Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation joins the list of southern politicians who have been recognized in the North after his turban as the Dan Amanar Daura.
When the Emir of Borgu in Niger State, (Senator) Haliru Dantoro Kitoro III (Mai Borgu) on February 26, 2006 turbaned All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the Jagaba of Borgu and his wife Senator Remi Tinubu as the Yun Bana Jagaba of Borgu, not many could have imagined how well the title would resonate with Nigerians.
Nine years later, rapper and songwriter rode on the popularity of the title and dropped his 2015 hit track ‘Jagaban’ to the delight of music fans across the country.
The conferment of traditional titles is one of the ways indigenous institutions thank and encourage their illustrious sons and daughters and, when conferred on non-natives, help to bridge the sometimes distant gap of Nigeria’s uneasy unity.
Several Nigerians and even foreigners have been so honoured. While some may just be able to boast of just one, there are some who can boast of more than six traditional titles conferred on them by their local traditional rulers and other community heads.
They are conferred with traditional titles in recognition of their impact in the community and across the nation.
Saturday, 5th February, 2022 is the turn of Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi, who was turbaned as the Dan Amanar Daura, ceremony taking place at the palace of the Emir of Daura, Umar Farouq Umar.
His title, Dan Amana Daura which means ‘the trusted one of Daura’ was chosen to represent what Amaechi means to Katsina State and by extension, the North.
The proposed honour follows the level of development the minister is usually credited with attracting to the state as well as the North, and by extension for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Some of the projects that influenced the honour are the monumental railway project that connects the North and most recently, the University of Transport sited at Daura.
Without a doubt, Amaechi’s support for President Buhari over the years— seen by loyalists as his love for the North— is a major factor and which resulted in his role as a two-time Director-General of Buhari’s Presidential campaign in 2015 and 2019, and his appointment as Minister of Transportation in 2015, reappointed in 2019.
For many observers, the new title shows the esteem to which Amaeachi is held in the president’s state.
Touted as the first of its kind in Africa, the University of Transport in Daura is expected to bring rapid development to Nigeria’s transport sector and generate employment opportunities for Nigerians.
The university will, among others, assist to build the capacity of Nigerian professionals, technicians and human resources in the transportation sector and also to fast-track technology transfer and Nigerian content in contracts, science, engineering and technology.
According to the minister, the project was part of the federal government’s efforts to develop qualified manpower that would manage the many railways facilities across the country and other transportation facilities.
The ground-breaking ceremony for the project was performed by President Buhari on December 2, 2019 and according to the minister, the N18billion ($50million) university was gotten free of charge from the Chinese government as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
He further explained that the rationale for the university is to acquire technology needed to operate the railway system being built by China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) when the Chinese withdraw.
Though not in the original plan, the minister also directed the contractors to include a primary and secondary school in the master plan to cater for the schooling needs of children of families who will be working there.
Connecting the North
Perhaps from the award organiser’ perspective, another plus for the minister is how he connected the North through rail. Already, Portuguese construction company Mota-Engil has started work on the $1.8bn railway track that will link Nigeria and Niger in West Africa.
To kick it off, a ground-breaking ceremony was held at the site of a proposed station in Makira in Katsina State. When completed, it is expected that the North will be better off for it.
Also, according to the minister, construction of the 284 kilometres Nigeria-Maradi Standard Gauge Rail line will enable interconnectivity with countries in the West African sub-region for the promotion of trade and commerce.
The plan to begin linking the northern cities of Kano and Kaduna will be funded from the government budget while Chinese financing is awaited to boost it to completion.
With the forthcoming conferment of the royal title by the Daura Emirate as a mark of honour and reward for his outstanding services, the people of Daura through the Emir will convey their respect and appreciation of Amaechi, the ‘Dan Amana of Daura Kingdom’.
Politically motivated honour?
Is the timing of the award by Daura Emirate in the build-up to the 2023 presidential election, suggestive of political motivation?
