A citizen can either complain, and be seen as a complainant, or act as a change maker bringing changes to his community. In the case of Hamzat Lawal, he chose to drive changes leading the fight against corruption in Nigeria and beyond.
When no one was paying attention to the poisoning of the people of Bagega in 2012, Hamzy was there. He was there to research the source of the poison that resulted in the death of more than 400 Nigerians living in the Bagega Community. He began the #SaveBagega immediately, and in a few months, the knowledge of the happenings in the left-to-dry community of Bagega has reached about 2 million people across the globe. The campaign also triggered the Federal Government of Nigeria to release 5.3 million Naira for an intervention in the community. And that is the beginning of the story of Follow The Money.
Follow the Money, an initiative of Hamzat Lawal focuses on tracking funds disbursed by the government or International Donors ensuring that they serve the purpose they are designated for. In 2015, Follow The Money successfully tracked the money disbursed to save the lives of children in the Niger State community known as Shikira. The campaign; #SaveShikira prevented the diversion of funds meant to cure the community of the spread of a poison which has the prospect of claiming thousands of lives.
Hamzat Lawal co-led the Not too Young to Run movement. The Not too Young to Run Movement was the champion course for the inclusion of young people in the Nigerian political and leadership space. The movement championed legislative bills amending the politics-related laws guiding elections to reduce the age limits previously promulgated. The bill and the entire movement were a success. There’s nothing wrong with saying that Hamzy is a champion of a new Nigeria where young persons with passion and innovative minds can contest for offices in order to serve their people.
Through his consistent data-driven advocacy, Hamzy has also been named as one of the members of the Malala Funds’ Education Network Champion. Working on the development of the educational sector in Nigeria, Hamzat has focused energy and resources to ensure that the Nigeria budgetary allocation for education meets the international standard. He has continued to champion the course that an underfunded educational sector will not do the magic of educational equity.
Hamzat’s effort to bring the changes needed by the Nigerian communities have also been recognised overtime. In 2017, Hamzy won the One Africa Award, and in 2018, he was recognised with the African Economic Merit Award. BeyGood’s Global Citizens Fellowship was added to his awards gallery in 2021. This is to mention but few of many other recognitions of his activism.
Being a fellow in the community development industry, Hamzy has been a support system to me, and my organization. The story of how he came through as a referee for us in getting UNDP support for our project on responding to the conflict between farmers and herders crisis in Nasarawa State still remain evergreen in my memory. The project has resulted into the two demographics living peacefully in communities in the state as published recently https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/516638-inside-nasarawa-community-where-crop-farmers-herders-coexist.html. This was achieved, but with the help of Hamzat Lawal.
The same help has also translated into the creation of Conflict Report platform https://conflictreport.org/, a website dedicated to tracking conflicts in Nigeria and ensuring quick response by authorities concerned.
Ours is one out of thousands of Nigerians who have come under the helpful hand of Hamzat. The man is humble, and is always ready to listen to differing perspectives. This is also one of the leadership traits he possessed that has enabled him to shape the development of many youths in the country.
I celebrate him as he clocks 35 years of age in life. Transitioning in the leadership ladder may be challenging but I pray to Allah to ease his affairs. I appreciate him, and all that he has put together to champion change in our country and in Africa. I pray that God continues to be with him, and his family.
Abideen Olasupo is the Executive Director, Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative-www.thebrainbuilders.org. He tweets at @opegoogle