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), expressed his reservations 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 encouragements from his people to contest next year’s presidential election, spoke on a number of issues of interest.
It has been more than a decade since you left office as governor of Ogun State, people will be wondering what life has been with you since then.
OGD: Public service is indeed a service for the people, who appreciate you. It is a service and responsibility to intervene in the lives of the people. Unfortunately, not many people view it from that perspective and that is usually what has almost led to the challenges in the system. As governor, I defined my responsibility as a facilitator; somebody, who is responsible for the welfare of all the citizens of the state, someone who is supposed to give a helping hand, where it is required and I think to a large extent, and I usually also say to people that my responsibility is not only for the good people, it’s also for the bad and the ugly.
For the good people, we encourage them to do more good, for the bad people, we encouraged them to turn from bad to good, and for the ugly people, we showed them why it is not good to stay ugly. So, we have responsibility for everybody and I think that I feel fulfilled, that to a very large extent, nobody could possibly do it all within the limit of resources that were available at that time.
I think we have given a very good account, based on my definition of what the job is all about. Some people may have other definitions, but that is what I thought I had to do and I think that to that extent, I’ll give myself a pass mark if you allow me.
As for life after office for me, though a lot of people will not believe this, the last week in government was a week where we felt that we must commission as many projects as possible. So, we had a lineup and there was even a video I think I have a copy of which I will give you, which the OGTV did. They call it 7,080 hours, basically, the whole essence of that is that the whole of eight years was continuous work, because we felt, that without being immodest, we usually say we have a state that there was a potential giant that was sleeping and so, we had a duty to awake that sleeping giant. That definitely cannot be an easy task, but I think that after eight years, everybody agreed that the giant is awake. What is now left is for other people coming, to water the giant and do what they need to sustain it.
So, it was all of work for all those eight years, and I remember that my last workday, I asked the security agents if they needed me or not because that night, I want to travel and as soon as I did all the handover, I booked the ticket on BA and I checked in. I sat down there and it was like a sigh of relief that God had enabled us to navigate the state for all those eight years and we have been able to hand it over the baton to the next people without any problems or rancor. We congratulated the new governor as soon as the results were announced, our person who contested did not win and I told him, please, don’t distract, the battle has been won, fought and lost, so congratulate the new man and forget about all these court business, so the man can concentrate in the interest of the people.
So I was quite excited and I remember I settled in that aircraft, I slept off and woke up the next morning in London. So, I think it’s been quite some form of relief if you put it that way. As you said, for all of ten years I was also on the sidelines, watching, looking, and supporting where necessary. A minor criticism, where I think things were not particularly going on right, but nothing fundamental that can cause any distraction, because, at the end of the day, it is not about those of us who are here. If you look at us from an average perspective, we are relatively successful, it is for those people who support, and who help and it is for their sake that we must try not to heat the polity again. Again, not many people see it from that perspective. So, I will say that ten years thereafter, I feel quite fulfilled, I feel satisfied, and more than anything else, I am very happy that people now look back at what we did. I think those people who had issues at the end of the day, if not 90 percent, at least, 80 percent now say they didn’t know, now we can see, and kudos to you. That gives satisfaction.
When was your memorable or turbulent period while in office?
OGD: If you ask specific questions, I will answer specifically, but of course, there is no way that there could be eight years of one’s life that there wouldn’t be, especially when talking about a sophisticated state like Ogun state. Like I said to you, what I’m happy about is that even when there are issues, there are bound to be issues, but a number of people who took certain positions, have now turned around to feel that, ‘Ok, given the benefit of information and knowledge, maybe we would have taken a different position.’ But what is important is that we’ve made peace at the end of the day and like I said, it’s not about people and not us. You can ask me specific questions and I will answer you.
Let us talk about towards the end of your tenure, the decision you made, would have taken another decision. Like the election and the candidate
OGD: No, No, I have no issues with the candidate that we selected. I still think he’s probably the best at that time and I think I’ve been vindicated. You should ask me how, because, if you are talking about the emergence of Prince Gboyega Isiaka, let’s assume that we have people who didn’t agree at that time, but if you remember 2015, four years later, the man who championed opposition, late Senator Buruji Kasamu, against that selection and against what we were doing, was the one who turned round and picked the same man to run under his own structure in 2015. And if you look at what happened also in 2019, eight years later, if you remember, that time we had some little disagreement with our baba, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2011 but in 2019, it was common knowledge that the same person that they disagreed with in 2011, was actually baba’s choice eight years later. Those are the two main people, who had serious issues, and do I need to say anything, nothing else to say. I’ve been vindicated, because it means that directly or indirectly, both personalities came to the conclusion that, that was the right choice after all. So what else do I need to say? In engineering or mathematics, we call it QED.
