By Femi Adeoti and Moshood Adebayo
OTUNBA Gbenga Daniel was governor of Ogun State between 2003 and 2011. In this interview he x-rayed the problems of the erstwhile ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and how it can recover from its current predicaments. He also commented on national politics as well as the affairs in Ogun State and his successor’s performance.
How has life been outside the Government House, Oke Igbein, Abeokuta?
I must give thanks to God for sparing my life this far. I have always been busy all my life. I am someone that whatever I touch, I put in my best, because I don’t believe in half measures. While I was in office, I was very busy in such a way that all departments of government were woken up.
For me, while in office, it was like 24 hours were not really enough. Ordinarily, at the expiration of my tenure, I should become a little less busy. I must say that the schedule is much better now than in office.
I ran avery active company before I became governor. Now outside the office, I have ample time for it, which engages me. In recent times, I have become a builder. I have been able to return to my passion; engineering and construction. Everyday, I go to site and quite honestly, I am enjoying it. I also engage in one thing or the other, mentoring, training people, so I have been busy.
What is your assessment of your successor in office, Senator Ibikunle Amosun?
Everyone has his own priorities, objectives and a clear vision of what he wants for the people. It is the people who must then do a proper assessment of what they have seen and put it in a comparison if necessary. However, one thing that we must not forget is that when I took over in 2003, I remember that the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state was not more than about N200 million per month. The state was earning from the Federation Account about N1 billion. So, what the state had to spend was not more than about N1.2 billion per month.
When we took over, we were able to grow the IGR to about N800 million and sometimes N1 billion. We were very happy by the statement from the current governor that his administration has been able to grow the IGR to about between N5 and N6 billion. Probably, he is able to get between N4 to 5 billion from the Federation Account.
When you look at that, it means that the government has about N10 billion or so to run the state per month, which was something five times of what I had. My own IGR was about 1.5 times of what my predecessor generated. Few days ago, I was also reading that there is another windfall running into hundreds of millions of dollars, coming to states, that is a lot.
What I am saying is that if you want to make comparison or evaluation, you have to look at it wholesomely. What value Mr. A was able to deliver with the amount at his disposal and what Mr. B is able to deliver bearing in mind amount at his disposal. Sometimes, when comparisons are made, people will say Lagos has been able to achieve so much, Rivers State has done this, Akwa Ibom is building some facilities, all well and good. But what is the amount of resources at their disposal? It is when you take proper evaluation of this, which we call efficiency, output divided by input. Everybody has his own strengths and weaknesses and I can’t begin to judge. It is for the people of the state to judge.
What is your relation with Amosun, Senator Buruji Kashamu and former President Olusegun Obasanjo?
It is cordial. There is nothing we can do against the will of God. My own position is that the governor was my senator between 2003 and 2007, He opted out of the PDP because he had ambition. He was not able to realise it in 2007, but in 2011, fortune smiled at him and the people of Ogun State gave him the mandate. That’s the wish of God, there is no point standing against what God has designed. What is important is that, we should all support and encourage him, so that he could continue whatever he wants to do for Ogun people without any inhibition. I wish him well in the interest of the people of Ogun State.
My relationship with Senator Buruji Kashamu? Our senator, representing Ogun East Senatorial District is a unique personalty. He has a completely different perspective to politics and I can only wish him well.
For Baba Obasanjo, we had our little misunderstanding aggravated by people who gossip and tell lies, but by and large, that is over. Baba has become the father of the nation, whether anybody likes it or not. He has become father of Africa, probably one of the most successful Black men in the world. He must have our respect even though we don’t have to agree with him all the time. I have a lot of respect for him.
What reasons would you adduce for your party’s dismal performances at the 2011 and 2015 elections?
That is human being for you. They have no capacity to appreciate what they have until they lose it. There is always the feeling that there is something, which is there, which is probably better than what they have. It has happened to our country severally and still happening on daily basis.
There is something about human beings and Nigerians in particular. It looks to me as people, we do not have capacity to be patient with our leaders and it is a big problem. Progressively, I do not want to say that our impatience has led us to from frying pan to fire. I just pray and hope that one of these days Nigerians will get it right and give good leaders a chance.
What has been your relationship with your political associates?
