Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
The Vatsa Conspiracy (Part 2) - Some Biosketches
Nowa Omoigui, (MD, MPH, FACC)
MAJOR GENERAL MAMMAN VATSA
Major General Mamman Vatsa was born on Dec 3, 1940. After attending secondary school at the Government Secondary School Bida, Niger State, he joined the Nigerian Army on the December 10, 1962. Following preparatory training at the Nigerian Military Training College in Kaduna, he was sent to the Indian Military Academy.
General Vatsa attended many military courses inside and outside the country during his career - including Intelligence, Security, Policy and Strategic Studies, Equitation, Physical Training, among others. He ascended through all the officer ranks of the Army from 2/Lt to Major-General, and was Command and Staff College certified (psc). He commanded the 21 battalion during the civil war and was one of the few officers who actually wrote academic articles about the operational aspects of certain battles. After the war ended in 1970, he was an instructor at the Nigerian Defence Academy, before being posted as a Principal Staff Officer at Army HQ. Subsequently, he commanded the 30 Infantry Brigade (Ogoja) until July 1975, 13 Infantry Brigade (Calabar) until February 1976, and the Brigade of Guards until 1979. It was during his tenure that the HQ of the Bde of Gds was moved from Dodan Barracks to its Kofo Abayomi location in Victoria Island before transfer to Abuja.
When then Colonel Vatsa was commanding the 13 Bde in Calabar, it was he who first took to the airwaves to oppose the February 13, 1976 coup of Lt. Col Dimka. During the Dimka coup investigation, Vatsa was Secretary of the Court-Martial Tribunal. It was from that position that he became the Commander, Bde of Gds under then
C-in-C, Lt. Gen Obasanjo
Vatsa was Commandant of the Nigerian Army School of Infantry (NASI) from late 1979. He, along with Lt. Col Bitiyong developed the Special Warfare Wing - and established the doctrinal basis for the establishment of the 82nd Composite Division of the Nigerian Army in Enugu. In fact it was Vatsa who suggested that the Division be called the 82nd Div – after the 82nd West African Division in Burma. Lt. Col. Musa Bitiyong was tasked by Vatsa to establish the first Airborne battalion in the Nigerian Army.
In 1981, when Cameroon soldiers shot and killed five (5) Nigerian soldiers in the disputed Bakassi area, then Brigadier Vatsa was named the Commander of the Joint Military Task Force during the massive border mobilization along the entire length of the Nigeria-Cameroon border. It was he who developed the operational plan of attack through Garoua in northern Cameroon, which was approved in principle by the National Defence Council, pending the outcome of diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. But one of his rivals at the Army HQ then leaked the operational plan to French Intelligence, which in turn leaked it to President Ahidjo. According to former President Shagari’s memoirs, it is still not known to this day who did and why. Eventually, Cameroon apologized to Nigeria and that particularly dangerous episode in the border dispute was resolved.
Later on, during the latter part of the regime of President Shehu Shagari, Vatsa was made the Quarter-Master General (QMG), the post he held as of the time of the coup of December 1983. He was on leave during the Buhari coup against Shagari and did not take part. During the August 27 1985 Babangida take-over, General Vatsa was in Mecca with Major General Tunde Idiagbon
As of the time of his arrest in December that year, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit treason he was the Federal Minister for the Federal Capital Territory. He was a member of the AFRC, Federal Executive Council and occasionally, the National Council of States, the only military officer, other than the C-in-C, to be a member of all three ruling bodies.
Married, with four kids, General Vatsa’s extra-regimental accomplishments include publications as a poet and author e.g. Voices from the Trench, Ufoma and other Poems, and others; conferment with a National Award, as Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR 1979), conferment with a Gold Medal from the Bulgarian Union of Writers as well as a Merit Award from the University of Ife. His hobbies included man watching, photography, gardening and horse-riding. He died on March 5, 1986 by Firing Squad.
LT. COL. AKER MICHAEL IYORSHE
At the time he was arrested sometime between 18th and 20th December 1985 on suspicion of conspiracy to overthrow the military regime of Major General Babangida, Lt. Col. Michael Aker Iyorshe (N/2242), an infantry officer of Christian faith from the Tiv nationality in Benue state, was 35 years old. He was a Directing Staff (DS), Senior Division, Army Faculty, at the Command and Staff College in Jaji.