Your Excellency Sir, on reflection, was there anything that you would have done differently?
OGD: There is nobody who will add eight years to his life, who will not feel that probably he would have done something differently. So, there were a few things that probably one would have done differently, not in terms of principle, but, maybe, in terms of method or approach. So, that happens all the time, because, for instance, if somebody takes his strong position, that position may not be right and you also think your position is a correct one, you’re just adamant and so are your opposition and you said no, whatever you want to do, you can do. That is the advantage you have when you’re young and energetic.
When you add eight years, you could have changed your method, so, that’s normal. But, I am persuaded that every single action that I took, and let me say this to you, I’ve not changed my mind till now, because I was not a governor before but I used the golden rule, which is very simple. The Bible says ‘do unto others as you like them to do unto you’ and that covers up all the Ten Commandments.
For me, my golden rule is that anything you cannot defend publicly in the presence of man and God, don’t do it and that’s the last question I ask myself when they bring a document. After I’ve read, before giving approval and putting the red pen to say yes or no, there are certain questions I want to ask, can I defend this publicly. If the answer is yes, good, if the answer is no, I will write ‘keep in view’,‘re-present’, ‘not applicable’ and all sorts, which is polite language. NA means Not Applicable, it is not saying no, it is not saying yes, but not really, and I just put it there and am gone. That is it.
Recently at a public function, former Governor Olusegun Osoba disclosed that the two of you have reconciled your political differences. How do you feel about this?
OGD: Like I’ve said earlier on, in that same event, I remember I said to you that Chief Osoba is somebody who has a large heart and who is also quiet, probably because of age. Nothing has changed in that and I gave the reason why I said so on that day. Don’t forget that I was also a major participant, both in Afenifere and that was the early stage of AD, when Chief Osoba ran to become governor in 1999 and you may not believe that I actually supported him in many ways and quite actually when it appeared that I wanted his position, especially when he was not ready to hand over yet, and I said ‘they swore you in 1992, they swore you in 1999, do you want to be sworn in three times? That was what I said, so if constitutionally, you are barred, allow me now but he felt legally or constitutionally I wasn’t correct, and I wanted to run, and the same party couldn’t accommodate us and I went into another party. And in the course of running, quite natural in our environment also, some things happened. Like I said there, there was a line that I didn’t cross and that’s why I can sit with him today at any point in time and I’ll say, Your Excellency. I didn’t cross the line, because, in this process, there are lines you don’t cross.
And what is that line?
OGD: For example, I didn’t reverse any of his decisions; I respected it that it is not his personal decision, but the decision of the Governor of Ogun state. It will be tough for me but there are things you have to respect in that position. I give a typical example, when I came in, Chief Osoba had established the Osoba Hilltop GRA, and by the time I came in 2003, there was not a single house on that hilltop, not one and I was asking questions. This is a hilltop that is done, the road has been established in the hilltop, I even saw a big water tank there, but there was not a single house there. Of course, the civil servants, as usual, came and said every single plot of land there had been allocated and they gave me the list of the people that the place was allocated to. What did I do, I just issued a statement and said, please, all the people who have an allocation should go and start developing the place and I did not revoke one single plot there.
Even some of the people whose names were brought to me were dead but I said if the place had been allocated by the Governor, we should respect his decision. All I wanted was that they should come and develop because I didn’t want the estate to be there without habitation. I remember the first person I spoke to was the Anglican Arch. Bishop Jasper Akinola, ‘Your Eminence, you are not developing your land, what’s the problem’, and I encouraged him and he was the first who developed, and after him, everybody came to develop. Rather than begin to struggle there, I said, Ok, you people, is there any other land, go on the other side and that’s how we created Olusegun Obasanjo Housing Estate and then we gave that one out and developed it. We first developed the judicial quarters, to let our judges have decent accommodation and we used that as the nucleus of development, because, once that is developed, everybody will want to go and live close to the judges and before we knew what was happening, people started scrambling. That’s how we developed that, and we did quite a number of that. So, what I’m saying is that rather than beginning to make noise and revoke what your predecessor has done, what is it, there is land now, go and develop your own.
Most of your projects were abandoned and some of your decisions were reversed by your successor. How do you feel?
