Nigeria's Unsung Heroes


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Nigeria’s Unsung Heroes - Parts 1 and 2




Paul Mamza


July 30, 2005

As a country infested by maladies of unbridled inaptitude of helmsman-ship, Nigeria still parades statesmen that are hardly immortalized because of contempt for old-order revolt and forceful sweeps at an entrenched bone- cracking stampede of umpire- collaborators’ response to habitation of acquisitionist mindset rooted in agentist retrogression.  The mercy of this discourse is to nourish sorting from the trappings of fancies that laid claims of fake – conversionist fillip.  This serial will capture what may be regarded as Nigeria’s unsung heroes.

Major General Babatunde Idiagbon: Former Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters

His trademark was taciturn approach to a turbulent and rowdy cloaking of execrable leadership. He was the second-in-command to Major General Muhammadu Buhari after the politicians during the era of the Second Republic under Alhaji Shehu Shagari had exhausted themselves of diligence in government. The Military stroke, this time with a clear mission that indiscipline and corruption that was prevalent then must stop and phenomenally too.  The army abandoned the barracks at that period with a genuine concern to the save the nation from imminent collapse. ‘Tunde Idiagbon as he was widely known became the dirigible dragon of the regime sending a chill up the spine of defaulters of anti – indiscipline war, the war christened War Against Indiscipline (WAI) was a compulsi on to moral reformation and ethical conduct.  His Unsmiling posture was an open disdain to cataclysm of a country’s established laws and order thereby exerting a cascading signal to the irreverent and habitual law - breakers. Every special human must have a striking feature and Idiagbon exercised a lack of contentment of a nation in the spanning years of his leadership, after and even at last day of his life.  What made special humans more special is a measure of exploring veto of consistent respectability. Those of us that had watch late Chief Tai Solarin metamorphosis from short knickers of sympathy for the oppressed to the long trouser of travelatorial affluence during IBB’s experimentation on elitist – challenge were baffled with the unwritten remarkability.  Idiagbon’s gusto throughout his appearance at the national scene was an unmistaken certitude.  Born on September 14, 1943 in Ilorin, Kwara State.  General ‘Tunde Idiagbon had his education at United school, Ilorin, 1950 – 52, Okesuma Senior Primary School, Ilorin, 1953 – 57 Nigeria Military School, Zaria, 1958 – 62, Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul – Pakistan, 1962 – 65, Nigeria Military Training College, Kaduna, 1965 – 1966, Command & Staff College, Quetta, Pakistan 1976, National Institute for Policy and Strategy Studies, Kuru near Jos, 1981.  He also attended International Defense Management course, Naval Postgraduate School, United states, 1982. Enlisted as officer cadet, Nigerian Army, 1962, Captain., 1968, promoted Major, 1970, Lieutenant Colonel, 1974, Colonel, 1978 and Brigadier, 1980.  He was also Company Commander, 4th Battalion, 1965 – 66, Intelligence Offic er, 4th Battalion and later GSO 3 Intelligence 1 sector Commanding Officer, 20 Battalion, 1967 – 68, Commanding Officer, 125 Battalion, 1968 – 70, Brigade Major and Deputy Commander, 33 Brigade 1970 – 71, Commander. 29 Brigade 1971 – 72, General Staff Officer Grade 1 and later Principal Staff Officer, Supreme Headquarters, 1973 – 75, Brigade Commander, 13 & 15 Brigades, 1975 – 78, member, Governing Council, University of Jos. ‘Tunde Idiagbon was Military Administrator, Borno State 1978 – 79, Commander, 33 Brigade and member, National Council of States, appointed Director of Manning, Army Headquarters, Lagos, 1979 – 81 appointed Military Secretary (Army) Army Headquarters, Lagos, 1981 – 83, Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters and member, defunct Supreme Military Council (SMC) 1984 – 1985.  He was promoted Major General, 1985. ‘Tunde Idiagbon was ousted from power along with his boss, General Muhammadu Buhari in a bloodle ss coup d’etat, August 27, 1985 and was in political detention for 40 months August 27, 1985 – December 14, 1988, he was released from detention, December, 15, 1988. Apart from occasional appearance at some functions and General Obasanjo’s Invitation to Otta- farm during IBB’s years – a forum that groaned with grudges of the state of the nation- he had maintained a quiet and silence of apostolic resolve at the show of power of effective knock – outs with ratification of helplessness succumbing to a lexicon that “ out – of- power is out – of- influence”.  ‘Tunde, no doubt, meant well for Nigeria but conquered by the fate of the inevitable and supremacy of the new order                                                   

Exactly six years after his death, the man has been accorded by the nation he served well with stoic capacity in a logic force with the contradictions of silence. There is hardly any remembrance moment and national edifice conscripted to show that General Idiagbon ever sojourned in the Nigerian world. This shows that either the Nation in its grotto interpretations felt insecure with the ailing native tinkering of the likes of ‘Tunde Idiagbon or that the General was mistakenly sent with grotesque deal of misunderstanding minds contrived and conjured as a nation to channel a new course in a time begging for radical changes. I am tempted to believe that the former had been responsible for Idiagbon’s lack of immortalization. Astonishingly, persons at low leadership position that assisted in the wreck of the nation’s resources and posterity are remembered yearly on Newspaper pages or with monumental edifices but not General ‘Tunde Idiagbon of the worthy legacy that exhibited loyalty to the cause of his fatherland and portrayed a zeal to positive changes at the nation’s horizon.


A man that had an option to stay back in Saudi Arabia when General Muhammadu Buhari – led regime was overthrown in which he was the Second-in-command but to show loyalty to his erstwhile Commander-in-Chief by volunteering for surrender along with General Buhari. General ‘Tunde Idiagbon was a role model not highly appreciated in a parochialist-nation like Nigeria. This is Major-General Babatunde Idiagbon of blessed memory.


