By OMONIYI SALAUDEEN
Due essentially to adversarial kind of politics people play in this part of the world, hardly has any public office holder in Nigeria come out unscathed. This is particularly so for former Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State who has been entangled in a web of controversies with his successor, Governor Ibikunle Amosun, over the debt profile allegedly accumulated by his administration. In this no-holds-barred interactive session with some journalists, OGD gave a blow-by-blow account of his roles in all sensitive matters threatening his public image. Excerpts:
The government of Ogun State recently announced that you accumulated hundreds of billions of naira debt before your administration left office. What is your position on that?
Let me say that I like hostile question like this because it provides opportunity for us to put issues in proper perspective. Yes, I have read it that the current governor of Ogun State, Sen Ibikunle Amosun, has said that we accumulated several billions of naira as debt. And this has been magnified by a lot of our newspapers. But the fact is that there is absolutely nothing like debt accumulation in Ogun State. And I am saying this with all the emphasis at my disposal. At the end of our administration, we took it upon ourselves to provide the state of affairs of the state and we reduced it into writing as part of our handover note. This shows a compendium of financial state of Ogun State from 2003 to December 2010 which was fully audited. At the time we did that, election was just a few weeks away. Let me also say that I have not seen any government after our government that has been able to produce a compendium like this where every kobo that came in was accounted for. And we were magnanimous enough to report a liability of N49.2 billion. But we have to appreciate the difference between debt and liability. We gave a breakdown of the liability when we were handing over. Out of the N49.2 billion, the only money that was owed to bank as at the time we left was N13.9 billion. All other make-up of these liabilities includes arrears of subvention to tertiary institutions, running cost (money given to schools for routine maintenance) as well as arrears of pension. It is the totality of these liabilities that summed up to N49.2 billion at the point when we left.
Let me again state here that before we got into office, the previous government did not produce any account like this. But I can confirm to you that in 2003, we also acquired a total liability of N36 billion. That also included arrears of pension, arrears of running cost, and some other liabilities in the bank. Luckily, we were able to clear all those arrears in the course of our administration. We were actually determined not to leave arrears of pension. But a combination of global economic meltdown in 2008 and the crisis in our House of Assembly and the passage of resolution 67 which prevented us from accessing finance instrument anywhere resulted in us leaving these liabilities. So, as we stated in this compendium, the cash liability we left was N39 billion.
However, Ogun State government has made several statements as to the true financial position of the state. In certain instances, they say it is N87 billion. On another occasion, they said it is over a hundred billion. Consistently, they have been inconsistent. However, God has helped us and the truth is gradually coming out. When the Ogun State government submitted the budget, the House of Assembly insisted that they must present the true financial position of the state for them to pass the budget. And in response, the Commissioner of Finance, Mrs. Adeosun, in a letter dated December 18, 2012 stated the true position of finance to the state assembly. According to the letter, the situation as at May 31, 2011 (two days after our handover) was N51 billion. And, of course, the difference between N51 billion and N49 billion is as a result of the three months time lag between the time we produced our financial statement and the handover date. The conclusion of this document is that our report is authentic. In other climes, somebody should be apologizing to me because I was magnanimous enough to sit down with those God has given us to run the affairs of Ogun state and gave detailed account of every dime that we left. The highlight of this is that the only bank loan we left as liability, apart from pension and all of those contingencies, according to them now, is N13.75 billion.
How did that come about?
Let me say here that in all of my eight years in government, I did not borrow a dime from any bank. What happened is that in the course of global economic downturn, we ran into short term overdrafts in about five banks. First City Monument Bank then acquired all these liabilities owned to other banks so that we know that we were liable to only one bank on one point. That was how we came to N13.9 billion we have in our financial statement. I give it to this administration, they were able to complete forensic accounting which we started before we left and they were able to negotiate it down to N3.75 billion. So, if there is any money our administration left as liability, it is N3.75 billion. This is the figure from the Ogun State government. The Accountant-General under my administration is still the Accountant-General of the state. This document was prepared by the Permanent Secretary and the Accountant-general of Ogun State. I think the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Adegbite, has been retired. But Accountant-general is still the same Accountant-General. The way the system ran under my administration, it was nearly impossible for any fraud to take place there.
