“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it and join the dance.” – Alan Watts
There have awakening efforts across the globe to enshrine good governance as well its ingredients such as transparency and accountability in government. This is even more pronounced through the activities of international organisations like the United Nations. From the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Nigerians have not lagged behind through active participation in outstanding initiatives that would help to overcome the myriad of challenges the goals aim to achieve.
As Nigerians’ creativity blossoms in every sphere of human endeavours, the cliché has always been ‘from Nigeria to the world’. One person who demonstrated this lately is Hamzat Lawal – the co-convener of the Not Too Young To Run. The late fuji icon, Ayinde Sikiru Barrister, might have Hamzat in mind when he encouraged parents in one of his songs not to dissuade a child whenever he is passionate about something (good). It could later become his source of breakthrough and maybe a propelling mechanism to stardom, he counselled.
Boys Scout Leader, Utility Prefect
Since his nascent days at the Model Primary School, Asokoro, Abuja, Hamzat had always shown inclination for communal good. He served as a Boys Scout leader. He went on, at Government Secondary School, Karu, Nasarawa State, to also become Boys Scout coordinator and Utility Prefect. Scout activities often involve getting information about specific location, equipment, valuables, etc. As a Utility Prefect, he was to ensure provided facilities were used judiciously and always in quality condition. The experience gathered while serving in these positions seemed to have been preparatory for his subsequent exploits in service to humanity.
Hamzat who studied Political Science at the University of Abuja appears to have dined with the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. The latter once averred that “Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have”. If one needs to decipher this truism, the Nigerian experience of government officials exemplifies this reality. Government funds which are meant to provide almost ‘everything’ good for the people are plundered and taken away from the people by corrupt government officials. No thanks; many of these corrupt officials perhaps have doctoral degrees in official corruption.
Passion for Climate Change
Meanwhile, passion is often a good stimulus for service to humanity. Having seen his passion for climate change, Hamzat’s boss at the International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development (ICEED) exposed him to the United Nations Framework on climate change. This exposure spurred him and by 2012, he journeyed to Zamfara State, where more than 400 people had lost their lives 2years earlier due to food poisoning. Sadly, the pathetic occurrence was embraced with deafening silence from government quarters and other authorities.
The 14-hours-journey became an eye-opener to the neglect suffered by residents in rural communities. Aside the ballot boxes which locate these people every four years, it appears no meaningful developments or impacting projects are enjoyed in their vicinities. They often lack healthcare facilities. Children learn in terrible classrooms. The roads are deplorable. And their sources of water are usually streams, mostly infected with animal droppings; which made them disposed to cholera and other diseases.
Connected Development, Follow The Money
No sooner had Hamzat witnessed this first-hand neglect than he started his grassroots campaigns to stimulate development in rural communities. This led to the ‘Connected Development [CODE]’ movement, which eventually birthed ‘Follow The Money’. Though this movement, he has over the years led a team of activists, trainers, mobilizers and community builders, who make governments accountable; especially by engaging them with verifiable facts.
Consequently, this initiative has enlightened and empowered people in rural areas about their rights to quality life and dividends of good governance. Arousing their consciousness, these rural areas residents can now track government and foreign assistance projects by engaging necessary authorities to fulfil their commitments. Over a span of 7 years, the initiative under Hamzat has trained 1,235 community champions with direct impact on 154,223 lives through engagement of governments at all levels to provide healthcare facilities, drugs and vaccines, portable water facilities, teaching and educations aids, etc.
While the activities championed by ‘Follow The Money’ are daring to corrupt politicians, Hamzat and his team have been resolute in the pursuit of their cause. So long the facts being presented are confirmable, those in charge must be liable and held accountable for their actions and inactions about public resources.
It is through these conscientious efforts that socio-economic uplift may pervade rural communities; which are seldom inhabited by the elite. Importantly, the initiative is spreading fast across Africa, with volunteers and active presence in four countries in the continent.
2019 UN SDG Global Mobiliser Award-Winner
Mother Theresa could not be more right when she said that, “It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that mattes”. Since a good life is measured by its contribution, not its duration, Hamzat’s love for what he does has indeed been recognised globally. It was undeniably a cacophonic atmosphere when in Bonn, Germany, from more than 2,000 entries received from 143 countries, he was announced the United Nations Sustainable Development Gaols (UN SDG) Action Award winner for 2019. Aside this, he had also been awarded the ‘One Africa Award’; ‘100 Most Influential in Digital Government’; and the ‘African Economic Merits Award’.
At 32, there is a lot to be learnt by Nigerian youths from Hamzat’s seeming feats and service to humanity. Social reformation requires dedication; and selflessness while pursuing communal good should be accompanied by resilience. The ups and downs are the catalysts to arrive the destination of fulfilment. If we all do the little things that will make our world better, in no distant time, the world will become a safer and healthier place; for us all to live.