Former General Officer Commanding 1 Division, Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Major General Kamaldeen Role on Saturday commended late Brigadier General Solomon Giwa Amu, the former Aide De Camp (ADC) to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, for his impact in the education of children of soldiers in the barracks community.
Until his death in a ghastly motor accident along the Abuja-Kaduna road, 10 years ago, General Giwa Amu who was at several times, Defence Attache to the United Nations Mission, New York, was the Director of Army Public Relations.
General Role who spoke on the topic ‘Competence, Commitment and Character as Virtues of Youth Development’ at the 10th anniversary of the Brig-General Solomon Giwa Amu Foundation, noted that the officer initiated the ’Barracks Children Development Programme’ aimed at disabusing the minds that children from military barracks are no do wells.
He said the barracks initiative went on to ensure that so many youths born in the barracks towed the line of others like General Mohammed Marwa, General Hassan Lai and so many successful sons of military barracks.
Former Cross Rivers State Governor, Liyel Imoke, Chairman of the Solomon Giwa Amu Foundation, Major General Cecil Esekhaigbe, representative of the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Nuhu Angbazo among others extolled the officers resolve to making the nation a better place and empowerment of the youths educationally and morally.
In his paper entitled ‘Transforming Self, State and Society’, Mr. Fola Adeola, a notable banker, represented by Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi of Thisday Newspaper said “For those who did not have the opportunity of meeting the late Brigadier-General Solomon Giwa-Amu during the brief time he was with us on this side of the divide, you missed knowing a good man.
“While he may have been a few years younger than me, he was my friend. But let me preface my brief remark this morning with a story that says so much about the man in whose memory we are all gathered here today as well as our society.
“The challenge of the present generation of Nigerians is that many are looking for jobs; and of those who have, majority of them are dissatisfied. Fewer still are searching for career by which they intend to climb up the ladder. But the pertinent question is: How many of them take it to the next level by helping to right the wrongs of society and serving as true change agents?
“As we reflect on the state of our nation and the role of individuals, the message here is simple: It is good to have a job or career but good societies are built by people with a calling. There was no doubt Solomon found his purpose wherever he was and made the most of the resources that life gave him at the time. That was because he treated every assignment as a calling and he left lasting legacies for which he would forever be remembered.
While I will share briefly about the Solo I knew, let me also use this opportunity to reflect on our society. Solo was a very interesting person, with very clear character and values. As I think of the time when we related with each other, some attributes stood him out. Let us start with the easiest and most obvious.
“Solomon was a disciplined man. While I do not know whether the discipline pre-dated his military career, the man I met was extremely disciplined. That also reflected in his family life. I remember visiting his home once and his son didn’t greet me properly. I saw the father transform into a military man and quickly, the son realizing this was a serious matter, greeted me with more respect.
It would be foolish to ignore the ADC to the President under normal circumstances, but with Solomon, there was no way he could be taken for granted. He was not a man that could be ignored, even though he wasn’t the loudest voice in the room.
“He was a professional military man in every sense of the word and he proudly carried the nobility of that role. He was an officer’s officer. He was disciplined in the mind, an avid reader and well abreast of current affairs both domestically and internationally. He was also disciplined in body. I never saw him indulge excessively in food, alcohol, or any other vices. He played sports and kept fit despite the rigors of his job.
“The question most frequently asked is: How do we instill order and engender integrity in our society? The answer is simple: It starts with us as individuals and in our homes with our families. And it all boils down to discipline which is an act of imposing will over feelings, emotions, convenience. When you choose to do what is right, over what feels good, easy or convenient. It is not easy, but it is doable. Solo did it.
“Integrity, very closely related to discipline, has a few definitions that are relevant when we remember Solo. Integrity is the quality of being honest (another value) and having strong moral principles. Integrity also means to be whole and undivided, for it shares the same root as the word “integer” or whole number. In addition to honesty, integrity is about the consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes.
“We hear the word integrity so much in our society that it has lost its meaning. Almost every corporate organization’s core values use the word integrity. Yet that does not stop them from bending the rules to make a profit. With Solo, he was undivided in his principles. He was honest, he was fair and he was disciplined. He was truly a man of integrity.
“We may not all have the same moral principles, but if Christians were really Christians, if Muslims were really Muslims, we would not have such moral decay in our society. Even without religion, if we simply followed and enforced the rule of law, life would be better for everyone.
“An orderly society is a progressive one. It is in a place of order where man can think, and dream. When a BBC reporter suggested that the Chewing Gum ban and other draconian laws (such as mandatory flushing of public toilets) would stifle the people’s creativity in Sinagpore, Lee Kuan Yew retorted: “If you can’t think because you can’t chew, try a banana.”
“Everyone always says this, we travel abroad, we can stand in a queue, we can wait our turn. People out there are not more patient than Nigerians; they have to behave because they are well aware that there are consequences for breaking the rule. Unfortunately, on our shores, the pact between the State and Society has been broken – there is mutual distrust. For this country to truly transition from developing to leading, we need our leaders to be like Solo or put in another way, we need more people like Solo in leadership positions.
While it is a blessing that we can celebrate the life he lived, I do not mean to paint the picture of a saint. In his position as ADC, it is fair to assume that many people approached him to curry favour. The ADC is a man who has access to the president and in a milieu where there is a strong system of patronage; he must have exercised the authority of his rank.
“To my knowledge, Solomon did not abuse the system, but he did take advantage of it. Let me give one example here and it was something I observed: a senior officer was redeployed into a lower position and a junior officer promoted into a position that gave him seniority over the former, based on the Nigerian factor, as we call it. The moment Solomon heard about it, he used his influence to redress the injustice.
“Whether in military matters, issues pertaining to the office of the President, and even in matters of Federal policy, Solo pursued justice and fairness. While his loyalty to his boss, as a military man, was unquestionable, there were also moments of sharp disagreement such that with time, he earned the respect of the President and everyone else. I can recall several interactions with Solo while he was alive, that had to do with reflections on the alternative. We would ponder on the question, ‘What if we had gone this way instead of that’. Some may consider this as nothing but fruitless musings but the whole point of history is to learn from it, so we can do better in the future.
“Solomon didn’t just argue or disagree based on his personal opinions or ideas. Solomon would keep himself informed of all matters on the President’s desk. I believe he went above and beyond what was required in his job, to be the most effective ADC to the sitting President that he could be.
“As I round up my speech, I have saved my favourite attributes for last, his kindness and generosity. Solomon was not a loud ostentatious person. By Nigerian economic measures, and as a Brigadier-General in the Nigerian Army, he was above average, but he lived modestly and gave generously.
“Solomon adopted his primary school in his village: Sabongida-Ora in Edo State and donated hardware, software, subsidized teacher salaries, and did a lot of fundraising for the school. That school is a beneficiary of many of us that are in this room today. This was what Solo did, used his position for the good of others.
“These days, we read in the papers that many states owe teacher salaries for as many as 28 months! How many of us attended government schools? These are your teachers, these are your schools. How much does a teacher earn? You mean we cannot find it in us to sponsor a teacher? It’s not about how much you give, but that you actually give. In your hometown or village, what would it take to adopt a school, and do one thing for that school annually? How many lives would be touched?
May Solomon’s legacy endure forever through his primary school, his family and the many people whose lives he touched.