NINE years before he
bade goodbye to the
world, Victor Samuel
Leonard Malu, a general
of generals, went into a
coma and was taken to
Lagos University Teaching
Hospital (LUTH) where he
was placed on life support.
He was later transferred
to a hospital in London.
After treatment for stroke,
he was discharged from
hospital and went to his
home in Central London.
But when the grim
reaper came knocking in
faraway Cairo on October
9, 2017, Malu couldn’t
be discharged from the
hospital, for he took his
last breath.
Not many have the guts
that nature gifted Malu,
who was known for being
blunt, frank and fearless.
He served his fatherland
with uncommon
commitment even in
retirement.
A former commander,
ECOWAS Monitoring
Group (ECOMOG) under
Sani Abacha, late military
head of state, Malu
retired after 34 years of
meritorious service in the
military. He held several
positions — the highest
being his appointment as
chief of army staff between
1999 and 2001.
Born on January 15,
1947, at Katsina-Ala,
Benue state, he enrolled
in the Nigerian Defence
Academy (NDA), Kaduna
in 1967 as part of the 3rd
regular course and was
commissioned as a 2nd
lieutenant enlisted upon
graduation in 1970.
Rift with Obasanjo,
others
Malu said as chief of army
staff, he observed that the
Americans kept seeking
ways to soil Nigeria’s
image in the international
arena. He believed his
resistance to this plot led
to his untimely retirement.
A report on the national
intelligence council of
the United States had
predicted that Nigeria
might break up because of
the insistence of the nation’s
leaders on a union, against
the people’s wish.
It also warned about the
possibility of a coup by
junior military officers.
However, former President
Olusegun Obasanjo and the
senate dismissed the report
as an unfair representation of
the situation in the country.
“The US does not mean
well for us and for anybody.
They want things in their
interest and that is how they
protect their interest,” he
had said.
“National security is above
any individual. After many
years in the army, I am in a
position to analyse a threat
to a nation and convey it
to those who should know.
But, when you don’t allow
me to do that, that means
you are not accepting that I
am a Nigerian. And that was
exactly what my president
didn’t want.
“My retirement from the
army was on the basis of
that, because Americans
told him (Obasanjo) that as
long as Gen. Malu remained
the chief of army staff, they
would not be with him.
“So, he had to get rid of
me and in the process, he
had to sacrifice the other
two service chiefs. They
didn’t do anything. I did
something because I stood
on my principle.”
Major regret
Following a public
disagreement over the
training of the Nigerian
army for peacekeeping by
US forces, Obasanjo sacked
Malu in 2001.
“Americans did not come
here to train us for peacekeeping.
They came to get
information on a country
that, in spite of all the
sanctions on it, could still
achieve what we achieved
in Sierra Leone,” Malu had
said.
“Fortunately, I was the
one there. So, I talk from a
very knowledgeable point
of view. I didn’t want to put
government on the spot.
Maybe because I was too
loyal to Obasanjo, I would
have done what I was
supposed to do, but I believe
in democracy, so I did not
organise to overthrow him.
“I think it was a blessing
that I was kicked out,
otherwise I might have
changed my mind from
being a democrat to
something else.”
“The Americans made it
impossible for the president
to find favour with them
if I was still in office.
Peacekeeping is not nuclear,
chemical or biological
warfare. That’s the job for
infantry man who walks
on his feet, carrying his
ammunition, rifles, you
maneuver to get to the point
using fire. That is what
Americans don’t do,” he
had said.
“If you remember the five
years of Abacha, we had
completely severed from
any other western country.
All our officers who were
in the various institutions
abroad were sent back. We
were not going on course
America was curious to

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know how from a third
world country with all the
sanctions, the Nigerian
Army could achieve the feat
we achieved in Liberia.
“And then, they came and
found a willing person in the
name of Obasanjo. They got
everything they wanted. It
was at that point I told him
(Obasanjo), ‘Sir, we cannot
have Americans come here
to tell us they want to train
us on peacekeeping’. An
interesting thing happened
in Sokoto.
“The Americans insisted
on staying in the barracks
with our soldiers. I said
over my dead body.”
Headed panel that
sentenced Diya
In 1997, Oladipo Diya,
de facto vice-president
to Abacha, and dissident
soldiers in the military
allegedly planned to
overthrow the regime of
Abacha. The alleged coup
was uncovered by forces
loyal to Abacha, and Diya
and his cohorts were jailed.
Diya was tried in a military
tribunal presided over by
Malu and was given the
death penalty.
Odi invasion
One of the darkest
chapters in the abuse of
human rights in Nigeria is
the Odi massacre. Malu was
the head of the army when
this sad event occurred.
The attack was carried out
on November 20, 1999 in
the sleepy town in Bayelsa
state.
Twelve police officers
were murdered by a gang
near Odi on November
4. The military decided
to invade the village
but were reportedly
ambushed by militants.
They reinforced and by
the time the carnage was
over, every building in
the town except the bank,
the Anglican church and
the health center, was
burnt to the ground. The
Environmental Rights
Action put the death toll
at nearly 2500 civilians.
Uncle and wife killed in
one night
Two years later, 19
soldiers sent to restore
peace following an ethnic
crisis in Zaki-Biam, a
community in Malu’s
state of Benue, were killed
and abducted. While on a
revenge mission, the entire
area was cordoned off by
soldiers, with armoured
tanks that were given
air cover by helicopter
gunboats.
This happened six
months into Malu’s
retirement. At the end of
that military action, at least
300 persons, including
Malu’s relations had been
killed. Pev Adoor, his
blind octogenarian uncle
and his wife, lost their
lives. His houses were
burnt.
Two days after the attack,
Malu granted an interview
to New York Times.
“There is no other
organisation in the country
that could have done
this. ‘Only the army has
the tanks, the armoured
vehicles and the arms to
do this. I cannot believe it
was spontaneous. It must
have been very carefully
planned. How can you kill
innocent civilians, farmers
carrying yam on their
heads? Can you mistake a
yam tuber for a missile?”
he asked.
Malu has put behind all
the stories and worries. He
is now in a place beyond
the reach of mortals. He
was one of the finest
military officers: a soldier
of soldiers.

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