Like in several states controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party, the results of the primaries in Ogun State for the elections in April yielded candidates from two lists. So, in a sense, it was nothing unusual. The only unusual point was that unlike in those states the incumbent governor’s apparent preference did not prevail. The angst that arose from that has kept the state in the headlines for weeks and left the governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, very bitter, justifiably so perhaps. But he seems to have accepted the situation with equanimity and made peace with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the presumed godfather of the victorious candidates. At his Shagamu, Ogun State, country home, the governor speaks with a THISDAY team comprising Laurence Ani, Yemi Adebowale and Shaka Momodu. Has he simply been misunderstood by the public? History will be the ultimate judge
You must have set some benchmarks when elected as the governor; as your tenure is almost over, how would you rate your performance in relation to those benchmarks? Were there things you were unable to achieve?
Looking back without mincing words, I have no doubts that we have done what we promised the people of Ogun State that we would do. I even have a strong feeling that we have done more and I would try to back this up with some of the documents that were the basis of our intervention in Ogun State. I’m saying this because I’ve found out that human memory is quite short. When we were coming in 2003, we were quite clear with what we wanted to do and it brought about a document called Our Contract with Ogun State People, where we enumerated those areas of strategic intervention, what we needed to do with infrastructure, which roads we needed to tar, how we needed to go about it, what we do with health care, what to do with human development, and so on. And during our first term, we also planned for the second term looking at what we have done and how far we have gone and came with yet another document called the Agenda for a Secured Future. So between 2003 and 2007, we worked with the document called the Agenda for a Secured Future and there were specific things that we said we would do and now I’m not only happy and proud to say that not only have we delivered with so many instances, we have even done more than what we promised to do and I’m talking in virtually all areas (instructs aides to get documents for viewing). I’m saying this because I consider it a thing of regret because basically there are no benchmarks to measure level of performance in our country and the whole essence of coming with what looks like a manifesto, it is for you to say at the end of the day that look this is what I promised the people and these are the things that I have done. Then you can begin the process of evaluation. But, regrettably, because human memory is very short, people don’t even remember what had happened and people just jump into conclusion and talk and say things without the process of evaluation. I can give you typical examples. Sometime ago, the person that I succeeded came to town and he was speaking about things that have not been done well. It’s election time and it is expected that at election time, people must come and give reasons why there must be a change and I have no issues with that and I did throw a challenge: I said there are ways with which things can be evaluated, I want to engage him in an open debate at any time without notice and I said he should choose the aspect of government that he wants to debate, because I’m still convinced that in virtually all aspects of governance, we have done a lot better than what he did (reads from the documents he had asked his aides to bring). And I said whether in the area of education, health care, infrastructural development, tourism, sport development or any aspect, let us look at what that regime did in comparison to what we did. Despite the challenges that we had, I probably believe that we did much more in terms of actual work even in this second term with all the noise that is out there when you compare our first term. What all these tell me, and it is quite unfortunate, is that there is a problem in our country, a problem that reflects in the fact that when somebody comes out genuinely to serve and decides to confront all obstacles, no matter whose ox is gored, to achieve certain set objectives in the overall interest of the people, the institutional support which ordinarily a few of us took for granted are just not there. We have been used to certain behavioural pattern in government and it can’t be believed that something better can happen. And so if you have someone with strong principles, eventually he becomes the enemy of the people and that is the irony of what I think is going on in Ogun State today. I am a bit worried because of the things that we see and that are now happening in the country but to go back to your question. I have here now Our Contract with Ogun People (showing the document and explaining further). In education, we went into Aiyetoro and created a college of education, also we have that in Ibogun and as I speak to you, we would be commencing the commissioning of students’ hostel because we found out that students were just passing through university and not vice versa. So we decided to start a programme for the students, we have created scholarships at all levels and we re-introduced bursary and increased it and made it nationwide. We did more apart from all these that I’ve mentioned; we built the first university of education which used to be college of education and I’m told that the university was ranked 13 out of the universities in Nigeria within five years of existence and now rated as number one of all state universities in Nigeria. This administration built and established four ICT polytechnics. When we were doing it, they said it was impossible and could n’t work. We have Abraham Adesanya Polytechnic in Ijebu Igbo; we have Kessington Adebutu Polytechnic and we did such in the four zones of Ogun State. We did not stop at that because we also have the free trade zones. So, in education, we have done more than we promised.