While in active politics, I tried to be at peace with everyone, but definitely, if you are fixated at achieving certain things, it may not be easy to come to terms with other people, who have other objectives. While in office, up till the last day in office, we were working, commissioning new projects.
I remember very well that we commissioned the power station that the state government is currently using, the reconstruction of the Isale Igbein Bridge, OPIC plaza and others. On the last day in office, we were working to ensure that the future was secured for Ogun. When you look at it from that perspective, it was a busy period for me and I thank God for that.
What is wrong with PDP and how can it get it right again?
Perhaps, you do not know that the PDP crisis started from Ogun State. The virus went to the South-west and then later went national and culminated in the loss of the party at the 2011 elections.
In terms of performance, the PDP administration between 2003 and 2011 has not been found wanting in terms of getting our priorities right and delivering dividends of democracy to the people. But human beings generally when they have something good, they do not appreciate it until they lose it. We can appropriate that behaviour of human beings.
I think increasingly, the problem we have not only, in PDP, generally in politics is that the objectives of the participants are no longer the same. They have become quite varied. People believe that when you participate in politics, you also can benefit from the pecuniary gains of participation, particularly if your party wins. But when you have people who damn it and say politics is business and no longer service, that party tickets should be sold to the highest bidder and various unwholesome practices set in, then, we have problems.
In all my eight years as governor, there was not a single person who had to pay to get party ticket. In fact, most of the time, when we identified good people, we urged them to go through primaries. After winning we still had to give them some support to do serious campaigns so that they could win for themselves and for the party. When you begin to hear stories of paying for a ticket of a party, then politics has become commercialised and it is not good for our democracy.
Unfortunately, PDP is not just the only party that has crisis. The only thing that has not allowed other parties, particularly the APC to explode and poise for war is the potential that as the ruling party, there are largesse and positions to dish out. That is what is still keeping them together. If those were absent, the party would also have gone up in flames.
Any political ambition in 2019?
I have told people that the best I can do for now is mentorship, giving advice and support for the upcoming political participants in the process. Quite a lot of people across party lines have been coming to seek my support. Talking about senatorial election, I must confess that a lot of people have been coming to me asking me to run, but I have not made up my mind to run. Apart from the fact that the two major parties remain unstable, I have also not been able to sit down and make up my mind that is the honest truth.
Seriously speaking, people have also come to me to join other parties. Today, I am a passive member of the PDP, but I will make myself available for anyone who seeks my assistance, support and advice.
It has always been the attitude of the current ministers, lawmakers and others to blame PDP for the country’s woes. How do you feel when they blame the party for which many were PDP members and active players?
When you look at it objectively, I think it is not right to put blame on party A or B. I think it’s all political propaganda. I met (Governor Nasir) El-Rufai (of Kaduna State) in PDP. Several others who are now key players in government of today were also principal actors in the PDP. For (Bukola) Saraki, for eight years, he was governor (of Kwara State) and later senator all on the platform of the PDP. The list is endless. The problem is therefore not partisan politics but in our genes as a people not in our party colours.
For me Nigeria’s problem is economic. It is not the question, of the party, but the question of we as a people. We just need to manage our economy well. We have enough resources to run this country as a prosperous nation. The problem is that most of the resources are not being used judiciously most of them are being frittered away.
No country survives in this manner, we are just lucky that we have natural resources that is sustaining us. The tragedy of that is even that we cannot refine here, we still have to send it overseas for processing. Look at the crude oil, we cannot even add value to it. Until we begin to believe in ourselves, patronise Nigeria, eat Nigerian food, and probably wear Nigerian clothes. It is very unfortunate that Nigeria imports rice and wheat with colossal sums.
Ordinarily, we should not be talking about recession in this country. It is the misplaced priority and mismanagement of our national resources that is responsible for it. Until we stop spending like a prodigal, which we cannot sustain, we then turn around and talk about recession, where is the recession? It is mismanagement. I think that is where Nigerians should beam their searchlight on. Clearly, I do not think it is right to blame party A or B for Nigeria’s problem
What is your comment on the restructuring of Nigeria?
Nigerian people must be put in a position where they can develop at their own pace. It is mischief makers that misinterpret this for something else. The people must not be debarred from growth because some people are not ready. Everyone must be able to move at their own pace. That is the restructuring.
