How Otunba Gbenga Daniel Almost Ran Ogun State Aground

To say former Governor Daniel fell from grace to grass before the end of his tenure is like stating the obvious. His once shimmering, golden image, political wizardry, which made the son of nobody; who by the grace of God became a pillar to be reckoned with in the Nigerian politics and leading to massive support he enjoyed, even by the Nigerian vibrant media faded away due to his petulance.

We seem to have been doomed to endure politics as an exercise in the dark arts, as against the practice in many other countries of the world but ours is infested with the ugly virus of political thuggery and bigotry.

In this respect, politics is no different from racing, where villains are as much part of the furniture as farriers.

Initially, Gbenga Daniel was not one of the bad boys of Nigerian politics, though he could sulk with the best of them.

Looking back at his career as governor, it is the opposite of smooth talking skills you remember him for, but much of lack of authority. Though in a way, he is the perfect modern politician; a beacon for his group of similarly light weight individuals who never really lived up to their billing.

Gbenga Daniel led a government apparently glued to controversy and disappointment.  He had everything and won nothing politically as many Ogun elites prefer to stay in Lagos and criticize his government on the pages of newspapers. They were in return derided. And their Governor, if he ever lived up to that title, with his toothpaste-smile, was the epitome of shallowness.

Former Governor Gbenga Daniel represented many of the good and – because of his stinking riches, some of the bad values of politics. He loved the game, as they all do- and he really enjoyed being Ogun’s first citizen. But he was outrageously pampered by the Nigerian press, which never saw anything bad in him. Men of the pen profession overrated him. And that is what truly informed his lack of respect, and a warped sense of self importance.

Now politics is asking those same politicians, the guys who have never been known to listen to anyone, to make a commitment to change by compulsion. Posters and billboards hung in every corner of Ogun State, showcasing the achievements of their governor.

It is difficult to believe in fairytales after you’ve lived through so many nightmares; so much diving, hacking and cheating. It is hard to believe that serial miscreants such as these have it in them to effect reforms. But it’s worth a trial.

The new turn of events might have a better return, though, with the Ogun State politicians of tomorrow. Young Politicians might be persuaded to listen to elders rather than bark at them, like the snarling dogs, as if they had stolen their favorite toy.

Then again, may be there’s no chance at all of ever reforming what long ago stopped being The Beautiful Game of politics where there is no permanent friend, permanent foe but permanent interest. So our political leaders are rich and live in big houses in the country!  But not much the same as the poor masses on the streets, even if on a more modest scale. They say you deserve the government you vote for; but that cannot be said of Nigeria. And, in that, Otunba Gbenga Daniel could be described as a model of crook politicians of his time.

Not long after he became governor, he relocated his children who were schooling in Atlantic Hall, Lagos to England because he found a “better” school for them overseas; another elite school in Surrey, England. The school, Caterham School, cost Gbenga Daniel between three thousand, six hundred and eighty-eight pounds (₤3,688.00 or N896,184.00) to seven thousand, two hundred and three pounds (₤7,203.00 or N1,750,329.00) per child per term. By a rough estimate, Gbenga Daniel paid between four million (N4,000,000.00) to eight million naira (N8,000,000.00) every three months in school fees for his children. That gave many indigenes of Ogun State an indication of what to expect in the education sector of their beloved state.

It was alleged that during his time in office as the Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel consistently perpetrated monumental corruption. He was said to have a penchant for lavishing public funds on personal obsessions.

Not long after he relocated his children abroad, he started the renovation of his house in Ijebu Ode. One of his friends disclosed that when he asked the then Governor why he was renovating his house soon after being sworn in instead of concentrating on doing the people’s work, the former Governor simply told him to get away. He said he was a very rich man before becoming Governor and therefore could afford to renovate his house anytime.” Yet, he did not embark on any renovations until after being sworn in as governor.

Street Journal’s investigations revealed that the Ijebu Ode house was expanded as the Governor acquired extra five plots. A meeting house was added to the existing house. His house in Sagamu is an architectural masterpiece. It has a swimming pool, beautiful garden and marble on the floors. The marble work also extends to some part of the garden. The house, which was recently built by the former Governor, is called Buckingham Palace by Ogun State indigenes.

Apart from the Sagamu and Ijebu Ode properties, Otunba Gbenga Daniel also has a personal home in Mende, Maryland, Lagos and Abeokuta. This penchant for acquiring homes has turned into an obsession. Lagos is about fifty-five minutes drive to Ijebu Ode where Gbenga Daniel has a home. Ijebu Ode is twenty minutes drive to Shagamu where he has another home and then Abeokuta where he had an official residence and a personal home.

