Vatsa
The raging battle between the family of General Mamman Vatsa and former dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida, is escalating, with Vatsa's eldest son, Haruna, calling Babangida a very evil man for killing his dad without reason.
Mr. Haruna Vatsa, eldest son of the late General Mamman Jiya Vatsa, in this interview spoke about the controversy surrounding his father's death over 20 years ago. Haruna, who came to TheNEWS Abuja office along with Jibril, his younger brother, said they are ready to die in the cause of seeking justice over the murder of their dad. He spoke to OLUOKUN AYORINDE and TONY ORILADE. Photos: FEMI IPAYE.

Q: A voice has been added to those insisting that your father indeed plotted a coup for which he was killed. Gen. Togun, secretary of the investigative panel of the coup, said evidence before the panel showed that Vatsa indeed plotted the coup. What do you have to say?

A: You mean Kunle? Dele Giwa? Togun? It's unfortunate that he always knows how people die. I do not have much to say in reply to him because we have left everything to God. Anybody that says he wants to challenge God should think twice. After 20 years, this issue came up at God's appointed time. My father had always said one day, he will stand vindicated. Even if not in our own lifetime, we surely know that he will be vindicated, maybe in our own children?s time.

Q: Togun argued that you were too young to know what your father did then. How old were you when your father was killed?
A: I was 16 years old then. I was in form five, my final year, in the Nigerian Military School, Zaria. I don't think I was too young to know what they did to my father. In fact, I drove in the same car with my father and my mum on the day of his arrest. I was always taking food to my father in detention. I was sneaking documents given to me by my father from detention. He would write on tissue paper and handkerchief and tell me what to do with them. I knew so much, so Togun should not think that what they did 20 years ago was secret.

Q: So you know so much about the alleged plot and your father's arrest? Then tell us what you know.
A: To the extent that my father told me, I know. The day he was arrested, we were all at home. In fact, my dad knew that he was going to be arrested that day. He knew two weeks before the day of his arrest. Some people even offered to sneak him out of the country, but he said if he should run away, it would imply that he was guilty. He said if Babangida wanted to come and kill him for plotting to overthrow his government, he should come. He said he knew nothing about the coup. My father was arrested around 12.30 a.m. and taken to 7 Cameroun Road, just beside Ikoyi Hotel. That was after driving round the whole of Lagos for about one hour. We were four in the car: my dad, mum, myself and the driver.

Q: You said you were taking information written on handkerchief and tissue paper out of the detention camp. What did he write on them?
A: I am not in a position to expose that to the press now. When the time comes, we shall expose the content. I also know that my dad kept a daily diary all through his lifetime. There was nothing that happened that was not written down by my dad before going to bed. That diary is also very useful to us in the pursuit of justice, with regard to this case. They are well kept, we are dusting them now.

A: You said earlier that he knew of plans to arrest him two weeks before he was picked up. You also said people were telling him to run away. If he was indeed innocent, why was he being advised to run away?
A: Probably they knew that IBB had made up his mind to eliminate him. Let me tell you, my father had a good relationship with a good number of soldiers, just like IBB had with them. So they just felt the need to inform my dad about IBB's plot.

Q: What did he do when he knew two weeks before his arrest?
A: He went to Gen. IBB and said: you heard I was planning a coup and couldn?t even ask me. What kind of friend are you? And Babangida's reply was that he didn?t believe it, that was why he didn?t ask him. He now asked Vatsa: or are you planning a coup? And my dad said no. And the matter ended there. Even at that, my dad knew that IBB was after him.

Q: Could it be that Gen. IBB wanted the investigative panel to do its job, hence he didn?t want to interfere in the investigation by telling your dad what he heard?
A: Probably.

Q: Did you observe any rivalry between your dad and IBB as you were growing up? A: Gen. Togun said it could be as a result of the rivalry that your dad also wanted to become president since IBB was already president.

