As an ambitious young man, Otunba Justus Olugbenga Daniel was determined to succeed. He burnt the proverbial midnight candles, studied through thick and thin, and gave his education all it deserved. No wonder, he later became an accomplished engineer, a consummate politician, a quintessential manager and philanthropist, whose enviable achievements are for the records.
A fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, the Institute of Directors, Nigeria and the Academy of Engineering, OGD, as he is popularly called in political circles, was a two-term governor of Ogun State and the Founder/Chairman, Kresta Laurel Limited, Lagos, an engineering firm specialising in elevators, power systems, overhead travelling cranes and hoists which has remained a leader in its area of competence.
Born on 6th of April, 1956, Otunba Daniel, brilliant, audacious and intuitive as a college boy, attended Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta, the School of Basic Studies at The Polytechnic, Ibadan and later studied Engineering at the University of Lagos, where he won several scholarships and became acquainted with the legendary Professor Ayodele Awojobi.
During his National Service year at the School of Engineering of the Lagos State Polytechnic, he supervised the construction of the Engineering Complex of the institution and also conducted the semester examinations for the School of Engineering without any whiff of leakage or scandal.
That feat was described by an appreciative management as “quite remarkable in an environment where examination fraud was quite rampant.”
Daniel was to proceed to earn a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Lagos and subsequently attended the Lagos Business School for an executive programme.
A distinguished Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Otunba Daniel cut his professional teeth with Metal Construction (West Africa) Limited. He later worked with H. F. Schroeder (West Africa) Limited, Lagos where he was the General Manager and later, Deputy Managing Director making him the first African to rise to that position in the history of the company’s operations.
In 1990, he harnessed his extensive skills in vertical transportation, power generation and structural engineering in search of greater challenges and a wider field to plough and so, established his own company, Kresta Laurel, which in a few years of its existence had become a household name, blazing the trail in a world dominated by foreign corporate giants.
Kresta Laurel Limited is the foremost and the only ISO 9001 certified lift company in Nigeria. It is also the authorised distributor of KONE; the number one elevator makers in the world.
Otunba Daniel’s resolve to plough back into the society inspired him to go into public through a non-profit organisation, the Gateway Front Foundation (GFF) which has, over the years impacted positively on the lives of many through humanitarian an charitable activities.
To further affect the lives of the people positively, in 2001, Otunba Gbenga Daniel announced his candidacy for governor of Ogun State in the 2003 election, seeking the nomination of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
His foray into politics drew extensive media coverage with unprecedented level of popular support as he was regarded as a symbol of populist ideal to the common people.
He launched a trail-brazing campaign declaring the official slogan, “A Contract with the People” with a commitment to better the lot of the people by awakening the sleeping giant which Ogun State was by harnessing its human and natural resources.
He won both the 2003 and 2007 general elections and subsequently lived up to expectation by bringing positive innovation and productive dynamism into governance.
In terms of people-oriented programmes, it is widely acknowledged that Otunba Daniel restored hope, rehabilitated infrastructure, re-engineered institutions and firmly put in place an agenda of modernisation in Ogun State.
In addition to patronising only Indigenous Engineers in the Execution of all his projects including the 12-Storey OPIC Plaza in Abeokuta, Engr. Daniel, through personal supervision and institution of compulsory Safe practices on all sites, ensured that all projects executed under his watch as the Governor if Ogun State, were delivered safely.
Today, Ogun State has become the investment destination of choice not only in Nigeria but also on the West coast of Africa.
Indeed, his programme on Public Private Partnership attracted several businesses into the State during his tenure taking Ogun State into the ranks of the world’s emerging markets.
A partial listing of the landmark achievements of the Daniel administration include road rehabilitation, employment generation, ICT revolution, investment influx, tourism, rural healthcare programme and sports development.
Some of the landmark achievements include but are not limited to:
founding of Nigeria’s first University of Education, founding of Four ICT Polytechnics, the construction of three (3) world-class Stadia and the upgrading of one stadium to FIFA standard and the Successful hosting of National Sports Festival & some of the Junior World Games.