If you consider what is happening in other states, I think we have not done badly. From what we are hearing, the total debt stock of Lagos which is the modest state which everybody says is the state where it is happening is something above N500 billion. I learnt that my neighour in Osun has also incurred a debt stock of N30 to N40 billion. Despite the fact that we had no oil, I think we have given a good account of every dime that came to us. The little we had, out of nothing, we did something. I built my stadium at N1.6 billion and FIFA approved it. Another State built its own for N15 billion. In 2003, the first roads I constructed, I constructed them at N10 million per kilometre. By the time I left, the most expensive road I did was the one in Lalubu. Some people say that the roads constructed by OGD have been washed away. But we constructed Abeokuta Shagamu dual carriage in 2005 and up till now there is no single pothole. This is a 48-kilometre of road and we put street lights and delivered it at N1.9 billion. There are not many roads like that in Nigeria today. I put street lights (999 poles) to line it and we did not destroy any house without building another one. All of these we did within N1.9 billion. If you divide N1.9 billion by 48, that comes to about N40 million per kilometre. I am now hearing that they are doing one kilometre road with N500 million and my people are clapping and celebrating. I don’t understand! Good, they have built a six-lane road with a flyover. But at what rate? Go to Abeokuta, the Lalubu road that I constructed was six lanes with a walkway; we did it at the rate of N50 million per kilometre. The continuation of Lalubu road is the one that has just been commissioned. And I am told it cost the state government N50 million per kilometre.
Some of your close associates accused you of assassination attempt on their lives. Could you please clarify your position on this allegation?
What happened to OGD was what you can call tragedy of our environment. Deliberately, some interests groups that feel that the phenomenon of OGD was a threat to them wanted OGD to be brought down at whatever cost. I am only lucky to be alive and I will continue to pray that God should preserve me. You are talking of Wale Adedayo and Tunde Oladunjoye. Can’t we ask ourselves questions? Isn’t there something lawyers call motive? Why is it that none of them has died? Or is it so difficult to kill? What I read in his account is that some gunmen accosted him around Ilisan, overtook him and blocked him. He then started shooting and driving. And in the process, two of them were gunned down. First question: who were the people that were gunned down? Second, what is the motive for me wanting to kill him? Is it that he was holding my money? If he is holding my money, is it by killing him that I will be able to collect my money? What happened was part of ‘Project Bring OGD Down.’ And it was a very well researched, well-articulated and well-funded project. In the course of funding this project, a few people fell for filthy lucre. It is as simple as that.
In your second tenure, you shut the state Assembly for eight months. How would you justify the role you played in the crisis?
I did not close the Assembly for one day. What happened in Ogun State in 2008 is exactly what is happening in the National Assembly today-settlement. Other governors will go and prostrate and say take this money. But I refused to give money or prostrate. That was my offence. Whether you believe it or not, under the administration that I ran in Ogun State, the judiciary was separate, the House of Assembly was separate, the local government was separate. In all of my eight years, there was not an occasion where I touched one dime of the local government funds. In all my eight years, I didn’t have any reason to call any judge and say this is the way it must go. In the same way, in all my eight years, there was no paddy-paddy in the state Assembly. And I did not close the Assembly for eight months. It is all misinformation. I have a letter written by the Attorney-General of the Federation, pleading to the lawmakers to open the state Assembly. Yes, there was a minor coup in the assembly. And naturally, we were happy about it because of the reasons I have explained to you. But we were also conscious enough to know that we were writing history. That also brings us to what you do not know about who was in control of police. I wasn’t in the control of the police. Speaker Dimeji Bankole was in control of the police because he was working with the rebels. President Yar’Adua was half sick, half dead. Jonathan was the Vice President and he didn’t want anybody to say that he was looking for the job of his boss. So, he was quiet. Senate President was busy with golf. The substantive president of Nigeria for a long time was Dimeji Bankole. Those of you who don’t know should go and check; he was the one who controlled the police at that time. Those were the forces I stood against. But because we believed in principle and we were not scared by what you call impeachment, we stood our ground. I wasn’t scared of anything because there was no impeachable offence and there was no fraud. Today, I am going through the most hostile takeover in the history of politics in this country. When we see people who are able to stand firm on the side of the people, we have to open our eyes. If you cannot support such characters, this country is going nowhere. There was never a time this administration disturbed what was going on in the state Assembly.
