By  Ishola Balogun and Bashir Adefaka

Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State was not available for this interview. But he mandated his commissioner for information and orientation, Mr. ‘Sina Kawonise, to speak to Sunday Vanguard.  Mr. Kawonise is also a major driver of the OGD political machine.  Excerpts:

Why are things going awry among stakeholders of the party in the state?

The Obasanjo group went to the   Federal High Court in Abuja and  got a phony injunction.  Why did I say phony? If somebody comes and says, ‘okay, the list that this person wants to submit is faulty,’ what you can only say is that, ‘okay, don’t accept that person and now accept my own list.’  And the court acceded to that.  Everyone has even said it, that in the history of the judiciary in this country, nobody has ever heard of such injunction.

Of course  we are already in court and so, we are waiting.  But while that lasted, opinions were divided in Ogun State: some people felt that the PDP  hadn’t treated us very well and that we should go to another party.  Some held the opinion that we should stay.

You know, after all considered, particularly given the governor’s commitment to President Jonathan, he said, ‘no, let us remain in PDP.’  If we leave PDP, it will hurt the chances of the president, not just in Ogun State alone but also in the South-West because Otunba Gbenga Daniel was appointed  as the coordinator, President Jonathan South-West Campaign. 

And the president says it everywhere that he knew that it was principally because of the effort of the governor that he was able to sweep the whole of the South-West in the primary and we believe the feat will be repeated in the general elections.  So, the worst could be that we lose out but if the president gains, we believe that we have also gained.

Would it not be better that you close ranks and bring all stakeholders together before the elections?

All stakeholders will be together.  Because, if you are talking of all stakeholders, they actually belong to OGD.  I do tell people and people actually know that who they voted for in Ogun State was not even PDP but OGD.  The party had been in existence before OGD came into it, but it was he that gave light to that party in the state.  It was he that took the party to a level that everybody now wants to belong.  In fact, if not because of time limit, the people of Ogun State would have said, ‘OGD, please stay on’.  That is the kind of popularity that OGD has in Ogun State.

And concerning the opposition, the day of reckoning is coming and I do not need to say much about that.  We would see who actually is in charge here in Ogun State and who is not; who is known in Ogun State; who has performed and who has not performed. 

The major opposition in Ogun State unfortunately is aligned to a person that was thrown out of office in the state.  That is the biggest liability.  A person selling the opposition party, which basically is the ACN, is Chief Olusegun Osoba, who was massively voted out in 2003.  Because the governor even challenged him to a debate twice but he couldn’t come.  He said, ‘okay, if you governed for four years and OGD has governed for eight years, you can split it into two; take any half compared with your own.’

The argument that OGD has more money does not hold.  It is just like a vagabond who has an income of N1million and he goes to smoke Indian hemp with that N1million, even if he has N10 million, he will still smoke hemp with it. He that is not faithful with small amount cannot be faithful with much!  So, that argument actually does no hold. The opposition will show all manners of things, they will make all kinds of promises, but the day of reckoning is at hand.

But with the Obasanjo group sticking to its guns, how can this issue be resolved?

What they can do is to pursue the legal option, which they are already doing.  We will see soon that they have no basis because the basis of their action, which culminated in the parallel primary is that they claimed there was a parallel exco or that there was a harmonization by the national headquarters of the party.  Now the court has ruled that: one; there was no harmonization.  Even if there was harmonization, it was illegal. 

 And that case cannot be appealed because the PDP national headquarters had been confronted with that kind of case in Plateau.  The PDP headquarters lost the case in Plateau, they went to Appeal Court, they still lost.  And since the two cases are the same in all material particulars, it is redundant for the PDP Headquarters to appeal that case and once that case is not appealed, that is the platform on which their own case is rested and that has collapsed.  That is the something that they can do.

Number two is that they continue to peddle influence; may be harass the president and all of that.  But the president is a man who follows the rule of law, who knows that we are not living in a banana republic and that we would not just decree and say, ‘okay, all of you, now, just go and queue behind one man’ That will not happen. 

Number three is to call out people on the day of voting and say, ‘don’t vote for these particular people.’  You and I know that Obasanjo group has no political value in Ogun State.  They are not known.  I make bold to say that.  It is not something that is hidden.  So, we shall see how it goes;  with due respect to the former President.

Recently, it was reported that a petition was sent to an anti-graft agency to investigate some of your activities.  At a time like this, what does it portend for your government?

You see, it is part of the game.  Whenever there is a quarrel that is when you see all manners of petitions being written.  It’s even better that it is happening now.   No matter where the petition came from, we are emboldened by it, it makes us more popular.

