‘At 60, I don’t have any life-threatening health issue’

DanielFormer governor of Ogun State Chairman of Krestal Laurel, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, popularly called OGD by associates, in an interview with FUNSHO AKINWALE at his country home in Sagamu ahead of his 60th birthday celebration that holds on April 10, reminisced on life at 60 and what life has taught him.

What would you ask God for at this stage of your life?
I will just ask God to open the eyes of the people for understanding and wisdom.
Nigeria is perishing because Nigerians lack knowledge, and I believe with time, God will intervene.

At your age, do you have any life-threatening ailment?
At my present age, I must thank God because I am healthy and stronger as ever.

This morning, I played table tennis with my staff member. If I have health issues, I wouldn’t have tried that, so to speak.
Over the years, I have tried as much as possible to eat well, do my daily exercise and live life as it comes.
Aside this, I don’t smoke or drink, but that is not say people that drink or smoke don’t live long. I believe it is just the grace of God, and there is good health and longevity in my family.

At 60, do you have intention to run for elective positions again?
Of course, I am still available for any elective position. I am still in politics, but not as active as before, even though I am being told that I can’t run away from politics.

Really and truly, it is not about politics; it is just about giving thanks to God, more than anything else, for what He has done in my life.

At 60, what has really changed about your person?
A lot! I am less involved in politics these days. I have been busy trying to revive my businesses, especially my two big hotels- Conference Hotels in Sagamu and Ijebu-Ode.

I am now actively involved in the running of Kresta Laurel, as Chairman.In the last few years, I have been able to win mega projects across Nigeria for the company, which is now Nigeria’s foremost lift company.

Age has mellowed me. At 60, I have now joined the Elders Club and I am tired of fighting. I have given up on fighting anybody. The battle is over. I have forgiven all those who offended me.
I have also begged all those I have offended. Politics is not a do-or-die affair. I have had my own fair share of service to the people, having been governor of a state for eight years. We have reawakened new the state.
My predecessor has come to build on the foundation we laid. We knew what Ogun State was like when we came in and how we left it.

Can you still remember the worst and happiest days of your life?
The day I will never forget in my life was the day I was arraigned in court in Abeokuta.
Some students, sponsored by the government, were singing abusive songs outside the court. They were calling me a thief. They said I took $3million of state funds and N1billion of local government funds, but they were lies.
The happiest day of my life was when I won 11 prizes during our prize-giving day in presence of my parents. It was a day that always runs in memory and my parent being proud of me.

Turning 60 is an opportunity many do not have in life. How grateful are you to God?
I must give thanks to God. A few years ago, we lost so many people at age 40. We have had quite a number of people who didn’t live up to 60.
But these days, some make it up to 70 and they are still looking strong. I saw Chief Ayo Adebanjo the other day waxing strong on television. This is a man who is close to 90. I think we must give thanks to God for His mercies.
For me, I was shocked I didn’t know I was just going to be 60 just like that. Here I am. It is just beginning to occur to me that maybe I am now an elder. I am joining the club of the elders.

As you join the club of elders, what bothers you most about the state of the nation?
I have a lot of concerns about our country, the young people and what the future portends. At 60, it is not so much about you any longer; it is about legacies, it is about the people that are coming behind.

I think to a large extent, you measure success by the people you have been able to gather support for or help, motivate and reposition. That really is my concern. That is what I am going to spend time doing.

I have found out that there is really a dearth of knowledge and intelligence in what we do in the political space. That is why we started a Political Academy. My thoughts are how we can we use it to add to the body of knowledge and support the political process.

When I see things people are celebrating today, I marvel, I laugh. By that, I mean budgets and budget padding. I don’t understand. That only shows me that as a country, we don’t appear to be making a lot of progress.

Or is it the issue of ghost workers? Some governors are celebrating that as achievement. I did that in 2003 when I became governor. We did biometrics for our people, we computerised the pay system and we discovered that there were ghost workers. We then used the money saved to multiply the people we employed.

These are things that are not supposed to be celebrated now. So, why are we where we are? It is because we are not making progress and we seem to be celebrating mediocrity.

I have heard people talk about TSA (Treasury Single Account). I don’t understand what the whole process is all about. I didn’t operate TSA in Ogun State and we ran a damn good government for eight years.

Five years after I left government in the most hostile takeover in the history of governance in this country, nobody has been able to prove that a dime of government money is missing.

And I am still standing here in my house, asking my persecutors to show it and prove it. I keep asking people to tell me, show it and prove it. I feel proud today.

Five years after, I walk tall. I still told my finance commissioner I am happy that nobody in OGD’s administration has been arraigned for anything. Nothing! Absolutely nothing!
It is only OGD that has been arraigned for land grabbing and things like that. We thank God. If all OGD did, according to them, was to grab land for Ogun people, who are living in Lagos, to come home and develop, I am happy. We have a lot of land in Ogun, anyway.

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