Mike Iyorshe attended the Nigerian Military School Zaria. He was commissioned in 1970 after graduating from the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna. He was an Academy Junior Under-Officer (JUO) and later won the distinguished Sword of Honor as the best cadet.
He attended several courses overseas (all on merit), including the Junior Staff College in Toronto (Canada), Junior Land Force, Command and Staff College, Kingston, Ontario (Canada) and the Army Staff College in Camberly (UK). He had the best performance in the Lt. to Captain and Captain to Major promotion exams in his batch. He and Lt. Col. M. Effiong (who was his coursemate) became substantive Lt. Cols before all others in their course, sometime in 1984.
Early in his career, Mike commanded a company and then became ADC to the GOC 3rd Div when it was in Port Harcourt; (then Colonel, later Brigadier Danjuma). He also got appointed as the Military Assistant to the Chief of Army Staff when Danjuma later became COAS after 1975. When he returned from Camberly, as a Major, Iyorshe was the only Major in the Nigerian Army who was posted to command a full Battalion at Birnin Kebbi (as a field Lt. Col). In part preparation for a possible assignment in Lebanon, this battalion, (81 Bn) gained respect under his command as the most physically fit and combat ready battalion in the Army at one time, able to deploy in less than an hours notice. In 1982 he was posted to the Brigade of Guards in Lagos as Brigade Major - position he held until early 1984 after the Buhari coup when he was posted to Jaji.
At the Command and Staff College, Kingston, Ontario, he was the best foreign student. At Camberly, he held the highest rank in field exercises. Among all the African students that attended the staff course, he was the only one that was allowed to operate as a Brigade Commander to play the role of Brigadier at major tactical exercises.
In Ali Mazrui's famous TV series on Africa, Lt. Col Mike Iyorshe was interviewed at Jaji.
Hobbies: Sports, Physical conditioning, Military History, Military Writing (He wrote several articles in the Army newspaper, Soja)
Social: Married with five children
Death: March 5, 1986 by Firing Squad
LT. COL. CHRISTIAN OCHE
At the time of his arrest in December 1985 on suspicion of conspiracy to commit treason, Lt. Col. Christian A. Oche (N/1891) was Colonel, General Staff (GS) at the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Apapa, Lagos. In this position he was second only to the Director of Military Intelligence within the Nigerian Army Intelligence Corps. Lt. Col. Christian Oche was from Benue State.
After secondary school, he trained at the Nigerian Defence Academy from 1968 to 1970 when he was commissioned 2/Lt as a regular combatant.
In 1974 he attended the Junior Staff Course at the Army Junior Division of the Joint Services Command and Staff College at Watchfield/Shrivenham in the United Kingdom. He also did the Intelligence Staff Course. From late 1974 to 1975 he was Deputy Adjutant and GSO3 at the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna. At the time of the coup that removed General Gowon in July 1975, Oche was
the Brigade Major in the Brigade of Guards under then Colonel Joseph Nanven Garba. After that coup he served as the Military Assistant to Lt. Gen. TY Danjuma, then Chief of Army Staff until 1977/78 when that position was taken over by Michael Aker Iyorshe. Oche attended the Command and Staff College, Jaji between 1979 and 1980 and graduated psc.
In 1974 he attended the Junior Staff Course at the Army Junior Division of the Joint Services Command and Staff College at Watchfield/Shrivenham in the United Kingdom. He also did the Intelligence Staff Course. From late 1974 to 1975 he was Deputy Adjutant and GSO3 at the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna. At the time of the coup that removed General Gowon in July 1975, Oche was the Brigade Major in the Brigade of Guards under then Colonel Joseph Nanven Garba. After that coup he served as the Military Assistant to Lt. Gen. TY Danjuma, then Chief of Army Staff until 1977/78 when that position was taken over by Michael Aker Iyorshe. Oche attended the Command and Staff College, Jaji between 1979 and 1980 and graduated psc.
After completing his Senior Staff College course at Jaji, he attended the University of Oklahoma in the USA where he obtained a BA (French) and Masters Degree in International Relations. He returned in late 1983 just before the Buhari coup that removed President Shagari. In 1984/85 he served as the General Staff Officer (Intelligence and
Security) at the Supreme Headquarters in Dodan Barracks under then Lt. Col Mohammed Christopher Ali, who was at that time Acting Director of Joint Services under the Chief of Staff, SHQ, Major General Tunde Idiagbon. After the Babangida coup against Buhari on August 27, 1985, he was posted to the Military Intelligence HQ as the Colonel GS.
