By Favour Nnabugwu
For the journalists covering the Federal Ministry of Transport, last week was spectacular. It was the week the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, dropped his executive regalia, preferring rather to play the role of a reporter.
The following day, Thursday reporters joined the minister who went ahead to keep an appointment with the Governor of Kaduna, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, and to deliver a speech at a one-day seminar of the Nigerian Shippers Council in that state before he continued his assessment of the Abuja Rail Project.
The minister stunned many when he dismissed his aides and top civil servants on the rail inspection tour with him from the service train taking him round on the exercise, preferring rather to be on board the train with newsmen in his entourage.
The three-hour inspection tour, from Rigasa Rail Station in Kaduna to Idu station in Abuja in a service train used by China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), was not the usual hurried assignments of ministers as the minister endured discomfort in order to have a bit-by-bit inspection of the 186km project.
At the start of the journey, journalists were, as usual, shoved from joining the minister in a coach of train reserved for him even as over zealous staff of the ministry and the Chinese firm rushed in to be in the minister’s coach.
Without hesitation, the journalists quietly entered the next coach assigned to them by the ‘eye service’ aides. But while waiting for the small train to take off, the minister, on seeing that there were no newsmen beside him, held down the train and asked some of the people that rushed in with him to rather, move over to the coach earlier assigned to reporters.
While in the train, even with visible sign of discomfort, Amaech mixed and discussed freely with the reporters inside.
He shared jokes just as he chatted with the newsmen for the three-hour journey.
For the reporters, it was what they will not forget in a hurry. The simplicity and humility of the minister was remarkable.
Speaking on his personal principles during his maiden press briefing, the Minister had said, “If you come to me to gossip about anyone, be rest assured that l will tell the person concerned that this is what you said and you will be there to defend yourself wrong or right.
“I am not as bad as they say. A lot of names have been given to me but I believe in principles. I don’t like protocols. When I say I hate corruption, I mean it. I don’t give bribe and I don’t take either. If you want to relate with me, don’t give me money and don’t ask me for money.
“Just do your job creditably. Don’t see me on the road and run away. I am not as bad as they make it seem. I don’t steal and l don’t befriend thieves and don’t put me in a position that l will not be able to call a thief, thief. Let us be friends because l am here to learn.”
The Amaechi style, if followed by those in position of authority, could not only promote freedom of expression but enhance media freedom in the society.