24-year-old Olaoluwa Hallowed Oluwadara about four months back made history as the youngest Nigerian to bag a PhD degree. He did it in a grand style having won overall best graduating student award in the University of Lagos postgraduate school.
Several years back, Lagos Commissioner for Works & Infrastructure, Dr. Femi Hamzat passed through that same road when he graduated from University of Ibadan with a degree in Agricultural Engineering and subsequently furthered his studies at home and abroad, resulting in both an MSc. in Crop Processing Engineering and a Ph.D. in System Process Engineering when he was only 26.
To many journalists who recently came together to interview the former Commissioner for Ministry of Science & Technology, one of several aspirants contesting to succeed Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola(SAN), Dr. Hamzat seemed strange on the political leadership scene. It is typical of his peers to be tardy, but the governorship hopeful arrived at the venue long before the appointed time.
When he was asked if he was just trying to score cheap political point by not keeping his journalist guests waiting, the 50-year-old said he is world champion at having positive work ethics.
He explains: “I worked in corporate environment for about two decades in organisations including the City of New York, RTP Consulting Services, Columbia University, Merrill Lynch Inc, Morgan Stanley and Oando Plc, and you will all agree with me that in such environment, time, competence are of essence, so am not play-acting, it is in my character to treat people well.”
For a man who has a kind of poise, and natural grace that makes him particularly appealing, he was asked what tempted him to throw his hat in the ring, declaring himself a candidate for Lagos State governorship election, and will have to jostle to attract the interest and attention of the electorate in the state.
“That is a serious question. About 10 months ago i asked myself same question. For me, the challenge of black man is lack of sustainable development. The other problem is that we deal with things such as faith, which we cannot measure. The nation that has done well even Dubai they don’t care about the person managing their economy. Dubai is not managed by a Muslim. I keep saying the story of Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe. How he built the country in his early days in government and later destroyed it. The currency we spend, the plane we fly know no colour, creed or race. Governance is a serious business, and as a people i laugh when a lot of us complain about our country.
“When President Jonathan wants to contest, he didn’t tell us what he was going to do, he only told us how he didn’t have shoes. I believe i represent values: service, integrity, honesty, innovativeness, dedication, teamwork and they define my character.
“I live by them visibly every day at work. At the expense of sounding immodest, as Commissioner for Ministry of Science & Technology in 2005, I must say I advocated for the creation of a forensic laboratory that would provide better evidence in the adjudication of criminal cases and unsolved murders in the state.
“As Lagos State’s answer to the U.S. social security number, Lagos State Residents Registration Agency (LASRRA) was established to create a useful database of all residents in Lagos State with a view to, among others, providing useful information for social welfare, political, security, business, employment and financial activities. Governor Babatunde Fashola passed the mandate to develop the frame work for implementation of the agency to me after the governor had conceived the idea with his predecessor. ”
To any untrained eye aiming to preside over Lagos State come 2015, Dr. Hamzat said the challenges are huge.
His word: “It is not Lagos but the whole Africa. The data is there, Nigeria is a poor country. The challenge of Lagos is enourmous, erosion is taking part of our land. How do you make use of technology to raise the profile of the state to make it attractive to investors. How do you raise the revenue, how do you convince people, voluntary taxation without running after them. Britain is a society where if you don’t pay tax you can go to jail. Here in Lagos, we spend a lot of resources to get this tax.”
Dr. Hamzat disdained the agitation in some quarters for a Christian to succeed Gov. Fashola, a Muslim whose predecessor, Sen. Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a also of the same faith. He argued that governance is a matter of character and not cosmetics.
He said: “I don’t even remember the religion Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo or Zik practised. I remember Awolowo for Western Nigeria Television (WNTV), the first television station in Africa, Obafemi Awolowo University, i doubt if i know what Mandela religion was. One of the problem we have as black man is measuring what cannot be measured such as religion. Let us look at the job description. Is it to preach? It is unfortunate that such thing is coming up in Lagos. As a people we must be very careful. If i claim to be Christian do you know what i do behind the veil. Religion is not important in this case because the job is not to go and preach.”
Reacting to the controversy surrounding his indigeneship particularly when his father is the present traditional ruler of Afowowa, an Ogun State suburb, Oba Mufutau Olatunji Hamzat, Dr. Hamzat said he is a Lagosian born and bred.
“My father is from Lagos, the Ajiborishas in Epe, he only lost his father at a very young age, when he was 9-year-old and got very close to his mother’s family who are from Afowowa.”