Amaechi on 2019 elections, railway accomplishments & insecurity

Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi

CNBC Africa’s Esther Awoniyi caught up with Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation and discussed railway development, the 2019 elections, insecurity and more.

Esther: What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment so far in your three years of being minister?

Amaechi: Focusing on railway. We’ve been able to deliver the Abuja Kaduna railway to the fact that passengers are conveyed. We started with one locomotive, now we are dealing with three locomotives and then we commenced work on the Lagos Ibadan railway. We hope that before the end of the year we should commence work on the Port Harcourt Maiduguri rail and Lagos Calabar.

Esther: What is the bigger picture because I know it is President Buhari’s vision to see the whole country connected by rail?

Amaechi: That is the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that we should try and touch all state capitals because if you look at the design for the Port Harcourt Maiduguri, we are going to Port Harcourt to Aba, to Owerri, to Umuahai..

Esther: Is there a timeline for all of this?

Amaechi: Where is the money? The timeline will be determined by the amount of money you have, so we are going to Umuahai to Enugu, from Enugu to Okwa to Abakiliki, to Makurdi to Jos, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola, Damaturu and then Maiduguri.

Esther: As we go into a political year, if you were to assess your performance as transport minister, how would you assess your performance so far?

Amaechi: There’s a saying in my village that the dancer does not see his back, it’s you the spectator. So how would you assess me? And I want an honest answer. I have responded by telling you that I cannot assess myself but you as a Nigerian, how would you assess me?

Esther: Let’s move on to politics, there’s a lot of talk in the political arena about the APC and the strategy to come back again in 2019 and I know that you are also the campaign director, is it for the president or the party itself?

Amaechi: Both the party and the government but they haven’t spoken yet so don’t put words in my mouth

Esther: I know a lot of people are eager to know this so what is your strategy for 2019, to return the president in 2019?

Amaechi: Do you read books on war? Have you read any books on war?

Esther: Maybe one or two

Amaechi: Do they tell you the strategies in the books?

Esther: Well, it’s your prerogative

Amaechi: There’s a saying in my village that when the mouth goes to war first, by the time the legs come, they would just catch the legs easily.

Esther: But there is a plan obviously?

Amaechi: Of course, if you don’t plan, you will loose

Esther: When I say there is a plan, I mean that there is a plan to return the president for a second term. That’s what I mean

Amaechi: Well, wait for the president to tell you if he’s running or not, just wait for the president to tell you himself but I believe the president will run.

Esther: The president has also set in a strategy to reconcile aggrieved members within the APC itself, help us understand what the grievances are

Amaechi: It depends on the individuals, those who are aggrieved will come out and say they are aggrieved, I’m not aggrieved. I may not be the happiest man but I’m also not aggrieved. But somebody has been appointed to reconcile the aggrieved parties and until he discharges his duties, I will not be able to know those who are the aggrieved parties and what they say is aggrieving them

Esther: As an APC member, how do you feel when you hear people talk about how this government has fought corruption, how this government has handled the economy, all the criticism that seems to be gaining momentum lately? What do you say to these critics?

Amaechi: Election year. Its 60 percent political and you are bound to see these things.

Esther: Even when they are coming from civil society groups?

Amaechi: Which civil society group is that? Are you denying that we have not fought corruption? Are you denying the fact that the president has not focused on the economic development? Are we not aware that until recently, we were importing rice in Nigeria? Are we denying the fact that we were once importing poultry materials and that we were importing eggs from South Africa? Are we denying the fact that we could not feed ourselves?

Esther: A lot of political analysts tell us that a lot of the good that has been done by the APC government is being eroded by some of the missteps by the government. Take security for example and a very popular one will be the herdsmen – farmers clash in the middle belt of the country. Many people say that that has eroded a lot of the goodwill that the president rode in when he came into power.

Amaechi: Would they deny the fact that boko haram couldn’t even let us sleep in Abuja? I would like Nigerians to always remember the contribution of the president. Are they forgetting that we lost a member of the senate and house of representative in Jos? We shouldn’t forget. Are they denying the fact that we were attacked in Nyanya, we were attacked in Kano. Are we being attacked again? The answer is no. Are we perfect? No

Esther: That is boko Haram, I’m talking about the herdsmen

Amaechi: Insecurity is insecurity, whether it is boko Haram or herdsmen. Are we happy about the herdsmen? The answer is no. Is the president addressing it? The answer is yes. The presidency had a meeting with his security council and gave out an instruction. By the way, it is important that everybody realises that the president is not a man who just sleeps and ignores Nigeria.

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