Justus Olugbenga Daniel is not your normal run off the mill politician. The two term former governor of Ogun State started off as a consummate business man before fate and the love of the people practically dragged him into politics. What started off as interventions to uplift the living standard of the people through the Gateway Front Foundation, GFF, later blossomed into a movement that eventually culminated into his winning the 2003 and 2007 gubernatorial elections on the platform of the People Democratic Party. For the then 48 year- old Engineer, fondly called OGD,, Politics was therefore not a vocation but a means to an end and that end was the upliftment of the society through meaningful and people centered good governance.
Otunba Daniel who turns 56 today, April 6, 2012 , largely achieved these all through his eight year tenure as the governor of Ogun State. Despite attempts by detractors and ongoing concerted efforts by some current tenants in the corridors of power to diminish and obliterate his contributions to the development of Ogun State, impartial observers still see those years as revolutionary in the annals of the State through the enunciation of policies and execution of projects that lifted the State out of the doldrums and transformed its entire landscape.
However, if Daniel was an adroit administrator and revolutionary governor, he was not as adept in navigating the slippery terrain of politics and its attendant evil machinations. And one could not really blame him. Where he came from, that is the corporate world, people called a spade a spade and board room politics was more often than not resolved over lunch and in worst case scenario in the law courts. Daniel belongs to the small class of professionals in politics who came into governance to serve the masses. However in the process of contributing their quota to the development of the society they did not reckon with the place of entrenched interests and professional politicians who use power for purely self and personal aggrandizement. They also underestimated the resolve of the system to deal with those considered as idealistic, recalcitrant and anti -system.
Again little did Daniel know that his business unusual approach to governance which was drawing applause from the people in and out of Ogun State was also ruffling feathers especially among some power mongers who believe that everything must be seen through their anvil. But for his uncommon determination to work to the end, his government would have been derailed midway. He faced perhaps the biggest battle ever fought by any sitting governor. It was an orchestrated war that saw a coalition of opposition and rebels from within his own movement baying for the life of his administration and his own political life and social standing. Everything was thrown into the battle to derail him. He was demonized, called names while attempts were made to make the state ungovernable. The Daniel administration was almost asphyxiated as needed funds which should have come in through the capital market were blocked . Attempts were also made to distract him through countless petitions and his position as the leader of his party in the state was constantly assailed all in a bid to frustrate his person and government. Indeed what some of his colleagues took for granted, like going to the bond market to source for funds to finance developmental projects became a tug of war as all processes of governance was politicized by those bent on fighting the governor to a standstill. The consequences of the war of attrition on the polity and its people were immaterial to the traducers. What was and is still important to them is emasculation or total annihilation of Daniel.
Daniel is perhaps the only politician today whose enemies are unrelenting in their bid to decimate him even while out of office. The war against his colleagues stopped the moment they left office. But the war against Daniel got additional impetus from his traducers the moment he left office. And the road map of those behind the plot is clearly mapped out. They want to damage Daniel sufficiently in the eye of the public both external and internal so that his soaring image as one of the new breed leaders in Yoruba land will plummet. Their calculation is that even if the former governor survives the contrived allegations of graft against him, his standing in the society would have been negatively affected and he would not be able to stand for any major elective political office neither would he stand a good chance to be appointed into one. On a regular basis, simulated crisis involving the former governor and some individuals are pushed into the public domain.
For years, those close to him had consistently talked about a plot to take out Daniel from the political calculations in Yoruba land by a coalition of forces that were uncomfortable with his rising profile in the scheme of things in the country. While he was in power, various plots and agenda were unfolded by his traducers from within and outside the State to, as it were, clip the wings of the Governor. And out of power, the plot against him has been intensified and his opponents are bent on delivering the killer punch by all means possible. The high wire political game in Ogun State has now reached a crescendo as a coalition of forces which has been engaged in a relentless battle with Daniel continues with its sustained onslaught against him.
The main objective of the renewed plot is to send him to political oblivion. They want to make the former Governor and of course the OGD brand “unsellable” in the emerging power configuration in Ogun State , Yoruba land and in the country. Issues that were ordinarily normal administrative actions by Daniel while he was Governor have been twisted and through the use of propaganda infused with the garb of financial infractions. And to ensure that their target was rubbished completely a campaign of calumny alleging that he was involved in ritual activities was peddled in different quarters without any shred of proof. This was garnished with the preposterous allegation of the existence of the fictional killer squad. All these are carefully woven together to continue to demonize this Daniel.
In office he was hounded and out of office he has become the most investigated politician of his generation. At the last count his successor has instituted close to ten probe panels to investigate mainly normal government actions and decisions under his tenure. Millions of tax payers money have been sunk into the project to persecute him while millions more will be spent if the trends of events are anything to go by. They want to take him out at all costs and by all means. He has also become the first former governor to face criminal charges for purely administrative actions such as giving rebates to investors who buy lands for the purpose of establishing commercial entities that would ultimately benefit the people. Ironically, some of the policies he was vilified for like granting rebates on land purchased by prospective investors are now being implemented by those who are in the forefront of the Daniel must be destroyed campaign. .
Luckily for Daniel , however, the final verdict on his stewardship in Ogun State does not rest with the position of his traducers who have continued with the war of attrition which they started while he was in office . What will endure will be his footprints of good governance which are very visible in all the nooks and crannies of Ogun State. In Egbaland, there is an emerging new business district accentuated by the domineering presence of the OPIC Twin Tower, the tallest building outside of Lagos and Ibadan. The Lalubu Road, hitherto a centre of gridlock, now compares favorably with Lagos Allen Avenue. However, it has six macadamized lanes with banks and top of the range boutiques dotting its entire stretch. The Abeokuta—Siun Expressway, the refurbished Olumo Rock, the new Housing Estates in Asero, the refurbished MKO Abiola International Stadium, the complete turnaround at the State Hospital Ijaiye, the best purposely built State Secretariat in the South West, the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Hilltop Estate, a campus of Olabisi Onabanjo University of Technology at Ibogun, the homestead of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Laderin Workers Estate, a new Gateway ICT Polytechnic in Itori are some of the legacies that have become signposts of the Daniel era in Egbaland , the home town of the legendary Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola the man who paid the supreme price for our democracy.
The Yewas for the first time are no longer crying of marginalization simply because of the equitable distribution of projects under Daniel. They now have a brand new School of Nursing, a glittering new stadium of international standard and the most functional Free Trade Zone in the South West. At the last count, over 5,000 employment has been created in the fledgling business enclave in Igbesa. The Yewas also have a campus of OOU, a new ICT Polytechnic, among the projects they are counting as part of their gains under the progressive era of Daniel.
The Ijebus and the Remos have been fairly treated too. The Gateway International Stadium in Ijebu—Ode which has played host to many international competitions ranks among the best in the country. There is also the country’s first University of Education, an ICT based Polytechnic in Ijebu Igbo, completely turned around water works, several kilometers of road and, of course, the multi—billion naira LNG Project at the Olokola Free Trade Zone, which is still in the making. The Remos also have a stadium of their own and, wait for it, the best NYSC Permanent Orientation Camp in the country. They also have their own ICT based Polytechnic at Saapade.
As Otunba Daniel commemorates another milestone, he should take solace in the fact that his contributions to the development of Ogun State cannot be obliterated not even by the most vicious of traducers. This may be his winter; there will certainly be a spring thereafter.