to who? I didn’t know something was going on. Dakuku was doing fine but I continued to push him up. He was even angry at the way I was pushing him up to the point of governorship. I felt that a good governor should have gone through the legislature. So, I trusted him enough to make him the Commissioner for Works and at the next opportunity I pushed him upward as a candidate for governorship. I still think that a good governor should be able to understand how the legislature works and the best place one can get that experience is at the House of Representatives which Dakuku has experienced.
When the electioneering period elapsed and NIMASA was notorious as an agency characterized by corruption, I needed someone able to change the situation at NIMASA. I went for Dakuku and today, there is a bit of sanity in NIMASA.
At Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello was already the Executive Secretary when I came on board as Minister. His four year tenure expired and people came to me to say that Bello is a member of People’s Democratic Party (PDP). One of the persons who came to me with this argument is so important and dear to me that I didn’t want to hurt the person. I wondered how to handle the situation. I knew that Hassan Bello is a nice man and he had managed the establishment very well. I did not accept that the only reason I had to remove him was that he was a member of PDP. The legacy that he would have left behind would be difficult to maintain. I wrote a memo and sent to the President and the President signed and I announced him as having been retained for another tenure. Afterwards, I called the person and said that the President has approved for Bello to serve another tenure. I did this because I was convinced in the ability of Bello.
A similar thing happened with the appointment of Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora as Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA). Not many of you know that I have been friends with Mamora for years and I know of his integrity and diligence. Mamora is a person who has capacity. It doesn’t matter where you push him, he would still be successful. So, when the opening came I finally pushed him to NIWA. I must thank the President because if he didn’t have confidence in me, he wouldn’t give me the privilege to choose the people I want to work with.
One of the challenges I faced was the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron. The schools that were established the same time as MAN Oron are now sending their professors to teach our people. To tell you how corrupt the process is, we are happy to send people to Egypt and Ghana for training at institutions that were established the same time with MAN Oron. We were killing our own maritime academy but supporting and patronizing those abroad. We were in Directors meeting at the Ministry, I was taking briefs and the MAN Rector came forward. The law says that to approve N250million you need the Minister’s consent but they had approved N200million, N198million and N250million at separate times with the total figure amounting to N19billion in six years and I was so angry. Then, one man came forward that he was given contract but he wasn’t paid. I asked for the details of the contract and he said it was a contract to collect revenue from NIMASA and take 20%.
The law says NIMASA should fund MAN Oron but NIMASA wasn’t paying .The ideal thing to do is to inform the Minister who would direct NIMASA to comply; not this situation of hiring a contractor to collect NIMASA revenue and keep 20%. I told the man to see me that I would discuss with NIMASA and MAN Oron the following day but the man died that night. I appointed another person and when we started investigating the person, he died. Meanwhile, the only business in Oron was the Academy and the community was determined to appoint the Rector and I didn’t know. So I asked the stakeholders who already understand the maritime industry to transform the Academy. I called them and asked them to provide names of people to run the Academy. I also allowed them to develop a template to reposition the Academy and they did a great job. At that time, they were under pressure and some people tried to pressurize me into dissolve the committee but I am not someone who is pressurized. I escape from pressure by lying down. Once I lie down, I sleep off, so you can hold your pressure to yourself.
When they finished the MAN Oron report, the first thing I did was to ensure that Oron community understand that the Academy was a federal institution. Today, we have seen positive changes at MAN Oron.
One of the biggest problems in Nigeria is that we are probably the only country without a Single Window. So, our vessels go to Benin Republic. Everything about Nigeria is about where you come from and how much you will give. I don’t subscribe to this. For me, all appointments in the transport sector can go to the core North or South as long as the individuals have the capacity.
I remember when I saw Mfon Usoro’s resignation which had come because someone was threatening her. She may have suspected that I didn’t do anything or that I may have been supporting him. She thought I was angry with her. I got the man’s name and reached out but the man was threatening me. If he wrote to me, he would copy Chief of Staff, National Security Adviser (NSA) and the NSA would write to me. When I saw her resignation and asked why, she said it was because of what the man had threatened. I told her that she would serve her tenure and nothing would happen because I know the President I work with and he doesn’t meddle himself with such things.
I recall Buhari telling me that Hadiza is North West and Mohammed Koko is North West; but I insisted that Hadiza would work with me because she worked with me during the elections and I can guarantee her diligence and commitment. I insisted and he agreed. The point I’m making is that for the good of the country, let us stop this religious and tribal war that we have carried for so long.
One thing about religion is that it makes your senses to go on holidays. When that war of religiosity starts, it won’t be like the civil war. The big men would run because all of you here are big men. Everybody is screaming in the country today, because the money is no longer there. We must attach value to everything we do today. You must attach value and the President insists on that. There is no more free money. You have to invest and make money for yourself. Nigerians are suffering and government knows that we are suffering but the reason why we are suffering is that we ate our today, yesterday.