OGD: Well, first things first. I think you should go and ask my successor that question, but these projects are not personal and for me, some of those projects are quite painful, because, people who have suffered are the people of the state. I will give your three, four examples, Part of what we decided to do was to build a judicial complex and as we usually do, you can say that as far as that is concerned; we look first and foremost among the Ogun state people. It is only when we cannot find an Ogun state person who can do that job that we look outside. That was our own way of how we have developed things and conserved our economy.
And so, we went to the Master Plan, the original Master Plan of Ogun state which was not even done by my administration. I did improvements with our original Master Plan, but as an original Master Plan and what did it say; this is the secretariat, this is the Legislature, this is the Judiciary. It was a well-marked part in that Master Plan before we came, the Executive section, the Governor’s Office and the section for Legislature had all been built, but the judiciary had not been built, so we called all the best people we could find. I remember that the architect we called was Architect Deji Oyenuga, who was one of the best architects that we have, an indigene of Ijebu Ife, specifically. I asked him to design a Judiciary complex, which he designed and we got other consultants to do what they had to do. The structural engineer was Engineer Adegbola, and we gave out the job.
So, we gave it to the Ogun state people. I remember that we had three contractors that were nominated; one was for somebody in Ogun Central, another one is somebody in Ogun East, another one nominated by someone in that judiciary. The only thing I will not do is mention names, so we created that team and they started building, and to the best of our knowledge, they’ve done that building and the next was the roofing. And then somebody came and abandoned the building, I didn’t ask questions but later I said why did they abandon this building, and built another one, where every eye can see, the Judiciary is not a place for the public, No, the Judiciary is located in a serene environment, where people don’t know that it exists, that is the Master Plan.
They said some people reported that the building will soon collapse. Haa! I am an engineer, not just an engineer; I am a COREN registered engineer, the thing I signed, collapsing? And that building has been left uncompleted now for 12 years and it has not yet collapsed. I could not understand the reason behind this, so the question is that is it hitting me? No, it has not hit me, it has hit into the purse of Ogun state people. It is the purse of Ogun state people, the money that would have been used to do something else. If they finish it, will it be my name that is going to be there, most likely not, because most of the projects we did when we were there, we took it upon ourselves to invite the President to come and commission it, so most of them have the plaque of the President. In the course of my tenure, I had the opportunity to invite three Presidents here, President Obasanjo came and commissioned about 30 projects, President Yar’Adua came and commissioned the secretariat project, and Jonathan came and commissioned projects.
Those are the names you’re going to find there. So, how does it hit me, I don’t understand it. I can give you so many examples, but the very painful one is the power project because that is one that we took our time on. Why didn’t we start the power project on time we entered in 2003, it was about that time that Federal Government was still controlling power and had not been properly privatized, so we were just hoping that with the new energy they are putting into it, we’ll get power right. So rather than use Ogun state money to do power, we said let us wait. It was after we finished the water project and found out in the course of our work that even after we’ve done the water, we have treated Arakanga, we have treated all the ongoing water projects but there was no power to drive the water from Arakanga to the overhead tanks.
So, we now said we have finished water to a large extent, where is power, is the federal government likely to perform? We found out that we were wasting time. So we now faced power. It was one of the projects that I know that we did all due diligence on. We found out in the course of our research that we can’t depend on NEPA, just like some companies, who were powering facilities independently. So, we visited some of them and we were shocked. Cadbury and most of the big companies, most of the textiles companies had their independent power. So, we looked for the most economical one and that’s how we ran into the one we used.
I remember we took a trip to Kano. it was one of the biggest Chinese conglomerates in Nigeria. And I said this power that we want to go and purchase, can, we see it work, so I took a complete team of myself physically, civil servants in the Ministry of Works and all engineers. We went there to study what they were doing there and we were shocked they do not even depend on power, it is a perpetual motion machine of the first order they were just running. We also found out that they can use diesel and they can use gas. Can something be better than this? And we don’t need to go through transmission, that’s how we came up with the idea of the Mini Power Plants.
We acquired all the equipment, of course, we didn’t have the kind of money Ogun state is having now. Now I’m hearing the commissioner said they’re making about N8billion per month. I said we thank God for his mercies at our time, our IGR was N700million. Now they are getting times ten that per month. It means the money they get in a month is the money we get per year or even more, fantastic. So, that was how we went into the power issue and as God would have it, we got very good equipment at the cheapest price everybody could find and we have those equipment tested at four, five locations, running for ten years.
