General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB as he was fondly called, survived one major attempt to overthrow his government, when his Defence Minister, Sani Abacha helped quell the already successful coup led by Major Gideon Orkar.
Orkar and his co-conspirators were eventually caught, and were executed after facing a special military tribunal which found them guilty.
Before the Orkar coup, there was the alleged coup led by then Major Gen. Mamman Vatsa, December 1985, just four months after Babangida took over power from Muhammadu Buhari.
The man Vatsa
Born December 3, 1940, Vatsa joined the army when he enrolled at the Nigerian Military Training College, NMTC, December 10, 1962. He eventually trained the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, after which he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant.
He rose through the ranks, and was eventually appointed Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, by General Babangida who was then the military head of state in 1985. He was then a major general.
Before then, he had been involved in the 1966 counter coup which was masterminded by northern military officers to revenge the January 15, 1966 which had a number of northern soldiers and politicians killed.
The then Colonel Vatsa, who was Commander of 13 Infantry Brigade in Calabar, was also the one who took to the airwaves to oppose Lt. Col Buka Suka Dimka’s February 13, 1976 coup. During the Dimka coup investigation, Vatsa served as Secretary of the Court-Martial Tribunal.
His friendship with Babangida
Vatsa was childhood friends with Babangida and both men were peers who attended the same educational institutions. Like Babangida, Vatsa attended the Provincial Secondary School, Bida from 1957 to 1962 and both started their careers with the Nigerian Army on the same day, December 10, 1962.
Both men remained friends ever since, and acted as best man at each other’s weddings. Their families were also close, as their wives closely related as sisters.
Vatsa’s journey to the great beyond started on 17 December 1985 when the military authorities arrested over 100 officers from the Army, Navy and the Air Force. Vatsa was picked up seven days later. They were, for two weeks, investigated by the Brigadier-General Sani Sami-led Preliminary Special Investigation Panel. After this, 17 of them were dragged before a Special Military Tribunal, set up by Bali, at the Defence Minister, at the Brigade of Guards Headquarters, Lagos. The accused officers were Lt.-Cols. Musa Bitiyong, Christian A. Oche, Micheal A Iyorshe, M. Effiong; Majors D.I Bamidele, D.E. West, J.O Onyeke and Tobias G Akwashiki. Others were Captain G.I L Sese, Lt. K.G. Dakpa, Commodore A.A. Ogwiji, Wing Commanders B.E. Ekele, Adamu Sakaba; Squadron Leaders Martin Luther, C. Ode and A Ahura.
The tribunal, chaired by Major General Ndiomu, tried the officers under the Treason and Other Offences (Special Military Tribunal) Decree 1 of 1986. Other members of the tribunal were Brigadier Yerima Yohanna Kure, Commodore Murtala Nyako, Col. Rufus Kupolati, Col E. Opaleye, and Lt. Col. D. Muhammed. Alhaji Mamman Nassarawa, a commissioner of police and Major A Kejawa, the Judge Advocate, were also members. The IBB regime accused Vatsa of trying to overthrow it by hiding behind a farming loan to Lt-Col Bitiyong, a charge which the general denied. As Nowa Omogui, a military analyst explains in his essay, The Vatsa Conspiracy, Bitiyong was allegedly tortured to implicate Vatsa “by making reference to certain private political conversations they had, which Vatsa denied.”
There were further allegations that Luther, Oche, Ogwiji and Bitiyong held a meeting at the Lagos Sheraton Hotel and Towers in November 1985. Iyorchie, Bitiyong, Oche, Ekele, Sakaba and Bamidele also allegedly met in Makurdi. Allegations such as the diversion of the presidential jet to a pre-arranged location by pilots in the executive fleet (Luther and Ahura), as Omogui put it, were floated. Oche allegedly held a meeting with Major Akwashiki, Commander of the 6th Battalion, Bonny Camp, and Onyeke, after a game of squash in Lagos and spoke about the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan. Akwashiki was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life imprisonment. He was however released 10 years later by the Abacha regime.