Others include the transformation of Ogun state to a virile private sector driven business haven by encouraging public private partnership, the construction of over 2000 kilometres of road rehabilitation in four years, resuscitation and expansion of several agricultural plantations, creation and Invigoration of the South West Resource Center, and encouragement of Local & Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) through Partnerships with various countries and Development Partners such as the Guangdong, China’s Business Community which has agreed to commit One billion Dollars to its Industrial Park in the state.
The rest are the initiation of the Olokola NLNG project, the modernization of Olumo Rock & beautification of Laogo Beach thereby improving on the tourism potentials the state, the signing into law of the Child Right Bill as the first Governor in the whole Country to do such, conceptualisation and setting up of three Free Trade Zones in the State and the development of the Ogun State Master plan.
After leaving office in 2011, Otunba Daniel continued funding youth development initiatives within Ogun State.
With the core objectives to prepare, produce and support young leaders to improving their opportunities and competitiveness to impact on the society significantly, he established the Political Academy (POLA) with the vision to identify, codify, enhance and propagate principles and capacities needed for effective value-based socio-political and economic leadership by offering high quality, accelerated socio-political and economic education.
In recognition of his contributions to educational development in the State Otunba Daniel has been honoured with several academic laurels, including:
•.Honorary Fellow of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria (2004)
• Doctor of Development Administration (DDA, Honoris Causa) 2004
• Doctor of Agriculture (D. Agric, Honoris Causa) 2005
• Doctor of Science, Engineering (D.Sc, Honoris Causa) 2006
. Doctor of Public Administration (D.Admin. Honoris Causa) 2009.
He has also won several distinguished awards including but not limited to the following:
*One of Nigeria’s 100 most successful Businessmen (National Concord) – 1993.
*MKO Abiola Leadership Prize – 2004
*Africa Leadership Prize for the Best Performed Governor for year 2003 – 2004
*City People Magazine Award for Best Performing Governor for 2003 – 2004
*Man of the Year (by the American Biographical Institute Inc) – 2004
*Best Performing Governor in Primary Education Development – 2005
*Corporate Governance Award of the Institute of Directors, Nigeria – 2005
*Zik Leadership Award, 2006.
*The Raymond Dokpesi: Electronic Media Award 2009.
He also served as the Pro-Chancellor/Chairman, Governing Council, Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State and he is currently the Chairman, Nigeria/Finland Business Council.
Otunba Daniel is the Grand Patron of Boys Scout Movement in Nigeria and of the Red Cross and also Grand Patron of the Sports Writers’ Association of Nigeria (SWAN).
Detribalised, sociable, cultured and grassroots politician par excellence, his diverse achievements and amiable disposition has earned him honours and recognitions from far and near as well as many chieftaincy titles including the Otunba Adeoti of Omu-Ijebu, Otunba Asoludero of Makun, Sagamu, Otunba Obalofin of Ijebuland, Arole of Remoland, Olu Nla of Egbaland, Oga Nla of Yewaland and Aare Ajibosin of Owu Kingdom.
He is also the Asiwaju of Remo Christians.
Otunba Gbenga Daniel is married to Yeye Olufunke Daniel and they are blessed with five children.
The Making Of An Engineer
Otunba Justus Olugbenga Daniel joined the then multinational company H.F. SCHROEDER West Africa Limited in 1983 as a young Engineer moving from lecture theatre of Lagos State Polytechnic, where he taught in the school of Engineering.
Burning with the euphoria of lecturing of courses, he accepted the offer to manage the post of a Commercial Manager for the Demag and Carbon brushes department.
Two years later, being the only qualified engineer in the company and industrious, he was promoted and seconded to control the affair of the LIFT Department as Assistant General Manager (1985).
Two years later, he became the General Manager of H. F. SCHROEDER (1987). Like an automatic but unwritten rule, Engr. Daniel received another promotion two years later to the post of Deputy Managing Director, the position he held until his resignation from the company in 1990.
