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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Gbenga Daniel At 60 Interview...Ex Gov Talks About His Past, Present & Future

On April 6,2016 former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, will be 60. He welcomed the media to  his spacious and  well furnished office within the  Political Academy institution next door to his palatial Asoludero  country home in Sagamu, Ogun State.

He answered questions on his growing up, his education, business, political travails and many more....

Q..As you clock 60, What are some  of the things you ask God to do for you that He has not done?

A..Initially, I said there won't be any celebration, on a second thought, The Bible says in all things, we  should give thanks. There is no human being on earth that will  say he has everything. The nature of human is such that we are  designed to want more The people who are rich want to be richer. It's an insatiable natural demand of homo sapiens. Between you and I think God has been great, He has been wonderful, if there is anything I get worried about, it is that the quality of life of our people should have improved much more than this. When we had the opportunity in Ogun  State, there is something we believe in, it's called the ripple effect of leadership.

Some people believe that you can not do much except you grab power at the center, but I say you can make a difference where you are. If you drop a pebble in small river or big  stone in the ocean you  will create a ripple effect.. When we had the privilege and grace of God to run Ogun State, is to create that ripple that will possibly affect other locations.

Without singing about it, I can bring so many examples. Sports for instance had not gotten to this level locally, we did Gateway Games 10 years ago, several states did games after that none surpassed what we did. We used  that to turn around the  fortune of Ogun State. Other  states too  started building stadia, in fact our stadia builders were invited everywhere, they were invited to even come to South Africa to  build for them . Those are ripple  effects of our singular action. When we  dualized our road , other states in South West  and beyond also started dualizing, my successor has made it better with flyovers all over the place.

In education, we started the  first University of Education in Nigeria, I was  happy when Chief Obasanjo went there recently and said he  tried to achieve that at the federal level but couldn't. Today other Universities of Education have  sprung up.

When we came up with Free Trade Zone and airport others are going in that direction too. If you know what you are doing, you could from wherever you are  create a ripple effect on the larger society without making noise about it. Those are things I look at and thank God for His mercy.

Q..What are the things you will  start doing differently as you clock 60.

A..I think I just  need to  slow down. All my life I have been a  workaholic. From Primary school  to secondary to university, as an employee, as an employer, as government worker, as a retiree. I want to learn to slow down. When you get to this age, you want to look at things from a more matured perspective You won't fight the way you do when you were younger, it's a natural phenomenon.

Q..In retrospect, what are the things you would have handled differently?

A..My usual response is,  there are not many decisions that I took that I would have taken a different decision now. Because each and every decision we took while we were in government, we had universal rules, the rules have not changed and will not likely change. The rules are; this thing you are about to do or sign can it withstand public scrutiny? I will  sign if only the answer is yes. The next question is.... Usually in governance you have limited resources,  so you  consider the level of impact, in priotizing, one situates it according to ideology which is my challenge with our country today, we don't have a clear cut ideology. If it is a capitalist  system, let's know, because there are countries that have succeeded with it, if it's a  socialist system or a pot pourrie let's define it.

The next question is that  this decision we are about to take, is it in the interest of a  few or in the interest of the larger society? We will not likely take it if it's in the interest of a  few but if we persuade ourselves that the decision is in best interest of the People, we will likely do it. So, because we ask ourselves that universal questions... People have said if you had handled the issue with your lawmakers differently they won't have given you hell really and truly I would still have maintained my position. Some people think that is not been pragmatic but  that is part of the reasons Nigeria is not developed. There must be minimum lines one should not cross and those lines must be there and bold. One may be misunderstood yet one cannot say motives behind their actions in the public. But if you know any, you can ask specifically and I will throw more light on it.

Q..Talking about things that you had power to do and you  didn't  do, On our  way  here  we noticed that the major road that leads to your house was bad?

A..The Oba Eluwole Road you are talking about is a federal road. It's the road that leads to Mosimi, NNPC depot, that is  where all the tankers load for the South West. From the  refinery they pump fuel through the pipeline there. It's a strategic depot and it is very big. It's  five years since I left government, this road  was not like this  when I was in government, I was  maintaining the road. Because there was a  time that  NUPENG will go on  strike if that  road is not good because their tankers can fall after loading, with the meagre resources we  ensured that  we  maintained the  road. Maybe the government there now have  forgotten or it escaped their  mind.

Q..Who are your mentors?

A..Obafemi Awolowo, Prof. Awojobi and my father. They have greatly influenced me,  there are things they did that I modestly tried to do too. You will not know a lot of Awojobis, he died at 48,he was a Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Lagos. His thesis was on Authomatic Vibrations, Mechanical Controls. He was the first African  man to get a Dec, it was a big deal at that time. One of the most brilliant geniuses of our time. That was my mentor, I was his boy. He was also a political activist, I  was a young undergraduate who carry his briefcase and follow him  from campus to  campus  where he goes to deliver his radical lectures. I  was  a research  assistant to him even  as an undergraduate. He was  running  a quiz competition called Mastermind. When I got to Unilag to  study  Mechanical Engineering in 1975, I went for the Mastermind quiz Competition  which was a very  popular NTA programme. I became the  Mastermind of the Year under Awojobi  after  winning it five  consecutive times

Q..What is  stagnating our development, is it a challenge of leadership or followership?

