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Amaechi’s declaration speech: A review

“The style is the man”—William Strunk Jr.

“Amaechi delivered a sunny speech reflecting a sunny disposition in the face of daunting odds. Can he walk the talk?”

ROTIMI Amaechi’s presidential declaration speech is a sample of discourse that at once intrigues and provokes interest in a search for significance. It’s different from the typical Nigerian political rhetoric. Amaechi cuts straight to the bone, and has room neither for frills nor sloganeering. A most laconic messaging style!
Amaechi’s spare and blunt speech style appears to reflect the personality of the speaker, given Strunk’s quip that the style is the man, and at the same time it drops a hint about the urgency with which the speaker associates the task ahead. In all of its 23-paragraph length, the speech was a telegraph of Amaechi’s motivation, his concern for Nigeria and what he would do to solve identified problems.

Qualification

Done with his qualification for the job—experience in governance and statecraft, relative youthfulness, courage and iron-clad conviction on the way forward—which he deadpans with neither boast nor bombast, he goes straight into why he is running. Because he says it matter-of-factly, he achieves a dual hit with the single verbal but nimble volley. He communicates humility without drawing attention to himself and delivers a key message that he comes prepared as someone who has had his hand on the plough before at the executive level as a two-term governor of Rivers State, an assignment that followed his tenure as speaker of the state House of Assembly. He let on that he truly rose through the ranks, having been a local councilor before he was called to higher duties. He thus made it clear he has an enviable pedigree without actually saying so. Something refreshingly different in this clime!
Of course his national assignment as Minister of Transportation these past seven years has given Nigerians a scorecard by which to assess his readiness for the job of President of the Federal Republic. Given his performance as minister, the last seven years could pass for a princely prologue to an eventful 23-year stewardship in public service.

The task at hand

A straight talker, Amaechi sinks his teeth pronto into the problem — his reason for running. “We are facing some very serious challenges as a country,” he says. “These are problems of insecurity, challenges of greater accountability in governance, youth unemployment and the scourge of spiraling poverty.” He explains that though the problems named could not be solved by the flick of the fingers—given their context in a generally troubled world—they “are not beyond the capacity of our people to solve.”

This speaks to realism, resolve and practical-mindedness required in problem-solving. It’s an approach that is evident in his work in the Ministry of Transportation where, for instance, the rail system, a major artery of national transportation, has witnessed a rebirth. For a cap, the entire rail system had collapsed until President Goodluck Jonathan began the revival work on it in 2014. The Buhari administration inherited the resuscitation job and entrusted it to Amaechi who made it such a national passion that within seven years the national rail system was revived with 669km standard gauge line added for the first time to the railroad network. The existing narrow gauge system has been rehabilitated and currently stands at 3,505km. The rail transport system at the moment employs 4000 people.

Amaechi explains that current investment in the national railway system and other infrastructure is a deliberate step being taken to put in the work needed to power the nation’s economy to meet the aspirations of Nigerians. “It has been an honour …reviving the moribund railways, and working to create an integrated national transportation system that will positively impact our economy, trade, business and national cohesion,” he says.

Amaechi says he has a moral duty and a compelling personal reason to place himself at the service of the nation, and promises “a combination of experience and patriotic passion” in the discharge of his duties if Nigerians give him the mandate. “I have never been the type who folds his arms and complains about inadequacies I see around me,” he explains. “I have always jumped in with both feet to do whatever I can to help, to try and bring relief to those suffering, to work to make things right where I see wrong.”

He promises to bring that amiable disposition to bear on the job, “If you elect me as your President.” He assured the mammoth crowd in Port Harcourt, where he made the declaration, and those watching and listening in at home, “Every day I will rise and go to work for you. I will never forget the fact that I am there to serve you.”

For him, his track records stand him in good stead. In his past positions, he says, “I did not just fill vacant posts. As a Speaker,” he adds, referencing his position as speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly from 1999 to 2007, “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.” He talks about his roots and says he can connect with the man in the street because he came from that level, and for that reason his heart beats with the feelings, fears, aspirations and hopes of ordinary Nigerians.

Dialogue

He promises to run a presidential campaign that will be marked by engagement with Nigerians from all walks of life in open and frank conversations to listen, map, learn and together begin the all-important work of problem-solving. I will “engage with Nigerians from every walk of life,” Amaechi says. “I am ready to go from Maiduguri to Makurdi, from Sokoto to Sagbama, from Yola to Oyo, from Badagry to Birnin Kebbi. To each town and village, I will have one message: Hope is around the corner.
“I look forward to meeting you in your towns, villages, cities, campuses, and creeks. I want to hear your desires, needs and pains. I want to know what matters most to you. I want to listen and learn.”

Gratitude
A man with a grateful heart, Amaechi ends his superb speech with due gratitude to those who helped him along the way, including his parents; President Muhammadu Buhari; his former boss and governor of Rivers State, Dr Peter Odili and his wife, and the elder statesman, Chief Rufus Ada-George. He also acknowledges the pillar of support that his family has been to him.
Amaechi delivered a sunny speech reflecting a sunny disposition in the face of daunting odds. Can he walk the talk?

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