Justice Forum leader Oba Hamzat dies at 86

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A MEMBER of the Lagos State All Progressives Congress (APC) Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), Oba Olatunji Hamzat, is dead.

He passed on yesterday’s evening at the age of 86, following a brief illness – about 17 days to the inauguration of his son, Dr. Obafemi Akadiri, as deputy governor.

Prayer for the repose of his soul holds today at his Yahya Abatan Street, Ogba.

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, Babtunde 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 and a 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, Oladosu Oshinowo 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, Ariyoh from Oshodi, and Odunsi from Surulere.

However, his membership of the House was short-lived. 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 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 Sarumi 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 Sarumi. Hamzat was part of the latter group.

However, both Sarumi and Agbalajobi were disqualified by military President Ibrahim Babangida. Therefore, Jakande camp nominated Abiodun Ogunleye for the rescheduled primary. Sarumi’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-annulment.

In fact, Hamzat, Olusi, Tinubu and others left Sarumi’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.

Until his demise, he was an outstanding party leader, held in esteem by members.

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