Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has had a fulfilling political career. At different times, he has been the Governor of Rivers State, Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and held several other offices. He tells TUNJI ABIOYE and TOFARATI IGE about his career, family and other issues
At a time, you were the president of the National Union of Rivers State Students. What were the highlights of your tenure at that time?
That was a long time ago, so I cannot really recall what happened. I was very young then. I left the university at the age of 20/21. It was just a radical life in terms of what I believed in and I still believe in those things till now anyway. I believe that the poor are not properly represented by the government – whether it is this current administration or the ones before it. The poor are still here and I doubt if they would ever go away. What happens is that the elite – whether the capitalists or socialists – must manage them in such a way that they can be provided for.
At what point did you develop an interest in politics?
My father was a politician. He ran for councillorship during his time. However, I didn’t join politics because I wanted to be a leader or because I wanted to solve Nigeria’s problems. I joined because of unemployment. I also believe there is a part that grace played in it.
I actually got auditioned at the Nigeria Television Authority to be a broadcaster. I recall that I walked into their office then and said I wanted to see a certain person. But the person I met asked me if I had been auditioned because I had a wonderful voice. I told him I hadn’t and he asked for me to be auditioned. However, before the employment letter came, I was already into politics. That saved me. I would have been a broadcaster by now.
Considering that you had been exposed to politics at a young age, why did you decide to study English Studies and Literature?
I joined politics in the university. My father actually wanted me to study Law. A lot of people don’t know that he named me ‘Rotimi’ after the famous lawyer, Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams. My father never met him (Williams) but he admired FRA’s larger-than-life persona and the fact that he was a brilliant lawyer. So, my father believed that I would be a lawyer and I should be able to do as well as FRA. Unfortunately, it was difficult to get admission to study Law. The first admission offer I got was to study Secretarial Administration and we all laughed over that at home. At that time, in addition to the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, I also wrote an exam to get into the Rivers State University of Science and Technology. I had even started registration as a student of RSUT before I was offered admission (through UTME) to study English Studies and Literature at the University of Port Harcourt. I applied to study English at UNIPORT because the school had no law faculty then.
However, I have no regrets studying English Studies and Literature because it is all-encompassing. I would be glad if any of my children or those of my friends decide to study English. Most people think English Studies is about grammar but that isn’t so. There is an English language department in English Studies. I read Literature.
In what ways have your study of English Literature impacted on your career?
In the study of Literature, the society is presented to one like a mirror and one interprets what one sees. I can tell you why you behave the way you do even though I’m not a psychologist. I can interpret society the way it is. I can make decisions based on my knowledge of society, and I got a lot of that from studying Literature.
What was the reaction of your family members when you decided to go into full-time politics?
My father was indifferent. Don’t forget he was a politician. I’m not sure he knew I would get to the point I have got to, even though he died before I became a governor.
If you weren’t a politician, what do you think you would have been doing now?