Since he left office in 2011, former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, has not been having it easy with his successor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), his political opponents and more. In fact, it’s been literally war, war, war for the astute businessman and owner of Kresta Laurel whose defeat of Aremo Segun Osoba in 1999 shocked the political world. Never one to shy away from controversies or even flee from saying it as it is, the handsome billionaire took time out on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 to set the records straight on some of the untrue stories that have been circulating about and around his person. From his detention by the EFCC to what he tagged the spectacular lies of Governor Ibikunle Amosun, all the millions he was accused of stealing to the rubbishing of his good works as a governor by the incumbent, YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, AZUH ARINZE, captured all of them during that encounter that took place at his sprawling mansion in Maryland, Lagos. However, this is just the first part…
BATTLE WITH EFCC
You will appreciate that these are criminal charges and according to the laws of the land, when a matter is in court, you can hardly comment. Otherwise it is subjudice. I think it is indeed an offence. But one can pass a few comments in such a way that one is a little bit cautious. If you remember, all of charges with EFCC emanated from a man called Tunde Oladunjoye. Tunde became the chairman of Ijebu East local government under my governorship and there was a crisis in Ijebu Ife; for people who still remember. On that occasion, a police commissioner, Omolodun is his name, was murdered in cold blood. I rushed there and found that it was not just murder; having been killed, he was actually burnt. I saw it with my two eyes. I was in Owu, at a service on that fateful day. In fact, I remember that I was sitting down with Chief Obasanjo in church and I had to excuse him. It was an Owu event, but I had to go and see what was going on, because I received those messages from there. While I was doing that, I was then asking the council chairman whether he’s already there and he said yes, he’s there, there’s no cause for alarm, everything is fine. But by the time I got there, he was not there and not only that, there was already (an) issue…I need to give you this background because since you’ve given me this quality time today, the stories that you have heard different versions, you should hear it correctly today, and anything I say, I stand by it. We got there only to find out it was mayhem. As a matter of fact, the Kabiyesi said to me that once they killed the police commissioner, the whole town was in trouble because Kabiyesi was expecting that before daybreak, the police would act and wipe out the place as it were. So, I moved in and then pleaded with all the police. I had to do what I had to do, and I went round myself and I left my word that look, I have seen the number of houses that’s burnt, I have seen everything. Now, I hand over this place to you, the police guy that I saw there. I’m gonna come back the next day, if I see one more house burnt, it is not the town, it is you. That is how we saved the town. It was that bad that we had to set up an enquiry and then the enquiry indicted Tunde Oladunjoye and I had no choice than to remove him as chairman. So, that was the background and he too now felt that okay, I will also do something. He then wrote a petition and of course if you remember what was going on in Ogun State at that time, the arrows were coming from all angles – OBJ was firing his own arrow, Dimeji Bankole was firing his own arrow, then somebody called Kashamu (Buruji) came in too; he was firing his own arrow. All against one person! (General laughter). The offence, I don’t know. But after a lot of reminiscences, the issue is very simple – there was once upon a time a state called Ogun; nobody went there. We all stayed in Lagos. I have my business here. If you don’t come to Lagos, you go to Port-Harcourt, Abuja. Abeokuta wasn’t in anybody’s dictionary. So, God gave us the grace, we went there, we opened the place up and so ehen, is it like this? So, the battle started. That is the summary of what went wrong and it is indeed an irony. However, Oladunjoye’s petition stated; it was a 16-count charge, that I stole $3 million. First, it was one, later they said it was three and that I stole God knows maybe 8 or 9 billion of local government funds. It was news to me because I had been detained for 10 days and I was just wondering what exactly has gone wrong. While I was in detention, between you and I, I boycotted newspapers. I didn’t read, because I was just annoyed. By the time I came out of detention, I saw that it was even N57 billion (Voice rises) that was reported, carried all over the place that was stolen. N57 billion! How? Where? Anyway, when they were not releasing me, I then said I will go on hunger strike; that if they had nothing to do with me, they should take me to court, because part of the case is that, as they would also confess later; as at the point of my arrest, there was nothing against me. Nothing! It was after I was arrested, they now started investigation. And the law says within 24 hours or 48 hours, you must give somebody a bail. You are keeping me for 10 days. What? So, take me to court. That was now when I was brought to court with all those court charges and everybody celebrated – another governor, another thief had been caught. However, I called my Finance Commissioner and I said Ogbeni, wa, nibo ni $3 million yi je yo? (Mr., where is this $3 million). So, Finance Commissioner, where is $ 3 million? He said they are crazy; there’s no $3 million anywhere. In fact, there’s $18 million which was part of the debt recovered, and the money is in First City Monument Bank. When we were broke on one occasion, you’ve forgotten, you authorized that I should change $1 million to pay salary, then another 2 million to pay salary. So, I didn’t even touch the money, it is in First City. They changed the money, the credited our account. The dom. account was in First City, the Naira account was in First City. From the Dollar that you have, please could you change this, credit our account? So, where is it? Nothing! Not one dime came. I said give me the proof, they gave it to me. Not only was it changed, I checked the rate of exchange whether there was any game, there was no game, because the rate of exchange was exactly the going rate at that point in time. The tragedy that we had, simply because OGD must be nailed at all cost, is that even when those facts and figures became available, the news did not carry the news (Laughs). So, that was the story of the Dollars.
