Death sneaked into the Lagos State All Progressives Congress (APC) Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC) on Sunday, snatching Oba Olatunji Hamzat.He passed on Sunday’s evening, following a brief illness, 17 days to the inauguration of his son, Dr. Obafemi Akadiri, as deputy governor.
Oba Hamzat, the octogenarian Olu of Afowora Sogade, Ogun State, was the leader of the famous APC caucus, Justice Forum, and father of Mufutau Hamzat, former member of the House of Representatives.
His last public outing was the conferment of a honorary doctorate degree on him by a foreign university. The event took place at the University of Lagos, Akoka.His death trailed the demise of prominent progressive actors and members of GAC, including Chief Mumuni Adio Badmus, Chief Wenu Hundeyin, Hon. Odunsi from Surulere and Pa Suarau from Ojo.
A successful banker, Hamzat joined politics in the First Republic, serving as a ward executive in old Mushin Local Government Area.In the Second Republic, he joined the Committee of Friends, which metamorphosed into the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria, led by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.In 1979, he was elected into the Lagos State House of Assembly on the platform of the UPN.
His godfather was Pa Rafiu Solomon, state party treasurer, close associate of Alhaji Lateef Jakande and father of Senator Ganiyu Solomon.In later years, he wrote his memoir where he expressed displeasure in the behaviours of the son of his mentor.Hamzat wanted to be Speaker.
But, Hon. Osinnowo beat him during the election of principal officers.
His colleagues in the House of Assembly included Chief Busura Alebiosu from Kosofe, Oladimeji Longe, Longe Oyediran from Somolu, Clement Awoyelu from Amuwo Odofin, Oluwole Awolowo from Apapa, Hon. Ariyoh from Oshodi, and Hon. Odunsi from Surulere.
However, his membership of the House was shortlived. Following consultations with Pa Solomon, Hamzat was appointed as Commissioner for Transportation. Immediately he was appointed, he ran to the University of Lagos to brainstorm with experts in related fields of Transportation Geography to keep himself abreast of the technical requirements.
Indeed, Hamzat’s ministry pioneered the introduction of the light rail in Lagos, a project of the Jakande administration approved and launched by former President Shehu Shagari. The project was the first casualty of the military intervention in 1983.
Hamzat’s compatriots in Jakande’s cabinet were Olorunfunmi Basorun(Secretary to Government), Olawale Idris (Commissioner for Education), Ganiyu Dawodu(Local Government and Chietaincy Affairs), Afolabi Ege, Hundeyin, P.O Fagbeyiro, Alhaji Masha, Hon. Sobowale and Prof. Femi Igbalajobi, who later became Secretary to Government.
Hamzat was subjected to harassment after the 1983 coup by the military. But, the coup did not draw the curtains on his political career.He returned to his private business.
Also, he enrolled for a writing course at the Nigeria Institute of Journalism, Ogba.
In the Third Republic, he bounced back as a chieftain of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). The Lagos chapter split into two, following the struggle for the ticket between Dapo Sarunmi and Agbalajobi, both from Epe.
While Jakande and his group supported Agbalajobi, Primose, which was made up of other progressives-Oluyole Olusi, Shitta-Bey, Oladele Ajomale, Bola Tinubu, Tola Kasali and Basorun, supported Sarunmi. Hamzat was part of the latter group.
However, Sarunmi and Agbalajobi were disqualified by military President Ibrahim Babangida.
Therefore, Jakande camp nominated Abiodun Ogunleye for the rescheduled primary. Sarunmi’s group supported Yomi Edu. Although Edu won the ticket, he lost the governorship election to Michael Otedola of the defunct National Republican Party (NRC).
Hamzat was one of the supporters of Chief Moshood Abiola, presidential candidate of the SDP. When the historic June 12 poll won by him was annulled, the group demanded for its de-annullment. In fact, Hamzat, Olusi, Tinubu and others had to leave Sarunmi’s group when he accepted to serve as minister (secretary) in the Interim Government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan.
Later, the Third Republic went with the wind.In 1999, Hamzat became a founding member of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Lagos State. He had wanted to serve as commissioner in Tibubu cabinet. But, the former governor objected, saying that he could not order an old man around.Therefore, Hamzat recommended the young and promising University of Lagos teacher, Dr. Muiz Banire, for a cabinet position.
Although Tinubu never met Banire before, he made him a special adviser, and later, commissioner.Although Hamzat’s two children won the House of Representatives tickets at Mushin and Ifako Ijaye, the family had to make a sacrifice by surrendering the Ifako Ijaye ticket.Hamzat succeeded Pa Ayo Fasanmi as National Vice Chairman of the AD(Southwest).
Until his demise, he was an outstanding party leader, held in esteem by members.