Otunba Gbenga Daniel, popularly called OGD, was the Governor of Ogun State from 29 May 2003 to 29 May 2011, He was Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who contested for the Presidency with Buhari Campaign DG, in the last presidential election. He is not only a politician, he has been an Engineer for years and a proud one for that matter.
A few weeks back, he was a guest on our City People TV Instagram Live Chat with SEYE KEHINDE, the Publisher of City People Magazine. He spoke about so many issues from Politics to COVID-19. It was very engaged chatting. This was captured by ISAAC ABIMBADE.
What have you been up to in the last two months of Covid-19 lockdown?
I have been isolating myself here in my house, Maryland, Lagos. It’s been a wonderful experience I can tell you. Although occasionally, during the lockdown have also tried to go out, to find out what is going on here and there. But by and large, it’s quite refreshing. I have the opportunity to read and read, to monitor what’s going on all over the world, but more than anything else, I had the opportunity to exercise myself. So, I now take sport very seriously and I think I feel very good and better.
We saw you playing Table-Tennis a few days back. We didn’t know you are quite good at it! It was exciting seeing you.
When we were young, Table-Tennis was a popular game in primary/secondary schools. At that time we didn’t have the luxury of the standard table and good Bat. Anything that looks like plank would be used to play Table-Tennis then. This is what we’ve done in our younger days. I love Table-Tennis.
What would you say we all have to learn from lockdown that can move us forward as a nation?
Well, there are great lessons to be learned. Part of what I believe that had been our challenge in our country is the fact that we don’t believe in ourselves. Like what many people say, the only thing we do in Nigeria is to bury our deads. We go abroad for medic care. We go abroad for shopping and factually everything. And that is what has been destroying us and our economy. What this lockdown has done is to prove to all us that we actually can survive. And I’m very excited about the lesson automatically we’ve learnt. I was speaking to some of my friends who have been very successful on a Zoom meeting yesterday and some of them said they have not stepped out of their house in the past few weeks and they have survived and some even said you can’t even travel abroad because if you do you will be quarantined for two weeks and when you are coming back, you will also be locked down for two weeks, so for the first time both the rich and the poor had been levelled, and that really excites me. I believe going forward, what Nigeria and Nigerians should do is to believe in themselves. India has made a vivid example on the way to go. We attained Independence the same year but we quickly jumped into the luxurious life, while the India people control their consumption. They rode the kind of car they can build. They wore the kind of dress that is their traditional wear. Whenever you see an India man anywhere in the world, he or she still dresses like India. So, we lost our cultures; we try to behave like an Oyinbo man, at all time. Years later when we are still groping with our economy, India with a bigger population appears to have found their feet. They are now the best in medicine. They are the best in ICT etc. I believe also that if we had done the needful, coupled with the fact that we do have a lot more natural resources than they do, we should be ahead of India today. But I think that it’s better later than never.
Before you went into government, you were a businessman. You went into politics and came out of government, and went back to business. How easy was it to have moved from one phase to another? I was shocked by how you supervise your hotel business; you were hands-on. How do you do all these with a lot of ease? What motivate you and what kept you going?
First of all, I think I am an Engineer, and I will remain an Engineer until death. Politics for me has a tenure. It’s like volunteering part of your life to go and see whether you can improve your society. And to some large extent, most people believe that we have changed Ogun State for the better and we were able to give a good account of ourselves. So I’m very excited. Having done that, the next thing is to go back to my first love, which was what have done. I’m an Engineer and I’m proud to be one. Part of what has destroyed our country is the ability to believe in ourselves. If you travel abroad you will found out that quite a number of Nigerians are operating in those hospitals where we go for treatment. The only difference is that they have an opportunity for better training, better equipment, better exposure and better discipline. We do have quite a number of brilliant people in our country. And what is missing in our country; I will continue to say it and in fact, what I will devout my energy to politically is to press it upon our leaders, our rulers, our President, our Governors to develop a policy of patronising our own, in all ramification.
