Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi added more spice to the presidential contest when he declared his interest in the presidency on the platform of the All Progressive Congress( APC).
There have been speculations that the former Rivers State governor will contest the presidency but he always shut down the reports.
However, he recently announced his interest to contest the presidential election in 2023.
He announced while addressing a crowd of supporters and leaders of the APC at an event in Port Harcourt.
Amaechi was giving a speech titled, ‘Forward With Courage’ at a thanksgiving service held at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in the Rivers State capital.
“Fellow Nigerians, I stand before you today to declare my intention and submit my application to serve as your next president,” he declared to the cheers of hundreds of party faithful at the event. “I did not come to this decision lightly, I have served our nation for the last seven years as minister of transportation.
“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. Within this period, I have also served as the Director-General of President (Muhammadu) Buhari’s campaign organisation twice.”
The minister believes his 23 years of service in various capacities have equipped him with great experience in governance and public service.
He added that the period has allowed him to show compassion for the ordinary citizens of the country.
“After more than two decades in the public arena, I had wanted to go on a holiday and spend more time with my family before charting a new course outside politics, but at 56 … 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,” Amaechi said.
Some of the party chieftains at the event include Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State and former APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
The declaration of Amaechi threw social media into overdrive. He was seen as the third force in the APC presidential race.
However, following his public declaration, there have been calls from several quarters for him to resign his ministerial position in order to pursue his presidential ambition.
Among the various individuals and interest groups that have asked Amaechi to resign without further delay is the Niger Delta Transparency, Accountability and Good Governance Group (Niger Delta TAG).
According to the group which comprises more or less his kinsmen, Amaechi ought to have resigned even before declaring his intention to contest the presidential election. In this wise, the group said, his declaration amounted to placing the cart before the horse.
The group maintained that it is “immoral, illegal and unethical” for Amaechi to remain in office as a minister and a member of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet while chasing his political ambition.
National coordinator of the group, Chief Julius Godspower, who spoke for his members, further added, “It is rather unfortunate that due process is not followed by the Minister and I hope President Muhammadu Buhari will direct him to step down immediately.”
Moreover, the Niger Delta TAG, said Amaechi’s remaining in office as minister while pursing his presidential ambition will be a huge distraction to the government. The transport sector, which is in a very bad state, will also suffer more with a presidential aspirant as Minister, the group stated.
While Amaechi has the right to aspire for any elective position, including the highest office in the land, he cannot do that without due process and rule of law, or at the detriment of a critical sector of the economy he was hired to supervise.
Apart from the Ministry of Transportation being headless and suffering while Amaechi stays in office as presidential aspirant, another point of interest raised by the group that cannot be contradicted is the unavoidable clash of interest the continued stay in office would create for the minister.
Indeed, many political analysts see the APC ticket as a straight fight between the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, and the reasons are not far-fetched.
However, Amaechi has proven severally that you can never count him out of anything as he is a battle-tested general in the political space. Having been in the political space since 1999 as a two-time state lawmaker, speaker, governor for two terms, and minister for almost eight years, he indeed has the required experience to contest the 2023 presidency.
Many political analysts also contend that he is one of the few performing ministers in the Buhari administration. The railway infrastructure across the country is there for all to see. The railway revolution is arguably the major and visible success story of the Buhari administration.
There are whispers that he is President Muhammadu Buhari’s favorite for the APC ticket. According to this line of thought, the presidency is not comfortable with power going to the southwest in 2023 given the fact the region has tasted 16 years in power either as president or Vice President. The presidency seems to favor a shift to the south south.
Recall that in February 2022, Amaechi was turbanned as the Dan Amanar of Daura. In the Hausa dialect, Dan Amanar is used about someone trustworthy, of noble character and carriage, a confidant and one whose words can be relied upon.
Many saw the Turbaning as a direct endorsement of Ameachi for the presidency by the powers that be in Katsina .
The thinking is that an Ameachi presidency will achieve two aims – solve the Igbo presidency issue and the south-south will get a second shot at the presidency.Amaechi an Ikwerre from Rivers had always maintained that he is an Igbo man.
For now, it seems attempts to get former President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the presidency in 2023 have hit a brick wall and the lot seems to have fallen on Amaechi.
But the question is does he have what it takes to upset the cart in the APC primaries? does he have the wider network and funds like Tinubu to prosecute his campaign or the mass appeal of the Vice President?
According to some insiders, the Amaechi camp is waiting patiently in the wings for Tinubu and Osinbajo camp to wear each other out and the party may settle for an outsider to calm frayed nerves. Already Tinubu and Osinbajo’s supporters are already fighting dirty in the media space and at the end of the day it may be a lose-lose situation.
Other contenders in the APC include former Imo State governor,Rochas Okorocha, Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, Senator Orji Uzo Kalu, and Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello.
Can Amaechi cause an upset in the APC primaries? only time will tell