Arase: Opening door to education, closing another to prison
Dr. Solomon Arase is the 18th Inspector-General of the Nigerian Police. While growing up in Owan West of Edo State, Nigeria, he took so many things for granted, including the education and life’s comfort that his late mom, Mercy Igbe Arase ensured he got.
After watching her growing and gangling son for a while and beginning to realise how his thoughts were towards others, Mercy felt it was time to set him straight and placed him on the right path.
She told Solomon that he should never take being educated for granted and that he should, if possible, ensure that he assisted other youth from their communities to get educated.
She stressed that just because Solomon was educated and getting further education, did not mean that the out-of-school children roaming the streets were not brilliant.
Mercy said that those children had brilliant ones among them, just that life, opportunities, and circumstances did not offer them many chances. She explained to her young son that many were dogged by poverty and could not meet their basic needs and that the cost of education in Nigeria was a challenge for the majority.
When Mercy died, those words kept resonating within Solomon, the need to help underprivileged children to get an education against all odds. It was as if he was hearing the voice of his mom from the great beyond until he decided to do something drastic about it.
Solomon initiated the Mercy Igbe Arase Foundation in fond memories of his mom and her desire to assist the less privileged to be educated.
However, this year, Solomon also launched another foundation, this time, the “Solomon Ehigiator Arase Foundation.”
The Mercy Igbe Arase Foundation, in addition to taking care of tuition fees of beneficiaries, also takes care of uniforms, and textbooks, amongst other fees.
The foundation awards scholarships to the indigent, but brilliant scholars from Owan east and west, where his late mom hails from.
Recollecting how the journey started, Solomon said: “My mom died about 17 years ago and before she died, she encouraged me, saying that it was because I was educated and had the opportunity to go to school, that I was lucky. She said that there were a lot of children on the streets, who did not have the opportunity I had. She repeatedly told me that anything I could do to touch the lives of boys and girls in her community, I should do. She said that it wouldn’t cost me anything. She left her assets to me, and I was her only surviving son. I looked at her assets and I remembered what she told me, that I should set up a foundation and assist children from her community in Owan east and west. I decided to start the foundation and with the guidance of my uncle, who is a professor, we incorporated it.”
Solomon believes that when someone opens a school door, the person has naturally closed a prison door. This was among his major reasons for keying into his mom’s dream and embracing the idea of sponsoring indigent students.
He also believes that no child was born a dullard and that all that was needed was a conducive environment for him or her to flourish.
His words: “My family and I came to a discovery; that no child is born a dullard, all they need is an environment to blossom. We raised the bar; we said that the minimum GPA we can accept from a student applying to the foundation for a scholarship should be 3.0, which means 2.1. These young folks started ensuring they kept to it. Also, every year before they received their cheques, they would have to show their GPA. We maintained our standards and our scholars and beneficiaries became highflyers.”
The sponsorship programme soon rose from five indigent students to 50. The sustainability of the foundation was not an issue due to Solomon’s ingenuity in its operation.
“The first five sets of people graduated and among them, we had three medical students and two law students. As of February, this year, which makes it nine years of the programme, we’ve been able to have 50 university graduates in the system,” Solomon enthused.
Among the beneficiaries is the thrilling story of the daughter of a security guard to Solomon, identified as Mr. Umar, who is from Katsina State. The daughter is currently studying Economics at Ambrose Allie University in Epoma.
How did a security guard, who is from the northern part of Nigeria and his three come to be beneficiaries of the foundation?
Solomon recounted: “One day the daughter confided in my wife that she was going back to Katsina State to get married. The girl was just between 15 and 16 years old. My wife asked her why and asked about her education. The parents said that was the agreement between them and the family of the betrothal. My wife asked for the phone number of her betrothal and my wife called him. The man, to whom she was going to Katsina State to get married, accepted my wife’s proposition, that he should allow us to sponsor the girl through school. My wife had told him that we couldn’t stop him from marrying the girl, but that he should allow us to sponsor her education. We took her to a boarding school and left instructions that on no account should anyone take her away from the school without our permission, by then I was the Akwa-Ibom Commissioner of Police. After she completed her secondary school, she came out with top grades in the West African Examination (WAEC) and wrote the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) and she also aced it. Today, she’s studying Economics, and if not for the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike, she would have graduated by now. Incidentally, the girl’s sister and brother are also doing well in school. The brother has a first-class brain and I just paid for his WAEC.”
Mr. Bolu Etete, while corroborating stories associated with the efforts of the foundation towards assisting indigent students, said: “Solomon has sponsored many indigent students to the university level. I am not surprised with what he has been doing with his foundation over the years.”
