EXCLUSIVE: I am under pressure to contest Nigeria’s Presidential race…Daniel reveals

Former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, has  spoken  on conditions to contest in the forthcoming Presidential race and probably in the future. Daniel, a two-term Governor on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and now a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC),  was speaking  in an exclusive interview with members of the Editorial Board of the Penpushing online Media  in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.

The board members, led by the Chairman, Deaconess  Olufunke Fadugba, included Penpushing Founder, Prince Dimeji  Kayode-Adedeji, Eddy Aina and  Yemisi Fadairo. The former Governor, who said that he had received encouragement from his people to contest next year’s presidential election, spoke on a number of issues of interest.

Enjoy this concluding part of the exclusive interview:

There are speculations that you are eyeing a Senatorial seat     

OGD: Yes, what my people are asking me to do is even more than Senatorial seat. Some people are saying, with your profile, ‘who are those who want to be President today that you cannot compare probably with.  if X, Y, Z, some of who even became Governor after you, which means that if effectively you do a ranking order, you can say you are their senior in politics, so why are you, their oga, not saying you want to be President.’ But I decided that Nigerian Presidency and things like that are not for the swiftest, it is not for the fastest.  I am contented in my little way, serve my senatorial district, add value to what the government is doing, and so on. And that is where we are today

If the Nigerian Presidency is not for the swiftest, then who is it meant  for?

OGD: I am saying that from contemporary experience, it is not that it seems that it is something positive, because it means that people who work so hard, historically, have not attained it. And if you start from the First Republic, where you have flamboyant politicians like Maitama Sule and all those that they said they wanted to be President, including the great Zik of Africa, could not get it, the great Awo did not get it, one way or the other. The same thing repeated itself in the Second Republic, when it was Shagari, who wanted to go to Senate. Maybe now that I want to go to Senate, maybe I will follow the line of Shagari. It was Shagari who said ‘I want to go to the Senate’ that got to become President. Again, out of the hard-working politicians at that time and all those people, it was Shagari who emerged. Also, during the military interregnum,  it was Baba, who I think said the people first came to him when he came out of prison and he said they are crazy, that was the one who emerged. After Baba, was my colleague in the executive, Yar’Adua, who just wanted to go back to Katsina and then he didn’t want it, he too was the one who emerged and later, the one who said he had no shoes emerged and so on. Even Buhari had said he was not going to contest again after trying on a few occasions but, he’s our current President. So, historically, if you look at that trend, it has not changed and I am not so sure it’s about to change, that race is not usually for the swiftest.

Does it mean that because we are having people that are dragged into the race, you’re not expressing interest, hoping to be dragged into the  office?

OGD: There is usually a tide in the affairs of men and also the hand of God in all of the things we do. We can only try our best and I believe God is the ultimate decider. We have instances of people that people didn’t think they can perform, who performed and we have so many instances that people think these are great performers, who have not yet performed. What I have found out and I want you to take note of this, carefully, is that power of oratory is different from performance.

And I have found out in our environment that quite many people who know how to blow a lot of grammar, you know, they will talk and talk and talk and they are very good in oratory, but when you put them in a position to work with the people, interact with the people, appreciate their problem, go out and solve it, you found them wanting. If you look at the typical example of Chief Awolowo, he was not a strong orator, he was a planner, strategic, tactician, he does the work, defines the problem, he goes out for it, he resolves it and gets the result, whereas Zik was a big orator. So, when you look at the situation in the East of those days and the West, how is it that the West under the great Awo, not the orator, blazed the trail in virtually everything, while the orator was now following? As we go into this particular race, our people must open their eyes wide. It is not about oratory.

Your Excellency, Do you also share the call for restructuring in Nigeria?

OGD: Restructuring is a word that I think has been largely abused and from what I have seen, many people have a different appreciation of what they mean by restructuring. But to the extent that I believe that the simple meaning of restructuring is simple; if you try something consistently in the past and you’re not getting a good result, you need to rearrange and I think that’s my understanding of restructuring, and that’s virtually in every aspect of life, either in the Judiciary. If the judiciary is not working the way it is supposed to work, we should look at it and rearrange it and restructure it. If the constitution has not been properly done to get them to operate optimally, amend the constitution, ditto, for the Executive.