Could you also explain the issue of oath-taking that happened when you were in the office?
The whole story of oath-taking is the same as the story of killer squad. Those are parts of various simulations in the media. The people who came up with the issue of oath-taking were Alausa, Egbetokun, etcetera. The question is: If they actually took oath, why then did they break it? If I were the one that administered the oath, why would I then release the picture to the public? If we were the one that delivered oath to you, why were you now disloyal to us? It is either that there was no efficacy in that oath or there was no oath at all. These are political propaganda which educated people allowed to get into their heads. Again, what was the motive behind the oath? If the motive for the oath was because money was to be shared, why did we maintain the fundamental position that no money, no dime was shared? To answer the question directly, it is all in the fiction of their imagination.
What exactly is your position now concerning PDP crisis in Ogun State?
There is no party in Nigeria today that is not in crisis. And if you know of anyone, tell me. The only difference is that the media help some parties to manage their crisis as internally as possible, while helping other parties to expose their crisis as exposable as possible. In Ogun State, I know the problem with Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). But they will not write it. I had an experience when I was the governor of Ogun State which later became a crisis between me and Alake. A rumour was created in the media and the media helped to develop it into a crisis. Before we knew what was happening, everybody already believed it. But my successor has suspended a first class Oba now. Yet, nobody is reporting it. It didn’t happen!
Now, back to your question, I am not saying I am in PDP and I am not saying I am not in PDP. In terms of ideology, as you are aware, the G34 started PDP and it was Ige who wrote its constitution. They said they got into a meeting and they were not happy with what they saw, and then they went to All Peoples Party (APP). Again, when they got to APP meeting, they saw Adedibu on the high table, and said they were not going to sit down with these kinds of people. After writing the constitution of APP, they now went to Alliance for Democracy (AD). So, all the constitutions of these parties are more or less the same.
What did you do to OBJ that made him stand against you?
What did Atiku do to OBJ? What did Bola Ige do to OBJ? What did Sunday Afolabi do to OBJ? What did Fasawe do to OBJ? What did Mimiko do to OBJ? What did Agagu do to OBJ? What did Ladoja do to OBJ? What did Odili do to OBJ? To the best of my knowledge, I have answered your question. My opinion of OBJ is that he is probably the luckiest and most influential Nigerian dead or alive. Whether he could have done much more than what he did is for history. But if you hear that there is any issue between me and OBJ, first, it has nothing to do with performance because when he came on a visit to Ogun State, he said, ‘We came, we saw and we have been conquered by what we saw by way of development in Ogun State.’
How about the allegation that you killed Dipo Dina?
When the police did a good job by arresting the suspected killers of Dipo Dina and charged them to court, the media is muted. I am told that the Attorney-General of Ogun State has said that they should stop the prosecution. What is the motive of OGD killing Dipo Dina? In 2003, Dipo constested House of Representatives. And I brought Wale Ogunbanjo, an unknown commodity from abroad, campaigned for him and defeated Dipo Dina in three local governments in Ijebu Land. With all due respect, how could somebody who did not win House of Representatives in 2003 constitute a threat to my ambition by wanting to run for governorship? The only thing was the Dipo Dina series that he was writing in conjunction with people who were sponsoring him to soil my name. And finally, we caught the people who confessed that they killed him and prosecution started in 2010 at a Magistrate court in Abeokuta only to be told now the Attorney-General has stopped the prosecution. Why are civil rights lawyers not asking questions? Why did they stop the prosecution?