The downturn in the economy caused largely by the International sanctions against Nigeria during the Military rule in the late eighties (80s) led to the mass exodus of the expatriates in H.F. SCHROEDER and probably a closure of some departments within the organization.
In between the years in H.F. SCHREODER as AGM (LIFTS and DEMAG|), he secured many lift contracts for H.F. SCHROEDER W/A, Prominent among these are:
Mamman Kontagora House, Marina – FMBN First Bank Iganmu, Crusader Insurance House, Lagos Elephant House, Chief Arthur Nzeribe House, Bamigbose, Lagos LSDPC (Taxaco) House, Lagos, Law Union & Rock, to mention just a few.
In H. F. Schroeder, most staff saw him as kind, selfless and many describe him as a Philanthropist -his passion as a leader, socialist, ‘welfarist’ and counsellor made him the doyen of everyone.
His stay in H. F. Schroeder could be viewed as a period of grace to the company and blessing to the workers.
No wonder then that when having seen that the exodus of the expatriates could affect the encompassing goal of the company; and also the expatriates believing in his ability to turn around things did not hesitate to pass on to him the clients being managed by Lifts, DEMAG and Generator Departments under H.F SCHROEDER.
They believe that he would not only keep but continue the business relations with those clients; an idea that gave birth to his Engineering Company, one of the best in the history of privately run companies in Nigeria.
Otunba Justus Olugbenga Daniel established his own company in 1990. This he started off by the belief in himself and the belief in the ability of Nigerian engineers to hold their own in the horizontal and vertical moving engineering industry in Nigeria. Kresta Laurel’s certification as the agency for DEMAG and SABIEM products is as a result of his proficiency in engineering details, belief and ability to accomplish projects and deliver to specification.
“Although, high technology is perceived to be the exclusive preserve of the industrialized world, it should be possible with hard work, discipline, thoroughness and maintenance of high standards to establish a company that can hold its own in the international arena with best practices in all ramifications.
The dream of Kresta Laurel is therefore that of a company aimed at providing first class products and services in the arena of technology with technical competence comparable with the best anywhere in the world”.
OGD: The Businessman
In the course of his leadership in H.F. Schroder West Africa, his friends cut across professionals, who had made a statement in their choice careers.
In the Engineering profession, Otunba Daniel excelled and demonstrated his business acumen by running a successful company that gave job to many and restored pride in the Nigerian professional.
OGD: The Making of A Governor
It was the same doggedness and penchant that made him a hugely successful businessman that he brought into politics and governance.
Otunba Daniel’s resolve to plough back into the society some of the abundance it has pleased God to endow him with, inspired him to go into public life.
His entrée was the Gateway Front Foundation (GFF), a non-profit organization through which he has in the last few years impacted positively on the lives of many through humanitarian and charitable activities.
It was the desire to further affect the lives of the people positively that made him to offer himself for elective office, in the position of Governor.
In his characteristic manner, Otunba Daniel ran a space-age, well-co-ordinated and intensive campaign, visiting in the process all the 236 wards in the State the first seeker for office to do so in the history of Ogun State.
During the grueling campaign, he sold the message of change and hope. He came across to the electorate as a fresh and dynamic alternative to the existing, but obviously tired power structure. The outcome was a resounding victory at the polls on April 19, 2003.
This same diligence, hard work, proficiency and tenacity of purpose, which made him excel among expatriates in H. F. Schroder was what he took with him to the state house as governor of Ogun State in 2003 when he became the democratic governor.
And so on May 29, 2003, Ogun State began a romance with an astute engineer and businessman turned politician.
He, by the will of the people, expressed through their votes, became their Governor for a term of four years.
Through deft social engineering, judicious use of resources and an uncommon desire to effect a positive change in the social economic landscape, Justus Olugbenga Daniel won the hearts of the people of Ogun State. And when it was time again for them to elect a new governor in April 2007, they overwhelmingly passed a vote of confidence on Gbenga Daniel asking him to continue in office for another four years.
The eight years of Otunba Gbenga Daniel have become reference points for others as they keep referring to the years as a period, when the state was catapulted into real development that is still manifesting till date.