Hamzat Lawal is an activist who has successfully led grassroots campaigns in over 40 African countries with over seven years experience in the non-profit sector and specializes in practical issues associated with Climate Change, Open Data and development policies as it affects rural communities. Leading the development and implementation of CODE’s strategy with responsibilities of creating, communicating, and implementing the organization’s vision, mission and overall directions.
Hamzy is also the Co-Founder of Follow The Money, a grassroots data-driven movement and leads a team of technology & innovation driven campaigners to amplify voices of marginalized communities promoting accountability as it affects utilization of public funds focusing on specific communities in Nigeria.
He seats on the Executive Board of The largest Youth movement in Africa: The African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) advising on communications strategies with over 40,000 young people to share best practices and campaigns using technology tools in shaping and actualizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) across the continent.
For Nigeria’s Independence Week, we are pleased to have Hamzy on the site to demonstrate what being a true Nigerian is about, read below:
What does sustainability mean to you?
To me, sustainability goes beyond the product, at CODE, sustainability is connected to development and that is how I view it. I believe in watching youths take responsibility, in that – our organization doesn’t just exist without the youth, we have been able to engage them in the past and will continue to. We believe in capacity building, mentoring, innovation and seeing people grow. I can but say it’s all about the people, most importantly those at rural communities.
Sustainability is not just about our product or environment but about the people who can maximize the product use, product innovation, product distribution as well as seeing the people who best understand the product to take responsibility for their environment.
Kindly talk a bit on Follow The the Money Campaign
Just as I have said about what sustainability means to me, Follow The Money and its campaign started through the passion of people solving their own challenges. In 2012, we started with a campaign on #SaveBagega a community in Anka Local Government of Zamfara state. It was reported that children were dying as a result of lead poisoning due to illegal/artisanal mining in the region. I couldn’t hold myself, I understand they needed help, the needed their voice to be amplified so I and Oludotun Babayemi started with the data then we went to bagega for ground truthing by asking the villagers to tell their own stories themselves – so we can amplify their voices. Through our 4low the money campaign, we have got the government to action and till date, our campaign was borne out of we solving the challenges ourselves. We have #SaveShikira as our latest campaign that finally got the government to act in May 2016, as at present we have other campaigns like; #SaveBama, #WaterBachaka, #WaterKadandani, #WaterJeke, #PowerShere, #EmpowerZugurma, #EmpowerMase to mention but a few.
On #SaveShikira, how did it feel when then Ministry of Environment decided to come in and intervene on the issue?
Our spirit was renewed, we believe the little that we know how to do is paying out. We are applauded as one of the only few CSOs with constructive criticism of the government. To me, that is a success story which I want to see more of. I understand we have to be innovative in our approach and the campaign has really helped out, it gave us more reason to continue, more reason to work smarter and one more reason to continue to empower rural communities. It is a learning curve, a combination of failure and success and really – it meant a lot to the team. But most importantly, people are empowered to hold their leaders to account.
On corruption in Nigeria; do you feel we are heading anywhere
No, though the government has been trying but I still do not feel that we are progressing. We have been advocating for open data, open access and open contracting as we have got to realized that if the fight against corruption will be heading up, then the government have to be open. With our recent approach to a request for information which should be readily available from the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), we discovered that the government is still being run like a secret cult – which that is the particular reason why we have been invested with corruption. I think the government can do better by visiting our concerns about the #open advocacy. For now, the fight still has no heads up, as may have in the past and present of accusing the government of selective trials.
What are your favorite SDGs?
My favourite SDGs are; #3 Good Health and Wellbeing, #4 Quality Education, #6 Clean Water and Sanitation, #7 Affordable and clean energy, #13 Climate Action, #16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institution and lastly #17 Partnership for the Goals. Follow The money is now a growing movement revolves her campaigns around 3 thematic areas which are Health, Education, and Environment and that alone defines what my favourite SDGs are.
How have you been able to stay focused on your projects and still make out time for training, speaking engagements and other cool stuff we see you do?
If you want to go fast, go alone – if you want to go far go with your team. This quote alone summarises the question you asked, I do not work alone, I have a team that I serve and work with. I also believe in watching people take charge while I watch and guide them. I’m a strong believer of sustainability. Hence, I believe to be sustainable, a good leader must train others to become a leader. So I delegate some of my functions and watch over from afar.
You must have a strong team to deliver in the ways that you do, how did you choose them?
Yes, I do have the best team any organization could have. My team comprises of groom leaders whom I encourage to take responsibility as well as talented and young people from diverse educational backgrounds. At CODE, we are keen on developing and hiring youths that are passionate about our culture and youth that are not afraid of taking responsibilities.
There is one young person somewhere that looks up to you reading this piece, what encouragement do you have for her/him?
When Connected Development started, we do not know anytime compared to what we have learned over the years of working. All we have is an idea and a passion, and we act on it. Do not be afraid of taking responsibilities, it’s normal not to know what lies ahead – get your imaginative mind working and act accordingly. People will always help you out when you are struck on the way. If you do not start anything, nothing will happen – at this point in this country, we have so many challenges begging people to start working on them but we are not used to acting. To be a leader, you must act. Stop whining and start doing something. Do you want to be a writer? Starts writing. Do you want to be an actor? start acting. Do you want to change the world? start with yourself. Believe in yourself to take an action, you have everything you needed already. Be genuine and always tell the truth, no matter the circumstance.
Would you ever go into Nigerian Politics?
As a student of political science and a leader, I believe you do not need to hold a political position before you can be impactful. I am very vast in the social sector, so I’m not seeing myself in Nigerian Politics, I would rather like to be a political analyst. That way, I can contribute my quota to the governance. Politics is not meant for all of us, I guess am that part of the few who do not want to venture into it.
What is it about you that a lot of people do not know?
I’m younger than I look 😉
How can people reach you to learn more about your work?
I am always available on twitter on @HamzyCODE. I have a facebook fan page and I will soon be launching a personal website that will document my stories. People can however, learn more about my work by following us on @4lowthemoney and @connected_dev as well as visiting http://connecteddevelopment.org or http://followthemoneyng.org
Read this series on Hamzat’s life and journey