Oche, it was also alleged, mentioned the plot to his nephew, Peter Odoba, a young lieutenant of the Brigade of Guards who, as Omogui wrote, informed then Lt. Hamza al-Mustapha, an intelligence officer to the Chief of Army Staff. Obada was charged with “concealment, recommended for dismissal and a long jail term.” On 6 March 1986, however, Vatsa, Iyorshe, Bamidele, Ogwiji, Ekele, Sakaba, Luther, Akura were executed.Vatsa had taken his trial and sentence with cheerful equanimity like the writer that he was. His vintage smiles revealed more than his words. “I leave you with smiles as smiles surprise people. But I will tell members of the Nigerian Army that the day you start insulting yourselves, others begin to join you,” he said.
To buttress his position that there was rivalry between IBB and Vatsa, Nowa Omogui referred to an interview that Eniola Bello of THISDAY had with IBB in 2001 when he turned 60. ‘“Babangida said it was after Vatsa’s coup was foiled that he realized his childhood friend and classmate planned the coup in line with a deep-seated personal rivalry, going back to their days as young officers. He said that unconsciously, he and Vatsa had been great competitors; that as a young officer, whatever he did Vatsa equally did and whatever Vatsa achieved, he also went after.
He said it was Lt. Gen. T.Y. Danjuma who pointed this out to him from their military records.” Babangida gave this rationalization to justify his refusal to pardon Vatsa. He said when he first heard his childhood friend was planning a coup, he decided to do nothing but monitor him. He added, however, that Vatsa came to him to complain thus: You heard I was planning a coup and couldn’t even ask me. What kind of friend are you? To this, Babangida said he replied: I didn’t believe it, or are you planning a coup? He said Vatsa replied in the negative and the matter was forgotten until there was evidence of the plot. Babangida said he instructed that Vatsa be arrested and detained to prevent him from impeding investigation into the matter.
Babangida argued: “However, Vatsa tried to escape through the air conditioner hole. I couldn’t understand why he was trying to escape if he was not involved in a coup plot. But while watching the video of his execution, I turned my eyes away when I saw him remove his watch and ask a soldier to give his wife. I couldn’t continue watching.” Babangida added that he couldn’t retire or imprison Vatsa because he believed the guy could still have planned a coup either in retirement or in prison. “Rawlings did it in Ghana and you know Vatsa was very stubborn,” IBB said.
Omogui, however, lamented the tragedy that befell Vatsa: “Vatsa maintained to the very end that the money was for farming. Others alleged, however, that after being tortured for two days, Bitiyong implicated Vatsa by making reference to certain private political conversations they had, which Vatsa denied. But Vatsa was accused of harbouring “bad blood” against his friend and classmate Babangida, dating back to the Buhari regime and possibly earlier. He was also obliquely accused of reporting Babangida’s coup plot to Buhari before he left the country for pilgrimage along with Major General Tunde Idiagbon in August, 1985. Actions he later took as a Minister to accelerate many military applications for certificates of occupancy for land in Abuja, came to be viewed as efforts to buy the support of one or two of the plotters.
Rumors that a civilian had introduced him at a party as Nigeria’s next President were even aired. All of this was, of course, circumstantial. But they took him to the stake, which was quite an anti-climax to the career of a brilliant man who never took part in any coup in Nigeria. Indeed, Mamman Vatsa was the first to go on air in Calabar to denounce the Dimka coup, and was later the Secretary of the Obada panel that tried Dimka and others in 1976. This little detail may have earned him some latent enmity in certain circles of the Army which later contributed to his death.”
There is also a very strong belief that Vatsa may have been a victim of political intrigues because of his intellectual sagacity, being a writer and soldier-poet, and his significant indifference to the military politics at that time. In fact, his ordeal had attracted three leading Nigerian literary icons, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and John Pepper Clark Bekederemo, who had gone to plead with Babangida for clemency, only to be shocked by news of his execution few minutes after departing Dodan Barracks, venue of the meeting.
