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Posted on : Oct 8, 2011
“I was simply praying to God, 'O Lord! Use me as Your instrument, O Lord! Use me as Your instrument' and Sathya Sai Baba responded. He said, 'Yes, yes! I will use you as My instrument.' What else can I say about Sathya Sai Baba other than that He is God. He is the God of my forefathers, the God to whom all Africans have been praying from time immemorial. He is Sathya Sai Baba – truly God Incarnate.”
That was the indomitable faith and conviction of late Victor Krishna Kanu. No wonder in 2001 when Father Charles Ogada earnestly prayed in the interview room asking Swami to come to Africa, Baba's face brightened up with a beautiful smile and then came the revelation: “I am already in Africa... I am working through Victor Kanu.”
So what kind of an instrument of the Lord was Kanu? Several years ago, when the book Sathya Sai Baba: God Incarnate authored by Victor Kanu was first released, Baba saw a boy reading the volume in the mandir portico and asked: “What is it in your hand?” The student then lifted the book and showed it to Bhagawan. Baba took one look at it and instantly said: “Good man! Good book!”
Kanu Shone with Sai's Light
Victor Kanu was God's good man through whom the Lord wrought miracles. The most astounding of them all is the Sathya Sai 'Miracle' School of Zambia where Baba worked through Victor and created beacons of character and goodness out of students who were earlier absolute economic and social rejects of society. “Victor admitted the 'zeroes' and transformed them into all round 'heroes',” says Father Charles Ogada and continues: “Have you ever experienced total joy that made your heart want to jump off your breast – ripples of bliss arising and raising you beyond the limits of human possibilities! This was the joy we experienced as we watched the pupils unfold the divine within – like fragrant flowers in the garden of Sai! Victor loved the children with the same passion with which he loved the Lord. Truly he was for us the ambassador of God who erased the gap we create between the human and the divine.”
|Dr. Victor Kanu, an ambassador of divine Love|
“Since the beginning of time,” says Dr. Goldstein, chairman of the Sri Sathya Sai World Foundation, “the Lord has brought forth men and women who were born into certain places at certain times where and when there was a great need for the light of His love, the enlightenment of His wisdom, and the succour of His compassion. Our beloved Baba brought forth Victor ‘Krishna’ Kanu to be such a light of His love and wisdom in Africa.”
It is for this reason that when this valiant messenger of the Lord decided to bid adieu to this earthly sojourn on September 3, 2011 following an unfortunate cardiac arrest, it instantly arrested the minds of thousands of brothers and sisters of the Sai family, not only from Africa but from all over the world. “The mighty oak of education in human values of the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation of Africa has fallen. Africa has lost a great Sai-son...,” said Mr. Kishin Khubchandani, the Zonal Chairman for Zone 9A (UK and Ireland), earlier he was the Zonal Chairman for Zone 9 which consists of the whole of Africa, UK, Ireland, Middle East and Islands in the Indian Ocean.
For Mr. Kalyan Ray, chairman of the Education Committee of the Sri Sathya Sai World Foundation, the loss of dear Victor Kanu was irreparable. He condoled: “Over the years, I have had the opportunity of enjoying his loving and uplifting company and receiving his sage-like wise counsel while we travelled together attending meetings, workshops and conferences in Africa, Europe, North America and above all in Prasanthi Nilayam. He was known for his roaring voice in meetings, which he affectionately called the 'lion's roar from Kilimanjaro'! But I will always cherish his soft, sweet voice of reflection and the pearls of wisdom borne out of long years of nearness and dearness with the divine and his extraordinary experiences with Swami. The name and image of Victor bring to my mind his unflinching devotion and total surrender to his dearest Lord Sai, his single-minded dedication to Swami's mission, and above all, his love, wisdom and courage of conviction which always shone on his face so bright!”
Undoubtedly Dr. Victor Krishna Kanu was the Chosen One of the Lord especially for the continent of Africa; he was the face of Africa to Sai devotees the world over. And, how Baba prepared him for this significant role is an elevating tale not only because it is generously peppered at every twist and turn with amazing and mysterious instances of His omnipresence and grace but also because each instance of life is a profound lesson for every individual that aspires to be a genuine devotee of the Lord.
His Early Years and Oxford Education
Victor was born on July 14, 1929 in a small town called Yonibana in the Tonkolili District of Seirra Leone in West Africa. At that time, the country was under British rule; in fact, it was the headquarters of British West Africa that consisted of three other nations: Ghana, Nigeria and Gambia.
Victor was also heir to the chieftaincy of his land, the Dunamaro chiefdom, where he had the right to become the Provident Chief if he wished to. It was a different matter that he was never interested in this role. In fact his birth name was Sissy and he got his name Victor while being baptised in the Evangelical Mission School in Yonibana where he did his schooling.
