*Reveals how he became a politician
*Insists ‘I’m unblemished, most proficient governorship applicant in Delta PDP’
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South and Festus Ahon
PROMINENT Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship contender in Delta State, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, has revealed how he turned down N200 million kickback from a former Military Administrator, who wanted to loot the state of closely N1 billion and choice properties across the country, some years ago.
The former Minister of State for Education and biggest private industrialist in Delta State, who spoke at a Townhall meeting at Asaba organized by Aniocha/Oshimili Stakeholders in Delta North senatorial district, said he has a track record of trustworthiness and selfless service, urging Deltans not to make the mistake of allowing thieves and people without character to succeed Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in 2023.
He told stakeholders that political opponents who contrived negative blackmail purporting that he stripped some workers, last year, really executed an inventive contract, but misfired, as everybody in PDP in the state knows that he is trustworthy and the most knowledgeable among the aspirants.
Why I accepted DDPA chairmanship
Recalling how the dread and mystery about him as a politician started in the state, he stated: “I rejected commissioner appointment from a former administrator of Delta State, Colonel Bassey Asuquo, just as I have rejected three ministerial appointments.
He didn’t bother me; he left me alone, but subsequently, he chased me to Lagos, saying I know I offered you Commissioner for Works in Delta, you refused but I have a problem and want to explain the problem so that you would appreciate the magnitude of it.
Bassey Asuquo told me you know that I am just a colonel in the Nigeria Army and administrator. In the sharing of assets between Edo and Delta states, Delta will lose. Do not forget that the number two citizen in the country then, late Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, is from Edo State. He told me that whatever he wanted to do, if Aikhomu called him and told him do it this or that way, the only answer he would have was ‘yes sir’ and it is done.
A clearly disturbed Asuquo further informed me, but I know by records that everybody up to the President of the country respects you. So please accept the chairmanship of Delta Development and Property Authority, DDPA, because they will share assets of both states and nobody can intimidate you.
But I said to him that by the laws in Delta State, chairman, DDPA reports to the Commissioner for Works. He said what he just wanted from me was to accept the job, he would change the law within 24 hours. If you go back to history and records, the law of DDPA was changed for the Chairman of DDPA to report to the administrator.
On that note and condition, I did accept the chairmanship of DDPA. The day we were sworn in, there was this old man, one Mukoro. He was the general manager. He came and spoke Urhobo dialect to me; he said ‘why did you accept this kind of board? If you come to our office today, the boys would riot. We have not been paid salaries’. I told myself that this man was only trying to reestablish my strength and told him do not worry, I would fix it.
When I got to the office, the boys were actually hanging around. I told the management that we were going into a board meeting straightaway. Though poor, board meetings those days lasted for three to four days for them to get more money and they also sold lands.
At the end of the meeting that lasted three and half hours instead of the usual three to four days, I announced that all those allocated land without Certificates of Occupancy, C of O, and those that applied for landed property, either in Western region, Midwestern region and Bendel, they should pay a token fee of N10,000 and within 42 days, I was going to issue them C of O.
Less than one week, I had moved more than N648 million in DDPA account. That was the beginning. I took all the files and C of O from the Western region until that time, signed all and issued them within one month.
I went further to say if you were interested to have land, I cannot recall the registration fee, either between N12,000 to N20,000, go ahead and make your deposits. I would give you landed property across the state. I wanted to turn DDPA to Lagos State Development and Property Corporation, LSDPC.
Summon by MILAD, what transpired
I use to run an office in Ijora, Lagos, then. I was in my office one evening when an Isoko man, a doctor that runs the state’s liaison office in Lagos ran to me that the administrator would want to see me. By the way, Asuquo had been redeployed from Delta State to Edo State, so another administrator had taken over.
He told me the administrator wanted to see me at 10a.m., the next day. He was petrified and technically on his knees begging me to see the administrator.
I am telling you today the secret of how I became a politician. I could not help but say to him that I would see the administrator. I got to Edo at about 7p.m. and continued to Delta with escorts from Edo State. I was not a lawyer then, I was only a criminologist at the time.
