Late aide-de-camp to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Brig-Gen. Solomon Giwa-Amu, seized Abuja, Nigeria’s seat of power, last weekend. Virtually every discussion on the lips of many was about him. Even thousands of people who had not the opportunity of crossing paths with him still made him an issue.
It was not by coincidence. It was an outing to mark his demise a decade ago. The former Army spokesman died in 2008 in an auto accident.
The caliber of people that turned out for the anniversary ceremony at Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, clearly showed the respect Giwa-Amu and his family enjoy among Nigerians. Chaired by former governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke , notable personalities like Mr. Steve Orosanya, former head of service of the federation, graced the event. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, sent a representative, while Maj-Gen K.A. Role, Mr. Fola Adeola and wife of former governor of Benue State, Mrs. Yemisi Suswam were also there.
It was a colourful outing by all standards. And the wife of the late ADC, Dr. Judith Giwa-Amu, who was at the event with her children, got accolades for that. Everybody praised her for sustaining the vision of her husband 10 years after.
She spoke glowingly about her husband, especially his passion for the less privileged and the youth. She gave a brief narrative of how she met the man at the University of Benin and how the relationship blossomed into marriage.
Imoke kicked off the event with a short speech that dwelt on the personality of Gen. Giwa-Amu. Reliving his experience in the Obasanjo government, in which he was a key official, the former minister of power told the audience that the late ADC would never brood injustice. He disclosed that the man sometimes put his job on the line in the fight against injustice. He said the deceased was a great patriot who was always talking about how Nigeria could be better, and tried to make a difference on his job; he was not just an ADC but also an adviser.
Imoke gave several instances to drive home his point. Gen. Role took up it from there. He told a story of how, days before Gen. Giwa-Amu died, he asked him if he was ‘remembering’ the primary school he attended.
“He came to my office, I asked him about the shooting exercise, he said fine, but it was not the reason he came. He asked me if I had my primary school in mind. I could not answer that question, I was just looking at him,” Gen. Role recounted.
He continued, “He was so committed to education and the wellbeing of the youth. He would give everything to make another person happy.”
He said youth were impatient, they dream and fantasize about success, and Gen. Giwa-Amu was concerned about this and wanted a foundation that would help build their competencies and capacity. Role explained that the late general believed in building the confidence of youth to succeed and achieve excellence.
“He believed in guiding the youth. He believed in the integrity and character of a man. He believed in guiding the youth to be forthright and disciplined. He believed that the youth must accept responsibility for their actions. He believed in delayed gratification, that you must first experience pain and enjoy later. He believed in a life of honesty, in showing consideration for others, he cared for others. He was selfless,” Role said.
Speaking in similar fashion, Adeola, who was represented by former special adviser, media, to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and chairman of the editorial board of ThisDay Newspapers, Segun Adeniyi, described Giwa-Amu as an uncommon man.
He said, “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.
“Solo 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 Solo, 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.
“Since we are talking about the role of both the individual and the state as we seek to transform our society, let me borrow from the ‘Broken Windows’ theory in urban policy, made famous in the case of crime reduction in New York City under Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In the 1980s, New York was a very scary place. Crime was rampant almost everywhere. Two American social scientists, James Q. Wilson and George Kelling, came up with the theory. The title comes from the following example:
Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a pavement. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of refuse from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars.
“The premise of the writers is very simple: When people get away with small crimes and misdemeanors, it is not a huge leap to the bigger ones. If I can get away with traffic violation by giving money to the traffic management officer, I can certainly get away with theft and kidnapping by bribing the police. What’s to stop me there? Why not buy my way into political offices or bribe to get big contract?”