Later he moved to the capital city of Freetown for his secondary school education in Albert Academy and followed this up with a teacher’s training course in Union College in Bomemahun. Following this, he taught for a while and then thanks to a very kind Englishman who sponsored his higher studies, Victor joined the Oxford University. This was a major turning point in his life. Victor was 25 years old.
Until then, he had been brought up as a god-loving and religious youngster. “Well, I had a wonderful life growing up as a young boy,” recalled Victor during an interview with Radio Sai in 2007. “One thing that interested me very much was that my father was a Christian and my mother a Muslim. And I grew up to believe in God. In Africa, God is at the center of everything that we do. People pray to Him and believe that there is some Supreme Being who is responsible for all that is created, that all this just did not fall from thin air, that ‘creation’ is not an accident. So they believed in this African cosmology wherein there is a Being who has spirits or deities or angels; it was therefore a triangular structure of this Great Spirit, the spirits, and then the ancestors. So I learnt to be ‘religious’ if I may put it that way; the word ‘spirituality’ was not used then.
“As long as you went to the church, you were a religious person. I enjoyed this life and I liked the life of Jesus Christ very much, especially His love and compassion; He made us feel that there is something beyond us that is more important than just eating, drinking, dancing and so on. This attracted me intensely, and so did all the stories about Him - like His power of bringing back the dead, or touching and transforming the blind, or commanding the lame to walk and so on – all of them mesmerised me. Only later in my life, I was to come before the Master who in fact did more than what Jesus did.”
Coming from a humble, caring and god-fearing background, Victor was unprepared for the culture shock he was to experience at Oxford.
“It was a frightfully difficult time,” recalled Victor. “I remember, nine days after arriving at Liverpool I joined a train to go to Paddington. It was actually a very long train; I had never seen something like that before. And as I sat inside, I saw all the passengers facing each other. It was a lengthy journey but nobody spoke. People were just silent; they were either busy reading papers or sleeping or looking outside the window.
“To me, this was unusual. When I arrived, in my first letter to home I wrote: 'Father, I have come to a strange country where people do not speak to each other.' Because in Africa, at least in Sierra Leone, when you meet someone for the first time, whether you have known him before or not, you greet him and ask the person’s name, where he has come from, what his condition of life is and so on. But to travel in a train for 4-5 hours without speaking to someone – it was a huge cultural shock.”
Nevertheless once he got started with his classes, Victor cultivated a liking for Oxford. He studied what in those days was called Modern Grace and included philosophy, politics and economics. Victor loved the intellectually stimulating environment at Oxford and by the time he returned home, Sierra Leone had gained independence from the British. This was in 1961.
The High Life as a Government Diplomat and Its Lessons
Victor joined the civil service as an Administrative Officer in the Establishment Secretary’s Office. Even though this was a good position, he soon left this post to join the British Diamond Company. For years, diamond mining has been the economic mainstay of Sierra Leone; even today it is among the top 10 diamond producing nations in the world. It was during this time of his career that the government appointed Victor as ambassador to the United Kingdom with further accreditations to Norway and Sweden. He served in this capacity for four years. But, once the government changed hands, he had to leave the position.
This experience taught Victor much more about life than diplomacy. Talking about this, he said: “On reflection, it was not good because life as an ambassador was very superficial and shallow. I am saying this because that was the time when people thought that sitting and dining with the Queen, going to the House of the Lords, and attending those big cocktail parties was all that life was about. This was considered to be the highest - the pinnacle of success in one’s life. But later on, I came to know that it was not. Once I lost the position and having been a former ambassador, I thought I must have a comparable job, which was impossible. Let me give you one instance.
“When I was an ambassador, the British companies that were based in Sierra Leone held me in very high esteem. I remember on one occasion, the United African Company invited me to lunch at their headquarters in London. At that time, I had a Rolls-Royce with a flag and a chauffeur, also a large house and 42 staff members in the embassy. And when we arrived at this headquarters of the United African Company, I saw this line of men dressed in black-ties waiting to receive me.The Managing Director shook my hands and introduced me to all the senior staff. I was then escorted in the elevator to their dining hall. And what did I see there? Lobsters, champagne, caviar... it was all so fantastic. I thought this was great; these are my real friends.
“But when I lost my job, after applying to many places without any success, I thought I should turn to my friends at United African Company; I remembered how they had received me earlier. When I rang the office, the secretary told me to hold on, and then a little later said: 'Mr. John said that he cannot see you now, but you could come some other time.' And she gave me an appointment.
“When I went to their offices the next time, I went by taxi and not a Rolls-Royce. I saw that the front of the building was empty. None of the people who once received me were there. I had to go up the lift myself. And I sat in the secretary’s office for about half an hour. At the end of it, she finally said to me that her boss could not see me. I was really shocked.”
The incident marked the second major turning point in Victor’s life. Such hard knocks by destiny during this period propelled Victor to get back to his roots. He started reflecting deeply about the religious upbringing of his childhood, and began to visit the church which he had not done for over two decades since the time he first came to England.