A symbol Of Patriotism: The General Victor Malu Example


The staging post of Nigerian history cannot be explicit without the dimensional moments of military interventions in politics and within the traps of the driving force of compatriotism and patriotism amidst backlash of ironies in study of opportunistic renaissance lies magical formulations of profound humanism tailored along nationalistic instincts. General Victor Samuel Leonard Malu, a former Chief of Army staff during the chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s civilian regime and the consummate ECOWAS- Economic Community of West African State’s peace-keeping force-ECOMOG Commander during the late General Sani Abacha’s regime is an example of revolutionary initiative in outstanding paradigm of nationalism and endless assortments of rationality in governance. As the ECOMOG Commander he had tamed and moderated the fire powers of broken lives at the stage of coup-plot in Sierra Leone where Major Johnny Paul Koroma had sacked a peoples’ mandate as an apology to explain political unraveling and in Liberia, he represented Nigeria in nailing Charles Taylor’s exclaiming rights at holding the fissures in the Liberian crisis as an exclusive preserve for taking the entire society hostage through rebel attacks. At that time Nigerian Military exhibited professionalism that left the entire world hypercritical of some hidden magical dynamics. Then, General Sani Abacha’s success was solely General Victor Malu’s optimistic efforts. Malu’s troops went to all assignments with vigours of determination and zeal, coming back home with ‘laurels’ of timely finished resolves in enthusiasm at the time Nigeria suffered variety of sanctions including military sanctions. It was Malu that secured the redeeming image of the Nigerian military capabilities at the testing event of the nation’s dusking task of confronting storming challenges of survival and realizable independence. Loyalty, patriotism, perseverance and commitment are major attributes in military professionalism; General Victor Malu exhibited all in his earlier assigned duties. However, his inherent positivism in approach later became an alienation of commensurate veraciousness with changing chronicle of advances.


Major General Ike Nwachukwu (rtd), soldier, diplomat, statesman and former Nigerian Minister of foreign Affairs summarized the peacekeeping efforts in an interview with African Economy of October/December, 1997 that "I commend Abacha’s handling of the Liberian situation. His faithfulness to the Liberian peace process is a pride to all African". The pride is the authentic remarkability and persistent correctness of professionalism exhibited by a troop under the surveillance of the most-abled Commander of a military vehicle of peace-making, Victor Malu. But fate had a way of throwing out fames and same fate can be crusading triumph of potential. Victor Malu is a living witness to both fates. When the civilian government under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo which was inaugurate d on 29th May, 1999 appointed General Victor Malu as its Chief of Army staff, there was a mirrored positioning that something were barely to give-in throwing unfurling chickens coming home to roost. At the session of Oputa Panel theatricals to nail targeted ‘villains’ of past pool of grandstanding, Malu made a special appearance with an Abacha badge to the displeasure to the spectacle of an already contemptuous President that targeted Abacha as a main ‘villain’ and major issue that the panel must execute with greater ferment. General Malu was quoted at different fora that he never regretted serving Abacha in all opportunities giving to him during the regime and would do same when giving same opportunities. At the heat of signing Nigerian-United States Military Cooperation Agreement, General Malu had to bear a cross for his unforgiving zeal for patriotism and commitment to the fatherland. True, President Obasanjo cherishes credibility in individuals but the credibility should not affect his credibility, even if the individual’s credibility is emblematic of the spirit of patriotism and nationalism. This assertion was proved several times in the Obasanjo era. Granting an interview with the Sunday Sun of July, 31st, 2005, General Malu bared his mind on why he was sacrificed for America. According to Malu "The Americans made it impossible for the President to find favour with them if I was still in office. Unfortunately, my two colleagues were sacrificed because if they were to be left, Nigerians would ask a lot of questions. Why only the Chief of Army Staff was removed?" to capture the crux of the problem, Malu said "The Nigeria Army should teach the Americans on peace keeping. 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", said Malu in the interv iew, "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 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 peace keeping’. An interesting thing happened in Sokoto. The Americans insisted on staying in the barracks with our soldiers. I said over my dead body. I asked General Danjumah who was my GOC before he became a Chief of Army Staff, ‘would you, during your tenure have allowed this foreign troop to come and stay in the barracks with your soldiers?’ He said no, that he would need to discuss it with Obasanjo…". In a nutshell General Malu saw a danger and made an alert but unfortunately his actions, which was tailored along sovereignty and patriotism, became his nemesis. The Minister of defence when Malu was stripped of his position, Lt General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma captured Malu’s predicament correctly when he said that he shall ‘miss Victor Malu’s BRUTAL FRANKNESS’ meaning indirectly that was the source of Malu’s problem with the authorities. Because Obasanjo is no respecter of ‘brutal frankness’ both Malu-the conveyor and General Danjumah-the cherisher were shown the way out of the scheme of things and life continues. Even out-of-power he had exhibited the brutal frankness on issues he left is detrimental to nationhood. At some point, he had alleged threat to his life and at other point a gang of rampaging soldiers were sent inflicting deaths and destruction in his village using armoured vehicles to destroy his late father’s house and his own house while at another point he was sa id to misappropriate army pension fund all in an effort to silence him but Malu is not deterred. He remain the patriotic, brutally frank and ever unrelenting in building values of honour, for honour is nothing more than telling the truth to the powers that be and Malu exhibited just that. After all what is a nation without sovereignty and what is a patriot without risking to secure a sovereignty for his nation?. Here is a patriotic, loyal, trustworthy, brave and an illustrious soldier per excellence; General Victor Samuel Leonard Malu-a nationalist that has been forgotten among honourable men in Nigeria.


-Mamza, a political columnist with the Leadership Newspapers, Writes from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.





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