He was born on January 24, 1946, in Ilorin, Kwara State.
He had his primary education at the United School, Ilorin between 1953 and 1959, before proceeding to the formal Provincial Secondary School, Ilorin in 1960 for his secondary education. He graduated in 1964 and was there again for his Higher School Certificate between 1965 and 1966.
Navy Captain Lawal had an extensive academic and military career. He was at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, between 1967 and 1970, from where he graduated with a B.Sc Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Two years later, in 1972, he entered the Royal Naval Engineering College, Manadon, United Kingdom, for a Marine Engineering Application Course and graduated in 1973. In the same year, he was at the H.M.S Sultan Gosport, United Kingdom, for an Internal Combustion Engine Course.
Between 1973 and 1980, Navy Captain Lawal held various Military appointments and undertook some important military assignments. He was a Flotilla Engineer Officer in 1974 and a Naval Engineer Dockyard Manager between 1974 and 1976. In 1976, he became the Chief Engineer Officer on NNS Dorina from where he moved to the Naval Headquarters as Staff Officer Engineer till 1978.
The Ogun State Military Governor was a member of the Inspection Commission for the construction of two new MK IX Corvettes in the United Kingdom between 1978 and 1980. Based on his vast knowledge of marine engineering, he has been the Chief Engineer Officer of Nigeria’s most sophisticated war ships. He was the Chief Engineer Officer, NNS ENYIMIRI (1980); Chief Engineer Officer, NNS OBUMA (1981 – 1982); and Chief Engineer Officer, NNS ARADU (1982 – 1984), where he received the Captain’s Letter of Commendation.
Until his appointment as the Military Governor of Ogun State, Navy Captain Lawal was the Director of Marine Engineering, Nigerian Naval Headquarters, Ministry of Defence, Lagos.