Home FEATURED MY LIFE AT 60 – OTUNBA GBENGA DANIEL

MY LIFE AT 60 – OTUNBA GBENGA DANIEL

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Former Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, will be 60 years old on Wednesday, April 6, 2016 – and in our characteristic style, we got the billionaire owner of Kresta Laurel to shed more light on the journey so far. The handsome politician whose admirers fondly address as OGD, however, pleaded not to be dragged into politics, both in Ogun State and at the federal level. So, the thrust is basically his childhood and how he got this far. He spoke to YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine’s AZUH ARINZE on Friday, March 18, at his Asoludero Court, in Sagamu, Ogun State. Enjoy…

 

daniel 8GROWING UP YEARS

Growing up, as you can decipher, and as the son of a reverend gentleman, things had to be done properly – you must not bring shame to the family. That’s where we are coming from. I was also generally a good boy. I must say that, because I remember that all through primary school, and in those days, teachers canned the pupils, I didn’t remember being canned. I was canned once in secondary school, but it was all of us in the class. We were making noise…Beyond that, I don’t remember being canned. My father never canned me, and he canned everybody. So, I think that when you look at it from that angle, one was generally what you can call a good boy. I was lucky in secondary school that I lived with the principal, Chief G.A Otunla. I did class 1 and class 2; I was living in the principal’s house, in Abeokuta, BBHS (Baptist Boys High School). So, by the time I now went to dormitory in class 3, I had become a senior. At least, middle senior (Laughter). I had avoided the normal punishments – stoop down, raise up your hands, go and carry water. So, I think I was generally lucky. When you got to BBHS, it’s a school they call second to none. The tradition in BBHS is to train leaders and when you are there, you will start to look at some of the old students that have been very, very successful and you try to begin to challenge yourself to be able to do some of those things they have done and of course BBHS old students are very prominent. You know them. I don’t need to be mentioning them. The Obasanjos of this world. At that time, Prof. Aboyade was VC of U.I, Prof. Lambo was the Director General of World Health Organisation, BolajiAjibola was very, very prominent and the Federal Attorney General. We had a Dada that time who was a Minister of Communications. Virtually anybody who was anybody. Oh, Chief Awolowo attended BBHS, MKO Abiola attended BBHS. So, it was the pot pourri of anybody who was anybody. It was quite exciting. I was also quite popular with quiz competitions. What happened at Mastermind had started from my BBHS days – AlaoBabasanya, John Soares. Those are some names I can remember. Oh, there is also Kayode Soyinka, who was one year my junior, now of Africa Today Magazine. At BBHS, he was actually my partner in quiz competitions, we represented the school together. Soyebi is now in INEC as the South West Director; he was my classmate. So, we had a large number of people at BBHS. It was the best school anyway (Laughter). We were also good in soccer at that time. We destroyed the likes of St. Gregory’s (in Lagos), St. Thomas Aquinas, we dealt with all of them and we were busy dealing with Abeokuta Grammar School, our local neighbour here…

 

