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Col. Shittu Alao: A tribute to my father, a soldier from a great generation

Death has deprived me of knowing you, growing with you and having the opportunity to call you dad. Before I turned one, you had already left this world. However, what you left behind will radiate for all of eternity. You have left a permanent mark in history, which will never be forgotten.

The people whose lives you touched, the people you worked with, the people with whom you grew up, and your own family, are all living testaments to your greatness. The love you showed, especially to your family, and the friendships you nurtured steadfastly, all showed the genuine, strong and loving character you had.

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As I grew, I learned of all you did and the kind of man you were. I heard stories and memories from your friends and family. Despite not being able to see or hear you, I knew you. This knowledge helped me to grow bold, confident and proud of who you were.

My father was indeed a very unique individual. Although a very gallant soldier, he was also a simple man, with a simple lifestyle, taking life one day at a time. He was not proud; rather he was very affable, especially among those close to him. He was very humorous, and always had a good joke at hand. This endeared him to many and made him someone easy to be around.

He was also loyal and compassionate. His strong bond with his closest friends, including childhood friends, and the fatherly shoulder they have lent till date, stands as a testament to the quality of man he was, and his faithfulness and steadfastness to the important people in his life, especially his family. He was a very committed family man, who loved our mother dearly and fervently from the day they crossed paths, till the day his soul departed. He stood by her and had a very deep-rooted love for his young children.

Throughout his lifetime, one trait he consistently showed was his strong sense of self-reliance. He was truly a self-made man; from his education, which he pursued with great zeal, to his career as a soldier, and then a pilot. He was a very independent-minded man, who took great pride in his work. It is no wonder he passed away on the job. He was a man who was committed in every undertaking, leaving no stone unturned and accomplishing everything that was set before him.

As a true Nigerian, he took great pride in his service to his country and did so passionately and excellently. He was indeed a great achiever, a great leader, and a shining light in the Nigerian Armed Forces. His exemplary nature is evidenced by his many accomplishments. He will forever be a great example of courage and leadership for Nigerians and the armed forces. He was a very strong and purposeful man – in mind, body and in spirit. I can confidently say that he was a man truly born for greatness and blessed with a beautiful heart.

Dear Dad, I am so proud to call you my father. The legacy you left will reverberate for generations through us, your children, and your many grandchildren. We have learned so much about you from our mother, who never fails to remind us of your character, love and legacy. Personally, learning about you has been one of the great joys of life, and I am grateful that we have been able to know you regardless of the loss.

Our mother has done a great job of passing on an excellent set of values that have consistently carried us through life and its ups and downs. She has helped us to build our faith in God, she has shown us diligence by example, and she has taught us love for others. She has also shown us immeasurable love and strength, from our youth to date. This has allowed us to grow strong individually, but also in harmony with ourselves. Your love indeed lives on, and your union was and remains a blessing to our lives.

We have also been fortunate to learn so much about you from your friends, colleagues and many others who knew you. I couldn’t be more proud and I remain grateful to God for the blessing of having you as a father. I am grateful to God for the life that you lived, and all that you were able to accomplish during your short time alive. The more I hear, the more I miss knowing and loving you.

Although cut short at only 33, you still lived a remarkable life and left such a great impact in Nigeria. As a young man, you accomplished much and put to use the many gifts God had bestowed upon you. You served your country well, demonstrating dignity and honour throughout your career and also in your personal life. You have left a far-reaching legacy that will live on in the world and our hearts.

You left behind a stellar reputation and as a result, the parting gift of a good name. For this, I am eternally grateful, as it is a gift much greater than anything material. I can only hope that we, your children, can do the same for our children, and imbibe in them the values that were passed down to us. Thank you for being you, I thank God for your life and your legacy.

It is not how long one lives that matters, but how well. You lived well! Your time on earth was well spent and remains an example to me personally. You left a mark in the hearts of many, and I know that you will never be forgotten. No matter how many years or decades go by, you will be in our hearts forever. I love you, dad! May your gentle soul continue to rest in peace, Amen.

The tribute wa dedicated to Late Chief of Air Staff 1967-1969), Colonel Shittu Alao who died 50 years ago by his daughter Mrs Aisha-Alao Alkali.

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