No, said, former deputy majority leader of the Senate, Silas Zwingina. Zwingina said the recognition accorded to the minister is because of his outstanding performance and leadership qualities.
He said the Daura Emirate considered the numerous achievements recorded by the minister in the transport sector in Nigeria and by extension the Daura community.
He said rather than perceive such gesture as politically motivated, attention should be shifted to the merits of the projects executed by Amaechi.
Describing the development as most welcome, the former lawmaker said it was the culture of the Daura Emirate to show appreciation and single out those who have impacted on their lives.
“It is the culture of the people to reward and single out those who have done something for the community that will remain with them for life. It is totally out of politics and nobody should read any extra ordinary meaning to it. The kind of projects that the Minister has put in the country, has put in Daura, I’m sure the President did not request for them,” he said.
”The Minister came up with them himself and considered it worthy to put those projects there and the Federal Executive Council approved them. There is the University of Transportation and the railway line that would pass through the emirate. The most interesting thing is that the university is a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project. That is to say that they are practically free of charge to government as it’s compatible to the actual rail projects the Chinese are executing.
“The Ministers that haven’t thought about that, or if they have, I’m not aware that anyone is doing Corporate Social Responsibility projects the way it is done by Amaechi. So, I commend him sincerely for that because it’s either there would have been no Corporate Social Responsibility projects in the manner of the University, or it would have been diverted.
“The gesture by Amaechi is beyond Daura. The spirit is that every multinational company that has a big project here should have a Corporate Social Responsibility project that is visible, identifiable and publicized in the manner the Daura Community has done.”
Speaking to the timing of the event, Zwingina said: “There is nothing extraordinary with the timing. It is just about a Community that has learned to show appreciation to a man who has done them good, a man who has served this nation so well, very diligently and producing outstanding results both as a minister and Director-General of President Buhari two successful campaigns.
“A man who they so trusted and have decided to turban him with such a very prestigious title as their ‘Dan Amanar’. Honestly, Amaechi truly deserves the title and I think we should see it that way, on its merit and not otherwise.”
Southerners, Northerners with cross regional traditional titles
Like Amaechi, other Southerners have also been conferred with titles in the North.
They include the Jagaba of Borgu Kingdom in Niger State.
‘Jagaba’ meaning “leader of warriors”, was also birthed from the phrase “Ja a gabar Borgu”, which means a leader of Borgu city.
The Emir of Bauchi Dr. Rilwanu Suleiman Adamu and members of Bauchi Emirates Council have also conferred on former President Goodluck Jonathan the Jigon Bauchi title.
Jonathan was conferred with the title during his visit to Bauchi to witness the naming of the Sabon Kaura to Miri Road after him.
Former Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha, who represents Imo West in the Senate, bears the traditional title of “Dan Jekan Sokoto”.
It was conferred on him by the Late Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido (CFR).
Okorocha is also the Omorodun of Yoruba land; the Okala of Ehie; the Talban Gwagwalada and Uban Talakawa
Another APC member and former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, was conferred with the traditional title of “Sadaukin Shinkafi” by Shinkafi Emirate Council in Zamfara.
Many Northerners have also been honoured with traditional titles in the South. No least among them is President Buhari.
The Enyi of Aba in Abia, His Imperial Majesty Eze Isaac Ikonne, in 2014 honoured the then presidential aspirant Buhari, with the chieftaincy title: Ogbuagu 1 of Igboland which literally means the lion killer, a metaphor for a champion.
Buhari, again in 2018 picked up the title Ikeogu 1 of Igboland (fighter for Ndi Igbo) in the Bende Local Government Area of the state with over 60 traditional rulers in Isiukwuato/Umunneochi constituency conferring him with the title.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan holds the title the ‘Nwanne Di Na Mba’ (a friend in Diaspora) 1 of Igbere Kingdom title, conferred on him by traditional rulers in Igbere under the umbrella of Igbere traditional council.