Can you give us an insight into the free trade zones?
When we got in here, there was nothing like a dream of any free trade zone and I would give you the history of how the free trade zone emerged because sometimes what you hear is not it at all. It was in 2002 in the course of my ward to ward campaign, we got to a place and we were told about a ward called Ode Omi, which was inaccessible except by boat and I remembered that I got into the boat and went there and it was from there that we began to research and with the Ondo State government, we jointly began a free trade zone. It is after we got the license that Shell got interested and before we knew it, it became the next location for an energy plant. And this is how OK (Olokola) free trade zone began. It is a border town between Ogun and Ondo and all these were not even in our manifesto. Now apart from that, we have also established another free trade zone in Igbesa called the Ogun Trade Zone, we took the president there in the course of his visit last year and everybody was shocked to see industrial activities going on and thousands of people working. What I’m told is that there hasn’t been any trade zone that has been licensed and has commenced such operations in such a short time. It was a brilliant idea that we took the president there. Apart from that, because free trade zones for us are more or less another name for industrial estates just like the ones in Ikeja, we also got a third license for Kajola Free Trade Zone. I became the governor of Ogun State without anything called free trade zone and when I leave as governor in the next few months, there would be three free trade zones, two of them operational. Many industries have relocated to Ogun State to find a more conducive and welcoming atmosphere. So industrially, we haven’t just done what we promised but much more.
But you haven’t delivered on the cargo airport?
The cargo airport was not one of the things we actually promised the people of Ogun State. I’m so worried because sometimes people think these things are done by some funds in one’s cupboard because the conceptualization of the cargo airport is not a short term measure at all. The conceptualization was to give us in Ogun State another alternative route to Lagos by air. Sometimes, when people talk about projects, they talk mostly about the money thinking it’s all that is involved. The easiest thing to do is to go there and start building the structures; but there are a lot more to that and the airport is a world infrastructural project and as I speak to you, I’m proud of the amount of work that has been done at the cargo airport at the moment. Before you talk about an airport, you must ensure that it is in the consciousness of all trade activities in the world, but I’m pleased to tell you that despite the challenges, we have actually finished virtually everything about the airport (puts his economic adviser on speaker phone who confirms that funding for the airport was not from the state coffers.)
It’s a surprise because your explanation contrasts with the picture in the public domain.
There are fundamental problems about our country and I’m not even so sure that as a people we really want to make the progress that we talk about. My worry and great concern for our country today is that the institutional support that is supposed to strengthen the process of positive change has become retrogressive. Now when you have that as the case, then regretfully, the country is going into an abyss. We may not want to say this because our job is to give hope, but I have it in my mind that we have serious challenges. It is very sad and that is what is in the papers. I’m told that somebody wrote a petition and part of what is there is that we are using the airport to siphon money and that is going everywhere in the media. What we did was very simple, we conducted a study and we called the very best designer because we didn’t want to do a local airport. We did all the studies for a total sum of N230m because what we have done in Ogun State is to use our contacts with the private sector to come here and develop Ogun. I’m very sure that some of the things that you would have seen will shock you and yet we still get condemned. Like I said, there is nothing that I said we would do that we didn’t do. When we were opening the first part of the secretariat, it was the late president (Umaru Musa Yar’Adua) that was in attendance and he just couldn’t believe his eyes. He asked for the cost and he said it wasn’t possible, he felt it was more than what we said we spent and as I stand before you, I’m not aware of any state secretariat that is as good as what we have done in Ogun State at a fraction of the cost.