Honourable Charles Idahosa also has something to say about the foundation and Solomon’s role. He said: “There was a time I told him that many of our young men and cousins, who were not well to do, needed assistance; I suggested that we should give them soft loans. He said it was all right; he asked how much was needed for the project, and I told him. Today, many of the beneficiaries are happy. We held a big family meeting and gave the loans to those in need, including people Solomon didn’t know.”
Barrister Olabanji Eniola stated: “Solomon is a philanthropist! I know him from the Mercy Igbe Arase Foundation after he started giving scholarships to people from the area where his late mom hails from. In fact, through that foundation, he has trained a lot of lawyers. He has now incorporated another foundation, Solomon Ehigiator Arase Foundation, which will include amongst other things, giving awards and beefing up the security architecture that is currently obtained in Edo State.”
Today in Nigeria, especially among security stakeholders, many are saying that with Solomon, there was hope for police children, who lost their fathers while fighting the insurgency.
Further explaining the concept of the Solomon Ehigiator Arase Foundation, Solomon noted: “I am making provisions for children of police officers to also benefit, especially officers who lost their lives fighting crimes or insurgency and I know most of those children are bright. If they apply, I will want to incorporate them into the programme.”
Mr. Idowu Owohunwa, a commissioner of police in the NPF, said: “Solomon is the first IGP to project policies that will advance the interest of the junior cadre of the NPF. He incorporated the Nigerian Police Property Development Company for the sole purpose of building affordable houses for the junior officers with the focus being on the junior cadre. He implemented it with what the market value had, say N10m to N15m. He was able to develop a model that was sold at less than N5m to the ranks and files. He incorporated another scheme, which is the Nigeria Police Scholarship Scheme, with the main purpose of awarding scholarships to children of junior cadre policemen and deceased officers. And then before he retired from the NPF, he was able to extend it to 300 children of officers across police secondary schools.”
As if that was not enough, Solomon’s foundations had taken up the task of providing yearly free medical check-ups for the elderly in communities. The yearly medical outreach and scholarship awards come up every February and people eagerly look forward to both occasions.
Solomon derives immense joy and satisfaction from serving humanity and he is expanding to accommodate more educational opportunities, not just in Owan east and west, but he is replicating this in Edo South senatorial district. He believes in the power of education, not just in improving the quality of life and empowerment of the beneficiaries, but also in deploying education to mitigate security with citizens’ engagement.
Solomon explained: “It is the experience I gathered from my mom’s foundation that encouraged me that I could also replicate the same where my father comes from. Along the line, we felt we were too elitist in our conception of the foundation because we were relying on university education. We now decided to do some skill acquisitions, and we now started bringing in the polytechnics and technical education schools, to capture people in building and engineering, people in hospitality industries in polytechnics, and teachers especially, which we have started doing already.”
Today, the Solomon Ehigiator Arase Foundation will not only cater to the educational needs of children of deceased policemen but will complement the efforts of the state government in curtailing insecurity.
To this end, Solomon instituted an annual lecture, which maiden lecture edition commenced with a discussion on the topic, “Citizen’s inclusion in Security Management: The Edo State Model.”
At the maiden edition, which was held to mark his birthday on 21st June 2022, Solomon, through the Solomon Arase Foundation, donated items to improve security in the seven Ĺocal Government Areas of Edo South Senatorial District.
Items donated by the Foundation included a Sienna Salon car, 500 motorcycles, 1,400 customised shirts, 1,400 customised caps, 1,400 whistles, raincoats, and torches.
He also awarded nine scholarships to university undergraduates from Edo South. Eight of the scholarships were for medical students while one was for a Law student. The scholarships worth N100, 000 each are to enable the students to pay school fees.
According to Solomon, studies had shown that criminals thrive, and state security remained perpetually threatened in a state where there was a gap between policing agencies and the citizens.
He added: “Therefore, there must come a time in the life of a state when all the citizens must resolve to engage with their law enforcement agencies and build a strong synergy to defeat a common enemy. For us as people of Edo State, there is no other auspicious time for this than now. Our gathering here today, is, therefore, a clear and loud statement that the Edo people and their law enforcement agencies are now determined to close up the gulf that weakens our common resolve, forge a united front, and advance hand in hand as true patriots to confront the criminal elements that have been feasting our hitherto disunited relationship. The core objective is to challenge the citizens on their roles within the security system and encourage the spirit of police-community partnership, as a strategy towards addressing crimes such as terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, farmers/herders conflict, and other crimes.”BEWARE All Rights Reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without prior express written permission from Juliana Francis