General Victor Malu


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General Victor Malu: The Other Side of the Story




Seyi Oduyela



February 4, 2006 



It’s interesting to read people’s reaction to General Victor Malu’s statement about Obasanjo’s government. I find Gen Malu’s statement and the reactions to his statement interesting for some reasons.


After reading General Malu’s statement as published by the media in Nigeria, the spontaneous reactions of some Nigerians- Southern Forum, Mr. Bode George and others, I quickly discerned the motive of some of the group of people’s reactions to Malu statement and not-to-forget Chief Sunday Awoniyi’s defense of Malu’s statement. It is amusing that no one wants to believe Awoniyi, who was at the event and who heard Malu directly, but they decided to hold on to newspaper captions and reporting of  Malu’s statement.


I want to start by saying that as a defense correspondent for The New/Tempo /PM News; I have written and published critical articles on Malu than any reporter at that time. In August 2000 I published an article titled: “How Malu Rules the Army.” This article was to be the cover story of Tempo until late Tuesday evening of the production night when Henry Ugbolue sent the story of late Senator Chuba Okadigbo’s impeachment from Abuja, and Mr. Gbenga Alaketu, my editor then, pushed the Malu’s story to Special Report. Colonel Felix Chukwuma, the then Army PRO (I don’t know his new rank now) came down to Tempo office to stop the story but we went ahead and published it. This is just one example. I also published and article on his secret trial of the ECOMOG soldiers (December 14 2000, Tempo).


I was just wondering why nobody has reacted to the Tafa Balogun’s raised by Malu in his statement. Does that mean that we pick an issue out of many and blow it out just to show that we are democratic or what? I enjoy seeing people showing their high level of hypocrisy and praise-singing. I am not surprised at the selective negative reaction to the issue of coup that has been attributed to Malu. I know Malu can never over throw the government, I have listened to this man several times, spoken to him at interviews, attended functions where he spoke to his officers and soldiers and I believe strongly that he will never do it. As he said in his press statement, those who plan coups do not say that on pages of newspapers.


As far as I am concerned and know, he is still one of the best Army Chiefs ever produced by the Nigerian Army; this I know no one can take away from him. I am aware that he has his own shortcomings, but why should we close our eyes to some of the treasonable acts of President Obasanjo and blame others for it?


I had expected those who opened up waters of insults and abuse on Malu to base their reaction on the issues he raised; I mean attack the issue and not the person. He raised the issue of exposing the Nigerian Military to the Americans; he also mentioned that Tafa Balogun did not embezzle money meant for the Police but money given to him to aid the rigging of the 2003 elections. To Malu’s critics, these are lesser issues to the statement he made on regretting not overthrowing Obasanjo. Let us face it, if the military should strike now, I bet ordinary Nigerians will troop to the street to celebrate the ouster of this good-for-nothing government. To me and to many of Malu’s critics, they may not want to admit it Nigeria is still under a military government in disguise. One person decides what goes on in every corner of the country. From the impeachment of Governors, to freezing states’ accounts. We have witnessed the ouster of leaders of ruling party at the instance of this same former Khaki Head of state now in Agbada still thinking and ruling Nigeria as he did between 1976 and 1979. Have we forgotten how he went to Owu to impose a King over them, descending so low from his respected, though stolen, presidential seat to fight with King Makers in Owu?


If we place Malu’s record in the Army side-by side that of Obasanjo in the Army, Malu was a better Soldier. This is my judgment and I stand to be corrected.


On the Tafa Balogun story, as a journalist, I will explore the angle more than the coup statement made by Malu. This is my problem with the Nigerian press. We now know that Tafa did not steal money from the Police but money given him to rig the elections. To prove that this is not true, it is now for Obasanjo’s EFCC to tell the public about the 70Billion Naira. I heard too that someone has the video tape of Tafa issuing orders to his men on the 2003 election as to what to do to help the PDP win. I am sure this will come out soon.


I remember that in January 2001 General Malu spoke to 16 defense correspondents in his Moloney office in Lagos. We had the interview at the Conference room and I was part of the team that interviewed him. Chris Agbambu (Tribune), Madu Onuora (Guardian), Phillip Nwosu (Post Express), Anne Damisa (This Day), Kingsley Anunobi (Vanguard), Achellius Uchegbu (now Sunday Champion Editor) among others were at the interview. Malu just finished his meeting with the Americans when we met him. He was first reluctant to grant the interview since it was not scheduled, but he eventually agreed and spoke to us. The group interview lasted 45 minutes, though he said he would only talk for 20 minutes.