We can evaluate it from different angles, education, healthcare and industrialisation among others. Whichever way you look at it, if you go to the eastern part of the country, Nnewi, Onistha you will find people that are really industrious, whose stock in trade mainly is to produce and manufacture. You must put them in a position where they will do what they really know how to do best for the country to manufacture.
Ekiti State is a place in Nigeria where if they have not attained Ph.D level in education, they are not satisfied. We can actually export education and manpower. If we produce professors that they are in excess of local requirement, let us export them to other parts of the world and we can even earn foreign exchange. If there are other people who for one reason or the other they are nomadic, we also must create opporunities for them to excel like the recently introduce nomadic education.
My understanding of restructuring is that everybody has his or her own hidden talents, which must be allowed to be harnessed. The people against restructuring have not done enough research, to appreciate the tremendous potential and benefit for the overall well being of their people.
To what extent can the signing of truce agreement between Markafi and Sheriff bring desired peace to the PDP?
Do they need to sign an agreement before they know that it is wrong for them to externalise their disagreement? Tenet of party discipline is that you do not externalise your disagreement. There is no party in the world that there are no issues. PDP is only party that I see that once there is an issue the members go to court, address press conference to address party issues, when there is supposed to be party structure and leaders for conflict resolutions.
Have you heard in the history of the defunct Action Group or UPN, where members went to court to address party issues? This is part of the problem, it is an aberration that has crept into the Nigerian politics and that is what has destroyed it. It is an aberration to be talking of communique among members of a party to resolve their differences.
Members can fight inside the house, but once they get outside, they must pretend that all is well with them. When that is not happening, that is what has destroyed PDP and it will destroy it the more if care is not taken.
Some people attributed the PDP crisis to external forces. What is your position on this?
There are always external forces either to destroy one party and bring another one up. This is part of politics.There had always been external factors to destroy one party for the other. That is why it will be foolish of PDP to continue externalizing their problems.
A party that initially boasted of 30 governors can barely count 12 or so now. Still, the leaders and stakeholders are yet to realise what has befallen them. Despite the general feelings among Nigerians that the APC is not doing well, at least in term of economics, the last two governorship elections in Edo and Ondo did also not help the PDP.
The next battle is Ekiti State and we are hoping and praying that (Governor Ayo) Fayose as a result of his antecedent will hold his own. So, what are we talking about, the party, PDP has collapsed and strange animals have entered the forest. But if you do not want me to put it that way, then the party is collapsing. What needs to be done is to reverse the collapsing, and I have not seen that stakeholders appreciate how terrible things have become. It can no longer be business as usual.
What is your reaction to the release of 2019 election timetable by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)?
It is quite good, it is good for planning, organization and more of positive benefits to politicians than negative. It will allow those who want to contest in the forthcoming elections to begin to plan ahead. It is an indirect lifting of ban on politicking.
What is your position on the Yoruba agenda?
There is nothing like Yoruba agenda beyond the issue of restructuring which virtually all other ethnic groups in the country have been calling for. The Yoruba have always said that they want to be in a position to develop at their own pace, not to be inhibited by any factor. This call by them should be called national agenda.
Yoruba are not looking for any special treatment. What they are asking for is an opportunity to develop at their own pace. It is an agitation to give people the opportunity to develop at their own pace. That is my own understanding and opinion about the Yoruba agenda
How would you react to the arrest of 20 Yoruba in the aftermath of the crisis in Ile-Ife between the Yoruba and Hausa?
I have also read the statement of the Inspector General of Police, saying that crime has no tribal marks. The only thing we can do in that circumstance is that we insist that the police do their job thoroughly. If you have mayhem, it does appear that two were fighting and suffered casualties. It means, if there was violence and crime, the two sides must be held responsible. To that extent, I will always urge the IGP and security agents to do their jobs properly.
We have fallen into a bad economic times now, just as there has been a taint of religion in Boko Haram activities. There is also taint of ethnicity in the Fulani herdsmen killings. There is also taint of religion and ethnicity in the crisis in the Southern Kaduna and some of the Middle Belt states. We already have enough of crises that can destroy the country. We cannot afford a direct war between the Hausa and Yoruba. I do not think the country can survive this.
For that reason, I urge the law enforcement agents to do their job thoroughly and ensure that there is no tribal coloration in what they do.