Every soldier who reaches the biblical age of 70 as Lt. General Victor Malu who died on October 9, 2017 in Egypt should count himself lucky. His death should be more of a celebration than mourning. I have come not to bury General Malu, but to celebrate a man of war, an officer and a gentleman and a great Nigerian whose story is a chapter of our forthcoming book: THE GURU—Eyewitness Biography of Mike Adenuga.
As a soldier, Malu had signed a pact with death. Anyone who joins the military has signed his death warrant. When you see death coming, you don’t run, you confront it. You kill or be killed. That is what you are trained and paid to do. To defend and die for your country. President Trump unfortunately drummed this home just this week when he told the widow of an American soldier killed in Niger that “he knew what he signed up for.” What an insensitive statement coming from a President!
Malu was not just an ordinary soldier but an honourable soldier and a grateful one. He was ECOMOG Commander (1996-1998), the peacekeeping force sent to war-torn Liberia. He was also our Chief of Army Staff (1999 to 2001). He was like the Centurion in Matthew 8:9 who told Jesus: “For I am a man under authority having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this and he doeth it.”
In our book, a grateful General Malu told a poignant story of how Mike Adenuga’s generosity saved his life in a time of war. This is General Malu’s touching tribute to a good man who did him good. It is hoped that the Guru will soon tell his own long-awaited story which will be an instant hit and every biographer’s dream to collaborate. Here is General Malu’s in his own words:
I see Mike Adenuga as an Angel of Mercy sent by God to rescue me out of a necessity during my time as the Commander of ECOMOG in the heat of the Liberian Civil War. An angel is someone who comes to help you in time of need, then disappears. Mike is that kind of angel. He is a nice person, but I don’t know why he hides from friends. He once did something for me for which I am still looking for him to just shake his hand to say thank you, but it has been impossible. We used to have this flight that used to go Lagos-Makurdi-Abuja-Lagos. So when I got my posting to Liberia, I went to Makurdi to tell my people that I was going to be out for war and may never return. I came to board my flight to come to Lagos to leave for Monrovia. I entered the aircraft and behold, there was Mike Adenuga. He was sitting with Col. Ekundayo who was my senior. Both of them were friends. So, I came to sit with them. And I hinted Mike that I was leaving for Liberia on posting for operations. He then said: “Victor, make sure you see me in my office at Devcom Merchant Bank on Monday.”
I got to Lagos and I forgot. It was on the day I was to leave that I remembered Mike had asked me to see him. So I started trying to locate Devcom Merchant Bank. Eventually I drove down to the place. Somebody escorted me via the lift. When I got to the floor, he was outside. The board meeting was on, everybody was seated and he had to interrupt to come and see me.
“Look, I have been waiting for you here for how long?” he said.
“To be honest, I just forgot,” I replied. “Then suddenly, I remembered you asked me to see you and I started dashing here.”
He then brought out an envelope and gave it to me. I was so much in a hurry to catch my flight that I didn’t even care to open the envelope. It was when I was already aboard the aircraft taking me to Liberia that I opened it and found it contained five thousand dollars. I was dazed. I said to myself: “How could this man do this type of thing? What did I do for him to deserve this?”
I went to Liberia and for one year, I didn’t come to Nigeria because we were fighting throughout. In fact, I didn’t even think I was going to come back alive. When I came back, I started trying to see if I could go and thank Mike Adenuga for what he did because the five thousand dollars he gave me was my saviour. It was more than the worth of five thousand. When I got to Liberia, the war started. My name was not included on the nominal pay roll. For three months, I didn’t have any allowance. It was that money I survived on as an officer to live a decent life until when they started paying me my allowance of 250 dollars per month. I was getting the same allowance as my cook, my driver and my orderly. Everybody was earning 5 dollars per day. And that is why I am not happy when people say that we ECOMOG soldiers went to Liberia to enrich ourselves. Do you know I was in Liberia fighting and I came back with five thousand dollars as my total savings? That was equivalent to the money that Mike Adenuga gave me.
Mike is a very generous human being. He shows you generosity and you have no means of saying thank you to him. You write thank-you letters and you are not even sure it got to him. That is the kind of man he is. To get him is the problem. And I am not the type that would be going to knock on people’s door. God made me a different person. Me, I don’t have this tendency of going to hang around people because of desperation. I am not desperate. I am poor but I have my pride which you can never tamper with. As I am sitting here, I have never entered any minister or governor’s office. Even among my military colleagues who became governors. I respect myself. If you invite me, that is a different thing. But if you didn’t, I stay in my house. At times, we meet in the aircraft and somebody says: “Why didn’t you come to see me?” I cannot leave my office to come and see you. Unless you invite me. If you invite me, I will come. But I cannot sacrifice my pride under the guise of going to see a governor. Who is a governor? As you are a governor, I am also doing my job somewhere and I have no regret for what I am getting paid.
As for Mike, I have admired Mike more than anybody else, any Nigerian businessman. The fact that he came with Globacom and compelled other networks to reduce their ridiculous charges makes him a Nigerian hero. When GSM came out, the same week, I went and bought five lines. Two for myself, one for my daughter, one for my wife, one for my son. Each of them was costing N25,000. And I was running a bill of about N700,000 every quarter. That was what they were charging us before Globacom came in. Now, for the same line, I get a bill of about N2,000. I asked myself: “How come? What is happening?” For that alone, I am grateful to Mike Adenuga, the hero of the people, the Robin Hood of Nigerian telecoms revolution.
In Mike Adenuga, I see a large-hearted entrepreneur struggling to do things that will reduce the sufferings of the ordinary man. I see an entrepreneur who has made the difference in the telecoms sector. He came into the system with a big bang and the other networks which had virtually taken the consumers to ransom by their outrageous billings were forced to rethink. Such is the power and the magic of Mike Adenuga’s Globacom.