At this interview, we asked him questions on many issues, most of them on the American government interest in training Nigerian Military. I asked him about 8 questions on this. It was an opportunity I have been looking for, Mr. Alaketu, my editor then had given me the assignment long time and when I saw the opportunity I was happy. He told us that day that the Americans were asking for the Nigerian Military contingency plans. The issue of a country’s contingency plan is exclusive and is not what you share with any other country. According to Malu that day, your friend today can be your enemy tomorrow, so why share your military plan? He told us that why he held a meeting wit them was to warn them of their request to visit some of our strategic military formations which has nothing to do with peace-keeping training. The Ministry of defense has given them the go-ahead but military commanders contacted Malu, who stopped it. We published the interview in March 2001 and Malu was retired in April 2001.


I know too well that the Americans were given offices within the Defense headquarters in Area 7 Abuja; if I am not wrong they occupy the second floor, below the defense information office.


I had the opportunity to read the syllabus drawn by the American military to use as training guide. It was nothing short of insult to the Nigerian Army. One of the things I saw was introduction to soldiering. I read this syllabus and do not think it is appropriate.


When we place Malu in history with his course mates at the Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA), Course 3, I think the man stands out. His mates are Mike Akhigbe, a renowned bunkerer who is a member of the ruling party, Tunde Ogbeha, David Mark who spent most of their military career as political appointees. David Mark was the Communication Minister under General Babangida’s government who said that telephone is not for the poor and changed the lives of many Nigerians. He took the telephone away from them and now he is a “distinguished Senator.” I heard he has a polo course in Republic of Ireland running to millions of Euros, I am sure EFCC will not see that. Late General Abdukarim Adisa is also another course mate of Malu, Chris Ali and Anwar kazir both former Chief of Army Staff are Malu’s course mate too.  Looking at his role in Liberia and back home I think I give him Kudos.


I forgot to mention what he said when we finally met in January 2001 after my August 2000 article on how he rules the Army. When I introduced myself to him as Seyi Oduyela reporting for Tempo Magazine, his reaction was that, I am glad you are living reporter not a ghost reporter. He said:  “I thought you were a ghost reporter but I am glad that you exist. This is the beauty of democracy that you are free to express your views and write what you write which was not possible before now.” He answered all my questions. But I want to quickly draw a difference in Malu and another top Military officer, who was the Chief of Defence Staff when Malu was Army Chief. I mean Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi. Ogohi belongs to the Course 4 of the NDA. I published an article, which was the cover in July 2000 titled “Rumbling in the Military: Soldiers Grumble.” It was about some money meant for military transfer allowance from Lagos to Abuja when the defence Ministry moved. Ogohi slashed the allowances for soldiers and did not pay the 150,000 flat rate for officers and soldiers. I reported it in Tempo and he set out a search party for me. For one month, I remained in Lagos and he ordered the withdrawal of my defence accreditation. But through the help of the Chief Clerk of the Defence Information, now deceased, I changed my name from SEYI ODUYELA to SAMUEL ODUYELA and registered as The News reporter and not as Tempo and I got my accreditation. Ogohi did not stop there, he kept looking for me at every event asking for “the tempo reporter who said I stole money,” but he never saw or met me.


One of the good things I know about Malu was what he did to help the medical evacuees from ECOMOG. When he became the Army Chief, he proposed to the President that military hospitals in Nigeria be upgraded to save money in treating soldier wounded in Liberia and Sierra Leone who have not been treated, but to Obasanjo and Danjuma this was to much to do and Obasanjo government does not have money to send these soldiers out for treatment abroad. Under Bamaiyi leadership as the Army chief, soldiers brought home from Sierra Leone were left to rot in bed at the Yaba Military hospital. This was what Malu said on the wounded soldiers: “having worked with them in Liberia, if you remember, I was the chief of Staff of the ECOMOG in 1992 and also the Nigerian Contingent Commander. I fought with these soldiers on the battle field and I think I am in a better position to understand their plight.”  


