Buhari campaign DG Rotimi Amaechi urged Nigerians to reject the return of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2019, saying the ruling APC is prepared to coast to victory in the coming election.
Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Minister of Transportation and the Director-General, President Muhammadu Buhari re-election campaign committee, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, has urged Nigerians to reject the return of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2019.
Has your ministry done enough to sell President Buhari in 2019?
I thought the first thing in the minds of any Nigerian is how to feed first, right? It is only when a Nigerian feeds that he or she can think of voting. The president is not doing all these because he wants them to re-elect him or not, he is doing it to satisfy himself. The president is asking, all those days we used to get $110, $120 for a barrel what did we do with them? That is why when these people come together and say they want to fight us, I laugh.
Have Nigerians forgotten so fast that we had money all these while. We have put in $200 million into this project and how much is that amount? It was less than N72 billion at $150. Why can’t somebody say here is N72 billion, go and complete that project. The president insists that we should do a sea port in Warri and we have gotten a company to do that.
APC appears to be in tatters, what is your take on the state of affairs?
It is not true. Unfortunately I don’t want to speak about it but you have put me under pressure. Let us look at it, no matter what you do, the governor of Sokoto state, for instance, will naturally leave the party because he has the ambition of becoming the president in 2019 and even if you take a chicken to him, he will still leave. It is the same with Kwara. These are people you expect they will leave. They left with members of the National Assembly but fortunately they came from the areas that Mr. President is very comfortable. Do you honestly believe that the President will lose election in Sokoto? The state is one of his comfort zones.
The next persons that left are from Bauchi and if you bring the president on a sick bed in Bauchi, he will win the state. He has never lost election in that state. If you bring him on a sick bed in Kano, he will also win. Well, that is being arrogant on our side.
Again, you will say that it happened during our time, but we sold our candidate one year ahead of the election. They are doing it just six months to the election. It was clear who will be APC presidential candidate one year ahead of time.
Don’t you think that people will be surprised hearing you defending the APC passionately when there was speculations that you are on the other side?
One thing about me in the political history of this country is that nobody has doubted where I stand. One quality I have is that Nigerians believe that I am honest. I am not the type who combines alcohol and water. If I like alcohol, I like it and if I like water I like water. I don’t hide my feelings.
What is your reaction to the speculations that you are no longer President Buhari’s campaign DG?
My answer to that is for God to bless those with such speculations. Anybody can be DG; it is not a difficult assignment. DG is somebody who plans campaign. We will know whoever that is in charge. But seriously speaking, my position as the DG has never been in doubt.
How sure are you that APC will win in 2019?
You are ascribing the role of God. It is only God that can say for certain that the APC will win or not. But what is clear is that if you remove God element, I think we are prepared to coast to victory. Nigerians will certainly reject a second looting because we cannot survive it.
Please name the rich men in Nigeria. 60 per cent of the rich men in Nigeria depend on government. Just only three years they removed their mouth from the breast milk, everybody is complaining. I honestly say that Nigerians are part of the problems.
READ ALSO: Government by speculation
If I a Minister steals say $100,000 from my ministry and give out, they will say that I am the best Minister. They will say that I am so generous without asking how I got the money. You will give your wife $50 000 who gives her mother from it, buys melon from it, the market woman pays school fees, the school pays the carpenter who fixes the doors, who buys uniform for his child, and the tailor who produced the uniform pays for another thing. This is how the economy of Nigeria runs and we are saying that it can’t just continue like that. The economy has to be productive and that is what Mr. President is saying. If you want to have access to the national economy, everybody must have an access not only few persons who loot the economy of Nigeria.
But do you have the rectitude to accuse the PDP of looting when you were a beneficiary of the system for 16 years?
What I usually tell people is that there are people in the other camp that believe that Amaechi cannot collect the money. Even those who criticise me in Rivers State believe I have a good reputation. I always ask, what do I need this money for? I don’t smoke and I don’t drink. I don’t believe in luxurious houses or cars.