What is the internal revenue profile of the state; or did you rely simply on federal allocation?I would like to state performance from the perspective of efficient utilization of resources. If we do a stadium here at N1.6 billion, where they brought FIFA games and other games, and in some other locations the stadium could have gulped ten times, I think there must be something right that we are doing here. We came with the idea of OGROMA (Ogun State Roads Maintenance Agency), which I can say is one of the best agencies for road construction that any state government can boast about and I challenge anybody to come and discredit that. The key is that we came to the conclusion that awarding contracts for roads would not help us get all the roads done. So, can we challenge ourselves by doing these roads ourselves and what has happened as a result of that? For about N20 million to N25 million, we are able to construct a road per kilometer without drainage, but if there is drainage, we would spend about N40 million and we proved it with the dualization that we did. The other day Dr. Ade Dosumu was accusing the Lagos State government of constructing a 14 kilometre road for N50 billion, which means that each kilometer is over N1 billion. You might think it’s impossible, but we have proven it beyond doubt with the airport design. So, I think we are running a model that people should come and see what we are doing and work with us and that I think is actually the answer to your question. Yes we fought to increase the IGR and in 2003, the IGR was increased to N500 million per month. Today, before the end of last year, we were hitting close to a billion. It was the meltdown that brought it down and even at that we had to step up our game because there was an old order and majority of the money was going to private sector and we blocked it. And we are challenging people, come with your model and let’s see what you are doing (he asks that the head of the roads construction unit be put on speaker. He randomly reads out ongoing road projects for an update. The response from the other end was encouraging: awaiting commissioning; completed; almost complete; to be completed before handover). And this is how we run this state, so it is rather unfortunate when you wake up and read stories about some untrue and unfounded allegations about the Ogun State government or how the state is being run.
There are no contractors, these are just civil servants who have been carrying files for several years. We all work together and that is the way we can develop this country. There are people who say ‘is it road that we are going to eat?’ because we are not distributing free money. When we came here, we were running at one teacher to about 120 pupils, but now it’s a teacher to 25 pupils. I think we have injected about 15,000 teachers and doubled the workforce of the civil service, so in terms of all these, I’m still waiting for the government that has done more employment than this administration. That was why we found it a bit difficult to comply with salary increment scale because we had already employed so much that we didn’t expect it and coupled with the challenge we had with the House of Assembly as we were unable to access funds, you can see that we are still working. So the speaker can stay with the bond and we can still manage what we have to work.
But we hear salaries are owed in arrears?
I think there is a check-off deduction and sometimes we run into arrears. So when we have any bit of opportunity, we clear what we have. Otherwise, I can tell you that no teacher in Ogun State is being owed one dime and I’m telling you that as a matter of fact (instructs aides to call the chairman of NLC in Ogun State. The state is not in default of payment of salaries, he said). And lies are being celebrated on a daily basis.
For sometime now, Ogun State PDP has been embroiled in crisis over the outcome of party primaries. It was a pleasant surprise to hear there is now a truce. Give us some details about that.
My first statement is to pray that God in His infinite mercies would open our eyes to understand, to see some things and also give us men because our country requires men of courage, men that can stand on their own with the truth and speak the truth, no matter the circumstances. Regrettably, there are not many such men like that in our country and you would be surprised that I’m taking the question from that angle. The first irony of the situation in Ogun State is that here is a state in 1999 that was lost to AD and in 2003, the PDP took over. We didn’t win all the elections in 2003 and I think we lost some seats to AD in the House but I want to believe that by the grace of God and hardwork, we won all the seats in the house in 2007. Not only that, all those seats in contention were keenly contested in the court of law, in the case of gubernatorial, the person who came in a distant second claimed that he won the election, the one in third contested that he won, same with the one in fourth. And the three contested in the court of law and that is probably the price of success. Probably they all believed ‘if OGD can do it, why not me?’ But there is nothing wrong in that only if we can find men that can stand for the truth because our country can’t progress if we do not have the courage. And so all those challenges for me weren’t unusual for me as a person because the state governor should be able to manage the challenges, but there is only one principle with which I know how to manage things and that is the principle of adhering by the rules. I am unrepentantly strong on principles and very strong on the principles of equality as well. And once I establish those principles, it is also quite difficult for me to find a way of going back. There is also the minimal standard that we can’t go beyond, I’m afraid in Ogun State today, one can’t say one has completely got it done with the penchant of people thinking they can always cut corners, forgetting that the ultimate loser would be the people of Ogun State. We stand up to anything by just simply doing what the people elected us to do, to ensure that minimum standard is adhered to in whatever we do. But beyond all of that, there is also something that is quite key, the country must remain at peace for you to make progress and that is what happened in Ogun State. We must remain at peace and so the way I try to run Ogun State sometimes inflicts personal injury when it is the cost of peace.