As Governor, his spending on socials has also come under criticism. When he celebrated his 50th birthday in 2006, about N 15. 3 million was reportedly spent from the state coffers to give him a befitting birthday reception.  Out of the said amount, N 1.2 million was expended on the production of Otunba Gbenga Daniel’s personal memoir, N 1.5 million went into the 50th birthday drama presentation while the get together that wrapped up the birthday celebration at MKO Abiola Stadium cost Ogun State government N 5.2 million.

The Gbenga Daniel administration also claimed to have spent N 10 million on the mobilization of eligible voters in 2006.

It is being alleged in some quarters that most supplies done in the state in his tenure were handled directly by the former Governor’s companies or given to phony companies at highly inflated costs.

The three elevators at the “re-developed” Olumo Rock were supplied and installed by Otunba Daniel’s company, Kresta Laurel at an amount that reportedly gulped most of the N 650 million earmarked for the project.

Meanwhile, former Governor Daniel’s list of irresponsible spending included the sum of N 2.5 spent on the resolution of a crisis between members of the Odua Peoples’ Congress and students. Another N 7 million reportedly went into the provision of food and drinks for workers on Grade Level 15 and above when the Governor had an “interactive meeting” with them.

 

When the Daniel Government changed the name of the Kudirat Abiola Complex in Oke Imosan to South West Resource Centre, half a million Naira was reportedly spent just to inscribe the new name on the complex.

Otunba Gbenga Daniel was also accused of enriching himself at the expense of the state by allocating a sum of N 10 million for himself as “special security vote” whenever he goes on assessment tour of government projects.

For the better part of his eight year rule, his taste when it comes to women was a matter of public debate. Former Governor Daniel was allegedly romantically linked with almost all the women working closely with him, both within and outside the cabinet. Such women cut across the tiers and arms of government. There have been records of women fighting over who should have the Governor at given times. A source close to the Governor disclosed to Street Journal that ‘that was the only way the Governor could be assured of the loyalty of such women.’ One of those said to be on the list was one of the foremost women in the state’s legislative arm of government during the last dispensation. For years, the former Governor allegedly paid the sum of N 5.2 million every quarter to some women politicians in the state. What however remained unknown was the service rendered for the former state chief executive by those women.

 

In the course of investigating the mismanagement of N 30 billion allegedly siphoned from the state’s local government allocations and the Bureau of Land Survey, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission stumbled on evidences relating to another scam. The other revelation involved the alleged illegal and fraudulent procurement of loans of about N 22 billion from various financial institutions without the House of Assembly’s approval.

The management of Gateway Holdings was also accused of mismanaging the mortgage of state-owned enterprises and investment portfolios valued at N 15 billion without enabling laws.

 

Investigations conducted by Street Journal revealed that the Gbenga Daniel led executive was accused by the EFCC of diverting N 5 billion to cronies and associates in the disguise of salaries and allowances under the contingency and miscellaneous vote to the Office of the Governor.

Other matters concerning the OGD led executive being investigated by the EFCC include    the deduction of over N1bn from workers’ salaries as pensions without being remitted, which ran counter to the contributory pension scheme.

Similarly, it was found out that another N1bn was purportedly deducted from the state‘s treasury as counterpart funding for water projects.

The EFCC described that as fraudulent since there was an existing Irrevocable Standing Payment Order between the state and the Federal Ministry of Finance for direct deductions from the state‘s statutory allocation for the purpose.

Other alleged contraventions included alleged spending of N950m for the purchase of 20 refurbished graders for the Local Governments.

The amount was said to have been deducted directly from the allocations of the Local Governments on monthly basis, in violation of the Local Government Joint Accounts Law of the state.

Others include “fraudulent payment of N300m electricity utility charges by the state Agriculture and Multi-Purpose Credit Agency, diversion of N500m agricultural loan granted by the National Agriculture Credit Bank for Rural Development to the state through the MPCA and the illegal purchase of 20 Toyota Prado Jeeps (Sport Utility Vehicles) for N200m for Local Governments and subsequent illegal deductions for the repayment from the Local Governments accounts against the provision of LG Joint Account Law.

The anti-graft body also investigated the illegal and fraudulent concession for 25 years of Gateway Hotel, Ota, for N120m as against provision of Ogun State privatization and commercialization law as well as the failure to remit proceeds from the concession to the Consolidated Revenue Account, which contravened Section 120 (1) of the Constitution.

