As providence will have it, the story changed in the year 2003. A mechanical engineer named Justus Olugbenga Daniel, but popularly called OGD (Otunba Gbenga Daniel) took the driver’s seat as the third democraticaly elected Governor of Ogun State. The action man who has done his homework and has a blueprint “My Contract with the people of Ogun State” got cracking on the dualisation of the Abeokuta -Kobape- Siun- Sagamu 37.5 kilometres express road. From the feasibility studies, it was evident that many of the mud houses along this road have to be dismantled to give way for the innovation. The usual practice in Government was to mark out such houses for demolition, demolish, get the job on course and pay pittance to the affected landlords who have original documents to prove ownership.
The new helmsman in Ogun State was briefed on this procedure, but the man who came with his laptop (something new at that time) opened the “magic box” and showed his design to his Special Adviser on Works and Infrastructure, Engineer Kehinde Osikoya, who doubled as Chief Executive Officer of Ogun Road Management Agency (OGROMA) , a new agency made up engineers and other technical experts in the public service of Ogun State.
His directive was that the residents of Orile Imo and other adjoning settlements whose mud houses will be affected should first be provided with newly built interlock red brick bungallows with modern toilets, complete with electrification of their homes and after being resettled, the mud houses can then be demolished and road construction should then commence.
This simple directive in 2003 turned around the fortune of Orile Imo, turning it into a bubbling village with modern facilities. Their Lagos, ibadan based natives, including those in diaspora, began returning home to erect additional new houses while some residents of Orile Imo whose mud houses were far from the road and were not marked for demolition were trooping to the Governor’s office, lobbying that their shanties should be demolished and replaced with this new luck OGD bonanza houses.
In the history of Ogun State, if not in the whole of Nigeria, this innovation is for the records as it amounts to solving the problems of the general public with a human face.
This 13th Executive Governor of Ogun State who turns 60 on Wednesday, April 6, 2016 did not only dualise Abeokuta – Sagamu road, Lalubu road and a host of others, but commenced an aggressive road construction and rehabilitation road in the 236 wards of Ogun State. Electrification of roads in major cities was part of his programmes and he also succeeded in persuading the Federal Government to erect the first flyover bridge in Ogun State at Sango.
With his business unusual approach, he penetrated the private sector in partnering with the Government to industrialise the state and provide jobs for thousands of people. Nestle Foods, Dangote Cement at Ibese, Multirex Cocoa Industry, Coleman Wire & Cable and several other investments were attracted to Ogun State by his administration. He embarked on Agri Cargo airport to a point, brought in a lot of Chinese Investors, commenced the Olokola deep seaport project as well as Ogun Guadong.
The zeal at which he drove the national sporting event, Gateway Games in 2006 remains unparalleled in the history of National Sports in Nigeria. What is of more importance to the people of Ogun State, especially in Abeokuta was that it enhanced commerce to an unpprecedented level. His eight years administration built new stadiums at Ijebu – Ode, Sagamu and Ilaro and transformed the existing MKO Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta.
That Ogun State has the record of having the first University of Education in Nigeria is to the credit of his administration.
Under his administration the area boys and girls became “good boys and girls” earning monthly salaries as painters under the Ogun Employment Generating Programme (OGEGEP) of his administration. University graduates still scouting for job were provided with allowance and were engaged by the Government to work on certain days while searching for job. This has nothing to do with thousands of school leavers and graduates employed by the Public Service of Ogun State during his tenure. Artisans benefitted immensely from his administration as they were freely provided with sewing machines, hair dressers, generators etc to enhance their trade.
Housing programme under Daniel’s administration was marvelous as it changed entirely the face of Abeokuta and other major cities. The Olusegun Obasanjo Hilltop Estate, the OGD workers estate (which made 1000 civil servants of all grades including drivers and messengers to become landlord and landladies), the new phases of the State Secretariat and other numerus estates that were public/private ventures were part of the package.
The computerisation of the entire Ogun State public service was achieved by his administration while fleet of brand new buses were provided to ferry workers to their offices.
In the area of tourism, he transformed Olumo Rock, turning it into a money spinning machine with the introduction of an elevator to take tourists to the top of the rock which a lot of people dread to get to manually. Bilikisu Sugbon shrine at Oke Eri in Ijebu also got a facelift and adire dresses were aggresively promoted.
New hospitals were built by his administration and a lot of primary and secondary schools got new structures and general rehabilitation
During his tenure, three former Presidents of Nigeria, namely, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Late Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua and Dr Goodluck Jonathan came to commission monumental projects and they all scored him high marks. In fact, a tome cannot be enough to document the achievements of his administration.
A brilliant and charismatic personalty with his trademark smiles and black cap, Daniel is really in love with debates and strategy sessions. This favourite student of Late Professor Ayodele Awojobi brought in an appreciable number of technocrats to complement politicians in moving the state forward.
Born on April 6, 1956 to Late Bishop Adebola Daniel and Late Princess Esther Olaitan Daniel, he is married to Yeye Olufunke Daniel (a study in human relations) and is blessed with good children. He attended Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta and University of Lagos where he bagged a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration.
A marvelous politician, go – getter, gentleman and a rugged fighter on principles, some of his followers and admirers might have shifted base to other political parties based on dynamics of politics, community decision, personal reasons and the change mantra. However they are resolute on the premise of his dynamic leadership and monumental record of achievements in Ogun State.
Happy birthday to my boss, a big brother, a man of the people, the Otunba Obalofin of Ijebuland and Olu-Nla of Egbaland. God will endow you with log life and in excellent health too.
Sina Ogunbambo, a Journalist and Public Affairs Analyst who contributed this piece was a member of Ogun State extended State Executive Council in Daniel’s administration.