Let me say to you today, in all my 8 years as governor, I did not touch, 12×8, 96 allocations, to local governments. I didn’t touch one dime. Not one dime! If somebody is a sworn enemy and he writes a petition, is there no weight that people should put on that petition? To cut a long story short, they had to quash all of the charges at that point in time. The celebration of profligacy ended. And then another round of investigation now started. At that time, Amosun had set up his land enquiry and then stories started that I had stolen land in Ogun State. At that time, in the course of stumbling on documents, they ran into one of my lawyers who had been registering companies for me, probably for the past 20 years. They then stumbled on some companies and said ah, this company was registered, this company belongs to OGD, he didn’t declare it. I said which company? Some companies that have never done business. I don’t even remember they existed. So, that is the set of allegation. Then, when I was there, they gave me a form, declare your assets. I said in this dungeon where you put me? To declare my assets? I’m not a man of one or two houses. How do you expect me to remember under this tension that you put me? Sorry, I can’t. After battling for 3 days, they started pleading with me, they said His Excellency, it is just for our use. I said but statutorily and as per the law, I am to declare my assets with the Code of Conduct and I have so declared. Not only that, I was probably the only governor in history who publicly declared his assets and it was not small. This is my house (referring to his house in Maryland, Lagos). I commissioned this house in 1996 or so. That’s my office (referring to the nearby Kresta Laurel building), I finished it in 1997. So, how do I begin to now…It’s not possible. When it was then like okay, you don’t want to co-operate with us, I said okay, what do you want? I wrote there that I cannot remember anything, but the ones I remembered, I wrote there, and I signed. Another set of allegations – failure to declare assets. I said don’t we have inter-agency co-operation? If you want to find out whether I declared my assets, go to the Code of Conduct, you would find it there completely documented and it is not a one-page declaration. I think it is about 10-page declaration. How do you want me to remember that in the dungeon where you kept me? So, that is the second allegation. Then, all of a sudden they said oh, some billions was paid to some company. Which company? Finally, they found out that it has nothing to do with me. Somebody laid water pipes from Yemoji to Ijebu Ode – the expansion of the water. And they actually went to see whether the pipe was laid; everything, as they found out. So, they removed that. Oh, now, we’ve seen that some companies that are doing business have paid some money to Kresta Laurel. Ah-ah! The companies do business with Ogun State and if they paid money to Kresta Laurel, it must mean that it’s bribery. Totaling N211 million; in trenches of N1.5, N2 million, N8.2, this, that. I said you are not even able to sit down to find out what this payment is for. We sell elevators, we sell generators. I don’t even have to know who is buying. It’s a growing concern. We went through it on our way here. Kresta Laurel has a customer base of about 2000 conservatively. I don’t know whether a few of you are aware that about 2 weeks ago, we received some expatriates from Kone. I hosted four of them at Intercontinental Hotel (Victoria Island, Lagos) where Kresta Laurel was declared the best distribution company for Kone elevators in the world for year 2013/2014 consecutively. MD, Kresta Laurel, oya, go, and they were harassing them. Finally, they found all the documentation, the LPO, the invoices…In fact, those companies are still owing money to Kresta Laurel that they have not paid. So, that is the list of the N211 million that is being celebrated to have been stolen, after they’ve investigated me to my pants. Having finished with me, they now said oh, anybody who is around me must be the one keeping the money. So, today, the three sets of allegations that are there – you stole land and two weeks ago in the open court, they were asking the prosecution witness whether this land was paid for; he said it was paid for. But it didn’t go through due process. So, what is due process? He said em, they did it over and above him. They didn’t let him know. They said so, because you were not informed, that is why you have now become prosecution witness? They asked him all manner of questions and he was just rabble-rousing. How did you become prosecution witness? You have retired. He said they brought him back, they gave him contract. To come and do what? Where are you from? Kogi State! Ah-ah! What is so special about you that…This is open court stuff, so I can talk about it. What is so special that you are now being brought? Okay, the person who is your boss, who did it over and above you, is he a surveyor? He said yes. Is he your senior in the profession? He said yes. So, what then is the process? So, that is the rigmarole of prosecution that we are going through. So, criminal prosecution is criminal prosecution and you are presumed innocent until found guilty. So, I’m just praying, because in all of this, if a judge wants to be nasty, they can always find something to say. But I think it will be a travesty of justice in this country if I serve for 8 years and nobody has asked me…Even my security vote is available to be probed. When I resumed government in 2003, my security vote was N5m per month and I sustained that until maybe the time we had some crisis; later on to N10m, to N15m. Maximum security vote that came out of Ogun State before I left, I think, was N20 million, when we were having serious problem in Ota. And I know governors who get God knows, even today, N200m per month. So, what are you people harassing me up and down for?
