Classics, Seat of Power

‘My life at 49’ -Femi Hamzat

Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, the Lagos State Commissioner of Works and Infrastructure turned 49 on Thursday, September 19, 2013. Though, he did not roll out the drums, he nonetheless provided small-chops for those around his office at Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja on that day.

ENCOMIUM Weekly was there to interview the birthday boy.  Although the interview was supposed to hold around 10 a.m, it couldn’t because the commissioner had to dash out to attend the official launch of Lagos State Residents Registration Agency (LASRRA).

When he came back around 1 p.m, he could not attend to us again because of a meeting of the Tenders Board that was shifted forward to accommodate his absence.  The interview eventually held around 4.20 p.m in his office. His response to our questions made the interview interesting. 

Dr. Hamzat curriculum vitae (CV), both academically and professionally is an intimidating one. He had his first and second degrees from University of Ibadan, Oyo State in Agricultural Engineering and Bio-Processing Engineering respectively.  His doctorate degree was in System Process Engineering from Granfield University, Bedford, England.  He worked in England and United States of America before he berthed at Oando Plc, as Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Group Head, IT Strategy of Oando Plc, Lagos.  It was from Oando Plc, Lagos that he was appointed Commissioner for Science and Technology in 2005 by Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu.  In 2007, he was retained in the same ministry by Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN).

In 2011, he was moved to Ministry of Works and Infrastructure by Governor Fashola.  Dr. Hamzat is married with two children. His father is Oba Mufutau Hamzat, who also is a strong member of APC in Lagos.


Congratulations on your 49th birthday today.

Thank you very much.

How does it feel to be 49?

For me, I don’t know. I feel like I felt yesterday or two years ago.  It’s just to thank God that one is alive. It’s by the grace of God.  There are people that are younger and there are my classmates that are fast gone.  I truly give thanks to God.  About feeling, I am just myself and I thank God.

What would you say you cherish most turning 49?

Oh, my life and my family. The life of myself, the gift of God, my children, my wife, my family, my father, parents, everybody around me. That is what I cherish most.  Like the Yorubas say, Eniyan laso eniyan (people are your clothe).

You are looking well trimmed and younger than your 49.  What is responsible for this?

Again, I think it is the gift of God. I don’t know of anything that I personally do.

Are you not involved in one form of exercise of the other?

No.  Like everyone of us, we exercise once in a while.  We try to eat moderately and live a moderate life.  But apart from that, I think it is just the will of God because a lot of people that are sick did not do anything wrong. It’s DNA.  Something they inherited and it’s outside of their control.  So, really I will just say it is the will of God.

What will you say you are surprised you can still do at 49?

Like I said, one is lucky to have good health.  Even at 80, one can still do a lot of things if he has good health.  My father is 81 and he is still moving around and lives on the third floor. I don’t see anything that has reduced in terms of ability.  Really, there is nothing that I have been doing five, six years ago that I cannot do now maybe because I don’t involve myself in too many things. I just do normal things of life.  Basically, there is nothing I could do 10 years ago that I cannot do now. I thank God for that.

What is growing up like for you, was it a privileged one?

No, it is not a privileged life. But that is not saying that there is something wrong in being born to a privileged family.  Again, it s one of the things you don’t have control over. If you are born into a privileged home you are born into it. It’s what you do with your life that is important. I was born in Mushin.  I went to a public school, Odo Abore Memorial Primary School. But I have very good parents that instilled the fear of God in everyone of us.  They told us that whatever you do, believe in God, pray and work hard. It was just a normal life. I thank God that He has done things for me that I don’t think that I deserve.

Which of your childhood memories do you still cherish up till now?

At a young age, I met some university professors.  Since that time I made up my mind that I was going to be a professor because they had a lot of enormous impact on me.  Probably, that is why I went to do my Ph.D. I am not a professor yet but I taught in the university for sometime.

Probably, if you have not ventured into public service you would have had your professorship now?

The truth of the matter is that as long as God gives me life, when I finish this job, I will go back to the university.  That is my plan.  Whether I will now become a professor, I don’t know but I know I will teach in the university.

Where and how did you meet your wife?

