Hamzat: Por­trait of a Wor­thy Ally

The se­lec­tion of a for­mer three-time com­mis­sioner in La­gos State, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, as the run­ning mate to Baba­jide Sanwo-Olu, gov­er­nor­ship can­di­date of the All Pro­gres­sives Congress in the state, makes po­lit­i­cal sense as Hamzat is a true-blue ally, wri

THISDAY - - BRIEFING NOTES - NOTES FOR FILE

The choice of Dr. Obafemi Hamzat as the deputy gov­er­nor­ship can­di­date of the All Pro­gres­sive Congress (APC) in La­gos State ticked a hand­ful boxes con­sid­ered valid and strate­gic in terms po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions, thus, the con­clu­sion that he is a wor­thy ally for the party’s gov­er­nor­ship can­di­date, Baba­jide Sanwo-Olu in the elec­tion billed for next Fe­bru­ary.

Be­sides, his choice will unite the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal groups within the party, mak­ing it very for­mi­da­ble go­ing into the elec­tion even as it is seen as a par­tial com­pen­sa­tion for the La­gos East Se­na­to­rial zone where the in­cum­bent gover­nor, Ak­in­wunmi Am­bode comes from.

In­deed, Hamzat comes to the ta­ble with many pluses. Some of these in­clude huge po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal, the un­der­stand­ing of the in­ner work­ings of gov­er­nance in the state and a proven ca­pac­ity and high level com­pe­tence. Some of the fore­go­ing ex­plains why many pun­dits con­cluded that he aptly com­ple­ments San­woolu, the can­di­date.

An­nounc­ing Hamzat’s pick last Sun­day, Chair­man of the party in the state, Al­haji Tunde Ba­lo­gun, said Hamzat was se­lected af­ter wide con­sul­ta­tions by the apex de­ci­sion-mak­ing body of the party with other im­por­tant stake­hold­ers. De­scrib­ing him as a com­pe­tent hand, he said the party had no doubt about the com­ple­men­tary role he would play in help­ing San­woolu move the state for­ward.

“The high­est de­ci­sion-mak­ing body of APC to­gether with all the rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers of APC in La­gos State has en­dorsed Dr. Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat as the run­ning mate to the can­di­date of APC in La­gos State, Mr. Baba­jide Sanwo-Olu. Af­ter the en­dorse­ment, it is im­por­tant for me to pub­licly and of­fi­cially present Dr. Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat as the run­ning mate of our can­di­date, Mr. Baba­jide Sanwo-Olu for the 2019 gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion in La­gos State,” he said.

On a per­sonal note, San­woolu and Hamzat con­fessed to a friend­ship of over 15 years. Thus, while com­mend­ing the choice of Hamzat, the Sanwo-Olu said “Dr Obafemi Kadiri Hamzat and I have been play­ers in the same po­lit­i­cal mat­ters for many years.

“We have been friends and broth­ers for close to two decades and he is a man of deep in­tel­lec­tual knowl­edge. He is a man with a high level of in­tegrity. He is com­pe­tent and I know he is go­ing to help greatly to de­liver the La­gos of our dream. With a tech­no­crat like Hamzat, we will take La­gos to the next level,” he said.

Ob­servers see Hamzat as the best choice the party could have made in the pre­vail­ing cir­cum­stance. Party in­sid­ers told THISDAY that he was Tin­ubu’s ini­tial choice to suc­ceed Fashola in 2014, adding that he also had Fashola’s bless­ing at the time, but was dropped in favour of Am­bode af­ter a front­line royal fa­ther in the state pre­ferred the lat­ter.

Ac­cord­ing to the source, the very in­flu­en­tial Oba (names with­held) based his op­po­si­tion to him on the fact that his fa­ther had also be­come an Oba in Ewekoro area of Ogun State.

The is­sue gen­er­ated con­tro­versy at the time with the first Mil­i­tary Ad­min­is­tra­tor of Osun State, Maj. Gen. Leo Aji­bor­isha weigh­ing and in­sisted that the Hamzat fam­ily was orig­i­nally from Epe and had dropped Aji­bor­isha for Hamzat on re­li­gious grounds.

Aji­bor­isha, in an Oc­to­ber 10, 2014 in­ter­view pub­lished in the PM News in­sisted that “He was stay­ing with one of our re­spectable Mus­lims and politi­cians, Chief Mufu­tau Bad­mus. He was very rich. He sent Oba Olatunji Hamzat to Ko­ranic School and reg­is­tered him in Na­tive Author­ity School. Chief Bad­mus de­cided to re­move Aji­bor­isha from his name be­cause as a de­vout Mus­lim, he could not send child-bear­ing Aji­bor­isha to school.

“He said Oba Olatunji would only bear Hamzat. That is how he stopped bear­ing Aji­bor­isha of­fi­cially. Amu­dat Ke­hinde Hamzat is the name of Dr. Obafemi Hamzat’s mother. Her name would have been Amu­dat Ke­hinde Aji­bor­isha if the sur­name was not dropped.

“Hamzat is not the first per­son in our fam­ily to change his name. For in­stance, the head of my fam­ily changed his name to Ajibo-Oluwa be­cause they do not want to be as­so­ci­ated with idol­a­try in the same way Chief Bad­mus changed Oba Olatunji Hamzat,” he ex­plained.

Though the scion of the Hamzat po­lit­i­cal dynasty, those in the know said his ini­tial en­try into pol­i­tics had noth­ing to do with his fa­ther. One source in­sisted that Tin­ubu ac­tu­ally head-hunted him from the United States, where he was based dur­ing his (Tin­ubu’s) first term as gover­nor of La­gos State.

