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How I survived the cold war in Afghanistan — Nigerian-born officer honoured by US Navy for honesty


Lieutenant Victor Agunbiade was recently honoured by the United States Navy for effectively managing its largest overseas cash disbursement office, handling about $45 million (about N17 billion) and gave a perfect account of $23 million (about N8.7 billion) across six rigorous inspections and independent audits with zero discrepancies. For his exemplary exploits, he was awarded the Navy and Marin Corp Development Medal. Agunbiade, who was also named in 2018 as the Navy’s 2018 Officer Recruiter of the Year alongside 17 others and honoured at the annual Recruiter of the Year ceremony in Washington D.C. tells DAVID ADENUGA how unwavering determination and resilience have kept him going in the face of so many battles.

How was your childhood?

I was born into an Anglican family as the only male child in a family of seven. I hail from Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State. I had a very happy childhood, though I am from a humble background. One of the earliest memories that are engraved in my mind is that of waiting for my dad to come home from work on his bicycle. On his arrival, “The old man would put me on his lap, ask me how I fared in the school work of that day and what homework I came home with. While we did my homework together, my father would use the opportunity yet again to remind me to always keep these three things in my mind: aspiring to be the best in all my endeavours, remembering to learn something from everyone I passed through in life and respecting the people I met in life irrespective of status. He would say that some lessons are painful and some are painless, yet all are priceless because they would add to my experience. That advice stuck into my head, and I would use them as a benchmark to set targets for myself in everything I do and to always have it in my sub-consciousness not to undertake anything I do with a mere symbolic gesture.

My father taught me each passing time to be confident and how to choose the right path in life.

What is your educational background?

My father being a trained teacher knew the importance of education when he enrolled me at a tender age in Christ Church Primary School, Porogun, Ijebu-Ode Molode; the Anglican school the church founded to ensure that its members’ children could commence learning at a tender age. On completion of my primary education, I moved to Adeola Odutola College, Ijebu-Ode, where I completed secondary education.

Propelled by the importance of a well-rounded education, I gained admission into Ogun State College of Education, Igbeba Campus Ijebu-Ode for my A-Levels. Thereafter, I gained admission into then University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, now Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, South-Western Nigeria to study Agricultural Economics and Farm Management. I served in Kastina State in 1997, where I taught Biology and Agriculture at Katsina Secondary School. After my National Youth Service Corps in Katsina, I returned to Somolu, Lagos where I was employed as a Parent-Teacher Association teacher at Baptist High School, Obanikoro, Lagos. A few years later, I was employed by Governor Tinubu’s administration in Lagos as Agricultural Research and Planning Officer with the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture. I decided to quit on the 8th of February 2003 for further education. This time, to pursue a business programme at Kensington College of Business, London. Unfortunately, I was denied British entry visa three times, even with documented evidence of having paid the required tuition fees and having provided a bond agreement issued by my sponsor. The British Consular concluded that I would not return to Nigeria after my studies. With that disappointment, having resigned my employment with the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, I remained unemployed for four years before I eventually travelled to the United State on February 16, 2007 with an Immigrant Visa.

Did you feel like giving up after you were denied British Visa thrice?

That was my wilderness experience. I have to depend on God each day for my daily bread. My faith in God kept me through. I knew it would soon pass and I held unto my dream. I came to a resolute conclusion that only death can stop me from reaching my goal. I wrote it on the wall of my room that “I will reach my goal.”

What were the challenges you faced?

I had financial challenges because I had used all my savings to pay for the school in England and there was no job to return to. My father also died on July 20, 2003 and was buried on July 26, 2003. It was a big loss to my life because he was my go to person. I had to start all over again. It was my darkest hour.

How did you find your way to the US?

I travelled to America on family sponsored Immigrant visa on February 16, 2007. On landing and settling down, I prayed and committed my career plan into God’s hands.

Was it always your dream to become a naval officer?

I had a dream in which I saw myself in a US Navy war ship, and I knew that was the answer to my prayers.

After much deliberation and due diligence, I decided to join the US Navy as a store keeper on the 27th of February 2008. The Navy then provided opportunity to go back to school where I pursued a degree in Economics and an MBA before becoming a commissioned officer in 2013.

You were deployed in Afghanistan in 2013. What was the experience like?

I can’t really talk much about that because of what I did there. Yes that was combat, real combat, and I lost some friends there. But I have put Afghanistan behind me!

Was there any threat to your life at any point in your career?

Well we all face threats to our lives each day, but my faith in God has always been my fortress. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.”

What came through your mind when you learnt about the honour done to you by the US Navy?

Well, I was actually very excited, fulfilled with great sense of accomplishment and primarily gratitude to God.

Nigerians will like to know your toughest mission and how you survived it.

My toughest mission was Afghanistan. I followed through all I was taught in training – perseverance, dedication and strength! I look beyond myself and I made it through prayers and faith in God. I had good team and great leadership that provided awesome guidance and structures.

Why did you choose to serve in the US Navy and not in the navy of your beloved country Nigeria?

Like I said earlier, I joined the US Navy because it was a divine leading. I never had the desire to join the navy until I dreamt about it while I prayed about my career path when I relocated to the US.

How are you able to balance the role of a naval officer with that of a father and a husband?

Well. I have great support at the home front! I have great support from my family, my wife and children, and that makes it aso easy for me to be able to balance work and family. We go on vacation together and I spend lots of time with my family when I am not working.

What do you love to do when you’re off the battlefield?

I spend time with my family. I also like sports; soccer to be precise. I am an Arsenal fan for life. I like NBA, American football, athletics, travelling and reading.

What strategy do you think Nigeria should employ to win the fight against insurgency?

I really don’t know what methods Nigeria military are using to fight the insurgents, but I am very positive that they could do better if they are well equipped and well taken care of.

If invited home to help in the fight against insurgency, would you honour it?

That has to go through my job; if the Nigerian government requests that.

What are the awards you have won?

I won the Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal 2020, Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal 2019, Navy

The Nation

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