NEXT POLITICAL MOVE AND SUPPORT FOR JONATHAN
My next political move, between you and me…What happened to me is an irony. Because a new government came with pomp and pageantry, won the election, landslide, started doing his own thing. And I had told all my people that we don’t need to fight; election had been fought and won. For the sake of our state, please let everybody go and co-operate with the new governor and let’s move on. Those were my public declarations consistently. But what happened? I guess the governor decided that the only issue for him is OGD. You may not know what I’m about to say to you – every single step that he has taken, name it, any project that he has done, is just OGD. Either to erase OGD or to surpass OGD! How can that be the philosophy of a government? However, fact of the case is that a large number of our people continue to plead with me. I said what have I done? Our structure lost election; you have a new governor. They are now blaming us for what you perceive to be the non-performance of this governor. He’s building bridges, he’s building roads. So, how does that become my problem? And because they are blaming me, I find myself in a position where I have no choice but to contribute to the process of giving our people a better governor. If that means I have to work with Labour Party, with Goodluck Jonathan, with PDP, it doesn’t matter. We just must find a change; the change that you people are now blaming me for. So, that’s my next political move, God willing. And I think that since we are supporting Jonathan, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. I campaigned for him, I led his South West campaign, he won the election, though I got the wrong side of the stick. I happen to understand because of the forces that he had to contend with. I’m not giving him excuses. But however, matters of corruption have become so celebrated in Nigeria and I think that if I am his campaign co-ordinator and EFCC has charged me, I may be demanding too much of him. In fact, it would have been better if I had no relationship with him at all. I think I will be demanding too much of him to now say oya, EFCC, go and stop. No, I’m not expecting that. I’m working for him because I have looked at the terrain and I have been around for quite sometime in this political environment; I’m not saying that he is the only one who could be president, but I think for now, within the framework of the contemporary challenge we have as a country, he’s better for the sake of this country, he’s better supported to run a second term. That’s the reason why I’m supporting him. If there’s anybody who has a better reason why I should not, he should bring out the reason, let’s debate it. But I don’t need to talk much. They are not unaware of the challenges we had when we had the agitation for the South South, how oil production of Nigeria went to all-time low. Sometimes, not more than over 30 percent. Income plummeted and the exploration was going down, expatriate kidnapping was going on. Nigeria was fast becoming a pariah nation nobody was touching. Somehow, that has gone down. Production has gone back up, and that led to our rebasing. Recently, they said that Nigeria is now ahead in terms of the economy in Africa. When we play politics, we also have to be patriotic. I think that that equilibrium, we need to maintain second term and then we go back to the trenches again, begin to look for somebody who can succeed him. That’s my own position. Pragmatism. No more.
