Ex-minister, Kenneth Gbagi, dies in Lagos at 62


A luminous era has ended abruptly with the death of Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, a former federal cabinet member, businessman, politician and governorship aspirant in Delta State.

He died in Lagos on Saturday night.

The 62-year-old criminologist and attorney of the Nigerian bar was the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 2023 gubernatorial election in Delta State and a former Minister of State for Education.

Born in Sapele, Delta State, in a Catholic hospital by the Cemetery at Ogodo Road on September 22, 1961, Gbagi attended Bishop Johnson Memory Primary School, Sapele. At 14, he left for Kosofe Secondary School, Mile 12 in Lagos.

After his secondary education, Gbagi worked with a Foreign Service before travelling abroad to further his education. While in Hong Kong, he shot a movie titled The Birth of Hong Kong in 1993. This gave him some money to pay his tuition fee at Sans Thomas University in the Philippines, where he read political science. He left Sans Thomas University and graduated as a criminologist from the Philippine College of Criminology.

Gbagi returned to Nigeria for his National Youth Service (NYSC) and served at the Police College in Ikeja, where he taught criminology.

He later went back to School and made distinction at the faculty of law, University of Lagos. He was the youngest lawyer ever to head the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria.

His investments in Nigeria include GKO Group of Companies, Geekos Investments, Woodridge Hotels Group, and Robinson Shopping Plaza in Warri.

Among the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship aspirants in Delta State jostling to take over from incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as Governor in 2023 former Minister of Education (State), Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, discernibly leads the pack in terms of pedigree and competence.

However, it is not purebred and understanding alone that determine who gets the gubernatorial ticket of a party nowadays. Many factors, including money, political godfather and political structure are involved.

Many uninformed see Gbagi, a criminologist, entrepreneur, lawyer and philanthropist as arrogant and self-centered not knowing that his self-confidence, which they mistake for egotism arose from his upbringing and discipline from a strict disciplinarian father, Robinson Gbagi of blessed memory.

After the creation of Edo and Delta states from the defunct Bendel State, a former Military Administrator of Delta between 1993 and 1994, then Colonel Bassey Asuquo, who knew the resourcefulness and single-mindedness of Gbagi pleaded and appointed him Chairman of Delta Development and Property Authority, DDPA, after he refused to serve as Commissioner.

Gbagi, a security expert and instructor taught many top military officers, both serving and retired at the time, and Asuquo was cocksure that as Chairman of DDPA, he would clip the overindulgences of senior military officers from Edo State, where he was later posted to, notably the late Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, the next to former Head of State, the late General Sani Abacha, and others from shortchanging Delta in the sharing of assets.

Not many Deltans are abreast with the details but Gbagi not only served as a bulwark for the state, he also bested the expectation of Asuquo, who simply told senior military officers that ordered him that the matters were in the hands of the Chairman of DDPA, Kenneth Gbagi. None of the military officers serving under Abacha could intimidate him.

A man with the Midas touch, he quickly devised a revenue strategy that saw the DDPA, which had a zero account balance when he assumed office, to have over N800 million in its accounts from issuance of Certificates of Occupancy, etc.

Asuquo never tampered with the money before he left and Gbagi kept it intact until another military administrator assumed office. Surprised at how over N800 million was available in a “deadwood” government agency, the administrator summoned Gbagi to his office and after his explanations, he invited him another time to instruct him on how to share the money.

He practically told him which account numbers and companies to transfer the money and what he should grab for himself. Gbagi looked at the administrator and laughed, asking him if he found out who he (Gbagi) was before giving him such order and asking him to loot money belonging to the state. He bluntly refused and that marked his exit from the agency. Thereafter, the ex-military administrator frittered away the money.

Until now, nobody asked any question in Delta state why he left DDPA and what happened to the over N800 million that he raised for the state through the agency.

But the ex-military administrator, who bemoaned his action years later sees Gbagi as an extraordinary breed Deltan.

Gbagi’s refusal to participate in prowling the state’s resources made him take exceptional interest in his persona and they are friends today.

If the criminologist wanted to make quick money, he had plenty of openings under the late Abacha, who appointed him to coordinate a Federal Government Committee to develop Gwarinpa Estate, Abuja.

Again, like the DDPA experience, Gbagi dumped the job when even military officers and businessmen offered him bribes running into millions of naira to perpetuate injustice.


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