 So, we expect more and more of such as the days go by.  I think this is the most investigated state in the whole of the federation.  Sometime there was a petition that the governor was taking I think N1.2 billion every month on the sales of land in the last three years and we calculated to find out that, if he had been doing that, he must have eaten N36 billion.

 They said in fact that the governor had misappropriated N36 billion from land sale alone.  And we now brought out the whole figures, all the transactions that we have had from 2004 regarding land sales put together  till date were not even up to anything near that figure.

There was another allegation that N30billion from the excess crude in 2009 was stolen by the governor.  We calculated and saw that everything that came to the state, both the state and local government, was just about N12 billion.  So, how do you  steal N30 billion from N12 billion?  These are the kind of incredible things that you hear and are still happening and you would hear more.  Usually the pattern is that, after election when the whole thing is decided, everything dies down.  We are used to it.

What are your achievements in the last eight years?

Quite a lot.  Economically, the government of Ogun State under Otunba Gbenga Daniel has opened up the state.  In terms of employment, in the rating of states with lowest  unemployment rate, the National Bureau of Statistics rated the state lowest.  Ogun State has 8.5 percent unemployment rate whereas the national average is 19.7 percent.  It was not a surprise because if you look at the number of companies particularly Chinese companies that have settled down in Ogun State since the governor came into office, it’s been marvelous.  Ogun…., at the last count, has in its employment 5,000 people directly.  And once a company employs that, you know, you have about 20,000 indirect employment of those who are linked to those ones.  So when the National Bureau of Statistics came and said Ogun State has the lowest unemployment rate, nobody was actually surprised.  Again, at the last count, 10,000 have been employed in the Civil  Service.  18,000 teachers were employed.

And then also in terms of security, there was this study supported by McArthur Foundation and Ogun State also  was still rated as the safest in the country.  So many indices were considered; the cases of murder, thievery, armed robbery attacks you would not find in Ogun State.

On education, Ogun State has two state universities; no other state government has that.  And apart from that we have a total of 10 tertiary institutions, polytechnics inclusive in Ogun State.  Now for private universities at the last count, we have 11 private universities and polytechnics making 21 tertiary institutions in Ogun State.  If you look at the stretch between Lagos and Sagamu, you would see that the whole place has been opened up.  A lot of these places where they were selling a plot of land for N100,000 before this administration, they are not even selling the same parcel of land for N50million.  And that also constitutes a great chunk of our Internally Generated Revenue, IGR,  in Ogun State now.

Politically the state has been opened up.  The level of political consciousness that you have in the state is unprecedented.  Everybody is interested in what goes on in the state and the way the state is run.

In sports, we have four FIFA rated stadia in Ogun State now.

In terms of cost delivery, it is really very, very wonderful we get good value for money and the reason for that is that we have a governor who is also an engineer.  So there is nothing you want to tell him in terms of construction that he’s not there.

The example of this was the airport project we are building, we gave it to a German consulting outfit known to be biggest in the world and the most reliable in terms of everything.  We awarded the consultancy to that firm at N230 million.  Now the same type of airport project that is even lesser in scale than what we have here is being constructed in one of the states of the South-South; this happened about three weeks ago; they used the same consultancy firm and gave it for N1.9 billion.  Here, we get the best value for money; N230million to N1.9 billion! You see the difference?

Now, what burden are you leaving behind for the next government?

The government that will be coming by the grace of God, which will also still be a PDP government, will actually be standing on the shoulder of a giant.  In every sector, we have a power project that even when President Jonathan and his team came, they said they were going back to adopt it as a model.  Yes! 47 megawatts of electricity.  We have gone through the plant.  It uses black oil, diesel, whichever is available and is cheapest.

Now, we have all of those and we have paid for them but we have no been able to install them because we do no have the money to execute it.  So, what the next government needs to do is just to make sure that they install these things.  The one for OOU for instance, they need N100 million to install it.  Once it’s started, you do not shut it down until a year after.  Slow running generators, very efficient, you do no shut it down until a year after to service it just for one day.

That means there will not be issue of power failure.  It is estimated that the whole power requirement in Ogun State is just about 100 megawatts.  Already the state government has provided 47 megawatts.

So the coming government has all these structures on ground.  All they need do is just to build on them just to maintain them and make sure that none of these infrastructures is allowed to decay.  Then they have a few debts that they would inherit but even the Debt Management Office in the Presidency rated Ogun State as a most under-borrowed state.

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