Muktaar is one of the sons of Senator Ganiyu Solomon. He talks about his father’s political life with GBENGA ADENIJI
Give a brief profile of yourself.
I am Muktaar Olatunde Solomon. I am the second of the three sons of Senator Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon, otherwise called GOS by his admirers. I am currently working freelance as a property developer and previously a client manager at a well-known estate agency in London. I always seek new opportunities and enjoy being surrounded by ambitious people with innovation and grit.
What childhood memories with your father can you remember?
There are a lot of memories I had with my father when I was growing up. However, I will highlight the ones that stood out because they entail principles that have stuck with me over time. The first is that we do not waste anything in our house. My father made it clear to us all, the importance of being content with what we have, right from our growing up days. We were not allowed to make a fuss about anything we were given as we understood and appreciated that there are people who could not afford or access the least of such things.
The second memory was the day my father took the broom and started to sweep the floor of our house. As with a lot of households in Nigeria, we had house helps when we were growing up, but whenever my father was around, he would not allow them to do anything as he expected us to do the cleaning ourselves. That day, he took the broom from one of them and showed us how to sweep the floor.
When I saw that, I realised that we don’t always have to wait for people to do things for us. If we want something, we get it ourselves. We were also taught the importance of keeping a clean environment. Since we do not want to keep sweeping every time, we kept our surroundings clean at all times.
The third memory was when my father and I had a mini break-dancing competition in his room. He had just returned from work while I was on his bed playing with Lego. He came in, locked the door (at this point I thought I was in trouble as we had been told not to play with our toys on his water bed), played a song of the artiste, MC hammer and started break-dancing. Of course, I showed him my moves also. But this stuck with me because I always see him working hard. I realised that sometimes one needs to relax in order to ease stress. I guess his way of relaxing that day was through break-dancing, although I have never seen him do that again since then.
Did he choose careers for his children?
My father did not choose a career for any of us. But like most caring parents, he gave suggestions and we also discussed their possibilities. He is always keen to listen when we talk about our education and future and he also gives his thoughts as best as he could without being pushy.
For example, during my postgraduate degree, I studied International Human Resource Management, after which I got a contract for the London 2012 Olympics in recruitment. However, when we spoke about the possibilities of doing recruitment in Nigeria, my father made the challenges clear to me and we also brainstormed on the solutions. That is the kind of father he is. When one is dwelling on the problems associated with a particular undertaking, he is busy working on the solutions. We are a team.
Where are the places he takes his family to for relaxation?
As you may know already, my family is quite big and my father is a very busy man. Normally, if we wanted a quiet time together, we would spent time with my late grandmother. We could be with her for a whole day especially during the Eid-el-Fitri celebration. We would talk, share stories and listen to praise poem from grandmother. Now, we just spend time as a family to relax wherever we are because home is where the heart is and home is wherever the family is.
How does he discipline any child who misbehaves?
From my memories of the growing up days, I know that my father is a disciplinarian. However, if any of us misbehaves, that child will get disciplined in one or two ways. He will either teach us a lesson by himself or call our mother to discipline the child who erred.
There was a time I crashed his car while trying to park. I was 16 years old then. My father immediately enrolled me in a driving school for such not to happen again. Notwithstanding, he still sent me to my mother to discipline me. I definitely learnt that day because in our family, one child is too old to be beaten.
What do you think made him succeed as Mushin council chairman given the volatile nature of the area?
Mushin is a unique area and despite people’s various perspectives of the area, it is one full of opportunities and it is also diverse. Little wonder, my father calls them ‘common, yet uncommon people.’ Growing up there, I saw a lot of loyalty which the people exhibited towards my father. I could not fathom him.
But looking back now, I think he was able to succeed because he is a people’s person and a good leader. He is not the typical boss that sits back and calls the shots while waiting for others to do the work. He leads by example and he is also not shy to be involved in any grass roots issue. He is a very good example of a successful grass roots man and typifies a quintessential democrat.
Did he ever encourage you to join politics?
My father never encouraged me or any of his children in any career direction. However, he did give me the tool needed to succeed in life which is education. This tool is what a child can ever ask from his or her parents.
Who are your father’s friends?
My father surrounds himself with his family members and people that have similar goals and aspirations to make his immediate community and Nigeria a better place.
How do you feel about his being a politician considering the notion that politics is dirty in Nigeria?
I respect him a lot for being a politician in Nigeria because he is innately different. I am very fortunate to learn directly from such a man and more privileged to be his son. I see his passion for his people and he is a man that takes pride in Nigeria and being a Nigerian. He is professional at all times, which reflects in his decision-making and he always sees the big picture in anything he does.
Your father has held key positions in the nation’s political space, what are the things you can identify as his contributions to the sphere?
From being a council chairman to the lower legislative chamber of the National Assembly before moving up the ladder to the Senate, I can hold my head high to say my father did his very bit in human capital development. Over the years, he had served humanity in personal capacity and even established the GOS Foundation as a platform to sustain the vision.
What is his favourite quote?
Call my father a bibliophile and you won’t be wrong. He is an example of a bookworm. One needs to visit our house or his office to see what his library looks like. He buys and keeps books a lot. In fact, he relaxes more by reading. He reads from leadership books, biographies to fictions. His favourite quotes cut across many disciplines. There have been some key words he used which stuck to us and we even recite them to each other sometimes.