daniel 7THE UNIVERSITY YEARS

At the university, it was quite different. When I got into the University of Lagos, we had a professor – Prof. Adekola. He was teaching us Structural Engineering and it was at the general lecture theatre and because it’s a 101 course, everybody who had come to read Engineering will go into that class. It’s a general Engineering course. People who want to read Mechanical, Electrical, Civil, Electronics, we all packed ourselves there. Prof. Adekola is late now, but he’s also a very respected person. He had a DSc and he had a bad leg. So, he will slip into the class and all of us will be very quiet and then he will look at us like this and say well, let me just let all of you know that all the people that are here, if you think you are a superstar, the best student in King’s College is here, the best in St. Thomas Aquinas is here, so everybody who is here is the best student. And you know we have a policy in Engineering: we don’t like to graduate many Engineering students. So, you have to recognize that all of you that are here, not all of you will finish! Our policy is to reduce the number of engineers we produce. So, we are likely to fail half of you before you finish. Just to let you know, and we will now start to do all the equations, looking at ourselves like – so, who is going to fail? (Laughter). And you know, after you finish a lecture, everybody will just pack their books and go. But after Adekola goes, we will not go, we will just be looking and saying why did I come to this class? Then, we also had Awojobi. Genius! And everybody felt inferior, oh, you can’t pass. This man, he’s too brilliant and our brains were small compared to his. Awojobi is a peculiar teacher. He just comes to class, no lecture notes, piece of chalk, duster and that’s it and he will go on and on and on and on. But we found something strange about Awojobi – despite the fact that he’s a genius, he allowed that everybody cannot be a genius. So, most of the time, from Awojobi, nearly everybody will pass. Quite on the contrary with what happened with Adekola. But it left impressions on some of us appreciating that we can’t all know everything. So, for any person, there must be some good sides that you must emphasize and there must be the other side too. And when you now look at what happens after, all the people that got first class and all of that, they ended up being teachers, lecturers and then the third class people became governors (Laughter)…But back in UNILAG, as we were saying, we had quite a legion of people. Many of our friends ended up in Shell…Okay, I had the privilege of using two scholarships. I had a UAC scholarship, I had a Federal Government scholarship. Larry is a deputy Managing Director in Shell now, Adesida is the Managing Director of Mobil in Kenya today. Those are a number of our classmates. But apart from those people, of course we’ve spoken about TundeBakare, my lawyer, Oshipitan, they are all UNILAG products. Back in UNILAG, you know we had North and South. So, those of you who read Humanities and Business and all of that, you are in the North. We don’t reckon with you (Laughter). We, the scientists, we are working Saturday, Sunday; we are in the South. But basically, it was a very serious environment. Ebenezer Babatope was our Students Affairs Officer. The same EbinoTopsy. By the way, virtually all the people who are running the biggest churches today were in University of Lagos and they started their ministries there – Pastor Adeboye was there, Kumuyi was there, MFM (Daniel Olukoya) was there…So, that’s also like the religious headquarters, if you like (Laughter). We had that kind of exposure. Some of my friends too became Major Generals and all of that and all of that…

 

daniel 6GREATEST LESSON LEARNT AT 60

The greatest lesson that life has taught me at 60, I will say, first and foremost, is that the reality of life is a bit different from some of the things we were taught in school. That’s the way I will put it. Life is very complex, but also quite simple, depending on what you want from life. And so everybody must determine and make up their minds what their value systems are and what gives them joy. For some people, it is: have I conquered my environment economically? That is what gives some people the kick. And you can see the likes of AlikoDangote that seem to be quite clear about what they are doing, and they are quite strategic and they go out there, they conquer. Some other people have a different approach to life – OBJ (Obasanjo) is a special human being who has a completely different approach to life. He probably sees life as a war. So, that’s also a perspective. There are other people who look at life from the maximum number of people they can touch positively. That also can be a goal. I think I’m somewhere in-between. That’s the way I will like to put it. One of the things that gives me joy; really joy, joy, joy is seeing people that I have been able to touch making progress. That gives me a lot of joy. Not giving you any money…

 

daniel 5TRANSITION FROM CORPORATE WORLD TO POLITICS

And how I transited back (Laughter). Between you and I, politics…Some people still don’t understand. They still think that why are you not there to take it over? This, that, that…It depends on what your own perspective of politics had been ab initio. For me, it was very simple. There was an opportunity to turn around a state. It is there for historians to write. But my humble submission is that I have achieved what I wanted to achieve. We’ve not finished the job. You can never finish the job, but we’ve created the opportunity, we’ve created the environment and people can take it from there. If some people now feel that oh, you’ve done ABC there, come and do XYZ at a larger scale, oh that’s fine. But that is not for me to go out of my way to struggle for, because I’m a politician. No! And I think that is what some of my supporters still don’t appreciate about my current disposition. They keep wondering why is this man just watching? I didn’t come out there for that kind of struggle, because I did not come there because I wanted more money or because I wanted to make a name. No! I believe I’ve made a name even before I came into politics. So, even before I came into politics, God had been kind to me. So, coming into politics was just to support, assist, facilitate, help. It’s not about personal positioning. No, no, no…That’s not why I came into politics. There was an opportunity to wake up a giant, the giant is now awake, and it is up to you to take it from there. But if you still need me, you come and talk to me. But I’m not gonna wake up and begin to run around and say see me, do this…No, no, no…

 

daniel 3THE NEXT PHASE

We thank God for everything. I think I’ve done what I’m supposed to do and I’m happy with myself…

 