Social: Married with Five (5) children
Death: March 5, 1986 by Firing Squad
LT. COL. MUSA BITIYONG
At the time of his arrest in Decmber 1985 on suspicion of conspiracy to commit treason, Lt. Colonel Musa Bitiyong was Director of Logistic Planning at the Army HQ in Lagos.
WING COMMANDER BEN EKELE
At the time he was arrested on Dec 17th, 1985 and charged for conspiracy to commit treason, Wing Commander Ben Ekele was 36 years old and an Igala from Benue State he was a Fighter Pilot and Commander of the Air Defence Group based at the NAF Base Makurdi.
He began his flying career in 1969 after completion of basic flying training. In 1971 he was deployed to the operational conversion squadron first on the Czech made L-29 Delphin, then the MiG 15, and then on to the MiG 17. He went to the Soviet Union in 1974 for conversion to the MiG 21 (training and fighter versions).
WING COMMANDER ADAMU SAKABA
At the time he was arrested at 3am on Dec 17th 1985 in his house in Makurdi, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit treason, Wing Commander Adamu Chema Sakaba, then Commanding Officer, Central Armament Engineering Depot, was 38 years old. A Christian by faith, AS Sakaba was born in Zuru, present day Kebbi State in April 1947.
Sakaba attended secondary school in Bida, Niger State, and enlisted in the Air Force on September 4, 1967. He graduated NDACE from the Nigerian Defence Academy with the 3rd regular intake. A distinguished Science Graduate, he graduated with very high marks in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry.
He attended the Royal AirForce Technical College at Cranwell in Lincolnshire ("Bomber County"), UK for 18 months and graduated with a Military Engineering Diploma in Aircraft Armament. He subsequently attended the Engineers Management and Technical Instructors Course also in the UK before the Senior Officers Staff Course in the USA. Sakaba
took the Typewriting course on MiGs 15 & 17 in the Soviet Union before attending the Military University in Kiev, where he graduated in Guided Weapons Technology. Indeed, at the time of his arrest, Wing Commander Sakaba was the only Nigerian ever trained in Guided Weapons Technology. He also attended the Command and Staff College Jaji in Nigeria.
Over the course of his career he held several appointments, one of which was as Air Officer Commanding the NAF Technical Officers School, Ground Training Group, Kaduna. In this capacity Sakaba trained many of Nigeria's AirForce Maintenance Technicians and Engineers.
Wing Commander Sakaba led an engineering team which tried its best to dispose of many unserviceable bombs in the NAF inventory. He is on record as having made spirited efforts to improve the storage of over 8000 bombs over the years - often to no avail. Some of the bombs in Nigeria's inventory were of 1956 vintage, carelessly left lying
in the open with all the effects of heat, humidity and rain since the end of the civil war.
Social: Married, with 4 children.
Death: Mar 5, 1986 by Firing Squad
MAJOR DANIEL BAMIDELE
At the time he was arrested on or about December 20, 1985 on suspicion of conspiracy to commit treason, Major Daniel Idowu Bamidele (N/1436), an officer of Yoruba nationality was 37 years old. He was a Directing Staff, Junior Division, Army Faculty, Command and Staff College, Jaji with a direct reporting relationship to Brigadier Saliu Ibrahim who was at that time the Director of the Army Faculty. Bamidele worked
closely with Iyorshe at Jaji.
Finally, on November 25, 1983 with no credible witness to nail him, and no legal basis to charge him for a one man conspiracy, Bamidele was released. He returned to Jos, befuddled about what had actually transpired, until on January 1, 1984 his own GOC, Brigadier Buhari, to whom he had reported the plot emerged as the new Head of State! It was then he made the connection.
SQUADRON LEADER MARTIN LUTHER
At the time he was arrested on December 20, 1985 on suspicion of conspiracy to commit treason, Squadron Martin Olufolorunsho Luther was 33 years old. He was the Staff Officer (Ops) in the Presidential Aircraft Fleet (227 Executive Wing).
When the Nigerian AirForce took over responsibility for executive transportation he was one of the first three Pilots deployed to fly Nigerian leaders on a variety of aircraft.