As the story went, their paths crossed in the far-away United States of Amer­ica, when Tin­ubu’s ad­min­is­tra­tion took a pro­posal to the US firm, where the younger Hamzat was work­ing at the time. Fate fur­ther favoured him as he ended up in the team that eval­u­ated the pro­posal dur­ing which he was said to have given a very im­pres­sive ac­count of him­self.

Im­pressed by his con­tri­bu­tions dur­ing the pro­posal de­fence, Asi­waju was said to have en­gaged him af­ter­wards. The sources stated that it was dur­ing the post-pro­posal de­fence con­ver­sa­tion that his pa­ter­nity be­came known to the APC na­tional leader, who sub­se­quently poached him and got him em­ploy­ment at Oando Plc. Tin­ubu later brought him into the cabi­net dur­ing his sec­ond term as gover­nor.

Be­fore his even­tual se­lec­tion, he had in­di­cated his in­ter­est to vie for the party’s gov­er­nor­ship ticket along­side the in­cum­bent gover­nor, Ak­in­wunmi Am­bode and the even­tual can­di­date, San­woolu. Many at the time be­lieved he stood a good chance only for him to step down then and pub­licly de­clared that he was do­ing so in favour of Sanwo-Olu.

Many saw the move as a re­align­ment of po­lit­i­cal forces to check­mate Am­bode and pre­dicted that he was go­ing to emerge as Sanwo-Olu’s run­ning mate.

Those who hailed his choice ar­gued that it was in line with global best po­lit­i­cal prac­tice for scions of a po­lit­i­cal dynasty to be thrust into po­lit­i­cal lime­light ei­ther through ap­pointive or elec­tive posts. Those who con­tended so cited Indira Gandhi and Ra­jiv Gandhi, Chief Olu­sola Saraki and Se­nate Pres­i­dent, Bukola Saraki, the Kennedy po­lit­i­cal dynasty in the US among oth­ers.

In the case of the younger Hamzat, his fa­ther, Olatunji Hamzat is an in­flu­en­tial grass­roots politi­cian in the state. He had served as a mem­ber of the La­gos State House of As­sem­bly and also as a Com­mis­sioner for Transportation in the state be­tween 1979 and 1983.

At the ad­vent of the cur­rent demo­cratic dis­pen­sa­tion, he rose to be­come Vice-Chair­man South-west of the Al­liance for Democ­racy (AD) and later be­came the La­gos West Se­na­to­rial Dis­trict leader of the Ac­tion Congress, an el­der states­man in the Ac­tion Congress (AC). He re­mains the de facto leader of the Jus­tice Fo­rum, ar­guably the sec­ond strong­est po­lit­i­cal group within the APC in La­gos.

Those in the know in­sisted that be­yond the fam­ily name, “He comes highly rec­om­mended,” adding that, “he is an egghead and a per­former; if not he couldn’t have worked in the Ba­batunde Fashola cabi­net for eight years given Fashola’s pas­sion for per­for­mance and ded­i­ca­tion to duty.”

In Au­gust 2005, Hamzat was ap­pointed Com­mis­sioner for Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy dur­ing the ten­ure of Asi­waju Bola Ahmed Tin­ubu. He re­tained the po­si­tion when Gover­nor Ba­batunde Fashola as­sumed of­fice in 2007.

As Com­mis­sioner for Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, he mid­wifed the adop­tion and de­ploy­ment of Or­a­cle, a mod­ern tech­nol­ogy-based ap­pli­ca­tion in the state’s min­istries, thus chang­ing the face of data and record-keep­ing in La­gos, which elim­i­nated all forms of sharp prac­tices in the state’s civil ser­vice, in­clud­ing cases of ghost work­ers. Gover­nor Fashola later ap­pointed him Com­mis­sioner for Works and In­fra­struc­ture at the begin­ning of the sec­ond term in of­fice.

Ac­cord­ing to Wikipedia, the younger Hamzat “grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Ibadan in 1986 with a de­gree in Agri­cul­tural Engineering and sub­se­quently fur­thered his stud­ies at home and abroad, re­sult­ing in both MSc in Crop Pro­cess­ing Engineering (1988) and PhD in Sys­tem Process Engineering (1992).

Se­quel to this, he gar­nered about two decades of work ex­pe­ri­ence in sev­eral or­gan­i­sa­tions in­clud­ing the City of New York, RTP Con­sult­ing Ser­vices, Columbia Univer­sity, Mer­rill Lynch Inc, Mor­gan Stan­ley and Oando Plc.”

Mul­ti­ple sources con­tended that his pick sign­posts a re­turn to the con­ti­nu­ity agenda that Fashola mar­keted to Tin­ubu to­wards the twi­light of his ad­min­is­tra­tion. Ac­cord­ing to those in the know, Fashola had pleaded with Tin­ubu to pick his suc­ces­sor from within his cabi­net on the ac­count that they were fa­mil­iar with the state’s de­vel­op­ments and cer­tain to en­sure con­ti­nu­ity.

One of the sources stated that “That ex­plained why Fashola backed him against Am­bode at the time and went on to ap­point him a min­is­te­rial aide when Pres­i­dent Buhari ap­pointed Fashola the Min­is­ter of Power, Works and Hous­ing.”

With­out equiv­o­ca­tion, Hamzat is one choice that not only com­ple­ments the La­gos APC ticket for sheer po­lit­i­cal balanc­ing but cer­tainly a wor­thy de­vel­op­men­tal ally that could re­set the gov­er­nance of the state.

Hamzat with Sanwo-Olu

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