ADVISE TO THE YOUTHS

Well, first thing is that they must not give up. People come up with all manner of strategies to make money and they do it blatantly. My advise to the youths therefore is let us open our eyes very wide. If somebody is making me an offer, why is he making this offer to me? Is it because he wants to develop me or because he wants to use me? I think we should as youths be strong-willed and strong-minded in such a way that we cannot be used easily. We do know that because of poverty, everybody has responsibilities. But our people have a saying that you don’t accept nonsense because of that. For me, and in 8 years, we have created a civilized environment in politics in Ogun State, notwithstanding the things that are not correct that people talk about…I feel strongly that the youths must make it a point of duty to evaluate anybody who wants to provide leadership, to x-ray and to be strong-willed enough to say no, we are not going this way…

 

daniel 2ON BEING MISUNDERSTOOD

I don’t know why, but I think in retrospect, some of the little things we were doing, our society, unfortunately…Okay, how do I explain it? I’m not Jesus and I’m not blaspheming, but I think I will throw that question back to you by saying we all read about His good deeds and how they still killed Jesus. We didn’t hear of anywhere where He did anything that you can call evil. We heard that He healed the sick, He raised the dead, He raised the lame and he was generally going about doing good. And finally, they gave him a very heavy cross to carry to Calvary. And when they got to Calvary, two thieves were there, one on the left, one on the right. And everybody knew that these were thieves. And before they nailed him to the cross, they now asked a question: you people, which one shall we release and which one shall we nail? And they said release Barrabas, nail Jesus! So, it could be something in our psyche and I don’t want to use myself as the only example. When Chief Awolowo started his politics, he said he was going to give free education. Then, the people went round his opponents and said oh, he wants to deny you the advantage of your children going to the farm with you to help you. He wants to send them to school, he’s not a good man. And you know Awolowo lost the election after that? You know the (rest of the) story. He lost the election. So, that’s one. Now, everybody is saying after he’s gone, oh, he was the best president Nigeria never had. Not only that, when you listen to this professor, you will hear oh, if not for him, I wouldn’t have gone to school. This, this, that! All of them, where were they (before)?

And that is what I think we need to learn about human nature – why is it that it is only when our people are gone we remember them? Now, everybody will say who is the best governor in Ogun State and they will say it’s likely to be Onabanjo. Correct? The first civilian governor (Chief OlabisiOnabanjo). But they’ve forgotten that he was jailed! He was jailed by Buhari for 100 and something years! And by the time he came out, he was diabetic, hypertensive, he was virtually blind and he died.

daniel 1I don’t want to be philosophical, but I think there is something about human beings we need to check strictly. Some people felt he (OGD) was becoming larger than life; who the hell is he? Let’s bring him down. And it was a planned, calculated, orchestrated and well funded plot (against me)…You can’t claim not to know of a paper that was set up to do that. That paper was set up to bring me down and after that the paper was shut down. Mission accomplished! I think that I was getting too smart for some people who then felt that look, this man must be brought down. It has not gone away, but we are just managing it…

 

ENDING UP ON PULPIT LIKE HIS FATHER

There’s no time that I’m not preaching the word of God, but from a different perspective. And you must understand that if I went on my own to establish a church, probably that’s where I’m going to end up. It’s not unlikely, you can’t be too sure. Because at the end of the day, like I said, the work of somebody who is say in governance or who is in church is supposed to be complimentary. We are all trying to help souls. The church is preaching that people should behave well. Talking of the real churches, not the other kind of church and it’s also good if more people go to church. Whether they like it or not, subconsciously, they learn something. So, if you look at it from that angle, without being dogmatic, I think that it is better to go that way and ensure that you can add some value and turn some people round than to go the other way. So, I don’t have any issue with that…

 

danielMOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT AGE 60 AND POWER

As a politician, I didn’t use power. So, for me, the post was an opportunity to support and to help people. I didn’t use power, I didn’t use power…the people who use power, you know now! (Laughs). But power is sweet when not used. That’s what I believe, and once you use it, you demystify it. So, I didn’t use power. It didn’t mean anything to me. Power is supposed to be used in a society that is crying for help, where there is unemployment, where everything is not working. Power is supposed to be used to facilitate, to make things happen. Not for the sake of showing that you are powerful. About being 60? Ah, I don become old man! (Laughs). I can’t respond (to everything any more). If I were to respond to certain things when I was 45, you know, na fire for fire. 60 is like the club of elders. Before, there were certain things you must do without blinking, but now, you must think twice. You are not just becoming an old man, you are becoming a grandfather and if God still gives you the grace to still look good, it’s just the grace of God. So, at 60, you have to be a lot more mature and measured in what you do and what you say…

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