Former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel is a man that has attracted a lot of comments from all and sundry over the years.
He is a man you either love or hate and indeed, the accomplished politician has become a phenomenon in Nigeria.
Just in a matter of days, the stylish Gbenga Daniel would be celebrating his 60th birthday and he is preparing to roll the drum on Sunday, April 10, 2016. He calls it his Diamond Anniversary Celebration as he will be having a big party at the Grand Ball Room of Oriental Hotel, Lekki, Lagos.
However, many people still find it hard to believe that the man we all refer to as OGD is that old as he does not look any inch his age.OGD seems to be living a quiet and healthy life in his palatial mansion at Maryland, Lagos area called Daniel Court, and he also visits his sprawling Asoludero Court in Sagamu, Ogun State, which is another palatial mansion, and he sometimes goes to Ijebu-Ode, where he owns yet another country home, a replica of the one in Sagamu. He also spends time in his lovely Abuja home in the Maitama area of the city.
The birthday event will commence with praise worship and thanksgiving and dovetails into dinner in the same venue.
He actually didn’t really want to celebrate it at first as he had told many people around him that he wasn’t going to celebrate because this was not a time for celebration. But his political associates told him point blank that if he didn’t celebrate it they would celebrate it on his behalf, because as one of them put it, “you can’t be 60 twice.”
However, we met with the colourful politician in his Sagamu mansion recently, where he speaks on the journey so far and the development in the country.
Can you tell us what has changed about you as you turn 60?
A lot. I am not so much involved in politics these days. I have revived some of my businesses, especially my two big hotels, Conference Hotels in Sagamu and Ijebu-Ode. I can tell you that I am now actively involved in the running of Kresta Laurel, my Lift company of which I am the Chairman. In the last few years, I have been able to win mega projects across Nigeria for the company which is now Nigeria’s No. 1 Lift Company. Age has mellowed me. At 60, I have now joined the Elders Club and I am tired of fighting. I have given up on fighting anybody. The battle is over. I have forgiven all those who offended me. I have also begged all those I have offended.
Politics is not a do or die affair. I have had my own fair share of service to the people. I have been governor of a state for eight years. We have reawakened new the state. My predecessor has come to build on the foundation we laid. We knew what Ogun State was like when we came in and how we left it.
How do you feel at 60?
I am truly fulfilled. I feel accomplished first as an Engineer. Secondly, I was able to make a good showing in Corporate Nigeria when I rose to become the DMD of Schroeder in 1988 at 32.
Thirdly, I have had a good political career, which led to my becoming a governor twice in Ogun State and despite the many stumbling blocks thrown my way, I survived all of it.
Not many people knew that I made my first millions when I was in my 30s. I built my first house, ‘Amazing Grace’ reputed to be the best house in Festac, Lagos, in 1985 at age 29. Then, my Obalofin Court in Ijebu Ode, in 1991 reputed to be one of the best in Ijebu area at age 35. And I built my Maryland house, called ‘Daniels Court’ in 1996 and it was listed by OVATION magazine as the best in Ikeja area at that time. I bought my first Rolls Royce in 1995 in London.
Not only that. I was the youngest Yoruba man to take a Chieftaincy title from the Ooni of Ife in 1990, when I was just 34. But I am quite modest about these accomplishments.
What is your frame of mind now that you are 60?
I must give thanks to God, A few years ago, we lost so many people at age 40. Aboderin died. We have had quite a number of people who didn’t live up to 60. But these days some make it up to 70 and they are still looking strong. I saw Chief Ayo Adebanjo the other day, waxing strong on TV. This is a man, who is close to 90 for God sake. I think we must give thanks to God for His mercies.
For me, I was shocked, I didn’t know I was just going to be 60 just like that. Here I am. It is just beginning to occur to me that maybe I am now an elder. I am joining the club of the elders.
So, what bothers you most now?
The state of our country. I have a lot of concerns about our country, the young people and what the future portends. At 60, it is not so much about you any longer. It is about legacies, it is about the people that are coming behind. I think to a large extent you measure success by the people you have been able to gather support for, or help, motivate and reposition. That really is my concern. That is what I am going to spend time doing.
I have found out that there is really a dearth of knowledge and intelligence in what we do in the political space.
That is why we started a Political Academy. My thoughts are: how can we use it to add to the body of knowledge, to support the political process? When I see things people are celebrating today, I marvel. I laugh. By that, I mean Budgets and Budget padding.
I don’t understand. That only shows me that as a country, we don’t appear to be making a lot of progress, or is it the issue of Ghost Workers. Some governors are celebrating that as achievement. I did that in 2003, when I became Governor of Ogun State. We did Biometrics for our people. We computerized the pay system. We discovered that there were Ghost Workers. We then used the money saved to multiply the people we employed. These are things that are not supposed to be celebrated now.
So, why are we where we are?
It is because we are not making progress, and we seem to be celebrating mediocrity. I have heard people talk about TSA. I don’t understand what the whole process is all about. I didn’t operate TSA in Ogun State and we ran a dam good government for eight years.
And five years after I left government in the most hostile takeover in the history of governance in this country, nobody has been able to prove that a dime of government money is missing. And I am still standing here in my house, asking my persecutors to show it and prove it. I keep asking people to tell me, show it, and prove it.
I feel proud today. Five years after, I walk tall. I still told my Finance Commissioner I am happy that nobody in OGD’s administration has been arraigned for anything. Nothing, absolutely nothing. It is only OGD that has been arraigned for land grabbing and things like that. We thank God, if all OGD did, according to them, was to grab land for Ogun people, who are living in Lagos to come home and develop, I am happy. We have a lot of land in Ogun, anyway.
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