I feel that Nigerian politicians commit what I may call manslaughter, which is killing by accident. We kill by accident because the money meant to build hospital we divert to private use without building the hospital. Consequently, Nigerians will go to the hospitals without drugs and other facilities, resulting in their deaths.
Painfully, Nigerians don’t hold the politicians accountable. I always give this example where a newly elected councilor goes to church for thanksgiving after six months, the pastor or priest will be so happy that he sings, ‘it shall be permanent’. I asked him, what is it that you are making permanent? Is it the stealing he did, which you should have prayed to God to forgive him or to permanent the car he got from proceeds of stealing. Nigerians don’t ask how politicians get their wealth.
Will your responsibility as the DG Campaign clash with your responsibility as Minister?
I have been functioning as DG Campaign even as Minister and as a governor, handling it will not be a problem to me. That I am not contesting any election makes it easier. Other Campaign DGs did not resign. Anenih didn’t resign during his days. It is a case of managing conflict.
Do you think that the battle for the 2019 election will be as fierce as the 2015 election?
You are not a student of history otherwise you would have known that we were heading for civil war if that election was not successful. The north wanted power at all cost and are ready for war. Secondly, the country were tired of President Jonathan Goodluck and the volume of stealing going on then and what we did was to save this country from going into civil war. The north’s desperation for power then was not a case of any section holding the country to ransom, but a situation where they will go out to vote and if they were rigged out their response will be different. If they were beaten thoroughly, they won’t do anything but if the mandate was stolen I am sure they would have reacted.
READ ALSO: 2019 elections: INEC trains staff
Why should you accuse former President, Goodluck Jonathan of not saving when you contributed by demanding for the sharing of the Sovereign Wealth fund?
Those saying that forgot that I was the one who approved N1 billion for the Sovereign Wealth Fund. Why did we ask them to share the money? We noticed that every time we come for NEC meeting and ask for updates, they will tell us the volume was $8 billion. The next month they will say it was $7 billion and when we ask what happened to the money, they will tell us that the president approved that we should spend it. We will ask why because it is not his money but our money.
The reserve continued to go down until we started asking them to share it to the states. We were ready to save for the rainy day but instead of saving they were telling us that president approved the deduction. That was why we threatened to drag them to court. By the time they left, it was depleted to around $2.5 billion and that was what they left in the excess crude account.
What is the volume of credit facility federal government has taken to fund railway project under the current administration?
We funded the completion of Abuja-Kaduna with an approved sum of N23 billion. But what we actually borrowed for the construction of Lagos Ibadan railway is $1.6 billion. The previous government borrowed $500 million for the Ministry of Aviation for four airports projects. The Chinese government gave us $500 million and we are giving N500 million. We awarded a contract of $500 million for coaches. The China Exim Bank wanted to give us the money but Mr. President turned it down and said we should fund it ourselves and we started funding it, $500 million to fund locomotives, the CCECC wants to manufacture wagons, some of us think it will be Ajaokuta because of the iron ore. The ministry is also funding the completion of vandalized Ajeokuta-Itakpe rail project. We relayed the tracks and did the sidings. It cost the federal government about $120 million. We have awarded a contract for coaches worth $500 million.
After inspecting the Ajeokuta-Itakpe-Warri railway project, will you say that you are satisfied with the level of work done?
No, let’s say that basically if you want to address that you just address the fact that most of these projects have been there. When Nigerians put us under pressure, I asked a question: what were the reactions of Nigerians when nobody was doing these?
If you see the files that Mr. President has been pushing to complete every project started from Obasanjo, Yar’Adua to Goodluck administration to us, other government won’t do that; they will start their own so that it will be remembered after them. This project we are completing now has been there for 34 years.
Is the rush to complete and commission the projects geared towards 2019?
You can imagine the commercial activity; imagine how much food this will bring on the tables of many Nigerians. Imagine the pressure the train will reduce on our roads.