So the next day, I was at the office of the military administrator of Delta State. While I was sitting in front of him, he used his red pen to cross the title, criminologist and that actually provoked me. And he said to me, ‘I have looked at your account in DDPA, you have close to N1 billion, (he had written in a small paper) transfer N600 million to an account in the defunct Citizens Bank, you, take N200 million. There is a house belonging to Delta State in Kaduna, sell it to… (particular company).
Meanwhile, the N600 million is going to the same company. We have a big house called Cocoa House in Ibadan. He said sell it to a certain group captain, sell Delta Boat Yard to a traditional ruler in the state.
His words: “And I said to him, these are taxpayers’ money and properties. I disassociate myself and I would not do it. And he said to me just go and do it. I left and drove back to Lagos. I was not jobless. About a month and a half later, the same man came again that the administrator was looking for me and wanted me to meet him the next day at 10a.m. I obliged him.
“When I met the administrator, he told me, I told you when we met last that you should sell these properties to so and so persons and transfer some money. Up till now, you have not done it. Go and do it now. And I looked at him and told him when you gave me this instruction before, including that I should take N200 million for myself, I told you that I was not going to do it. He said so you were serious and said goodbye. I jumped into my car and drove off.
“Just before we got to Benin, I had a radio announcement that all Delta State boards were dissolved. They later did with the funds and property what they wanted. I did not raise any finger and indeed expected Deltans to ask questions, but nobody did.
“I never took salary nor drove government vehicle as DDPA chairman, just like when I was a minister. I do not serve in any government for salary or any allowance, it is to render service.
“I do not know what the administrator said about me, but a journalist with Tell Magazine, Victor Omuabor, for those of you who can trace that fellow, I still want to see him; he came to my office and told me that he had an interview with the administrator of Delta State, and he thought he should hear my own side of the story before publishing what he was told about me.
“I asked him if I make any comments, would you publish my comments, he said yes.
“I told him the administrator in question was a drug addict. God himself had made a mistake to bring a mad man to govern Delta State. Number three, he is a thief and I reeled out all that happened. My brothers and sisters, the major fear people have about me today is that I will not take bribes and will expose bribe-takers. But they know that I will surely develop the state.
“So people should not allow the tomfoolery of few persons who do not want the state to be ruled by straightforward people to continue.
“The magazine came out that week with the story smoking and that was how I became a politician in Delta State. The entire state was in turmoil. Everybody was asking who this man is, every traditional ruler in the state supported the military administrator, saying I do not know what I was saying. But my only interest was to stop the looting of the sovereign wealth of the people.
“Everybody wanted to know who is this Gbagi that is not afraid to say all these things. Some liked me because of my honesty of purpose and guts while others hated me for exposing the racket. That is the story of how I became a politician and from that time, I have always wanted to be given an opportunity to showcase my integrity and what I can do as a politician.
Ex-MILAD and I best of friends today
“What gladdened my heart was this, we were the people that formed National Frontiers that later on became the PDP of today. People like Chief Sunday Awoniyi and co were at the Sheraton conference in Abuja and when it was time for question and answer, somebody raised his hand, pointed at me and said he had a problem with this man.
“They said who is the man and he called my name. I could not remember him again. He said what I want you, Chief Awoniyi to do is to tell this man to pull his agbada and wear it on me, adding that if he was to come back to this world again, he would want to be like me.
“He then introduced himself. I was shocked because I did not know him again. I pulled my agbada and I wore it on him. Today, we are best of friends and as Minister of Education under former President Goodluck Jonathan, one of the 13 universities I created is located in his hometown without collecting anything for it.
In fact, he came to visit at my house in Abuja to thank me, saying it was amazing to him that some people can hold government office without taking bribes.
“What I am saying is that you need sagacity, you need to tie the knot and that is exactly what we are coming to do. We are coming to tie the knot to prevent the collapse of the qualities that will see the state explode economically and technologically if Deltans act wisely. I plead with Deltans that I will industrialise the state. I know what to do as an industrialist,” Gbagi further declared to the thunderous applause of stakeholders.