A..I think it is the combination of both. With due respect although there are a few exceptions but on a general scale. the quality of leadership has continually plummeted. My biggest challenge is weak followership which people don't like to hear, I call it naivety. I have always been shocked as to how gullible our people can be  particularly on their assessment of leadership. At the beginning of my intervention, we did the Gateway Foundation to support the people because of poverty.

In recent time, I  have come to  realize that the greatest  challenge we have is the poverty of ideas that is why I have gone into things like Political Academy. I have found out that information dissemination could make or destroy a nation. As an engineer, if you ask me 15years ago to spend N50m to publicize a N10m road, I will say it is wrong, in fact it is wrong, it thus appear that the people who do it are the ones the society recognize and celebrate. Part of what I will tell anyone who wants to pass through this process, regrettably, is that a lot of emphasis must be placed on information dissemination. The people will go on and on to take decision and later regret it.

One of the things that amazes me about this country and I'll tell you, in 1975  back to Unilag, we started Gowon Must Go because he said that year was no longer realistic for handover. If I  rewind, we  were jubilating when Gowon coup overthrew Tafawa Balewa. So  we didn't  want Gowon but today he is one of our heroes today. Fast forward to 1976 Muritala Muhammed took over, with no intention to Insult the memory of the dead, the history was that it was him who led the raid on CBN Benin, retirement with ignominy, fired with immediate effect people say that the  destruction of the civil service started during that era, in the meantime, it is death that saved Muritala, otherwise... Then Baba (Obasanjo)  came, very intelligent man, but he couldn't quit  when the  ovation was  loudest Enter Shagari, Buhari  overthrew him, we  started jubilating, IBB came afterwards but he wasn't able to  handover, Shonekan stepped in people didn't like him, then came  Abacha that one showed us pepper, then came  Abdusallam that one did not  waste time, then came Baba (Obasanjo) third term or no third term

Q..But Baba  said he  never wanted  third term?

A..Ooookaaayyy! Let's  save that for another day. But I was his governor, let's leave that for now.. As I was  saying that has been the  trend. In 2010 it was the man with no shoes that  everybody wanted., in 2014, he was clueless, It was time for Change. Change has now come, now I read on the Internet Bring Back Corruption, that is the  consistent  behavior of our  people. And we have  not learnt  a single lesson. We have not developed the habit of  dissecting our leaders and  see what they  stand  for so that the people who need the information can read it from the media and make informed decisions. We are all behaving like the Roman mob with little or no capacity for proactive thinking . I'm not been  abusive because  we are all guilty.

We will not make progress until the informed media begins to x-ray leadership. Look at the one calling himself leader of the South West, educated people are following him. You can see progressively that there is a  decline in the leadership we are getting

You may say we report what we see but I think, it should be much more than that. Even if you have to  report what you see or hear, don't report what is not  right and leave it at the  discretion of the readers. That is not patriotic enough, you can do that in a civilized society but our people are largely uneducated and unexposed, you really have to show more than a passing interest.

Q..What were your projections before you clocked 60, have you met them all?

A..I can only say that for my business. We thank God we can say we have achieved our goals and objectives. When we started my company Kresta Laurel some 25years ago, Nigerian companies in that business were unsung. We benchmarked against international companies with best global practice. Today it is the only ISO certified company in Nigeria.

On the other hand when we started Gateway Foundation it was to support and assist the people. Part of our focus was not to see anybody crawl simply because they couldn't afford wheel chair. Today it is an  aberration to see anyone crawling in Ogun State

Part of what gives me joy that  was misinterpreted was how  we were able to engage and transform Street boys to  sports men. Just like Mike Tyson story but people  said  we were breeding area boys. Testimonies of those people humbles me. We also trained them to do paving stones and gave them space and materials, we compelled OGROMMA to patronize them.

In 2004, I approached the the  Federal Government to do  the 40km Abeokuta-Sagamu road as well as the Lagos-Ibadan road at my OGROMMA price. I was  given permission for the  AbeokutA - Sagamu road I completed it in less than  two years. 12 years after the  Lagos Ibadan road despite the high cost it is yet to be  completed. The ripple effect is that roads are now completed in record time.

Amosun has done his flyovers in record time, the issue I have with that is the exorbitant cost. We created that template.

My first book was called OGUN STATE THE LAND OF MY DREAMS and I call it the land of sleeping giant but today clearly the giant is awake and ready to devour even his neighbors. Those are the milestones we set out to achieve and God made it possible.

Q..Let's share your growing up years, what was the experience like, who were your contemporaries in school?