CJN Onnoghen’s Removal shows Nigerian Judiciary is not independent — EU
The European Union Election Observer Mission (EU-EOM) at the weekend says the removal of CJN Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria shows that the Nigerian Judiciary is not independent.
The EU in its final report on the 2019 general elections said the 25th January, 2019, “controversial order by the Code of Conduct Tribunal” and suspension of the CJN which threw up Justice Tanko Muhammad as acting CJN, “is subject to question”.
According to the EU: “The ability of the judiciary to work independently was questioned when, three weeks before the scheduled election day, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (Walter Onnoghen) was suspended by the President. The suspension did not follow due process, was divisive, and to some extent undermined confidence in the electoral process and opportunity for remedy”.
According to the body, “the Constitution requires any infraction by judges to first be investigated and resolved by the National Judicial Council (NJC), to the exclusion of any other body or authority, and removal requires approval of two-thirds of the Senate.
“The EU-EOM noted its concern over both the timing and process of the suspension in a statement on 26 January. The mission observed that questionable procedures were followed by the CCT.
“During on-going post-election sessions of the Tribunal, the chair was observed to behave inappropriately, with insufficient time granted to the defence team and threats made to journalists.
“On 3rd April, the NJC recommended the compulsory retirement of the suspended CJN.
“In contrast to previous decisions, the council also concluded that the acting CJN did not commit any offence when he was sworn-in without the recommendation of the council.
“The following day, the Chief Justice submitted his request for retirement to the president. On 18 April, the CCT convicted the suspended Chief Justice, who immediately submitted an appeal to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that the Tribunal case was unconstitutional and without a fair hearing.
“The removal of the CJN during the elections had an inhibiting effect on the judiciary. It was seen by many as undermining security of tenure, damaging judicial independence and compromising the division of powers”.
Buhari approves N208bn for upgrade of varsities
President Muhammadu Buhari, Saturday has approved N208 billion for the upgrade of federal universities across the country.
Represented by Sonny Echono, permanent secretary of the education ministry at the 23rd convocation of the University of Abuja, Buhari said Nigeria could overcome its challenges by developing its human capital.
He said his administration would continue to address the concerns of the tertiary institutions.
“The present administration will continue to improve on the infrastructural facilities in the universities, promote teacher development and curriculum review,” Buhari said.
“It is in furtherance of this that I recently approved the disbursement of N208bn to public tertiary institutions under the 2019 intervention of the TETFUND.
“The ability of Nigeria with its huge population to overcome its present challenges of development no longer depends on petroleum resources but on the ability of the country to develop its human capital.
“The government will continue to look into the issues raised by the universities.”
He added that the government would “monitor the universities closely”
Keyamo accuses EU of bias, says their report is inconclusive
The All Progressives Congress, APC, Presidential Campaign Council, has accused the European Union Election observers of bias, says their reports on the 2019 general elections is not balanced and conclusive.
Addressing newsmen after EU briefing on Saturday, the spokesperson for the Campaign Organization, Festus Keyamo said the EU observers report only focuses on areas where some few anomalies occurred during the election while they failed to discuss the overall results coming from the entire country.
Reacting he said, “The result reflects the overall wishes of Nigerians, that was the report by so many observers, if you are an observer you should come to a definitive conclusion, don’t be dodgy about it, don’t run away from that fact because we have 120,000 polling units across the country and in all their report I don’t think they discussed at most 500 polling units.
“If you observed certain anomalies, it could not have been more than 500 or 1000 polling units and if you do observe anomalies in those polling units, how does that substantially affect results coming from 120,000 polling unit?
“So it is not enough for you to discuss the anomalies, they must discuss the overall results coming from the entire country and whether it did reflect the wishes of the people.
“This is what we want to know because they have problems in the US elections, there are problems in the EU and even UK elections.
“For Christ sake, we need a detailed analysis to come to a definitive conclusion about the overall result of the election,” he said.
Recall that the European Union Mission (EU EOM) had in their reports stressed the need to urgently improve the electoral process in Nigeria.