The illegal and fraudulent concession of Gateway Hotel, Ijebu-Ode, for N100m and failure to remit the amount into the CRA also interested the EFCC. Likewise the illegal and fraudulent concession for 25 years of Gateway Hotel, Abeokuta, for N300m and failure to remit the amount being proceeds from the illegal concession into CRA.”

While investigating all of that, the EFCC is still trying to unravel the source of a £ 2.7 London mansion traced to former Governor Gbenga Daniel. The property is part of the alleged infractions being investigated in the state by the anti-fraud agency. Daniel was said to have bought a ‘modest bungalow’ located at 39A, Park Hill Road, Croydon CRO5NF, United Kingdom for  £287,500, with title registration no SGL 41007 before becoming governor 28 March, 2000.  After one year and six months of being sworn in as the Governor of Ogun State, he allegedly bought another property in Croydon for £1.73m. The property, named The Gaiters, which former Governor Daniel was said to have paid for on 17 December, 2004, was handed over to ARC 3 Designers in Kent for renovation at the sum of £1 million.

The mansion, Gaiters is an eight bedroom, four living room house. The land is about 2 acres in a private estate on Shirley Hills. It has a swimming pool, a fish pond and security cameras mounted all around the house. The security cameras are linked to the plasma television screens that adorn most of the living and bedrooms in the house. Street Journal’s investigations revealed that Otunba Gbenga Daniel invested another five hundred thousand pounds (₤500,000.00 or N121,500,000.00) to furnish the house. The state of the art décor and electronic gadgets can match that of his neighbors, especially retired Arsenal star, Ian Wright. Wright lives on the same street as the former Governor. In one of the living rooms, the Plasma Television screen which is attached to a projector retreats into the wall at the touch of a button.

The property which the Governor has already expended over three million pounds (₤3,000,000.00 or N729,000,000.00) from the time of acquisition to now was recently adorned with a Rolls Royce car. The blue Rolls Royce is a befitting compliment to a magnificent and expensive edifice deserving of the person of the former chief executive of Ogun State.

Gbenga Daniel’s mansion is said to have been financed by Barclays Bank PLC. However, our investigations show that some of the money used to pay for the house and expensive renovations were transferred from Bond Bank, Abeokuta. The Daniel administration made it mandatory for all state contractors to open accounts with the bank.

 

Apart from the London mansion, it is being speculated in Ogun State that Otunba Daniel owns properties in China.

Street Journal has gathered that the problem many Ogun State indigenes had with their immediate past Governor is that the amount of money claimed to have been spent by the government was not a true reflection of the amount of development witnessed by the state under his rule. The state of roads in Abeokuta, the state capital put the former Governor at the receiving end of a barrage of criticisms. In Ogun State, it is a known fact that while Daniel’s rule lasted, every critic of the Governor was perceived as an enemy by those in his camp. He was believed to have zero tolerance for opposition.

The former Governor and Honourable Dimeji Bankole were on a war path for some time. Their cold war climaxed at the commissioning of the Sango-Otta Bridge. Street Journal can however reveal that the battle had been on ever since news filtered in that the former Speaker had his eyes on the governor’ s seat. The Governor once prevented him from donating exercise books to students in Ogun State all in a bid to frustrate his perceived 2011 moves. Otunba Gbenga. Daniel once publicly described Dimeji. Bankole as “a curse to Ogun State.” At a point, the venue of an “empowerment programme” organized by the former Speaker’s mother in the state capital was invaded by thugs.

A source disclosed to Street Journal that “Otunba Gbenga Daniel was not alone in his battle against the world”. His wife, Yeye Olufunke Daniel too once led a detachment of policemen to the home of one of her husband’s political opponents; her grouse was that the man violated her privacy by causing the photos of her children in the United Kingdom to be published in a newspaper. .

The Alake’s comment on Abeokuta roads led to a protracted battle between him and the then Governor Daniel. Investigations even revealed that the monarch was almost deposed for it.

To further worsen the situation, the Governor fought on too many fronts. Apart from his trouble with the EFCC, his relationship with two of the Senators that represented his state was not cordial, same for the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Dimeji Bankole, Chief Jubril Martins Kuye, the Minister from Ogun State whose structure he used to gain political prominence and Hon Tunji Egbetokun, Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly. He also had issues with former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Most of the former Governor’s critics are united by the allegation of threat to life.

Some experts who believe that Otunba Daniel almost succeeded in running the state aground before he handed over on the 29th of May, 2011 have put the debt presently owed various banks by Ogun State at about N 6 billion.

Author: NewsAdmin

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