A..As the  son of a reverend gentleman, grew up with the principle of remember the  son of  who you are. Generally I was a good boy.  All through primary  school, I can't remember been  caned, I  was  caned once in secondary school because the  whole class  was making noise., my father never  caned me but he caned  everybody else . while in class one  and two I was living with Chief Gabriel Otunla my Principal,  so I escaped the  seniors. At Baptist Boy's High School  (BBHS)  we are trained to be leaders,  when you are there, you  challenge yourself with the feats achieved by the old  students. I was also quite popular with quiz competition at that stage. Alao Babasanya, John Soares,Kayode Soyinka who is one year my junior now doing Africa Now magazine, we were also good at soccer at  that time..

At the university, we had Prof.  Adekola he thought us Structural Engineering it was a compulsory course, naturally the class is always filled up, he had a bad leg, so he will  slip into the class quietly sits down and repeatedly tell us that not all of us will graduate that they are trying to  reduce the number of engineers they turn out. After his class everybody will  sit  qnd be looking at  each other sadly  considering the consequence of  what the man had said.

Then we had  Prof. Awojobi  the genius we all feel inferior to him. He comes to class with just chalk and duster, no  lecture notes, he  will  go on and on. Something strange about him, he considers that not everyone is  as gifted  as him, nearly everyone pass his course. Contrary to the case with Prof  Adekola. That  experience made an impression on me that we cannot all see things from the same perspective, and that everyone have their  good side that must be emphasized and the  bad  side that  must be  deemphasized.

At the end of the day the  first class students became lecturers and the third class became governors (laughs). A lot of our friends ended up in Shell.

I had the privilege of using two scholarships from Federal Government and UAC. All the people running the biggest churches in Nigeria today were in Unilag - (Adeboye, Kumuyi Adekoya.) Tunde Bakare and I were there together. It was quite memorable.

Q..What is the greatest lesson life has taught you at 60?

A..The realities of life is quite different from some of the things we were taught in school. Life is quite complex yet very  simple  depending on  what you want from life. You must determine what your value system are what gives you joy and go for it.

Q..I have interacted with you over 12 years I  find it strange that you are perceived differently outside  what do you think accounts for this?

A..Chief Obafemi Awolowo offered free education, he lost the  election because the campaign was used against him, they told the farmers that he wants to use education to deny them their children's assistance in the farm. After his death, he became the best thing to happen to us. Our hero.
If they say who is the best governor in Ogun State, people will likely  say  Bisi Onabanjo but we have forgotten that he was jailed  (for  corruption) by Buhari for 100 and something years when he came out he became hypertensive, diabetic and almost blind.

There is something that must change about human nature. I think I was becoming larger than life and some people felt  they should bring me down. It was a well orchestrated, well funded campaign. A newspaper was even floated just for that purpose, it was closed after it achieved its purpose.

Regrettably, I got  all manner of  advice, they'll say  I must allow them to abuse me,  while I concentrate on my job. I didn't know that people were believing the tales by moonlight. At that time photoshop application was  not popular, somebody edited an image making me look like juju man and people believed. If it were to be now people would have  doubted it. I think I was getting too strong for some people. It has not gone away, they are still scheming.

Q..At 60, are you planning to be preaching the gospel?

A..There is no time I don't  preach the gospel If I  have gone ahead to build a church, how are you sure that is  not  where I  plan to  end up?

Q..What is the vision behind the establishment of Political Academy?

A..Beyond touching lives materially, I have  discovered that most people don't have information. I call  Some of my friends educated illiterates because they don't have information. You  see them arguing blindly. I decided to establish the academy to  enrich the knowledge of people. The courses are short, some three days, one week or two weeks. The first thing we teach is history of Nigeria. What is the mission of the Royal Niger Company.? How did Nigeria came into existence? What was the  intention of Lord Lagarde? What led to the civil war? Are those factors still there? What led to the Zango-Kataf fight? Why are the fulanis fightingIf we don't know these basic things? When  anything happens you won't even know what to say? Why do emirs specially invite northern civil servants who have risen to the director level? Why don't they write petition against themselves? People need to understand the what, why and how of processes to change their perspective and expectations. That is the reason why we established this institution to educate them.

Q..What does power means to you?

A..Power is sweet when not used. But in this  type of  environment, power is used to facilitate and ensure that the people get quality living.

Q ..What is interesting about being 60?

A.. I don become old man be dat (laughs) it means you have moved to the elders circle. It thus mean you will have to be more matured with the way you reason and react to issues.

Q..You believe so much in the next generation, which also reflected in your government. With your experience over time, will you say the youths have failed you?

A...No, I  will not say the youths have failed me. When you consider the people who have behaved below expectation, they are the ones I can call the  loud  minority. On my 50th birthday, on my way to church, I  got a copy of Insider Magazine that said I was arrested with my wife with huge sum of money at Heathrow Airport, before I knew what was happening Obasanjo had ordered an investigation through Dr Christopher Kolade, the High Commissioner to UK, and he discovered that it was  false,  he invited and gave me the report. Insider was found guilty, N5m damages was awarded against Insider. He started running everywhere. Of course that was not reported.


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