Sometimes around September 2001, a tidal wave rove across the political sea of Ogun State, an unusual progressive mutation of sort which changed the political configuration in the South West region and have ever remained so. It was the declaration by a businessman, the least to be assumed, the Chairman/MD of Kresta Laurel Limited, Otunba Justus Gbenga Daniel to contest for the Governor of Ogun State, a highly sophisticated and elitist one at that in the 2003 elections.
On the surface of it, it shouldn’t really have mattered because the then 45 year-old engineer was not the first person to cross from the corporate world into what is now generally referred to as the murky water of the Nigerian politics. The significance of that sole declaration was the fact that a few years before then, Otunba Daniel had been listed among top 50 young Nigeria businessmen of note to straddle the corporate world in the years to come. Apart from that, the politics of the South West was under the vice grip of the Alliance for Democratic (AD), a political party believed to be fashioned after the political philosophy of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and model after a progressive economic ideology.
Anything that looks outside this political tendency was then considered a tall Order. But Daniel did it. He won the 2003 governorship elections with a resounding victory and with about 63% of the votes cast defeating an incumbent who is of the second generation of the progressive status quo. How he did this remained a study in the political course lines, but one thing that could not be taken away was the fact that Daniel himself is of the Progressive stock and it was not difficult for the people to identity the natural trait of that political model. It eventually turned out as an opportunity for him to prove himself.
Daniel’s administration even years after his statutory 8-year tenure as Governor of Ogun State remains a model. He has been able to regenerate himself, with a building a bloc across generations and a steady supply of new followers at each and every turn. Surprisingly, notwithstanding the archetypal political betrayers of followers and cross carpeting in the Nigerian politics, Daniel’s defines the essence and structure of ideals; most politicians either want to align with or oppose him; system of administration is either “how Daniel did it”, ” should have done it” or “shouldn’t have done it”, and good governance is “what Daniel did” or “failed to do”.
The strength of his political administration lies in the universe of values. His brand of politics is rooted in PEOPLE, a generational shift and a cycle of successor anchored on creating Opportunities for full expression of talents. Any political ideology founded on this model does not look like one that is ready to die too quickly, and so it is with the Daniel.
To him, capital projects is meaningless if it does not translate into direct improvements in the lives and living conditions of the average man. Every project was conceived with a mindset of how many people stand to benefit directly and indirectly. Reason why employment and economic empowerment was the cardinal point of his administration. His maxim, recall Martin Luther King Jr. “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic demands to the broader concerns of humanity.” In the course of the years, he earned for himself “Consider it Done!” as another sobriquet. He bacame a point of reference as “Mr. Problem Solver” to many who believe that there is nothing practically impossible for him to do or provide answers to. This also came with its own problems. Daniel was assuming a status beyond the ephemeral, operating on a spiritual realm beyond the minds and reach of mere mortals. And quite naturally, he became a focus and target of ceaseless attacks.
Plato once said “Man is only man within the context of the society in which he lives, any man outside the society is either a god, and an animal”. Daniel was a mere mortal after all, he was human as every human beings can be, and nothing more. He was simply just a good manager of men, an ‘organiser’ with a knack for even the minutest details, a compassionate leader whose driving force and productive energy is fueled by the satisfaction and happiness of the people around him. And he is bound to suffer the deceits, disappointments and failure of other mortals especially where the contest for power is the attraction. Stones are thrown only on riped fruits and men only pluck from fruitful trees. Daniel was ripe enough for plucking at each and every turn he makes because he is always producing fruits, in varieties. And just like every tree that bears fruits is preserved, Daniels remains a constant factor, a fruitful tree worthy of preservation and protected from termites and roddents by the supernatural hands of Providence, he is always needed where it mattered.
As the whole world, corporate, political temporal and spiritual stand up together to celebrate this Icon of the Engineering profession on the ocassion of his three scores and two years on the Terra firma, it shouldn’t come as a surprise why the Almighty God could have preserved him, it was because his Maker had moulded him for tasks which are yet to be fully unfolded, and to bear many sweet fruits.
*Shodunke, a Public Affairs Analyst, lives in Ibadan.