Has the outcome caused in you a feeling of disenchantment with the party?
Not necessarily. But let’s look at what happened in the course of the last primaries in Ogun State. Of course, there have been political activities and issues, but in all things the hope of the people is usually hinged towards a process of change. If people are fed up with the system, they are eagerly waiting for a process of change. So there were controversies in Ogun State and all manner of stories and every Ogun indigene was waiting patiently for an opportunity of a legal change or an opportunity to reconfirm what is going on. As everything was going on, my job is to say to all parties ‘relax, election is coming’. But we would start with primaries and from there we know where to go and in Ogun State PDP, the party is not a state party but a national party that came with guidelines and everybody was expected to stay in line with the guidelines. When it was time for primaries and we had one primary, not by OGD but by people from Abuja and it is only natural that when they come to location, they go to the party to get logistics and support and the primaries were conducted openly, only that we didn’t have money to put it live like the one they did in Abuja. So that was precisely what happened and we didn’t think it was wise to spend N10 million on such frivolities when we can use that one to start another half kilometer of road and it was all recorded and certified by INEC. And the officials from Abuja raised the hand of the person that won and took it to INEC and somebody just went and planned an obstruction and got an order that another list coming from somewhere else should be honoured. But people have said even when you are injured you still have to find a way of making a truce; there was injury in Ogun State and mine is just the least. What about the other 39 people that have been working so hard and battling hard and won an election while people, some of whom I don’t even know after leading this party for ten years, (takes the glory). Probably from the list that they said they submitted, maybe I barely know about four and these are the names that have been submitted via the court order. People were thinking something would happen and they waited and the tension was high, I’m first and foremost, the chief security officer of Ogun State, and I think it’s significant that I have never had a breakdown of law and order in the state. There was going to be a presidential visit and the president naturally would want to introduce the person that the court says is the candidate and that is the court’s candidate and not the candidate of the people.
Have you accepted the candidacy?
What do we do? The president wants to come and tension was rising. We sat down here and played scenarios about what we could do. Scenario one: attend, the people that would be there would largely be Olurin people, so I would be their enemy and if they like they could stone you, boo you or abuse you. Second option is to move my people in and set a stage for mayhem. The third option is probably stay away and boycott; but how can the president visit a state by the same party with the governor and then the governor stays away? I didn’t even consider the fourth option which says let’s have two rallies – the people who are supporting the court’s candidate and the people supporting the people’s candidate. Again we said how can the president attend two rallies? We now thought, OGD, if you bring your people here that might start a mayhem, so we stepped the option down and we decided to attend in a hostile environment and while that is going on, some measures were pushed as to how we can resolve the issues with the former president, if only to ensure that the visit of the president was successful. And we went and saw baba and we patched things up and like I said when I came out of the truce meeting- in Yoruba world, it is the younger man that apologizes to the older man, it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. That is the scenario that happened in the meeting and there is no issue of arrogance. So I said, ‘Baba, whatever it is’ – because I don’t know what it is really – as your junior, boy and son, forgive me and let’s move on.” I was not ashamed to say it when the media asked. So it’s no problem if I surrender to an older person and I was asked if I had accepted the judgment candidate and I said the court’s judgment is final as a law abiding governor and chief law enforcement agent. I have no other candidate except this one. And that was the scenario and expectedly, the crowd, who were simulated and briefed about what they had to do, booed anytime OGD was mentioned. I have suffered that humiliation in my opinion as an alternative to avert bloodshed, I do not see it as rejection by the people but an opportunity to embarrass the governor and they had a field day. But that is not the end but it can only be the beginning of the story because the truth can not be suppressed for long and I am happy despite all these that the rally went very peacefully unlike what happened in other places. At least, I didn’t have to visit any hospital as a result of any form of violence at the rally. What people didn’t notice is that despite all these, some innocent people staged a peaceful walk out from the rally.
