The recent demolition by the Ogun State Government of a five storey building owned by Yeye Olufunke, the spouse of a former Governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, has demonstrated the criminal brand of politics practised by the supposed elite members of the society who are privileged to climb up the executive seat as governors of a state. Some weeks ago, the news was abroad of how workers believed to be agents of the state government chose an unholy hour of 3am on a Sunday to unleash bulldozers on the building said to be worth more than N1 billion under police protection.
The government, which allegedly gave the owner only three days notice, did indeed give reasons for its action.
It cited inadequate parking space, lack of a muster point and airspace.
It is a well known fact that Daniel, the representative of Ogun East Senatorial District, and the Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, have political differences. Despite both standing for election this year as All Progressives Congress candidates, the governor has accused his predecessor of working against his reelection. Curiously, they are also both from Ogun East Senatorial District. While Daniel won his own senatorial election, Abiodun won in only two of the District’s nine local government areas in the governorship election. Of course, the exercise was greeted with outrage on the social media and among citizens.
A governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party for the 2023 polls in Ogun State, Segun Showunmi, in an open letter, urged President Bola Tinubu to call Governor Abiodun to order. Showunmi told Tinubu: “You are enabling Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, we keep reporting him but what we see is that the more we report him, the more you pamper him with access to you. It was funny how he made the trip to India coming on the heels of the allegation of a chairman of local government around interference with local government funds, will Ogun now feel safer under President Buhari, a Daura man and unsafe under a Yoruba man?
“If no one will tell you, I will, your body language is making us feel very unsafe in Ogun State, first Dapo Abiodun got his thugs to attack me in the premises of a court, and then he shamefully removed Wale Adedayo based on a serious allegation of diversion of local government funds, now a sitting Senator has to deal with this.
“President Bola Tinubu, is this the type of thing you stand for, or am I dreaming? The likes of Dapo Abiodun who are profiting from a democratic struggle that took so many lives cannot be allowed to rubbish what is ideal behaviour and conduct in democracy. Mr President in our Yoruba language, ‘Dundu Dapo Abiodun nlata ju. (Dapo Abiodun’s actions are getting extremely overbearing). The powers and privileges of a governor cannot and should not be so total that a president will be unable to save the people.”
While Senator Daniel described the demolition of his wife’s property in Ijebu Ode as an act of executive recklessness and lawlessness, the state government said the structure contravened the state’s physical planning laws. Daniel, in a statement by his lawyer, insisted that the state government ignored court papers served on its agents, asking them to stop all actions on the building.
One interesting thing about such actions is that officials of the government are now seen as villains as they struggle to explain away the situation. In fact, Ogun State officials in this case cut quite a pitiable sight as they tried to explain why the building had to go. The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Olayiwola Abiodun, in a statement, said the structure violated the building codes of the state with numerous defects. Abiodun said several efforts made by the government to halt further development on the site were ignored by the developers. According to him, the proposal for the building, located along Ibadan Road, Ijebu Ode, in 2009 with registration number: CB/05/299/2009, was for five floors with an airspace of three metres at the right, five metres at the left, five metres at the rear and a setback of 32.5516 metres to the middle of the road.
He said: “The Zonal Town Planning Office observed during routine monitoring that the construction on site did not conform to the plan granted as there was a deviation from the airspaces and setback. In addition, the building had been modified and enlarged with an additional storey building at the back, thereby, becoming over-density.
He then went ahead to explain steps taken by the planning authority thus: “Given the above, the following actions were taken: ‘Contravention notice with Serial No. 0106983 was served on 24th May 2022. Stop Work Order with Serial No. 000623 was served on 24th May 2022. Another Stop Work Order with Serial No. 001065 was served on 22nd July 2022 when the first notice was ignored. Demolition Notice with Serial No. 0007549 was served on 11th October 2022. Notice to seal with Serial No. 000815 was served on 4th October 2022. This prompted the re-sealing of the site on August 1, 2023. However, the sealing did not stop the developer from further construction as work continued on the site. However, the developer wrote an appeal for unsealing, which was considered to evacuate the belongings on the premises. Thereafter, a quit notice with Serial No. 0030750 was served on 31st August, 2023.”
The Governor too did not leave his officials to do the explaining. Governor Abiodun stated that the demolition was necessary because the building contravened state laws and that the Ministry of Physical Planning had issued several warnings to the owners of the building, but the Daniels had ignored them. He added that the state government has been demolishing illegal properties without making any noise about it and this recent demolition should not be seen as anything out of the ordinary, since “the law is not a respecter of VVIPs or VIPs.