We are practicing the Presidential system of government, we were practicing the Parliamentary system before now and we can compare and contrast. Is this one better or do we need to go back? My own considered opinion is that this thing called democracy; the inventors of democracy have said democracy is not a perfect system of government, but they are insisting that they have not seen a better system beyond this democracy. Every nation must look at the way they want to practice their democracy. In America, they called it a multi-party system, but you know it is a two-party system. In China, they are now democratic but it’s a one-party state, and it is a democracy. It is also practicing its brand of democracy, so I think what we need to do is for us, as a country, to look at our best democracy and work very hard on it, so to that extent, therefore, I think restructuring is deserving, but we should not misunderstand what restructuring is all about . For me, it’s to look at the various aspects of governance and where we think we have not done well, and what are structural changes that need to be done to create the best improvement.

Your Excellency, there is an issue disturbing everybody and it is insecurity. The government seems to be working hard but it seems not to be getting it right. What can government do in this situation? 

OGD: Well, insecurity is usually prevalent, especially in a society, where demand is far more than supply. In a setting, where you have many people chasing so little, in terms of what is available, there is bound to be some kind of corrupt tendencies, which can also result in a level of insecurity. But it is my own considered opinion that the biggest, greatest panacea to insecurity is employment and engagement of the people. It will not be eliminated 100 percent in a country where everybody is virtually engaged, but  there will be some level of insecurity that  can be tackled. For us to even get to that stage, we must find an indigenous way of putting the population of our people to work, and quite honestly it is not rocket science and I dare say that I can look at what I can call a case study. Ogun state under my care, and if what we are able to do under my care is anything to go by, first we came in and said the biggest problem facing this state is unemployment because when we came in 2003, and we said we have dozens of tertiary institutions in the state and many more were coming, and they call our state a civil servants state, very derogatory because it is only civil servants that were employed.

But what was the entire population of the Civil Service in the state as at that time, 5,000 people. In a state that was turning out thousands of graduates every year, so, clearly, the Civil Service or Public Service cannot take the outcome, and that was the first. So, when I came here, people will say “Omo yin, oo ti jade lati odun karun, Ko ri ise” (your child graduated over five years ago, but yet to get employment). That was the language I heard. That was what was prevalent everywhere, so we found an indigenous way to keep the population busy. That is not all, I live part of my life working in Lagos, so these things called area boys are something synonymous with Lagos, but when I got here, I found out that there were more area boys in so many locations here than we had in Lagos. What’s going on?  Then, of course, beggars on the streets. We then started a few things, which we put together. First, the foundation we said No. it’s nauseating to find people crawling on the streets, human beings. So, we stormed the places with wheelchairs. So, people first felt it was not a good thing. But, am happy today in this town, you can hardly find anybody crawling, even if they’re begging.

Now, what do we do with this population of area boys? That was how we now said that, let us develop sports. We were encouraging those boys with muscles, so this muscle that you’re using to terrorize citizens, go to Alake Sports Center and begin to box and so that was what led us to establish stadia everywhere. At that time, we didn’t even know sports; soccer will become partly one of the richest things that can bring money to the country. So those vices were already there, all we just needed to do was to encourage people to go there. Even before we left, people were hiring players from Gateway United abroad and paying serious money. Those are those boys who otherwise would have been terrorizing us on the streets.

What is your assessment of Penpushing?

OGD: What I have for you is, to be honest, kudos and commendation, because I must confess that when you said Penpushing at that time, I didn’t understand what you wanted to do, as far I was concerned, I thought it was just another platform. And I think you have given it a new meaning, you have redefined journalism. I look at some of the things you did at that time, you are very clear, precise with your instructions. If the news is not verified, don’t bring it here, and so on and so forth. Those are salient things, and to my understanding of journalism as a profession, these things have pushed Penpushing to a new level.

I must congratulate you, and now that I am seeing you recording, I’m asking if you’ll have your Penpushing Television very soon. You have also quickly appreciated that the hard print is going to gradually rescind to the background. And I must say to you that, for a large number of the population today, they do not even bother to read the hard print, because all the breaking news can be found in Penpushing. I think, without a doubt, Penpushing has done very very well.

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