By Rotimi Amaechi
I stand before you today to declare my intention and submit my application to serve as your next President.
I did not come to this decision lightly. I have served our nation for the last seven years as Minister of Transportation. For eight years before that, I served as Governor of Rivers State. In the preceding eight years before that, I was Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly. These 23 years of service have equipped me not only with great experience in governance and public service but also compassion for the ordinary citizens of our dear country.
After more than two decades in the public arena, I had wanted to go on holiday and spend more time with my family before charting a new course outside politics. But at 58, and a member of the generation born after independence who has seen the good, the bad and the ugly of Nigeria, I am compelled by the urgency of our present challenges to place my experience and proven capacity at the service of the nation at the highest level.
Those who know me can testify that I have always been a straight talker. This trait has not always made me popular, but I speak truth with conviction. So, allow me to speak the truth here today.
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 spiraling poverty.
These problems are however not the exclusive preserve of Nigeria. We live in a troubled world. The reality we used to know has altered in nearly every nation. Climate change has brought about food scarcity in some places. Population explosion has produced unusual pressure on resources and supplies. Poverty has become a challenge all over the world especially in the developing world. The Covid crisis has placed unanticipated burdens on the budgets of nations and put pressure on available resources. Trans border crises have erupted in unusual places and placed the internal security of many nations under pressure. We are part of the Sahel, an area of the world that is subject to frequent terrorist attacks. Let us look at our current challenges as part and consequences of these global trendsI admit that Nigeria’s problems did not begin today. And they will not be solved overnight. But they are not beyond the capacity of our people to solve. Fortunately, that process has already started.
There is an ancient proverb that “a society grows great when old men plant trees under whose shade they know they’ll never sit.”
The current administration under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has planted many such trees in Nigeria’s future. We have invested billions in infrastructure, human capital development and made reforms that will pay off over time in terms of socio-economic growth and stability. We have invested heavily in projects and initiatives that will secure a brighter, better future for Nigeria.
I am proud to have been part of this success story. 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.
On reflection, the notion of running for President would have been far beyond the imagination of the young lad running around the streets of Diobu or our small compound in Ubima. Not to talk of the young indigent student leader, mobilizing peers at the University of Port Harcourt. But my aspiration is not about fulfilling any personal ambition. I am contesting for office because I believe that it is my moral duty to give what I can in the service of my country.
To sustain and intensify present efforts at solving our national problems, our democracy must ensure the emergence of a leadership that is equipped with broad experience in governance to ensure stability and continuity. To sustain our democracy and preserve our unity, we need a steady hand and a passion for success in a nation that remains united to pursue prosperity for all Nigerians.
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.I do not come from a privileged background. I grew up poor. I understand how it feels to go without some meals in a day. I know the pain of lack and the agony of want. I know what it means to see your parents toil just to keep a roof over your family’s head. I know what it is to feel the weight of expectation when you are are the only one in your family who enjoys the opportunity to attend university. Subsequently, I funded the education of my siblings to be university graduates as well. I know what it is to scrimp and save and struggle.
In spite of all odds, I have journeyed to this point. I could not have come this far without my parents, Fidelis, and Mary, who sacrificed so much for me. I could not have come this far without the support of my siblings. I could not have come this far without the mentors, friends and sponsors who have believed in me. I could not have come this far without the precious wife of my youth and my best friend, Judith, and my children who mean everything to me. I could not have come this far without the support of Dr. Peter Odili and his wife. I could not have come this far without the support of Chief Rufus Ada-George. Neither could I have come this far without the support of President Muhammadu Buhari. Above all, I could not have come this far without the Grace of God.