When I was governor in my first tenure, I gave some people contracts worth billions and they came back in my second tenure to say, “oga, hunger dey o”. When I asked what happened to the profit on the N2billion contract I gave them, they said that was four years ago. That was the norm at that time. People were making money at the expense of the country. I also encourage young men to work hard. At 34, I was a speaker, at 42 I was a governor and at 50 I became a minister. You can achieve that too.
I will end by thanking those who pushed us. One of those people who pushed us are the maritime stakeholders. They guided and supported me. I also thank you for celebrating me and making my friends and relatives from Rivers State to come here. However, it is not enough for you to celebrate me; you must help Nigeria to become better.
Let’s focus on Nigeria and ensure that the economy works. I thank all of you who came to honour me at this event and I’m grateful. God bless you all.
Secretary General, National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) Comrade Ocheme Aba
Speaking to MMS Plus newspaper, the Secretary General of National Union of Air Transport Employees, Comrade Ocheme Aba urged the Minister to disclose strategies that will help in achieving the set goals for the sector.
“Our principal expectation is that he will put things more on the table. Although his first tenure by standard was a good performance but we had issues. For example nobody knows in real terms what is going on with the national carrier. What we heard in the news did not clearly demonstrate what the program or plan is. It does not show the direction that should be followed. There is a lot of talks about the government doing due diligence but nobody knows what is happening. We know nothing about the plan, the type of ownership or the type of people involved. Many things are still done behind closed doors. There is no real disclosure with regards to airport concession. Everything about the airport concession is questionable. What is going to be concessioned? Is it going to be the terminal, the whole area, the runway, tarmac or the airport building?” he said.
“The terminals being built by Chinese are all on concessionary basis. The terminals in these airports are already concessioned through the agreement signed with China Civil Aviation. These questions should be answered: What are they going to concession? Are they asking people to come and buy space and build terminals? Are they saying that the old terminals owned by Nigeria would be sold? We don’t have all these disclosures despite all the noise about airport concession”.
“We also talked about aerotropolis. What is the program for the aerotropolis? If you go to FAAN now, they will tell you that there is no land and every land has been taken. So if you are talking about building an aerotropolis, what plans do you have for it? Would you ask people who have already purchased the land to build it or demolish what is there and build another? These issues are very important in aviation but we don’t have details on them”.
Ocheme called for more clarity in dealing with matters that concern the sector and stressed the need for stakeholders’ involvement.
“In this second term, we want greater clarity. We want things to be put on the table. We don’t want him to be holding stakeholders’ meeting and be reeling out what he is doing and planning to do, whereas, there are no facts on the table. These are the major areas that must be addressed. All stakeholders must be carried along in order for us to work in harmony to achieve objectives” he added.
Aviation industry stakeholders who had high expectations from the Minister had earlier in the year berated him, for not fulfilling any of the major goals he set out to accomplish in the sector when he was appointed.
Rector/Chief Executive of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria, Captain Abdulsalami Mohammed
The Rector and Chief Executive of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, Captain Abdulsalami Mohammed noted that the Minister is best placed to move the aviation industry in his second tenure.
“He has done quite a lot in the industry and that is why Mr. President found him worthy to be returned to the same position. We expect him to continue where he left us and take the aviation industry to the next level”.
Speaking on the projects that the minister didn’t actualize in the first tenure, Captain Abdulsalami disclosed that these projects had to go through a process which led to the delay.
“It’s not that he didn’t do these things but there are processes to follow. The Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects takes time. He initiated and the process has started and I’m sure that he will ensure that the projects become a reality. He has promised to re-access his road map and make corrections where necessary in order to deliver effectively,” he said.
The Chief Executive Officer of Belujane Konsult, Mr. Chris Aligbe
The Chief Executive Officer of Belujane Konsult while speaking with MMS Plus, advised the Minister to focus on key projects in the sector which are airports concession, infrastructure and the establishment of a national carrier.“He should remain focused and continue where he stopped last time with the three major projects. The first of the project is national carrier, the concession of airports and improvements of infrastructure. He talked about MRO which is necessary but I think he should focus on these three that he has driven to a certain point. All the projects that he have received advisories from transaction advisers, he should focus on them and take them to a conclusive end. If he puts the commitment and passion as in his first tenure, he will get to the expected end,’ he said.
Newly re-appointed Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika revealed his plans to help aviation contribute 1% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country while revealing that plan to float the national carrier, Nigeria Air, is still in the works.
He also reiterated his desire and determination to make the welfare and wellbeing of workers priority focus as he did in his first term. To achieve this, he said training and re-training of staff will receive renewed attention, while staff entitlements would always receive expedited attention. “Everyone is covered”, he assured.
Industry stakeholders are expectant and hoping that the Minister would not disappoint them in his second term. There are a lot of tasks ahead of the Minister. Indeed, focus and determination are important to achieving this feat.