Do you see the movement of many of your supporters affecting the fortune of PDP in the state?
It is only the people of Ogun State who can decide that because some of our own people who feel they are not getting what they deserve and justice and have now moved to another party and we can’t say they are not popular. There would be no reason why I have to turn my back on them, they won the election. I didn’t say that I am not supporting the PDP candidate, but I’m hoping as a party man we would find ways to ameliorate the grievance of these people who were unjustifiably denied of their tickets. This is no different from what happened on June 12, so if the party is genuinely serious it must find a way of ameliorating the situation and I’m willing to facilitate this if I’m empowered. We may not be able to achieve one hundred percent, but we will make success.
Do you see the amelioration process happening?
Well you heard what the former president had said and incidentally the president had not made any statement about that, but the former president was saying that he was ready to do his own bit and we hope that that can happen because the election is few weeks away. And if we don’t make that offer soon, then they have to make the decision whether they want to go on or not. I’m not empowered to help out and these people feel genuinely deprived.
So what is the outlook for your political future?
I’m ready to throw in whatever I have in the overall interest of what I would call my supporters because they must come first. For me to have been able to rule this state for eight years, I think I remain a lucky man as I remain the longest serving governor of Ogun State. In the eight years, there have been a lot of write-ups in the media but law and order have not broken down in Ogun State. So my immediate political ambitions are not important to me because I would take a desired holiday. But what is important to me is that justice must be done at all times especially for the underdogs; people who don’t have godfathers to fight for them must have someone to fight for them.
Given all the challenges you have recounted plus the fact you once noted that your time in government has caused a situation where you’re not with your family as much as you would have loved, it’s ironic you would think of seeking elected office even while you have yet to quit as governor?
I would say to you in all sincerity that the decision to go into the Senate was truly the decision of the people. They saw some of the pressure that we went through and that we didn’t get much from our people at the National Assembly. They saw opportunities and they felt that the policies would be much better and they came and virtually pleaded that I must run and I accepted it at that time because I felt that the responsibility as a senator is not like a governor and it takes no toll at all. It’s a completely different ball game, but once the people started playing games, I felt it was best I settled what should be settled. But what propelled me and why I agreed reluctantly then was that I saw opportunities in terms of developmental agenda, take for example what is going with the airport as we are not getting any support. The location that we found was just too brilliant and strategic and it should be an alternative airport for Lagos but we have not gotten any help while Bayelsa has gotten help. So that means something is missing and we felt somebody who knows should go there and fill in the gap. It is not because of my own personal interest or ambition because there is no ambition but part of sacrifice. If it is not working, I would just thank God and move on.
What is your relationship now with Speaker of House of Representatives Bankole given his position during the crisis?
I would rather not pass any comment, the speaker was part and parcel of our structure, he became speaker and we were very happy and excited and I think as speaker he has tried his best and he could do much better with us here. You win some, you lose some but I think as speaker, the House is quite a volatile one and he has done so well for himself but whether he has done so well in the Ogun State matter is a different story that I would not want to comment on. He’s much younger and his outlook would be slightly different because I could say it’s not as if some of us were not offered (the positions we sought) but it’s a matter of principle and when you are a general and you take your men to battle, you ensure that your soldiers have crossed before you cross.
How wealthy were you eight years ago compared to your current financial worth?
Well the only thing that I can say to you is that I’m probably one of the few governors that publicly declared his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau and I know that when I evaluated how it was between 2002 and 2007, I think it diminished and that is verifiable because I declared publicly. I’m soon going to sit down and check before declaring again because you would find it difficult to believe that I have some of my houses in England and those were houses that I had before 2003.
Why did you sell the houses?