According to him he sent a proposal to the government if the evacuation could not be realized, government should equip six hospitals in the country with state-of-the-heart equipment with foreign doctors working alongside military doctors. According to him: “the essence is that when the treatment of the soldiers is completed, the equipment will be ours and the foreign doctors would have transferred their knowledge to our doctors in managing this type of cases.” Third option was for the government to release fund. Though the fund issue was approved but from 1999 to July 2000 to letter of credit was opened. The Army under Malu raised 135 Million Naira, gave the money to Ministry of Defence in November 1999 to get the foreign equivalent, the money did not come back to the Army until August 2000 when Malu reported to Danjuma, the defence Minister. It was through this means that the soldiers were sent to Egypt for treatment. I am very sure that the six military hospitals are yet to be upgraded in 2006.


Malu said in 2001 before was retired that Obasanjo has not fulfilled his promises of re-equipping the military and re-professionalizing it. For example throughout the year 2000 the military did not carry out any capital project because funds were not available. And I am sure too that the condition of the barracks remain deplorable as I left it in 2003. Soldiers pay NEPA or whatever they call it now to purchase transformer for their barracks, I knew that happened at Dodan Barracks and also at Bonny Camp. They still live in makeshift without toilets. But the Military professionalism Resort Initiative and the Operation Focus Relief have not brought any relief to the military.


Senator Saidu Dansadau of All Nigeria People Party (Zamfara state) was a deputy Chairman for Senate defence committee in 2001 he once told me that the civilian government has not responded in the same proportion the military has. He said the government of Obasanjo is unnecessarily under funding the military. In the 1999 supplementary budget, of the 6.7 Billion appropriated, only 3 Billion got to the defence for capital project. In the 2000 budget, the National Assembly appropriated 9 Billion naira and it was reduced to 6 Billon by Obasanjo.  The issue is that duly appropriated sums are not released to units, divisional and sector commanders. Dansadau was more concerned about the combat readiness of the military just as Malu.


When the Americans warned last year of imminent bloody coup no one cried foul except Obasanjo’s government. I believe the report and I know it can still happen. When the Chief of Army Staff, General Agwai spoke on the attitude of politicians, he was criticized but what we have forgotten or fail to realize is that these guys are first Nigerians before they are military boys. They have their rights to own opinions. We should look at issues and not the Army chief. I am not surprised at Agwai’s statement; he has an enviable record in the military to back up for his present status. Agwai became a brigadier-general at his 25th year in the military, which was impressive. We knew and saw him then as a potential apolitical Army Chief like Malu. Another man who would have been like him is now late, he was Brigadier-General Maxwell Kobe. He led the ECOMOG to restore peace in Sierra-Leone and died mysteriously. Kobe was a soldier’s soldier, he died and it does not concern the Nigerian government to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death. General Zidon Gandi may not like the media but he knows his job. He helped in foiling the Major Gideon Okar-led coup of 1990 but other people claimed the glory. General Bamaiyi and Raji Rasak became popular while Zidon remain underground. He is a fine officer, very professional and quiet.


I think I should correct him on the aspect of Mustapha and Bamaiyi in detention. It is not the Obasanjo government that chooses to keep them in prison but they themselves through various obstacles they have been putting on their own legal battles. From accusing the judge of asking for bribe, to fighting for a judge to be removed from the case.  They have also been using the issue of fighting for bail to slow the judicial process.

They are actually waiting for Obasanjo to leave and for a Northern ruler to free them. I had also expected Malu condemn the reinstatement of Sergeant Rogers to the Army after his admission to committing murder.


I know that General Malu is not a saint. He made mistakes while in office and I reported them. For example he did not retire his Brother and Major General Madza who served as political appointees as National Chairman of NEPA task force and coordinator respectively, he retired the Information Officer of Lagos Garrison Command now 81 Division under General Zidon Gandi, he tried and jailed the wounded soldiers who protested in Egypt; but it has not taken away from him his great sense of loyalty to Nigeria and the selfless service he rendered for 34 years.


The issue of loyalty from the military to civil authority has become an issue of debate. I was at the Nigeria AirForce week 2000 in Enugu when this issue was discussed. As a Nigerian and a reporter and from what I have seen around the world, I think it is a misnomer to say that the military owes allegiance to the Commander-in-Chief, they did not swear to the President when taking their oath of office, they did to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Constitution is above any individual including the Commander-in-Chief. If the military feel that the government is going against the constitution they can disobey the Commander-in-chief because their allegiance is to the People of Nigeria. How do you explain a president asking foreigners to have access to your military information unhindered, that is disloyal to the country and it is treasonable, he does not have the executive power to do that because it jeopardizes the security of the country.