NEGLECT OF OTA ROADS BECAUSE OF AMOSUN
It’s the current governor who should answer that. Well, let me quickly tell you – somebody is laughing there; he’s from Ota. I was speaking with somebody and you will get it within the context. I was speaking with somebody yesterday and he was shocked when I said, because he’s a very good friend of the former governor, Osoba. And he was shocked when I said do you know what? Do you remember one lady called Subu, who is the secretary you see before Osoba? He said yes, one fair lady like that. I said oh, you know her. Very good! So, while Osoba was governor in 2003, Subu was his confidential secretary. The last person you will see before you can see the governor was Subu. I said are you aware that I did not change Subu when I became governor? And that the same Subu was my secretary, sitting on that same chair up until 2007 or 2008. For about 5 years, when she was finally promoted. He opened his mouth. I said are you aware that apart from my own driver that I took from here, that all the drivers that were driving Osoba’s convoy were the same drivers that drove me for all of my 8 years? He opened his mouth. Are you aware that in all of my 8 years, not a single project of Osoba that I re-negotiated or cancelled? He opened his mouth. I said are you aware that there was no money that he was owing, either to contractors or to staff or to whoever that I did not pay? He opened his mouth. Gentlemen, this country will not progress until we appreciate our responsibility in government, until we understand that, maybe as a corporate person, I appreciate this; that the only way you can provide stability for your creditors, for your customers is to make sure that there is consistency in policy. The only way the banks can help you is to see consistency, the only way people can come and say they want to invest is to see consistency. We investors, businessmen, if we are not sure that there is consistency, we will not move. The projects that turn around the fortunes of a people are not these short term perspective projects. Quickly do, 6 months, one year, let me get out. The projects that turn around the fortunes of a people are usually long term. The third terminal, Heathrow Airport, which was opened about 7 years ago; incidentally, my elevator company, Kone Elevators, installed that terminal 5 and so I had the opportunity in one of our international conferences to find out the story of Terminal 5. That’s the most modern terminal in London today. The master plan of Terminal 5 was already done 30 years before it was finally executed. They’ve already started thinking of Terminal 6 and 7. It is not the people who are there now who will implement them. But when we continue to look at what we need to do to turn around the fortunes of our people from that short perspective; government come, government go, and that is what we demonstrated. Regrettably, they say it doesn’t happen all the time and regrettably, it is the direct opposite of what has happened in Ogun State today. So, what has happened? Because there is politics of assault and inconsistency, people who want to bring big money will not come to Ogun State. It’s not a question of window dressing. No! There is no consistency. When a government, a President signs to a project, it is sacrosanct? It is not Olusegun Obasanjo who signed it; it is the President of the Federal Republic. When, as governor of Ogun State, OGD signed a paper called a C of O, it is no longer an OGD matter; it is the governor of Ogun State. Our governor has started, for instance now, what you can call precedence. He’s so excited that his predecessor is arraigned inside EFCC box and so he’s so happy. Yes, God don catch am. Precedence! Whether we like it or not, subsequent governors of Ogun State will go into that box. I also have friends, people that I’ve helped over the years and they are watching. They are compiling their own papers. Somebody has to explain the cost of those roads one way or the other. Sooner than later. Because it is precedence that is being set, and once you begin all of these, it is good. Popular action, everybody will clap. But at the end of the day, what happens? The income of Ogun State cannot sustain Ogun State; the income of Nigeria cannot sustain Nigeria. What sustains every country is venture capital. A right environment has been created, yes, let us move there and invest. That is what’s sustaining Dubai. Most of you don’t know that Dubai have no oil. You think they have oil? They are one of the few middle East countries that has no oil, but they are the most prosperous. What did they do? They created the right environment for you and I to go and invest there and they enjoy our money. The only thing that’s happening in Switzerland, the only thing they had is Swiss watch, which electronic watch has virtually taken over. How come Switzerland remains one of the richest countries in Europe? Secret banking. Your money, our money, because they created an environment where people have confidence to take their resources to. So, those are the issues and I had thought that at our level in Ogun State, with all our education, we should be sophisticated enough to appreciate some of these things. So, that really is the way I can answer some of your questions.
