Engr. Gbenga Daniel served as the Governor of Ogun State from May 29, 2003 to May 29, 2011 making him the longest serving governor in the history of the state. Since his adventure into politics. Daniel has brought his skills in engineering to bear on the political arena with his various outreaches in some of the major political parties in Ogun State. Daniel is also sponsor of the Political Academy, POLA, which has become a capacity building institution for the nation, political class and media.
On the sidelines of a capacity building workshop for media men last weekend, he spoke to attendees on some of the issues he faced as governor of Ogun State. Excerpts:
By Bartholomew Madukwe
Can you tell us how you succeeded in bringing power supply to Ogun state during your tenure as governor?
At the twilight of Bola Tinubu’s first administration, I was the chairman of the transition committee that looked at what happened in transportation and roads in 1999. At that time, many people had forgotten, it was still not possible for any individual or organization to get in touch with power.
Power is about generation, transmission and distribution. All the things some of us do here at the state level is distribution. You have to distribute what is available. The power has to be available before it gets to distribution. And of course there is transmission. So when you generate, you transmit and then you distribute. It is a highly technical and complex situation.
I think in Bayelsa or Rivers State the government provided power, but gave the power free-of-charge because the economy was not developed. The entire power in the whole of Bayelsa State is not up to what we need in Abeokuta alone.
The biggest industrial set up in Nigeria today is Ogun State. Apart from Lagos that has Ilupeju, Apapa and Ikeja industrial estates, Ogun is the largest industrial location in the country.
The Ota Industrial Estate is bigger than all the ones in Lagos State together, not to talk of many others that are springing up. The power we are talking about in Ogun State is massive. You cannot say because it cost you so much to derive power, you now want to give it out at a price above the Federal Government.
As governor, what were your permutations on federal roads while governor?
When you want to embark on a project, you should first find if itis a federal government project or state project. If it is a federal government project, you will be making a mistake of short changing the state if you do not get the federal government approval in principle. For instance when I decided to do the dualization of the road from Sagamu to Abeokuta, that road is a federal government road.
So the first thing I did was to ask the federal government of its programme since the road has become bad. We asked the federal government if it was in its purview and whether it will be done in two years, then I had to use my network to fast track it.
We told the federal government that the bad road was ”eating” part of our economy and we were losing lives everyday. The number of deaths we were seeing there was unacceptable, So for us it was a priority. We gave them the facts and made them to agree in principle that they will pay. So we did the road under the agreed price that the federal government said it would pay and they paid. Look at some of the people who claim to be doing road extension. These are federal government roads and you do not have any direct commitment with the federal government.
Not much has been heard about the Olorunsogo power plant conceived while you were in office……
If the government had continued with our power Programme, the issue of power in Ogun State would have been solved in 2010. First, we did not go to hit power. I was in China with Chief Bola Ige when he talked with some people. They said they would bring power stations here. But that did not happen, as God would have it, until I became a governor.
We started revisiting the power issue and they said they were prepared to come but the state had not shown any enthusiasm. So I asked them what they needed and they said land. We gave them land and that was how the Olorunsogo power station was built, the first power station that was built in the South-west region after the early thirties.
Under the power policy, if there is power in a location, 20percent of the output is automatically given to that location and the rest to the national. So if I set a power station like Olorunsogo that has 300MW, 20percent is about 60MW. So if they do not pay me for that ab-initio, I would have 20 times of what they would pay.
When power was becoming slow we went to water. Because of the hilly nature of Abeokuta you still pump to power the water from sub-station to sub-station. If there is no power to pump water, the water will just remain at a hill top. And people will say there is no water without knowing that it was because there was no power to pump it. And what we then decided to do as government policy was to hit power.
The 23 mini power stations will give us 45MW. And with the 45MW, we will be able to power all the water works from sub-station to sub-station and give water to companies, hospitals and individuals. Remember the crises we had and there was no money. But I insisted that out of these power stations, we must commission one. And we did! It is not OGD power, it is the power of the government of Ogun State.
Are you familiar with the new phrase “stomach infrastructure”? was it prevalent during your time in office?
Yes! But in our “stomach infrastructure” we were teaching the people how to fish and not to give them fish. We have to keep Ogun State money inside Ogun State, that is our stomach infrastructure. It is not what is going on now.
When we wanted to put street lights in Abeokuta, they said we were mad, we could not do it. I called Engr. Lawrence and asked him to get the street lights for the road.
People said thieves would go there and remove the bulb overnight. I told Engr. Lawrence to go and get the bulb, then we will make the poles long.
That bulb costs N7,000 so the thief that will want to go and steal will first think of his life. So all the bulbs to serve from Goma Yard to Abeokuta were brought in.
We invited the welders association and said we need 1,000 of this. They said they will not finish it, if they were working for two years. We told to them come and take the measurement. We sat down and did the calculation, it was N7000 per pole. All the welders were kept busy.
I am laughing when they said they spent N1 million per pole.
How did your administration challenge the issue of youth unemployment?
We started picking all the area boys. We taught the boys how to paint and asked them to start painting. Of course, the area boys were good at painting.
When there was nowhere to paint, we asked them to start painting fecses, churches, mosques, just to keep these boys busy so there won’t be crime. It is possible at the national scale.
Between “stomach infrastructure” and “elitist infrastructure”- which one do you think is going on more today?
What is going on today is “elitist infrastructure”, a N9billion bridge in Sagamu where there is no traffic. If one car passes the bridge in five minutes, car is not passing in another 20 minutes.
Even the round-about where they built the bridge is not busy. That is what is “elitist infrastructure”.