Why would the Americans want to build a military base in Maiduguri? What for? We have American ship in the Niger Delta for what? If we can use the military to restore peace in Odi, Agege, Kaduna, Kano and Tiv land then we have tacitly accepted them as the only antidote to solving our problems when the “elected” people fail to do so. Now, Nigeria is a lawless country, ruled by just one person. The National Assembly has failed. Members of the national assembly are like puppets, they are being remotely controlled by Obasanjo. What we are seeing now is a puppet show and playing to the gallery.


Obasanjo destroyed all ethnic groups. He used their own people to do that and may end up as the last President of a United Nigeria; no one is paying attention to this until it happens. In 2000, I had the opportunity to meet one of Nigeria’s elder statesmen who had been in politics from the so-called first Republic, he is a Yoruba man. He told me then that Obasanjo may be last President of a united Nigeria. He explained to me the plans and I am beginning to see them unfolding. If I cannot have it, then I spoil it.


He used late Chief Bola Ige to split the Afenifere Group there by reducing their influence on the Yoruba, and it worked. Afenifere to date have not recovered from that. The formation of the Yoruba Council of Elders was a decoy to redirect the leadership of Yoruba from the traditional leadership not to Bola Ige as Obasanjo made Ige to believe but to himself. Ige was eliminated and now Obasanjo is the leader most Yoruba politicians look up to as their godfather. He created Segun Agagu, Gbenga Daniels benefited from his rigging, even when Segun Osoba offered large amount of money to ensure that the INEC in Ogun did not allow PDP to rig, but the Electoral Commissioner in Ogun State told the unfortunate Osoba that nothing will stop him from losing the election. Tinubu survived in Lagos for a different reason. Osoba fought against Obasanjo’s impeachment, he lobbied his friends in the National Assembly. Bola Ige led a faction of Yoruba group and another faction of Alliance for Democracy, he choose to serve in Obasanjo government and even took Adesanya daughter there. Abdulkadri became Ige’s faction of AD chairman. AD has not recovered from this mess.


In PDP, Awoniyi an independent-minded elder was prevented from becoming the national Chairman because he will never be a yes-man to Obasanjo; Barnabas Gemade won an election against Awoniyi. Obasanjo could not hide his feelings when he jubilated at the PDP convention where Gemade was declared winner of an exclusively PDP convention with journalists as voters. The likes of Uba and Offor have used their ill gotten wealth to divide the East.


He turned Atiku against the north. He used him to insult his own people, now Atiku is a political pariah. Nasiru Mantu is now carrying out the hatchet plan against his own people for a promise of becoming the next Plateau State governor, just as he used late Senator Abubakar, former deputy Senate president to get rid of Okadigbo and then dumped him.


We are now watching helplessly how Houses of Assembly are now impeaching their governors. Do not get me wrong, Alami deserve what he got but the process should have been made transparent, without hoodwinking the Assembly men who themselves are not better than the governor. In Oyo State, we are seeing the violation of constitution by one illiterate old man holding the state to ransom and Obasanjo closed his eyes to it because he does not like the person of Ladoja. Now the suspect has been granted bail and the next thing is for him to be discharged and acquitted by the court. This is a rape on democracy. This is not democracy. I think it is difficult to draw a difference between this government and Abacha’s government.


Human rights violations are on the rise, police kill more people without trial, we have more awaiting trial in prison than actual people serving terms. What has really changed in Nigeria since 1999? Nothing. NITEL to be sold, Nigeria Airways went to bed under Obasanjo. The giant of Africa does not have its own Airline, and now inviting a private citizen from United Kingdom to run its Airline for her, what a shame! The fact that no one in the military is not talking about a possible coup does not mean they are not planning one. So why are we crying foul over Malu’s regrets? Just as some people are free to call for Obasanjo’s 3rd term, Malu is also free as a Nigerian citizen to express himself.


I still do not understand why the word coup is haunting people. Let us wait for it to happen and see what the poor masses of Nigeria will do. I bet it, they will rejoice and welcome it. So far anything is better than Obasanjo’s government.


Thank you for your time.



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