We met in Ibadan.  I went to University of Ibadan and she went to Ibadan Polytechnic.  In the process of activities all over we met.  There was a symposium that I went for at Ibadan and interestingly, I noticed her.  Again, there was an inaugural lecture by a professor in U.I that she also came for.  I said, ‘Ha, ha, this woman has been coming.  I have been seeing her. Maybe I should talk to her.’  One thing led to another and she became my wife. So, we met in U.I.

What would you say attracted you to her?

Not many students come for inaugural lectures and the few that come interacted with each other.  So, I just felt this lady that has been coming for this kind of lecture must be academically inclined.  I think that was the attraction.

What year was this?

I saw her in 1985 and from then on I was talking with her and in 1986, she said yes.

How many children has the union been blessed with?

We have two kids.

Before you became a commissioner in 2005, you were in Oando Plc. How will you compare your experience in private sector with that of public sector that you are now?

They complement each other. The experience of one also helps the other.  They have different focus. Private sector industry wants to make profit in terms of cash.  Public sector also wants to make profit in terms of service delivery to the people so that people can be happy.

The private sector experience helps because it allows you to also know how to manage big things with less because that is what you are trying to do in the private sector.  So, they complement each other.  The goals are the same. The goal is to manage human resources to achieve a certain goal even though the end result might be different.  For me, I think the private sector experience has helped me tremendously to be able to manage my activities in terms of time.

Again, it’s different. In public life you do a lot of extra things that ordinarily in a private sector you might not bother yourself with.  That is just the challenge but again, like our captain (Fashola) will say it’s something we asked for, we cannot complain.  We seek election so we cannot say the work is too much.

When you were in the Ministry of Science and Technology, you were not well known. But in the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure you became very conspicuous.  Will you say the pressure of work here is more than the previous ministry?

Certainly, delivery in both areas are different.  People want more roads, when you go out to see the roads people see you more. In Science and Technology, you do a lot of background work.  They are two different things in terms of scope.  But again, they all contribute to the success of the state.  One takes you outside more and that is the Works and Infrastructure Ministry, in terms of meeting more people.

People are commending the state government for constructing many roads. But some are saying the roads are in the elite areas.  That the roads in the areas where the poor people live have been neglected.  What is your reaction to this?

I think it is a myth.  I don’t know why people keep saying that. If you drive on a road you don’t take it away.  The truth of the matter is Lagos State, as big as you think it might be is a small state in terms of size. A lot of people that live in Alagbado work in Lagos Island and so they move there.  What we look at is where does the biggest traffic go to?  That is the road that we fix now. In terms of size, 19 per cent of roads that we’ve done in Lagos are in Alimosho. If people say building roads in Alimosho is elitist then there is a problem.  It means the whole of Lagos is elitist.  We are building nine roads in Agege, Badia, Somolu, Badagry. We are building about five in Epe, two in Ejinrin.  Certainly, the statistics does not support that notion.  We are building a massive bridge in Isheri Osun. About seven kilometers that will cost about 1,022 pipes.  We are doing Meiran Phase One.  We just awarded Phase 2, we are building Ago Palace. These are major roads across the state.  For us, we look at all the local governments in the state.  There is no single local government today where we have not completed roads or doing roads.  So, if people say it is elitist it means all parts of Lagos are elitist.

Your name has been in the news in recent times as one of the people who is likely to be the next governor of Lagos State?  Are you actually interested in being the next governor of Lagos State?

We don’t need to speculate.  I am an engineer. I remember when we were in school, they said measure twice, cut once.  That is the only way you can be precise.  There is no need to start cutting without measuring. We are in a democracy, there will be a forum for us to agitate. So, at the right time, you can’t do it behind, in the back room.  Remember, I was appointed by a governor for the people of Lagos to do a job.  So, I am interested in doing my job.

If the same governor asks you to be his successor, will you agree?

I will sit down with him and discuss it.  At the right time, I don’t think we should distract ourselves. Our nation needs governance. Some of the things we are seeing at the federal level is because we don’t take governance serious.  You cannot do election for four years.  After election let us go and govern.  At the right time, we will do it. I think we should just leave out till the right period. Let us do the work and then see how it goes.

This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, August 24, 2013

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