OTUNBA GBENGA DANIEL
Interviewed by Funke Olaode
Can we have an insight into who you are?
I am an engineer by profession and a politician. I was born in Ibadan on April 6, 1956 into the family of Pa Abraham Adebola Daniel and Madam Olaitan Daniel. I grew up under loving parents whose influence has helped me to become who I am. My father was a disciplinarian. I attended one of the best schools in my time, the Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta from 1969 to 1973. I had a brief stint at The Polytechnic, Ibadan before proceeding to the School of Engineering of the University of Lagos.
What influenced your decision to go into engineering?
I was and still am a successful engineer before dabbling into politics. The decision to toe that career path was by God’s guidance. That grace has helped me in my endeavours even before I embraced politics. The decision to study engineering was influenced by the brilliant engineer and teacher, Ayodele Awojobi. I spent much time with Awojobi, and was a winner and champion several times over, on his television quiz show ‘Mastermind’. After my training, I taught briefly as a in the School of Engineering of Lagos State Polytechnic. In 1983, I got a job with Schroeder (W.A.) Limited, Lagos, rising to Deputy Managing Director. With modesty, I became the first African to hold that position in the history of the company. I left Schroeder to become my own boss. In 1990, I established Kresta Laurel, an engineering firm specialising in elevators, overhead travelling cranes and hoists.
You turned 60 recently, why was there no loud noise like when you were in power?
Turning 60 was a good feeling. I feel excited and I thank God for His grace that I am alive and still around to witness my day of joy. And for the parties? There would always be parties. People have been organising parties for me. My birthday was April 6 but we shifted it to April 10. My wife, Yeye Funke Daniel, my children and well-wishers celebrated me.
If you could turn back the hand of time, are there things you would have done differently?
Nothing really, I am very happy that I did everything that I set out to do. I thank God for blessing me and people around me. I am successful in my career life; I went into the public sector and made a mark. I have gone back to engineering and we are not doing badly. I have no regrets about myself and life.
What lesson has life taught you?
You cannot be an island. Whatever we are doing is not meaningful if the people around us are not happy.
How would you describe your experience calling the shots in both public and private sectors?
I worked in a private sector for close to two decades where I recorded a feat before I quit to start my own firm. I also felt it was time to give back to the society and humanity; I dabbled into politics and served my people between 2003 and 2011 in Ogun State as governor. When you look at the two, they are not comparable because in private sector you get immediate result based on targets. It is not always like that in the public sector where so many things are involved.
You were in the limelight for eight years with a retinue of aides, do you miss anything outside power?
I have missed nothing. Service to my state was a clarion call. All the routine of aides, followership and hangers on you saw around me were a burden on me. As a human being, I like to relate with people. I am a very accommodating person. All those things that people saw then were part of a call to duty and not that I enjoyed it at all. I may not have a retinue of aides now, but I am still a man of the people.
How do you relax?
I was governor for eight years in my state where I immersed myself into public service. Now that I am out of power, I have time for my family. I relax in the company of my family. I enjoy talking and interacting with people. I like to attend public functions.
Has politics seen the last of you?
I have no comment.