ABOUT AMOSUN INTRODUCING HIM TO OBJ
I attended Baptist Boys High School, just like OBJ. While he was prosecuting the war, I was already in school. He was one of our heros, he came home to Abeokuta, to our school, to greet us. Seun Obasanjo who runs Obasanjo Farms today and my first son, Rotimi grew up together in Adisa Bashua in the house of Mrs. Obasanjo. So, who is this man who says he introduced me to who? What is he talking about? Dateline 1999. You knew what happened? Your governor general (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu) lived in my pent house up here. If you have time, after, I will take you there. I will show you – his toothpaste, his toothbrush is still there. This same pent house. I decided to preserve it for my children (Laughter). Yes! The office where we are coming from is the office that I gave him where he stayed 3 months before he was sworn in. I’m not boasting here, because the whole essence is not to boast. But it was from here; it was my S class that took him to Tafawa Balewa, it was my Concorde that took Kofo (Bucknor – Akerele, Tinubu’s deputy) to Tafawa Balewa. It was after we escorted him to Tafawa Balewa where he was sworn in that I came back home. The day he won the election, here was where we did the party. It’s this same place. I’ve not changed this floor. This same bar! That’s where we celebrated Bola Tinubu’s election in 1999. So, who is…Bode George invited me to an event in year 2001. He said Otunba ,we’ve heard about you; you supported Bola Tinubu, you said you are Afenifere, now come and help us in PDP too. We need your support. I said but how can I go? I can’t go to PDP. He said what are you talking about? So, I went there. By the way, I hosted Obasanjo here in 1998 December. In this same house. He came with Fasawe (Johnson) when no young Yoruba man can get close to Obasanjo. What is Amosun talking about? And you people are believing him. Obasanjo sat in this my hosue for about 4 hours. I had about 40 people here – all the Yoruba intelligentsia of this world. Jimi Agbaje was there, Fola Adeola, they were all in this house. That’s where Obasanjo came to ask for support of Yoruba intelligentsia for his 1999 election. Here! And so Bode George called me, Golden Crown Restaurant in Ikoyi; after I debated shall I go, and shall I not go? I said after all, I’m not chopping from anybody now! If he calls me, let me go and I don’t have any constraints. So, I went. I got there early and Bode George said ah, Otunba you’ve come. We are still going to take you to the high table, but come and sit here for now. So, I sat down quietly. He came to where I was sitting. He (Amosun) said Otunba, good evening. I said good evening. So, he sat down. He brought out his card. He said you don’t know me, but this is me. I’ve heard so much about you, I said okay o. I took his card, but before he could say much, they had called me to the high table. And then the programme went like that. It was a Friday. On Monday, I went to the office; just the office where we came down from. And my secretary came and said somebody is looking for me. Who? The same person who gave me his card – Ibikunle Amosun. I said okay, let him in.
So, he came in. He said to me Otunba, I want you to do something for me, I want you to help me. Ah! Help ke! I said what is it? He said I’m told that Bola Tinubu wants to remove Adekanola as the people who are doing their accounts, I’m interested in taking it. Ah! I looked at him like this (Demonstrates it); I said really? I said but how can that happen? It’s tough o! Because I met you in a PDP outing, Bola runs an AD government. Even if Bola wants to change Adekanola as the revenue collector, he will not pick a PDP person. I said okay, wait, I won’t take you to Bola, let me ask my friend who is a Finance Commissioner. So, I picked my phone and I called Wale Edun, who was then the Finance Commissioner. I said Wale; we call him Wales. How are you doing? He said Otunba, kilo n sele? I said look, there’s somebody I want to send to you and I want you to find a way to help him. He then said where are you, I said I’m in the office. Will you be there in another 30 minutes? I said yes, Wale I will be here. Okay, I will come and see you. So, Wale came as Commissioner for Finance to come and see me in that same office. While we were waiting, I said okay, Ibikunle, maybe you better sit at the reception until or if you are able to wait… Ah, kini mo n se, ma duro now! So, he waited. Of course, I knew at that time that they had started talking of ABC Consulting and I knew that won o le fun. I then said Wale, this is my dilemma. I don’t know this guy from Adam, but this is what he said. Wale just asked me one question – are you sure you really want me to help him? I said yes, by all means. Okay! We should bring him in, so he came. I said Wale, this is Ibikunle Amosun. The rest is over to you. He said he should see him in the office. I didn’t know that they had given Ibikunle any job. When Wale left as Commissioner for Finance, somebody called Adewusi took over. I was the one who pushed Adewusi as Managing Director of Ibile Holdings in 1991. So, Wale left as Commissioner for Finance, Bola Tinubu then put Adewusi there. So, Adewusi came to see me in Abeokuta. Ha! OGD, what’s happening? Wo ni man kan yo e lunu nibi ba yi? Mo ni man wo? Eee senator ee? Amosun. Moni, you know how politicians are. Ha! Oni, we are owing him about N100 million, I will not pay. Mo ni N100 million fu kini? Oni when Wale was giving him his handover note, he told me Dr. Adewusi, this guy is OGD o! So…I’m mentioning names because we will confront ourselves one day. He said this guy is OGD o, so whatever happens, make sure that you protect his interest. And I suppose they had been paying him. He was now looking for N100m and Adewusi now said that ah, if he doesn’t behave, he will not pay. That is the person who says he’s the one who introduced me to Obasanjo (Laughing). I can’t say my governor is a liar, but everybody has agreed that he’s not particularly good at telling the truth. And I’m not disparaging him. I think it is now virtually common knowledge in Ogun state. So, all of those things are just stories.
NB: First published August 2014