With his busy schedule, how often did he visit you when you were studying abroad?
My father visited us twice a year and he made sure he saw and spent time with each of us before he left. He always wanted to know what we were doing and to meet our friends. He asked us about our studies and aspirations every time he was around and smiled with an impression depending on how we answered him. Anytime he did not come, my mother did.
Did you enjoy any special treatment from colleagues when you were studying in Nigeria and abroad?
On the contrary, I did not enjoy any special treatment from colleagues when I was studying in Nigeria. This is because the majority of those who surrounded me had their parents in similar positions. Getting special treatment was out of the question as we were always taught by our parents to be humble.
Would you have wished he chose another career different from politics?
There is no other career that I can honestly wish for him. It would be difficult for me to see him in a different career path, although he had been into private business, including real estate, before joining politics.
Did he discuss his ambition to be Lagos State Governor with his family?
The key to having a happy family especially in his type of job is never to bring the work home. The rule is to leave work where it is and leave home where home is. We never discussed politics at home. However, he had his regular entourage of people, who came home from time to time. But he never discussed his ambition with any of us. I would not say that I was unaware of his ambition to be governor as that would be false. We spoke after his party’s governorship primaries and that was when I let him know I respect him the more because I saw the importance of pursuing one’s dreams regardless of the odds.
What is his favourite sport?
My father watches a lot of football and surprisingly, wrestling too. I believe he is a Chelsea fan as he once tried to force the club on us.
How does he relax?
When my father relaxes, he just stays at home all day reading. That is all he does. He stays at home and walks around in his pyjamas with the occasional popping in so everyone notices he is at home.
What are his best songs?
He listens to any good music, especially those with traditional flavour. For instance, I know he listens to such great artistes such as Haruna Ishola, Ayinla Omowura, Ebenezer Obey, KSA and K1 De Ultimate among many others. He listens to foreign songs too but they have to be oldies.
What is his view about the conduct of politicians as one himself?
That’s tricky. I really can’t tell. But one thing I know is that he does not discuss people; he discusses issues. Even if he feels strongly about such things, you would hardly hear from him. He is slow to speaking but fast to listening. He is not taciturn, however.
What are the benefits you have derived from your father’s name?
Honestly, I have received very little from my father’s name possibly because I studied abroad and just starting my life and business in the UK. To the people here, it is just another name. But I am keen to know what benefits such name could give me. Nonetheless, I will not support unfair treatment and unnecessary nepotism.
How does he handle disagreements with his wife?
Since I have come to know my parents, I have never seen them have disagreements. Now that I am no longer a child and I know it is in human nature to disagree from time to time, nevertheless, I am sure they handle it well. But we have never witnessed any disagreement between them. I plan to instill same culture in my family in future.
Does he advise his children on their choice of friends?
He gives us advice about our friends but he does this in an indirect way. My father understands the importance of independence and wants us to feel that we make the decisions of choosing our friends by ourselves. As children, we do feel like we know it all because we want to exert our independence. Like I said earlier, my dad likes to meet our friends. Thus, we will not want to introduce someone who is not of good behaviour to him.
What is his relationship with the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu?
To the best of my knowledge, their relationship is excellent. I recall as a child, in 1999 that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu visited us at our late grandmother’s place on Palm Avenue, in Mushin. It was my first time of meeting him. But after that, we paid several visits to him as governor, often during the Eid-el-Fitri celebration.
I still have a family picture we once took with him and his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu.
How did he react when his party, the APC, won the 2015 presidential election?
The same way every positive-minded Nigerian reacted. Importantly, as a party man, his joy was beyond the ordinary Nigerian because it is with different interpretation, despite the fact that the change mantra was across board. He saw change coming and knew the gamble would pay off and it did. I am happy too.
What is his favourite meal?
There are a lot of meals that he is always ready to eat. He likes roast plantain and groundnuts.
What is his favourite drink?
He takes water but it must be room temperature.
How sociable is he?
My father is as sociable as anyone could imagine him to be. He is a very reserved gentleman, who appreciates his own company. However, with his role in the politics, I am positive that there are more than a few formal and informal obligations that he often needs to fulfill.
How do people react when they know you are his child?
I do not really tell people who my father is. The only time I give such information is when I’m filing forms that need details of parents and I am usually not present to witness their reaction.
What kind of father is he?
He is the kind of father I would wish for even in my next life. My father is my hero – very calm, calculated, positive, self-effacing and highly unassuming with an equally sound mind.
What are the ideals you have imbibed from him?
There are some values I have learnt from my father. He taught me the importance of chasing one’s dreams; perseverance; the difference between being a boss and a leader, to always stay humble and away from vanity.
How does he like to dress?
I think my father likes to dress smart and casual. He always dresses appropriately for any occasion. He is a very fashionable gentleman. I can say this because sometimes we bump into each other wearing same clothes. I can confidently say he has style, considering his age.
How does he react to things in the newspapers about him?
Ironically, my dad hardly attracts negative news. He has no scandal and no shady deals. So, often the news reports about him are usually positive and how does anyone react to positive news? Positively, I guess. But generally, my father believes in critical reporting because according to him, criticism helps the politician to be on his toes and to do things right. He always says criticism helps to show the strength in leadership.
Culled from PUNCH.