Well for a number of reasons and I must confess to you that because I have not had the opportunity to monitor what was going on there, I found out that it was not properly managed and I wasn’t getting the net income and I just decided to sell and use my money to do something else. If I use my money to do something in Nigeria, they would say he has stolen Ogun State money.
How do you feel with some people alleging that you are corrupt?
It is part of the challenge that we face when we run as public officers. But the people who talk about me being corrupt should have done more homework because it is estimated in 2003 that I spent about a billion naira trying to become the governor. People should ask where that money came from; was that public funds? Without sounding immodest, I know my colleagues in the private sector and I know where they are and I know what my position was even as early as 1989 and 1991, when God put me as one of the most outstanding people in Nigeria. So even if I don’t do anything and I put that in fixed deposit, I think I shouldn’t be poor.
You once had a good relationship with Senator Ibikunle Amosun but it has obviously broken down irretrievably…
You see a lot of words that you people use are very funny. I think what has happened in Ogun State is that we have not had a good fortune of elders who can nip things in the bud. I ask what are the issues in Ogun State? I have told you how I tar my roads, we are challenging you and we are not lying, we are making calls and confirming for you and that is why we said those agencies that are supposed to be agents of change have themselves failed in their duties.
At some points some of your aides had to quit in sometimes controversial manner. Would you say they were all wrong; were there not things you also did wrong?
I would not want to take it from that perspective, but if it is whether they all could have been wrong, I read Julius Caesar, I also read Macbeth and sometimes, on a more serious note, we behave like the Romans in Julius Caesar. We all go in one direction believing that is the best direction and that is probably why we have not made any progress in this country. I would rather take each and every issue one by one because we have a saying in Ogun State: whatever you read in the papers, please believe 10 or 15 percent because a large percentage of what you read is from a pre-conceived notion. I’m not aware of any controversial resignation in Ogun State and each of them I can talk about it.
But there was one who wrote a book saying several things about you?
And have you seen the counter book written by another aide and his friend? And they are both my aides. You see these are part of the simulations and that is why I said Ogun State must be the only state with killer squad with no dead bodies and it is tragic and sad and I ask these people who talk about this killer squad to give me names or one notable politician that has been killed or assassinated or even injured in Ogun State and there was none until Dipo Dina died. Meanwhile, when the police report came out on the unfortunate death of Dipo Dina, the newspapers were reluctant to carry it.
What was the president’s take on some of the contentious issues arising from the primaries?
I would not know because the president has his own style and it appears to be working for him. I wouldn’t know the information that he has and that has been given to him. We should know that he has information and we must not underestimate his capacity to strategize. Several things had worked for him in miraculous manner and I’m not one of such people who would begin to say he should have done it in one way or the other, so I can’t speak for the president. But the only thing that I know is that there is no shortcut to the truth and whatever we do, we are just buying time because sooner or later, we would come back and face the truth.
Did he call you at any point to resolve the crisis?
There was a time he sent a delegation here and has taken quite a few steps. Maybe what you want to hear is that he also might have done something. Before now, the name of the ex-president was not well mentioned in the crisis but in the last few weeks or days, few media have started mentioning his names as heading a faction. I’m not saying it is right or wrong, but probably it might be an issue in the different disagreement and I think the position of the president is how to maintain a reasonable balance between the two parties. We all know his relationship with the ex-president and this new man who is trying to work with him. I think the president genuinely has concerns and that is why I thought that the role that I can play is not to give the president any pressure or stress and part of the reason why I initiated and decided to go for peace is to also save the president from the agony of two principal characters that are useful to him. So I did what I had to do since I was the younger person, I can’t be egoistic to somebody who is much older and experienced. That is not to say we have abandoned principles or saying what is wrong is now right; what remains wrong, remains wrong.
Are there things you would do differently if given another chance?
I don’t think there are many things that I would have done differently and I’m talking very seriously. The Bible says, ‘choose this day who ye shall serve.’ That is why some people would say we re not flexible. I’m quite definite and sure with my strategic projection and I have my eyes firmly fixed on history in a long term because I know what I’ve done in Ogun State, how I’ve done it, what I’ve gone through. I think it would be very tough and difficult to have people