NOTE: Bio sketches on Squadron Leader Ahura and Commander Ogwiji will be posted in forthcoming Musings
WING COMMANDER J B UKU
At the time he was "invited" from his office at the NAF HQ on January 8, 1986 on suspicion of violating Section 40 (2) of the Nigerian Criminal code, with respect to the "Vatsa Conspiracy", Wing Commander John B. Uku, was 35 years old. An Itsekiri from Delta State (then Bendel) he was a combat Pilot and certified Pilot Instructor who joined the Air Force in
August 1970. Wing Commander Uku graduated as the best in Flying and academics during both the Nigerian Air Force primary and basic flying courses between 1970 and 1974.
Upon completion of this phase of his training in Nigeria he was sent to the Soviet Union to train on the MiGs 17 and 21. He returned in 1976 and became the Officer Commanding the MiG 17 Defence Flying Training Wing in Kano. Shortly thereafter he left for Britain. In 1977 he graduated from the Royal AirForce Flying School as a qualified Flying Instructor. In 1978 he was made the Officer Commanding the NAF Basic Flying Training Wing, Kano where he taught undergraduate pupil officers how to fly up to Wing level. In 1979 he attended the Nigerian Air Force Junior Division Staff Course in Kaduna and graduated with three "A"s.
In 1980 he attended the French Air Force Alpha Jet training program. After this he was nominated for the Royal Air Force Staff College at Bracknell in Britain from where he graduated with a A-. When he returned from Bracknell he was made Staff Officer (1) Operations and Training at the Flying Training Group in Kano.
In 1984 he proceeded on an Alfa Jet Weapons Instructor Course with the German Air Force, following which he became Commanding Officer of the Weapons Training School. That School was initially based in Kano before being moved to Kainji.
At the new Kainji Alfa Jet airbase, Wing Commander Uku assumed the position of NAF Station Commandant as well as being the Commanding Officer of the Air Weapons School. This was the position he was holding when approached on October 29, 1985 by a fellow officer and told of discontent in the Army among some "high minded
officers", asked whether the NAF could play any role in a coup, and asked whether his Alpha Jets were armed. He told the officer off and warned him to steer clear of any plot.
However, again on December 10 he was approached by Another officer for about 2 minutes after an AOC meeting in Makurdi and asked if he had been approached by any Army officer. Uku again told this officer that he had not been so approached but warned him to stay out of any plot.
Uku had just been redeployed from Kainji as of January 1, 1986 to Lagos to assume the position of Group Captain (Operations) in the Directorate of Operations at NAF HQ. He held that post for 7 days before his arrest for "concealment of treason". Although he made many attempts to see the Chief of Air Staff about the matter, all to no avail, these were not considered enough. During the course of his career, Wing
Commander Uku sat on several sensitive Boards for the Air Force. He was among those who made the decisions on weapon fit for the Nigerian version of the Alpha Jet. He also helped write the NAF Doctrine and drew up the contingency plan for the Tactical Air Command.
Uku was primarily responsible for organizing air support for military exercises at the Nigerian Defence Academy and the Command and Staff College. One noteworthy exercise he supported was Exercise "Iron Fist" which took place in Kaduna. Uku was also the mock "Enemy Air Force Commander" during Exercise 'Sea Dog' at Calabar.
Social: Married with kids
Outcome of Arrest: Recommended for life sentence with leniency
MAJOR DE WEST
When he was arrested on January 1, 1986 on suspicion of conspiracy to commit treason, Major DE West (N/2387), an officer from the Ijaw nationality was 38 years old, and married with five kids. He was the Commanding Officer of the 342 Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment in Zaria.
MAJOR TOBIAS AKWASHIKI
At the time of his arrest on or about January 1st, 1986 on suspicion of conspiracy to commit treason, Major TG Akwashiki (N/2389) was the Commander, 6 Guards Battalion, Bonny Camp, Victoria Island, Lagos. An indigene of then Plateau (now Nassarawa) State, Tobias was commissioned on March 11, 1972 at the Nigerian Defence Academy as part of the 7th Regular course. He was a coursemate of Majors Onyeke and West.
BRIGADIER MALAMI NASSARAWA
Brigadier MM Nassarawa, a Muslim officer, joined the Nigerian Army on March 16, 1963. He underwent military training in Canada and was commissioned in 1964 in Canada. He returned to Nigeria in 1965. During the crises of 1966 he was a junior officer in the 2nd Battalion at Ikeja Cantonment in Lagos.
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