We have an unfriendly friend in this weird and wild minister. He is a foe like any other. He does the unexpected for us unsolicited. And invariably for the wrong reasons.
Right now, he is basking in feigned euphoria. He knowingly soaked himself in one controversial deal. He insisted he is risking his life for us all. Still uncalled-for. As usual, he does not see anything absurd in it. Strange?
We can’t be cajoled. We know where he is coming from and where he is going. Yet, we keep our fragile fingers crossed. We won’t be tired giving him close marks. We are on his heels, putting him on his toes.
What manner of minister is Rotimi Ameachi? He holds sway in the Federal Ministry of Transportation. He has a pet project very, very dear to him. He is putting everything into it.
He won’t listen to others. He is not ready to give in to a contrary opinion. It is a task for him. Our approval or disapproval does not matter. He is on the same page with his paymasters and cohorts.
He is adamant. The borrowed $1.95 billion is on the line. Ameachi is desperate to expend it on a rail line; from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic. And the most appropriate time is now.
The minister is dead serious. The Nigerien are not keen or enthusiastic. They don’t want to do business with Nigeria, even with a long spoon. They have viable alternatives in Benin Republic, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo.
But Ameachi maintained, business they must do. So? Off he went to Niger Republic, begging. He said it himself, loud and clear:
“I had to travel to Niger Republic to even beg them. They are not bringing their money. It is our money. But I’m begging them to allow me access into Maradi.”
Worried and confused, he was forced to ask: “Why are they not exporting through Nigeria? They say your roads are bad. They say Customs is difficult, Customs will impose charges that are not charged in Benin Republic.
“They say Immigration does not allow them. Even when they pass all these, there are police, Customs and Immigration checkpoints on the roads. Then communities have their own checkpoints, armed robbers attack them on the roads.
“So, they prefer to go where it is safe and cheaper to do business.” Who would not? Only Nigeria would not.
These Nigerien are on spot. They know us inside-out and are not afraid to confront the self-acclaimed giant of Africa. They dissected us right and accurate. What we don’t know about ourselves, they know even better.
They have over the years had first class experiences with us. And those encounters were neither pleasant nor palatable.
They derided us. They dreaded our heavily corrupt Customs, Immigration, police et al. They pointedly taught us how not to run a country like ours.
They told Ameachi the bitter truth. Unfortunately, the message was totally lost on him. Rather than cover his face and keep the shame to himself. He did the unthinkable.
He rushed to a television house. He bubbling on air. He exhibited his fullness of life to the maximum. He made a shameful replay of the insult hurled on him in Niger Republic. He was honest enough. He told it as he received it.
He narrated it with relish. He was full of life. He gave the account of his sordid Maradi encounter with all smiles. What manner of minister is Amaechi? We are still wondering aloud.
Clearly, he was playing to the gallery. He was overwhelmed with the inordinate urge to satisfy his Fulani paymasters. He dances to their tune at their slightest beck and call.
Let’s hear from his horse’s mouth: “I said my wife is Igbo. She is not from Maradi. The worst is that they will say I am serving the interest of the North.”
For this awkward reason, he is bent on carrying out the project. Doggedly, of course! That Kano-Maradi rail line must be constructed. His bizarre, shocking argument. Very deviant:
“We come to Maradi, we build offices, we build a warehouse, you put your things in the warehouse. You deal with Customs, Immigration, police at Maradi, whatever you need to check.
“Once you put the goods on top of the wagon, it goes straight to Lagos. When it gets to Lagos, straight to the ship because the things you would do in Lagos, you would have done in Maradi.”
Instead of going back to the drawing board to right the wrongs. And attempt to reverse the inadequacies, Ameachi opted for the kooky. He failed to address the issues.
He would not stop chasing the shadows. He chose the usual fire brigade measure. It has never worked for us; it won’t hold water now.
That is the stark reality awaiting this Kano-Maradi rail project. The whole package would collapse like a pack of loosed cards. It is not a course. It is built on #Loriiro; anchored on blatant falsehood.
They are not telling us their real intention. They are stingy with the truth. Spending a mouth-watering $1.95 billion foreign loan on a strange rail line? And to one landlocked country in the Sahara Desert?
Ameachi ought to put on his thinking cap and be swift about it. Instead of acting accordingly, he was shuttling between Abuja and Maradi. He thought he was doing something worthwhile. Sad!
He was even naively beating his fleshy chest. He believed he has made us proud. He erred. We needed not being to Niger Republic to be told the home truths.
Let’s even try to agree with him on the so-called economic gains from the project. Must we leave our infrastructure to further decay? Why did we choose to invest in the desert? Who did we offend? Who offended us?
See how we are unwisely developing another country’s economy. And at our great expense. We are providing employment for them at no cost. This is a warped economic sense. What is the volume of the anticipated trade from the Nigerien? We need to know.
It is not different from what the General Yakubu Gowon military junta did to us. That was the malady of the 70s. It was widely believed that Gowon was practically sustaining the economy of the then Dahomey, now Benin Republic.
Gowon was having “too much money” from the oil boom. He was perplex. He told a bewildered nation in 1973: “Money is not our problem but how to spend it.” So, he went about “doing good” in neighbouring countries particularly Dahomey.
Ameachi took us back us to that era of waste and extravagance. There is a huge difference, however. There was oil boom. That age is over. Now, there is oil glut.
Even more than that. We don’t enjoy the utmost peace and comfort of Gowon’s time. The exact opposite is the case now. We are in a complete mess as a nation state.
Our Nigerien neighbour correctly identified our government huge failings. But Ameachi saw differently. That is why he is responding abnormally. He is not ready to face the stark reality. You don’t run away from challenges, especially the ones you create.
No qualms if the intention is strictly economic growth. But we know it is not. Their actions and body language exposed all that. They never intended good for us. Not with this ill-motivated Kano-Maradi railway. Sooner than later, things shall surely fall into their places.
This one is a white elephant project. It’s not sustainable, not even in the least. We don’t need a prophet to tell us this. We ought to put our internal rail network in good shape first. Kano-Maradi railway is a far cry.
True and true!