The now late General Victor Malu was not a soldier but an officer. However, the imagery of the soldier or the warrior remains more fitting for him: no politics and every assignment given to him must be carried out according to military ethics. Subsequently, there was an understandable dialectical ring to his becoming: the height of his power as the Number 1 soldier under the Obasanjo regime was also the time his decline started. Getting entangled with an Obasanjo who had been a Head of State before returning to power as a civilian was what many would say that a politically minded soldier would have avoided. Not Gen Malu who appeared not only to revel in it but spoke a lot on how the wrangling went. How all these played out that no one could reconcile a C-in-C with his Chief of Army Staff must be part of the puzzles of Nigerian politics.
It seemed he was a man trailed by controversy. He had one with Charles Taylor of Liberia and, after the military intervention in Zaki Biam, he offered a distinction between the Odi and Zaki Biam interventions that many did not find convincing.
But he was somebody who spoke up as brutally as imaginable, including the statement that he regretted not overthrowing the Obasanjo regime when he was COAS. How a coup at the time he was COAS could have been rationalised is the poser, given how Obasanjo came into power at a time the country was quite tired of military rule. But that was Malu for you: frontal and seemingly unconcerned with the power of words. Some people say it is those types of people Nigeria needs.
Malu will be remembered for leading the defunct Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group, (ECOMOG) to breaking the back of insurgency in Liberia, a feat. That was what gave him international limelight because dealing with insurgencies could be complicated for most conventional militaries. Where the Nigerian military acquired that exceptionalism is what has not been properly understood or sufficiently celebrated.
General Victor Malu has lived to the fullest. In the dire situation across Africa, it is an achievement to be considered fit to head a national army as the Nigerian Army, irrespective of what happened thereafter. May God grant General Victor Malu eternal rest!