There is a new phrase amongst young Nigerians, they call it “Public Billionaires.” This term is often used to describe individuals who all of a sudden became stupendously rich without a definitive edge progression. According to the proponents of this theory, individuals within this category lack the practical know-how on how to achieve success and more than often fail when called upon to mentor the younger generations on what it requires to build a business empire from foundation to roofing like their contemporaries around the world.
The general belief is that these individuals are often in bed with public office holders and such connections are used in cutting corners, engaging in sharp practices and shortchanging the public system to give them an undue advantage, leaving them oblivious of the rudiments for pragmatic business development and growth.
While this assertion may describe the stories of some, there are still individuals in our society who have toiled the proverbial soil, raced the tracks of rejections, falls and eventual prosperity in the world of entrepreneurship. Beyond the negativity and push-to-wealth narratives that have continually engulfed our society causing a near collapse of the virtue of hardwork in our value system, the success story of Otunba Gbenga Daniel (OGD), his strides and tales of corporate trajectory are best told by the obstacles, pitfalls, doggedness and victory the young Engineer from the University of Lagos encountered as he strived through the highly competitive but natively unorthodox field of electro-mechanical engineering in Nigeria, breaking the foreign monopoly and becoming the doyen in the sector while also achieving similar feat in Hotel and Hospitality, Construction and Philanthropy.
Today, Kresta Laurel Limited (KLL), a company that started in a small bedroom in Festac, Lagos has metamorphosed into Africa’s leading engineering firm competing side by side with the best electro-mechanical and construction companies across the world. Pushing aside foreign corporate giants who have heretofore dominated the industry, KLL went on to win international laurels such as the African Order Merit in Cranes in 2010, Institute of Government Research and Leadership Technology in 2013, KONE best performers award in 2017, amongst numerous others. The company is also the brain behind the vertical movements in most of the prestigious buildings in Nigeria such as the Union Bank, UBA, First Bank, Shell Petroleum, Chevron, CBN, Bank of Industry headquarters to mention but a few.
But his entrepreneurial taste did not stop there. Otunba Daniel soon delved into the hospitality business with the establishment of the Conference Hotel. With his proficiency in business management, the hotel grew from one to three, offering world-class comfort and luxury.
And when Ogun State beckoned on him to govern in 2003, he took his business acumen and indigenization ideology with him. For the period of his administration, Otunba Daniel upturned the once predominantly civil servant countryside to one of the leading investment destination of choice in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Part of his initiatives includes the optimization of the Agbara Industrial Estate, strategically revived to compete with businesses within Lagos, acting as a formidable venture for industries. The symbolic opening of the Lagos-Ibadan axis as an alternative business environment with proximity niche for corporate embracement was tactically formulated to wrestle Lagos with an edge for expansion garnished with tax holiday and subsidized land allocation which Lagos could not provide. The once sleeping Sagamu town then referred to as “this way to” became home for multinationals and blue-chip companies like Nestle International, Coleman Wires and Cable, Eterna Plc, Wichtech Group, amongst many others.
The three free trade zones, namely: Kajola Free Trade Zone, Igbesa Free Trade Zone and Olokola Free Trade Zone evenly distributed along the Senatorial districts across the State were created as an haven for international investors who wish to do business in Nigeria without the bureaucracy and hassle that comes with such. Before one could say “Jack Robinson” the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) moved its multi-billion dollars supply chain project to the zone while the State government through a joint venture with Ondo State got Dangote Group to commit to building the biggest refinery in the world, right there. The projected employment generation for the first phase of the projects was put at over 50,000 (fifty thousand). The project was expected to be followed through by the following administration.
However, what is industrialization without electricity? Armed by this drive, Otunba Daniel administration put in for licensing, a State owned electricity distribution company and got three of such licenses; the first State to ever achieve such feat in Nigeria. The ideology behind the licensing is to create a central power network where the State can independently control the flow and distribution of electricity within the State, raising the needed megawatts for industries, offices and household through black-oil and turbine powered generation engines.
But Otunba Daniel did not stop there, even though industries are good in providing employment opportunities and revenue in form of taxes, if companies can find Ogun State suitable for production, they should find it more accommodating enough to bring their headquarters too and that he did.
The State Government Secretariat sitting in the heart of the city was relocated to the Governor’s office complex while the environment was cleared as the new Abeokuta Central Business district. The aim was to create a modern broad-street in the centre of the State capital which will now become the new home for the high-rise buildings of multinational companies. To show an example of what the future holds for this new area, the Ogun State Property and Investment Corporation (OPIC) built the first high-rise building in Abeokuta at the district, a signature note for others to emulate.
Today, that young son of Reverend Adebola Daniel has successfully built a multi-billion naira business empire and also used his ingenuity in designing the modern Ogun State and the industrial development spewing across the State. He is the Chairman, Nigeria/Finland Business Council and one-time Chairman, Governing Council, Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State. A Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (FNSE) and Fellow of the Nigeria Academy of Engineering (FAEng).