The new Oniru of Iruland, Lagos, Oba Gbolahan Wasiu Lawal, will be an unusual monarch whose reign will be marked by a creative approach to leadership, says Olatunji Oke, publisher of The Lagos Indicator.
Oke, who has produced The Lagos Indicator, the frontline development journal covering the state for the over 12 years, notes that, with Oba Lawal’s history and capacity, Iruland could look forward to leadership built to dominate the challenges and explore the opportunities of the 21st century.
“There is verifiable evidence that His majesty, Oba Gbolahan Lawal, has the capacity to lead his people of Iruland in these modern times. Apart from possessing a highly developed intellect, he is also an accomplished administrator who is profoundly versed in world affairs. Also, continually observing him in the trenches of public service confirmed to many that his work ethic, creativity are second to none,” Oke said.
Oke, who spoke to this journalist at the Indicator magazine’s head office in Ikeja, said he’d had firsthand takes observing the erstwhile commissioner from the heydey of the administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, through the tenure of former Governor Babatunde Fashola, and until his final days as the man in charge of the Agriculture and Cooperatives ministry in the current executive council, led by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Prince Gbolahan Lawal succeeds the late Oba Idowu Abiodun, the former Oniru of Iruland who transitioned in 2019 at the age of 82. Before his nomination and appointment as the next Oniru of Iru, Prince Gbolahan had been an officer in the Nigeria Police where, between 2000 and 2007, he served as the Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to the former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Later, Prince Gbolahan Lawal was the Senior Special Assistant on Special Projects to former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN. In this position, Lawal initiated and implemented the Agriculture-Based Youth Empowerment Scheme (Agric-YES). By 2011, Agric-YES had recorded such tremendous successes that the government elevated Prince Lawal to the office of Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperatives in 2011.
Between 2015 and 2019, Lawal served as Commissioner for Housing in the government of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. Some of his landmark projects as housing commissioner included the Rent-to-Own homeownership program, Master Craftsman program, Lagos Affordable Public Housing (LAPH), and the 4-in-14 Days bungalow housing development.
In May 2019, the newly elected governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, reappointed Prince Lawal as the honourable Commissioner for Agriculture, the portfolio he held until his ascension to the Oniru throne.
Oke recalled “several fantastic ideas and innovations” in all the new Oba’s previous postings with the Lagos state government. These include the Eko Rice Mill, Imota; the Agricultural Stakeholders Summit, which was a government partnership with the private sector; the Red Meat Value Chain; the Agricultural Value Chains Empowerment Programme; and the design of a five-year agricultural blueprint for Lagos, planned to take effect from 2020.
Other sterling concepts, Oke noted, are the Lagos Agriprenuership Programme; the Lagos Seafood Festival; as well as the Eko City Farmers’ Market. To supervise the distribution of food support programme as part of the state’s palliative drive during the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Sanwo-Olu placed the task in the hands of Prince Lawal.
Born in 1970 into the Ojora, Aromire, Shokun and Abisogun branch of Oniru Royal families of Lagos State, Oba Gbolahan Wasiu Lawal attended the prestigious high school, St Gregory’s College Lagos. He is also a graduate of the University of Port Harcourt where he graduated with a BSc in Botany in 1992.
Additionally, he holds an MSc in CITIES (LSE, Cities) from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and an MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. All of these are complemented with several certifications in management, public housing planning, and governance from notable schools such as the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; the Harvard Kennedy School of Government; and the World Bank Institute.
Having reported and analysed government performance in the state through the bi-monthly Lagos Indicator magazine for 12 years, Oke concluded that Lawal was “undoubtedly” among the brightest members of the state executive council since the return to democracy in 1999.
“And that is saying a lot because the state routinely parades exceptional thinkers in the executive cabinet,” Oke said. “However, going forward, and judging by his antecedents, the people of Iru can only expect Oba Gbolahan Lawal to bring his uncommon insights into his reign.”