A former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, on Sunday, said he had forgiven those behind his corruption trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which lasted for 11 years.
Daniel, who spoke with reporters on the sidelines of the maiden edition of Asiwaju of Remo Christians Choir Festival and Special Thanksgiving Service held at the Abraham’s Tabernacle, Sagamu, commended the Nigerian judiciary for being thorough and for dispensing justice with integrity.
The Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division, had on April 12, discharged and acquitted the former governor on all 15 charges levelled against him by the EFCC.
Justice Yargata Nimpar, who read the judgement, described the prosecution as malicious, adding that the anti-graft agency should not make use of state fiat to prosecute a governor for an action protected by a federal legislation like the Land Use Act.
But in his first public reaction to the judgement, Daniel said the outcome of the court trial had vindicated him and proved his innocence in the fraud allegations slammed on him.
The ex-governor explained that he became worried at some point when the trial was ongoing because of the “Nigerian factors,” but his firm belief in the judiciary as the last hope of common man kept him going.
While noting that the 11-year-old litigation was unnecessary in the first place, Daniel, however, pointed out that he had forgiven those who orchestrated his ordeal before the EFCC and the courts.
According to him, all of those who committed the wrong against him in the past had been forgiven and they were now his friends.
“To be honest with you, what can I do? I’ve forgiven them all without exception. Today, most of them are now my friends. Let’s just give thanks to God,” Daniel stated.
The former governor maintained that he served the state to the best of his ability and did everything right while in office.
He also enjoined Nigerians not to always see every person that serves in political or public offices as corrupt.
He added: “Our investigation agencies don’t tend to finish the work before they rush to court and many of the times they go to court sensationally. And when the judiciary now comes to a certain conclusion, some people will now blame the judiciary because they feel that person must be a thief.
“So, it’s like they (judiciary) have to run against the perception of the people. It’s quite a tough job from what I’ve seen.”
Continuing, Daniel said, “One thing I was sure of is that though I’m not a saint, I did everything right (while in office as governor) to the best of my knowledge. The land on which this church is built was my count 3 or 4. How would you say I stole this?
“I don’t understand it and I don’t know who the complainant is. The land was paid for, the church is not for profit; we donated the church back to the Baptist Convention and they’ve been running it for 11 years, and that’s a charge against me. And I had to go through all of this?
“Another one for the Church of the Lord in Ogere where we gave them land to build a university; how do we turn around the country if we don’t encourage this sort of thing? What is my responsibility as a governor? I’m supposed to look at areas where people need support, where people need help and help them.
“But the perception is that everybody is taking money. If we want something, will we take money from the church? I think at the beginning, that was count 10 or 11. So, these are the sort of things that I had to face and quite honestly, I felt God would vindicate me. But there were certain times that I also got worried because when you saw what was happening, you wondered.
“I think the tragedy is that in whatever we do, we must not write it such that every single person is a thief because there must be consequences for doing bad and there must be appreciation for doing right. So, when you have a society where people who try to do right are the people that are more or less persecuted, then there is no incentive to do right. You know, that’s my own worry and I’m hoping the right lessons are learnt.”
Speaking earlier in his remarks at the church thanksgiving, Daniel thanked his wife, Olufunke, and children for believing in him and for bearing the burden with him throughout the trial.
The former governor also expressed appreciation to notable Afenifere leaders for standing by him and staking their integrity while the court case lasted.
■ Read below the Special Report entitled: THE DANIEL ODYSSEY: A JOURNEY THTOIGH THE COURTS…