What else do we need? Not only that, we then said before we agreed, we must have our people trained in the factory where the things are being manufactured and I think as at the last count, we had about 15 engineers, from the Ministry, sent to go and get trained in the factory where those materials were being manufactured, and they were brought back. Of course, towards the end of our administration, we didn’t have the opportunity to do many things, so, when the equipment came, luckily, the manufacturing company has a very big warehouse, so a lot of equipment was put in the warehouse. On our way out, we didn’t have money we have the plan to have 23 Mini Power Stations and we thought that if we leave this place without commissioning one, there will be stories. So, I said, ‘look, we must commission at least one.
So, I went and pleaded with the company which said we were owing them N300 million, which we couldn’t find then. We said, please trust us one way or the other, we’ll find the money and that’s how it was commissioned and we brought President Jonathan to properly do the physical commissioning and two weeks to go it was switched on. That power, I was told, was running for about two/three years, such that they were even giving schools, so many people were given power, that was one out of 23 plants. So, for us in Ogun state, we have resolved the power issue. But there is still one thing. I still do not know how people did not understand what I was doing, I said okay. We are going, the large chunk of this equipment is safe, but the one the rain and water cannot destroy, I said create a shed in front of the Governor’s office and load them there, so that when the Governor is coming in the morning, he would see it there, they were there for all of eight years. And I am still shocked that till now, for all of those eight years, somebody cannot say, these things that are there, OGD come and explain, so that they can even have the benefit of first-hand information.
Your Excellency, your successor said they were obsolete.
OGD: You see, as an engineer, when you say something is obsolete, I don’t understand what it means. The good thing is that engine can never be obsolete. A few years ago, I wanted a Beetle car that has been parked for a long time back, because I drive it occasionally. I parked it there and it was there for eight to nine years. A few months ago, I said I want my Bettle back, so I brought it out; it is the same engine, I put engine oil, I ran it, the body that was going bad, I pottied it, I sprayed it, I put new tyres and I am now driving the Bettle. What is obsolete in an engine? It is only people who don’t know what they are talking about, the engine cannot be obsolete. An engine can run for 200, 300 years, you refurbish it. Obsolete? They can go and tell that to the marines. I am an engineer, I am a mechanical engineer and a COREN registered mechanical engineer. Even in those locations we mentioned, they are still running till now, even some of those things that are there for 30/40 years. It is very painful because this is taxpayers’ money that was just left to rot away. I don’t understand, because this power is not coming to OGD’s house, it is for the people of Ogun state
At a point, you quit politics, and thereafter you joined All Progressives Congress (APC), instead of going back into the fold of your former party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). What informed your decision?
OGD: Well, I would not say I left politics, but what I would say is that at some point in time, I was asking myself questions. What is all this about, and as a human being, I needed to have a reflection. My house in Maryland, which I built by the special grace of God, over 20 years ago, is where I came to Ogun state government house from. It is that same house that I returned to, and I have not seen any reason why I should leave that house. It is ten years I have been out of government and I am still there. A lot of my friends come to Ikoyi. Where I am, I am contented and I am happy. So, at a point, you begin to ask yourself if you deserve the sort of things you are getting from people, which include insults.
For what, many people will not believe, when some of us say I was poorer than I was before I came into government, but they would say what of this house, what of these hotels. That is what they can see. The fact of the case is that I know, so at the end of the day, what is it all about, and I think to that extent, I felt that it is better that I cross my legs and continue to watch. So, that is why many people felt that I left politics. But the fact of the case is that the things that drove me have not changed. People still accost me, it has become worse now, because I have not changed my phone, I know the number of requests I get daily. Two things came today; a friend of mine said he lost his sight and needed money, another friend of mine, who is actually a gubernatorial candidate, says he is dying of cancer and they are all looking for money. All the money is not small, as there is no place to treat them here now.
I am inundated with requests, genuine requests, from people who ordinarily should be able to survive on their own. So, something, therefore, is still wrong. So, if I continue to say let me watch, I am suffering for it at the end of the day. I know some of my colleagues, who have changed their numbers after they left office. I have not changed mine and I am not interested in changing it, so I am inundated with messages on daily basis. What does it mean? If I see another opportunity to try to serve, I am willing to serve, and I feel good, and the reason I feel good now is that, as I said earlier on, a number of people who misunderstood, who felt we should have done it this way or that way, have now come round to say ‘we didn’t know, now we can see, well done’, that is soothing, and that is why some of us say, maybe we can do something again.
NOTE: Watch out for the concluding part of the interview on Sunday
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