Cover Stories, Interviews, Politics

Gbenga Daniel @ 60: ‘I’m an untainted politician’

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On Wednesday, April 6, 2016, former governor of Ogun state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel (OGD) will be 60. However, on Sunday, April 10, 2016, all roads will lead to the prestigious Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, for the celebration of life at 60 of the influential politician. The event tagged, Diamond Anniversary Celebration promises to attract eminent people from all walks of life.

In this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly in his Asoludero Court, Sagamu, Ogun state residence, a couple of days back, the political giant and mogul dissected his life at 60. According to him, being 60 has made him slow down on everything as he has joined the elder’s club. Not only that, he’s no longer interested in fighting anybody again as politics is not a do or die affair and much more…


How do you feel clocking 60?

First, I must give thanks to God for everything. A few years ago, we lost so many people at 40, including Aboderin. And 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’re still looking strong. I saw Chief Ayo Adebanjo the other day, waxing stronger on a TV programme. This is a man who is close to 90, for God’s 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’s just beginning to occur to me that maybe I am now an elder. I am joining the elder’s club.

What bothers you the most as you clock 60?

The state of our county. I have a lot of concerns about our country, the young people and what the future portends. At 60, it’s not so much about you any longer, it’s about legacies. It’s 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 one way or the other, and those that you’re able to motivate or reposition. That’s all I am going to spend time doing.

At 60, are you still actively involved in politics or you’re slowing down on it?

I am still in politics but not as active as before. Even though, I am being told that I can’t run away from it. Really and truly, it’s not really about politics but about giving thanks to God more than anything else for what He has done in my life. To me, politics is not a do or die affair. I have my own fair share of service to the people. I have been governor of a state for eight years. And we ruled the stated with human face. We have reawakened the state. My successor 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. So, I give glory to God for everything.

At 60, what’s the greatest lessons life has taught you?

First, the reality of life is a bit dependent on some of the things you’re taught in school. That’s the way I will put it. Life is very complex and is also quite simple depending on what you want to achieve. And so, everybody must determine what his value systems are and what gives him joy. That’s the lesson of life.

Some people may say, I have conquered my environment economically, that’s what gives some people a kick. I can see the likes of Aliko Dangote, he is a businessman. Some other people have different approaches to life. For instance, OBJ as a special human being whose approach to life is perhaps war, war (laughs). And there are some people who can live from the perspective of how many people they can touch their lives positively. I think I am somewhere in-between this.

What gives you joy, even as you’re growing older?

One of the things that gives me joy is seeing people that I have been able to touch their lives, making progress in their lives. In fact, that alone gives me real joy.

At 60, how much would you say you have given back to the society that made you?

I thank God for sparing my life. Asking me how much I have given back to the society, I think I have given everything back in my own perspective. But today, it’s not for me to judge. I think it’s the public that should do that. I think I have done what I have to do, and I am happy with myself.

gbenga-danielYou own a Political Academy, what informed that?

I have found out that there is really a dearth of knowledge and intelligence in what we do on the political space. That’s why we started a Political Academy. My thoughts are, how we can use it to add to the body of knowledge to support the political process in the state and the country as a whole? When I see things people are celebrating today, I marvel. And I laugh.

By that I mean budgets and budget padding. I don’t understand what they mean. 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 achievements. 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 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’s because we’re not making any progress, and we seem to be celebrating mediocrity. I have heard people talk about Treasury Single Account (TSA). I don’t understand what the whole process is all about. I didn’t operate TSA in Ogun state and we ran a damn good government for eight years.

And five years after, I left government in the most hostile takeover in the history of governance in the country, nobody has been able to prove that a dime of government money was missing. And I am still standing here in my house, asking my prosecutors to show it and prove it. I keep asking people to tell me, show it and prove it. I feel proud today that five years after, I walk tall. I still told my finance commissioner I am happy nobody in OGD’s administration has been arraigned for anything. It’s 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’re living in Lagos to come home and develop the state, I am happy.

What’s the most interesting thing about being 60?

I have become an old man now. There is a way I respond to issues now unlike when I was 45 when it was fire for fire. But now, clocking 60 is like being in the club of the elders. There are certain things you can do before without thinking but now you must think twice. You’re not only clocking 60, you’re also becoming a grandfather. So, if God gives you the grace to see 60, you need to be a little more matured and patient.

As a politician, what does power mean to you? What’s the sweetest thing about power?

As a politician, I didn’t use power. If I had used power, you would know. It’s just an opportunity you have as a leader. That’s how I see it. Power is sweet when not used. And once you have used it, you demystified it. To me, power is supposed to be used in a society that’s crying for help, where there is unemployment, where everything is not working.

Power is used to facilitate things to happen for the benefit of the people, not to take offence.


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