By Sina Ogunbambo
A time was when Orile Imo along Abeokuta to Sagamu road in Ogun State was a somnolent settlement. The few houses were that of mud (mostly dilapidated) with thatched roofs. Apart from the farmers and petty traders, illustrious indigenes of this community rarely pass the night when they visit, as there was no electricity too.
As providence will have it, the story changed in the year 2003. A mechanical engineer named Justus Olugbenga Daniel, but popularly called OGD (Otunba Gbenga Daniel) took the driver’s seat as the third democraticaly elected Governor of Ogun State. The action man who had done his homework and had a blueprint “My Contract With the People of Ogun State” got cracking on the dualisation of the Abeokuta-Kobape- Siun- Sagamu 37.5 kilometres expressroad.
From the feasibility studies, it was evident that many of the mud houses along this road had to be dismantled to give way for the innovation. The usual practice in government was to mark out such houses for demolition, get the job on course and pay pittance to the affected landlords who have original documents to prove ownership.
The new helmsman in Ogun State was briefed on this procedure, but the man who came with his laptop (something new at that time) opened the “magic box” and showed his design to his Special Adviser on Works and Infrastructure, Engineer Kehinde Osikoya, who doubled as Chief Executive Officer of Ogun Road Management Agency (OGROMA) , a new agency made up engineers and other technical experts in the public service of Ogun State.
His directive was that the residents of Orile Imo and other adjoning settlements whose mud houses would be affected should first be provided with newly built interlock red brick bungalows with modern toilets, complete with electrification of their homes and after being resettled, the mud houses can then be demolished and road construction should then commence.
This simple directive in 2003 changed the fortune of Orile Imo, turning it into a bubbling village with modern facilities. Their Lagos, Ibadan based natives, including those in Diaspora, began returning home to erect additional new houses while some residents of Orile Imo whose mud houses were far from the road and were not marked for demolition trooped out to the Governor’s office, lobbying that their shanties should be demolished and replaced with OGD bonanza houses.
In the history of Ogun State, this innovation is for the records, as it amounts to solving the problems of the people. As Daniel turns 60 on April 6, he did not only dualise Abeokuta – Sagamu Road, Lalubu Road and a host of others, he also started a massive construction and rehabilitation of roads in the 236 wards of Ogun State. Electrification of major cities was part of his programmes. He also succeeded in persuading the Federal Government to erect the first flyover bridge in Ogun State at Sango.
With his business approach to governance, he penetrated the private sector in partnering with the government to industrialise the state and provide jobs for thousands of people. Nestle Foods, Dangote Cement at Ibese, Multirex Cocoa Industry, Coleman Wire & Cable and several other investments were attracted to Ogun State by his administration. He embarked on Agri Cargo airport to a point, brought in a lot of Chinese investors, commenced the Olokola Deep Seaport Project as well as Ogun Guadong.
The zeal with which he drove the national sporting event, Gateway Games in 2006, remains unparalleled in the history of National Sports in Nigeria. What is of more importance to the people of Ogun State, especially in Abeokuta, was that it enhanced commerce to an unpprecedented level. His eight years administration built new stadia at Ijebu – Ode, Sagamu and Ilaro, and transformed the existing MKO Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta.
That Ogun State has the record of having the first University of Education in Nigeria is to the credit of his administration.
Under his administration, the area boys became “good boys and girls”, earning monthly salaries as painters under the Ogun Employment Generating Programme (OGEGEP) of his administration. University graduates still scouting for jobs were provided with stipends and were engaged by the government to work on certain days while searching for job.
This has nothing to do with thousands of school leavers and graduates employed by the Public Service of Ogun State during his tenure. Artisans benefitted immensely from his administration as they were freely provided with sewing machines, hair dressing equipment, generators etc to enhance their trade.
Housing programme under Daniel’s administration was commendable as it changed entirely the face of Abeokuta and other major cities. The Olusegun Obasanjo Hilltop Estate, the OGD workers estate (which accommodates 1000 civil servants of all grades, including drivers and messengers to become landlords and landladies), the new phases of the State Secretariat and other numerous estates that were public/private ventures were part of the package.
The computerisation of Ogun State Public Service was achieved by his administration while fleet of brand new buses were provided to ferry workers to their offices. In the area of tourism, he transformed Olumo Rock, turning it into a money spinning machine with the introduction of an elevator to take tourists to the top of the rock, which a lot of people dread to get to manually. Bilikisu Sugbon shrine at Oke Eri in Ijebu also got a facelift and adire dresses were aggressively promoted.
New hospitals were built by his administration and a lot of primary and secondary schools got new structures and general rehabilitation. During his tenure, three former Presidents of Nigeria, namely, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Late Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua and Dr Goodluck Jonathan came to commission projects and they all scored him high marks. In fact, a tome cannot be enough to document the achievements of his administration.
A brilliant and charismatic personalty with his trademark smiles and black cap, Daniel is really in love with debates and strategy sessions. This favourite student of Late Professor Ayodele Awojobi brought in an appreciable number of technocrats to complement politicians in moving the state forward.
Born on April 6, 1956 to Late Bishop Adebola Daniel and Late Princess Esther Olaitan Daniel, he is married to Yeye Olufunke Daniel and is blessed with good children. He attended Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta and University of Lagos where he bagged a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration.
A good politician, gentleman and a rugged fighter on principles, some of his followers and admirers might have defected to other political parties based on dynamics of politics, community decision, personal reasons and the change mantra. However, they are resolute on the premise of his dynamic leadership and monumental record of achievements in Ogun State.
•Ogunbambo was a member of Daniel’s administration.