I’ve paid my dues in Delta PDP
Answering a question on why he refused to dump PDP despite scheming against him, he retorted: “When former governor, Chief James Ibori, came back to Nigeria, we met and he said to me, I am extremely happy that with all that happened to you in PDP, you have remained in the party without leaving.
“You see, you must first be a student before you graduate and become a lecturer. I built the house called PDP today, I am the oldest PDP member that is vying for governor of the state.
“I have paid my dues and every party member in the state knows that Gbagi has paid his dues. Governor Okowa will have a herculean task to say otherwise. How is he going to say it? You must first produce a more competent person than me and in the current PDP family today, I do not see anyone. PDP is my house, I know the architecture with which we built it.
“A number of things may have been done just like what happened would look like conquest but it was not. I will contest the governorship election for 2023 without fail.”
The governorship hopeful asserted: “I will be glad to see that people of character and integrity come into the race. People who will be able to show how they came to where they are today. It is, therefore, unbelievable that colourless people would come and say they want to govern you and you just give your vote for small money that cannot provide proper food for one week; you sell your birthright.
“I have what it takes to transform Delta State beyond what you can imagine. I have done it in my small world, at Abuja, Lagos, United Kingdom. My signatures are there, everywhere I have been to, I have always left the topography better. Delta State will not be different,” he said.
My blackmailers were very cunning but failed
Concerning the failed smudge campaign, he explained: “Sometime in September, last year, those who thought they want to contest election went to search my record whether I have contract scam— contracts from state, federal. They went for people working for me even as far back as 18 years, looking for those who have something negative to say about me.
“They did a very good job. When they found nothing, they thought the speed and the way people are talking about me is such that they needed to smear my name and painfully, they went about it in a very, very irresponsible manner.
“They have said that I sent somebody to strip some girls naked. Imagine how stupid they are. My joy is that every and anybody who spoke to me recalled that this was how they alleged before that I had a lion in my house in Warri. Now they have come to say that you are stealing N5,000 from your staff.
“It is on record that we have carried out cataract eye surgery in the northern part of the state for no less than 66 persons that we paid fully for. Rotary International in conjunction with Gbagi Foundation has granted leave to operate every such cataract patient across Delta State at our cost. For those who thought that all they needed to do to rubbish me was to say that I stripped people naked, it is a shame. Today, my God is fighting them.
“I invite them, let us come to meet Deltans. Is it the house that you built in this space of Okowa’s government that you want to use to govern us? The vehicles you bought or the money you have just made is the basis of you coming to govern us? Deltans should ask questions.
“No matter what you hear, I, Kenneth Gbagi, will contest the 2023 election and I will take over as the governor of Delta State. We will all present ourselves to Deltans. Blackmail, insult and telling negative things about me will not help us,” he said.
Okowa inherited a big mess
Gbagi warmed: “If Deltans make the mistake of having a mad man in the saddle after Okowa, what will happen four years after him will be unimaginable. The luck we have is that Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa hails from a home. He has a father. I know the father and he cannot misbehave, which is why we are lucky.
“Were you to have one of those people— I call them one of those people— you would have bitten your finger more than you thought by now. So I qualify and I also believe that others qualify, but let Deltans not follow the path of ignorance.
“This governor (referring to Okowa) inherited a lot of mess. It is not easy to run the state. In fact, no industrialisation as it were, and he is doing his utmost best with what is available to him as resources. Some of what you can see, I may not see it and what I can see, Okowa may not see it. Some of what Okowa can also see sitting there as governor, I cannot see. But as an industrialist, some things I can see, he cannot also see them.
The same reason the former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan said that I am the single highest investor in the state and were they to have two of my type, Delta will not be what it is.
“That is because I have entrepreneurial skills. I can see what a lot of people cannot see. Take it from me, after 100 days I would have established 100 industries in Delta State. My team and I are not sleeping. There is no area in this state that I do not know.
“I say that at the end of my 100 days, I am going to have a town hall senatorial tour of the three senatorial districts. Ask me of the 100 industries I have established. If you cannot find it, I tender my resignation.”