The EU EOM Chief Observer, Maria Arena, ststed on Saturday in Abuja at a news conference on the release of the final report of the 2019 General Elections.
Residents flee as foreign herdsmen take over Oyo, Ogun forest reserves
Foreign Fulani herdsmen have reportedly taken over Opara Forest Reserve in Oyo State and Imeko Forest Reserve in Ogun State.
Some residents of Imeko, Iwoye and Jabata said the invasion of the herdsmen has been a major source of concern to them, alleging that the herdsmen allowed their animals to destroy people’s farms while grazing in the areas.
According to The Punch, one of the residents of Iwoye, Adeyemi Olaosebikan said that inhabitants of Jabata village in the Imeko Afon Local Government Area of Ogun State had deserted their community following the killing of some indigenes during an attack.
He said residents fled the community in May after four persons were killed in the community, adding that residents of other border communities were now living in fear.
Olaosebikan stated, “Herdsmen from many countries in West Africa have taken over the Opara Forest Reserve in Oyo State and Imeko Forest Reserve in Ogun State. Their presence there is causing fear among the people.
“In fact , resident have deserted Jabata Village which is in Imeko Afon. Imeko Forest Reserve should be twice the size of Ibadan. It is 378 square miles. The Opara Forest Reserve is almost three times bigger than Imeko Reserve.
“Government is watching herdsmen from Bukina Faso, Mali and other countries taking over an area that is that large . The forest reserves belong to the Federal Government but state forest guards are the ones taking care of them. However, it is obvious that the forest guards are not doing anything there. So, this invasion is a time bomb.”
Igbo presidency doesn’t exist – Okorocha
Senator Rochas Okorocha has called on people from the South-East region of Nigeria to abandon hopes of clinching Nigeria’s top job in the future.
He said this while speaking to newsmen shortly after he was sworn in as a Senator on Thursday in Abuja.
Okorocha said the rotation of power will not get to the South-east because, “Power is not given, power is taken.”
His words:, “The South East cannot just fold their arms and expect power to be given to them just because you want power. Power does not go with sentiment some of the times, it’s on issues on the ground.
Democracy is about the people and the South East alone cannot make themselves president. So you cannot be talking about Igbo presidency, it doesn’t exist. .
We may be talking about Nigeria’s president of Igbo extraction but that depends on what other geopolitical zones think about the issue.
For me, what is important is let power be given to somebody who has something ‘upstairs’ who can put food on the table of common man, irrespective of religion or where you come from.
There is a need for the Igbo to mend fences. We are neither here nor there politically. We are not in the ruling party or are we making an impact on the opposition. So, there is a need for us to get married to the rest of the nation politically.”
Gorilla accused of swallowing N6.8m in Kano
A finance officer in Kano Zoological Gardens have accused gorilla of swallowing N6.8 million. BBC Pidgin reports
He was quoted as saying the gorilla sneaked into an office and carted away the money before swallowing it.
Umar Kobo, the managing director of the zoo, confirmed that the money is missing and that the issue is being investigated.
“The issue is under investigations for now and I don’t want to say anything on the matter, many journalists have come to meet me but I don’t want to say anything. What I can confirm is that money is missing,” he told the BBC Pidgin.
Attempt to reach Abdullahi Haruna, police spokesman in Kano, for comments was not successful according to TheCable.
He was, however, quoted as confirming that 10 persons, including those on duty when the money went missing, have been arrested.
“Yes, it is true that money from five days of Sallah festivities is missing from the Kano zoo,” he reportedly said, adding: “As at now, we have arrested 10 members of staff of the zoo including the security man and those working in the finance unit.
This is not the first time animals have been accused of swallowing millions of naira in Nigeria.
In February last year, Philomina Chieshe, a sales clerk in the office of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) in Benue state, alleged that a snake swallowed N36m, being proceeds from sale of scratch card.
Also, Shehu Sani, a former senator, once said monkeys carted away N70 million belonging to northern senators.
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