The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has formally joined the 2023 presidential race as he declared interest in battling for the ticket of the All Progressives Congress.
Mr Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers State, made the declaration at the thanksgiving service organised for him by the Rivers State chapter of APC, on Saturday in Port Harcourt.
The declaration was attended by the former National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, a former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume (APC, Borno), former head of Nigeria’s maritime agency, NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside and others.
With the official declaration, Mr Amaechi joins other APC aspirants that have officially declared their intention to battle for the presidential ticket of the ruling party.
Those who declared their ambition earlier are APC leader and former Lagos governor, Bola Tinubu; Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State; Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State; former Abia governor and serving senator, Orji Kalu and former Imo governor and senator, Rochas Okorocha.
It is being speculated that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and the Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele may join the race.
All the aspirants except Mr Bello are from the southern part of the country.
Although the APC is yet to zone the presidential slot to any part of the country, there are speculations that it would zone it to the South which comprises the South-west, South-east and South-south geo-political zones.
The incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, who will conclude his second term in May 2023, is from the North-west zone.
The other zones in the north are the North-east and North-central.
Interestingly, Mr Amaechi’s political foe and predecessor, Governor Nyesom Wike, recently declared his intention to run for president on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Mr Wike served as chief of staff to Mr Amaechi while the latter was governor.
They have since gone their separate ways and have often attacked each other.
Swipe at Tinubu
In his declaration speech entitled; Forward with Courage, Mr Amaechi, appeared to have taken a salvo at Mr Tinubu with the assertion that “My aspiration is not about fulfilling any personal ambition.”
It would be recalled that Mr Tinubu, while declaring his plan to vie for the APC ticket earlier in the year, said running for the office is his “life-long ambition.”
Plan to tackle Nigeria’s challenges
The minister said he would have preferred to go on holiday with his wife and children, but at 58, he is compelled by the “urgency” of the challenges facing the country.
Mr Amaechi, who has been in Mr Buhari’s cabinet since 2015, said Nigeria is faced with general insecurity, youth unemployment, challenges of accountability in governance and poverty. He added that the problem did not start today and will not stop overnight.
“We are facing some very serious challenges as a country. These are problems of insecurity, challenges of greater accountability in governance, youth unemployment and the scourge of spiralling poverty.
“These problems are however not the exclusive preserve of Nigeria. We live in a troubled world,” he said.
He also spoke about his work in reviving the railways.
“It has been an honour overseeing the Ministry of Transportation in reviving the moribund railways and working tirelessly to create an integrated national transportation system that will positively impact our economy, trade, employment, business, and national cohesion. Have we achieved everything we set out to do? Off-course not. Could we have done more? Undoubtedly, there is always room for improvement,” he said.
Although, recently, the minister was under scrutiny in the aftermath of the bombing of the train by bandits.
After the attack, he had claimed that lives could have been saved if his colleagues in the Federal Executive Council had approved N3 billion for the surveillance project for the Kaduna-Abuja train track.
PREMIUM TIMES published a leaked memo, containing the reasons why FEC rejected the proposal. According to the report, Mr Amaechi’s surveillance project had too many red flags.
Mr Amaechi talked about his experience in the past 23 years, as a legislator, governor and minister, saying occupying those offices has prepared him for the presidency.
“It is this combination of experience and patriotic passion that I bring to the table. I have been in the political arena for 23 years. I have served at every level of government – local, state, and federal. I have served both as a political appointee and an elected official. I have served both as an executive – as Governor of Rivers State and as a legislator – as Speaker of the State House of Assembly.
“In these capacities, I did not just fill vacant posts. As a Speaker, I managed the legislative process in a difficult transition from military rule. As Governor, I defeated mercantile militancy and restored security. As a minister, I can modestly claim to have justified the trust of Nigerians.”
The APC is yet to commence the sale of their nomination forms.
According to INEC timetable and schedule of activities, parties are expected to conduct their primaries to pick their candidates for the 2023 polls before June 3.
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