We are thinking of how we can go to Isreal to learn Agriculture, Medicine, engineering and many others. One thing I think I was told they have done is to make sure the little money that is available in Isreal is kept in Isreal. My own position is that despite the economic challenges we have, we have enough resources (apart from oil) to take this country to a greater height. So far that we send this money outside Nigeria, directly or indirectly, we won’t make progress. And people keep asking me when you had the opportunity what did you do? I’m proud to say that in all of my 8 years as Ogun State Governor, I didn’t award any contract to a foreign firm. It even had to be related to individual Ogun company before it has to be awarded. For the next one hundred years at the rate we are going, we would not be able to tar all the roads in Lagos, not to talk of Nigeria. And you begin to wonder? How do you go to the UK and it’s nearly impossible for you to find the road that is not tarred? So until we decide to make our people do things, we are not going to make progress. Look at what happened in the UK. The Prime Minister was ill, he wasn’t taken to a private hospital, he was taken to a public hospital; Now that we can’t go out, we had no choice but to go and make those hospitals right. And I don’t pray so; If one or two people lose their lives in the process, then everybody will know. Like yesterday, somebody was saying that this is the first time a lot of people won’t travel in two months and we are still alive. As a matter of fact, the people who stay abroad now say they miss home, despite the crisis at home. For the first time, Nigeria is even safer than the US, UK, France and many other countries. I think the opportunity of this Covid-19 should teach us a lesson so that we can get it right.
You were in the PDP for years but it seems you are no longer active in the party in your State?
Well, it’s not only through the elective process people can serve the land. It is only where people sit tight because they feel that it’s through that process they can continue to make money. Like I said, for me, the politics were an intervention. We have done what needed to be done. The only thing that is left for us is to continue to nurture it and to continue to support people who find themselves in power. Of course when we had the opportunity to make a decision between left and right, and we think right is probably right for our environment, we do what is best. And that’s what I did during the last election in Ogun State. What I’m saying is that there’s a legion of ways in which you can help people.
For me, I have no issue with any political party. Both the party are the same, APC and PDP. In terms of ideology, they are very similar. So what is different is personality. If a good personality takes over PDP, Nigerians will relate to that party.
Would you call your position “sit down look” like Chief Bola Ige said in those days or you are still actively involved in the activities of PDP?
I won’t put it as sit down look but I will put it acting an elder statesman at a younger age. That is the way I will put it. But part of the case is that, if you look at the some of the roles that I have made I can’t deny that every day I get calls from people to say that you can’t just abandon us like this; I need to tell them what they should do and all that. Don’t forget that, in the course of running for the Chairman of my National party, I virtually transverse the length and breadth of Nigeria. I visited every one of the 36 States of the federation including the FCT and in each of that location I developed structures and I develop friendship and have not lost that friendship and structure.
When I also had the opportunity to support Atiku Abubakar, in the course of the campaign I also took him through the breadth and length of Nigeria, before the primary election. So you can say in 3 years have gone through Nigeria 3 or more time. Part of what I do is to abandon my other phone so that I won’t be distracted in the course of going around the states. The point I’m making is that I’m not actively involved today but to the extent that we can’t close our eyes and allow the wrong thing to happen in Nigeria again, so you can say that I’m actively working behind the scene.
Sir, let’s talk about Ogun State. Are you happy the way the state is?
Yes, I’m happy that we have a mature governor, who is mature in all ramification. I was saying to some people that, I became governor at 47. The current governor became governor at 59. That means in terms of age, experience, this current governor has it on his side. And I have carefully looked at him, he is determined to be successful. He doesn’t rush to make a decision and of course, that is not what Nigerians want, but at the end of the day, it’s better to do slow and steady and win the race. So, I can see what he’s trying to do and I think what we need to do is to continue to pray for him, support him and to advise him appropriately. I think he is a good governor and I believe he would be a successful governor.
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