Mamman Jiya Vatsa

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Mamman Jiya Vatsa
Minister of the Federal Capital Territory
In office
1984 – December 1985
Preceded by Haliru Dantoro
Succeeded by Hamza Abdullahi
Quarter Master General, Nigerian Army
In office
1983 – December 1984
Commandant, Nigerian Army School of Infantry
In office
1979–1983
Personal details
Born 3 December 1940
Died 5 March 1986
Alma mater Provincial Secondary School, Bida
Nigerian Military Training College
Indian Military Academy
Military service
Allegiance  Nigeria
Service/branch Nigerian Army
Years of service 1962–1986
Rank Major General
Commands Brigade of Guards
13 Infantry Brigade
30 Infantry Brigade

Major General Mamman Jiya Vatsa OFR (3 December 1940 – 5 March 1986) was a senior Nigerian Army officer and writer who was executed by the government of Major General Ibrahim Babangida on 5 March 1986 following a military tribunal conviction for treason associated with an abortive coup. He served as Minister of the Federal Capital Abuja, and was a member of the Supreme Military Council.

Early life and education[edit]

Vatsa was childhood friends with Ibrahim 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 started his career with the Nigerian Army by enrolling in the Nigerian Military Training College (NMTC) on 10 December 1962.[1]

Military career[edit]

Since the NMTC was not yet an officer candidate commissioning institution (it would later become one in 1964 when it was upgraded and renamed Nigerian Defence Academy, the Nigerian government sent NMTC cadets who had completed their preparatory cadet training to foreign military academies for officer training and commissioning.[2] After graduating from the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, Vatsa was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Nigerian Army[1]

Vatsa commanded the 21 battalion during the Nigerian Civil War and wrote academic articles about the operational aspects of certain battles.[3] In 1970, Vatsa was an instructor at the Nigerian Defence Academy, before being posted as a Principal Staff Officer at Army Headquarters. 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.[3] It was during his tenure that the HQ of the Brigade of Guards was moved from Dodan Barracks to its Kofo Abayomi location in Victoria Island before transfer to Abuja.[3] Vatsa subsequently served as 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. Vatsa was instrumental in naming the Division "82nd Div" after the 82nd West African Division in Burma.[3] During the latter part of President Shehu Shagari's government, Vatsa was appointed 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 27 August 1985 Babangida take-over, General Vatsa was in Mecca with Major General Tunde Idiagbon on pilgrimage. As of the time of his arrest in December 1985 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.[3]

Participation in the Nigerian Counter Coup of July 1966[edit]

Vatsa, then a Lieutenant with the 4th Battalion in Ibadan, was one of the many officers of northern Nigerian origin, who staged (and were led by Lieutenant Colonel Murtala Muhammed in) what became known as the Nigerian Counter-Coup of 1966 because of grievances[4] they felt towards the administration of General Aguiyi Ironsi's government which quelled the 15 January 1966 coup. Other participants in the coup included 2nd Lieutenant Sanni Abacha, Lieutenant Muhammadu Buhari, Lieutenant Ibrahim Babangida, Lieutenant Ibrahim Bako, and Lieutenant Buka Suka Dimka among others.

Role in the abortive February 13, 1976 coup[edit]

Then Colonel Vatsa, Commander of 13 Infantry Brigade in Calabar, took to the airwaves to oppose Lt. Col Buka Suka Dimka's 13 February 1976 coup. During the Dimka coup investigation, Vatsa served as Secretary of the Court-Martial Tribunal.[3]

Role in the 1981 Cameroon border incident[edit]

In 1981, when Cameroon soldiers shot and killed five 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. Vatsa 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.[3]

Vatsa the poet and writer[edit]

Vatsa was also an accomplished poet and writer, publishing eight poetry collections for adults and 11 for children, with titles such as Back Again at Wargate (1982), Reach for the Skies (1984) and Verses for Nigerian State Capitals (1973). His books are about ordinary people's lives and simple creatures, including the pidgin collection Tori for Geti Bow Leg (1981), his cultural picture book in Hausa, Bikin Suna, and a charming picture storybook entitled Stinger the Scorpion (1979).

Vatsa was a facilitator and patron of the arts in Nigeria, where he organized writing workshops for his fellow soldiers and their children and got their works published. He helped the Children's Literature Association of Nigeria with funds, built a Writers' Village for the Association of Nigerian Authors, and hosted their annual conferences.

The Writers' Village finally became a reality on the 24 January 2013, when the National Executive of the Association, led by its president, Prof. Remi Raji, performed a groundbreaking ceremony at the site. The Village has been named in Gen. Vatsa's honour.[5]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Verses for Nigerian State Capitals (poetry), 1973.
  • Stinger the Scorpion - 1979.
  • Tori for Geti Bow Leg and Other Pidgin Poems (1981), Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria: Cross Continent Press, 1985; illus. Ade J. Adeyanju.
  • Bikin Suna
  • Back Again at Wargate (poetry) 1982.
  • Reach for the Skies (poetry) 1984.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Abejide, Olusegun. IBB – Smart But Foolish: THE FALL OF A GOLIATH. Trafford Publishing, 2011. p. 55. ISBN 9781426955938. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  2. ^ Ogbebor, Paul Osakpamwan. "The Nigerian Defence Academy – A Pioneer Cadet's Memoir". Vanguard (Nigeria). Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Omoigui, Nowa. "The Vatsa Conspiracy (Part 2) - Some Biosketches". Gamji. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  4. ^ Siollun, Max. Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria's Military Coup Culture (1966 - 1976). Algora. p. 97. ISBN 9780875867090. 
  5. ^ "Authors inaugurate Mamman Vatsa village", The Nation, 25 January 2013. Izuchukwu Okeke, "Befi tting writers’ village for Mamman Vatsa", National Mirror, 20 February 2013.

External links[edit]