“The owners of DATKEM in their minds must have felt they were above the law because they were actually recalcitrant. It smirks of impunity if the Ministry of Physical Planning sends you a contravention order, sends you a seal order and you continue with the construction in violation of the safety of all of us in Ogun State. They sent you a demolition order, but you still did not respond. You begin to sneak into the building at night. You begin to work there. You begin to attempt to grease their palms so that they can overlook your contraventions. But, of course, the day of reckoning would always come.”
Addressing the accusation of vindictiveness, the governor recalled his intervention in another property belonging to Daniel. He said: “Let me take you down memory lane. The purported owner of this property, when I assumed office in 2019, had a property in Abeokuta. It was meant to be a hotel. My predecessor had sealed that property for eight years. He had issued a stop order. He was going to demolish that building, but for my intervention. I pleaded with him. That building remained under lock and key until I assumed office. The first day I was sworn in was the very day the owner moved into that property for the first time in eight years. And today, the property is called Conference Hotel in Abeokuta.
“How do you now begin to accuse the same me that facilitated the completion of that project despite different court actions that were brought then, despite different charges by the EFCC that were hanging around the project. I actually commissioned that project alongside the former vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. You are now trying to use media, trying to attract unnecessary sympathy, playing the underdog that I, Dapo Abiodun, demolished a property that first I didn’t know it was yours; your name is not on that property. You never came forward to say this property is yours.
“You expect that someone, who is a serving senator, a former governor of this state, would show a level of more responsibility. I have said it that I, Dapo Abiodun, if I have a building that violates the building code, bring it down. And by this, I am sending a strong warning to all of us across the state. There are many of you who have buildings without approvals. There are many of you who don’t even have a C of O. If you have built without approvals, the long arm of the law will soon be catching up with you. We will not tolerate lawlessness in this state. We will not be defined by lawlessness and half hazard development when you just build anyhow.”
Unfortunately, despite the detailed explanation of these infractions, which no government should fail to enforce, but through Governor Abiodun’s defence, he has clearly revealed that the use of executive office to settle scores had become a tradition in the state. He revealed how his predecessor, Ibikunle Amosun, also suppressed his own forerunner in office, their common friend, Daniel, during his own tenure. For eight years, according to Abiodun, Amosun made sure Daniel’s hotel was put under lock and key in the state capital.
What lessons do these men expect the younger ones to learn from them? Ironically, the three of them were at a time young friends and God has shown them uncommon favour to become governors of their states in succession.
During the eight years tenure of Daniel as governor of the state, he made things very hot for his own predecessor, Olusegun Osoba, that he could not visit Abeokuta, the state capital. Two years ago, Osoba spoke about what the duo of Daniel and Amosun did to him as a former governor of the state, describing his 16 years post-governorship as very traumatic for him. He disclosed that his successors made the state “hell” for him after leaving office in 2003. The former governor recounted that immediately he handed over to Daniel in 2003, he was declared persona non grata by the administration. He accused Daniel of preventing him from entering the state after his tenure.
Aremo Osoba said: “When I left office, I was so harassed to the point that all the plaques and the symbols of all the projects I did were the first to be removed throughout the state. The first 16 years of my leaving this office have been very, very traumatic. I never came back; I became a snake that doesn’t go back to where it has turned over its skin. These premises (Governor’s office) became a no-go area for me. To imagine that in my life, my return to these premises will be this glorious is something of emotion. My name was sent to the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) so many times. The EFCC investigated, because everything was documented in files, they found nothing. I couldn’t come to Abeokuta not to talk of visiting the office of the Governor. The other eight years, that one, also became problematic.”
And unfortunately, this kind of reprehensible behaviour is not limited to the state. It is common among Nigerian politicians to inflict pain on fellow human beings, just because of one devilish fancy or the other. They must show that they are in power as if the power seat is permanent for life. Politics of bitterness does not have another name other than this. No wonder, the political terrain is riddled with unexplained disappearance, death and other untoward stories.
Inasmuch as nobody is condoning acts of contravening building orders or going against laid down rules of the society, anyone who is privileged to find himself on the executive chair should tread softly, knowing that power is transient and that while up there, one should impact lives and think of what people will say about them after leaving such office. Enough of bitter politics that breeds nothing but evil.