Q: Honestly, I had known my dad to have a very good relationship with IBB. But for rivalry, I don't know . How could my dad, a General with no command of troops, dream of taking over. Was he going to lead the permanent secretaries from Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA to go and roll armoured tanks to Dodan Barracks?
A: Gen. Togun said the plan was that as soon as the coup was announced, Gen. Vatsa would take over from Abuja. Any right thinking human being will know that coup plotting is not that easy. They alleged that he gave Bitiyong N10,000 to plot the coup. For goodness sake, can N10,000 take care of coup plotting.

Q: Maybe then?
A: Even then, N10,000 could not plot a coup. A Peugeot 504 then was N7,000. Was it N10,000 IBB used to plot his overthrow of Buhari's government? What are you talking about? The N10,000 given to Bitiyong was not given by my dad directly, it was given from the farm in Kaduna. That is what is called petty cash voucher. The invoice for the N10,000 given to Bitiyong is still there. We are keeping all that. Bitiyong came to borrow money from my dad because my dad had always been a source of encouragement to him. He came to borrow our harvester to harvest his maize, but ours was in the farm. So my dad said, I will give you money to go and hire one so that your maize will not dry up. And Bitiyong went and collected the N10,000.00. Is that how to finance a coup?
The N10,000 was said to be part of the amount billed for financing the coup; that your father told Bitiyong to come back for more. Okay, so my father would give him money for coup and issue a receipt? Can you see how God has exposed their stupidity.

[b]Q: You said your dad kept a daily diary during his lifetime. Could you reveal some of the content in the diary?

A: There are so many dirty things therein. At the right time, we shall expose the content of the diary. I read IBB saying he has six volumes of the Valsa coup documents. Let him bring his own, then we shall shock him. We have come to know that IBB is indeed evil.

Q: Some people are alleging that President Obasanjo is just using the Vatsa case as one of the ways to stop IBB's political ambition.
A: The President and his aides are alive to answer that. I can't speak for Mr. President. As far as we are concered, the time of justice has come. Is it Obasanjo that went to Gen. Bali to tell him what to say? For God?s sake, why can't people reason? Was it Obasanjo that told TheNEWS magazine to go and speak with Bali and publish that vital information? My father had always maintained that God's time is the best. Even when he was dying, he told the executioners that one day, he would be vindicated. God is for all of us, not for one person. God doesn't take bribe. When God?s time comes, no man can alter it. So God?s time has come.

Q: To what extent would you say your father was involved in the coup?
A: My father was not involved at all. You see, the tribunal even said my father had bad blood against IBB, that he was always complaining about IBB's policies. As a human being he had a right to complain, but that should not translate to coup plotting. He had no GOC, no Bridgade Commander; where do you deploy troops from? None of the men arrested had command of troops. My father was a professional soldier, an infantry man at that. He knew what it takes to plot a coup. He never plotted any coup.

Q: There is this allegation that your sister who is now in the UK shot and killed a man in your family?s farm in Kaduna and that your father also shot a couple, his cook and wife because the cook saw your mother's nakedness.
A: Is it easy to kill a human being like a fowl? Except for Togun and Co. that see human life as cheap as fowl life. How could my dad have shot a man and his wife just like that? This is just cheap propaganda, and they are good at it. They just want to score cheap goals. The issue of my sister shooting somebody in the farm is also strange to me. That wasn't what happened.

Q: What happened?
A: She was charged to court and she was discharged and acquitted, before she traveled. What happened was that armed robbers came to our farm house to rob. In the course of sharing their loot, they fought and one of them died at the back of the fence. My sister was the only one around, together with the staff. So when the police came, everybody was arrested. Justice Kojo tried the case. My sister was in prison custody for about eight months, before she was discharged and acquitted. Reflecting on her travails, she said the system had not been fair to our family and she said she was leaving the country. She is in England. I hope that one day, it would not be said that my other younger sister who is now in America killed somebody and that was why she ran to America.

Q: So your sister can return to Nigeria any time she wants to?
A: If she has any reason to come today, she will return to Nigeria.

Q: So you never heard about your father shooting somebody while in Lagos.
A: I have never heard. The only thing close to that that I read in the newspapers was credited to one Sagir, who claimed my dad poisoned somebody to death. Another propaganda says the man was beaten to death. Maybe they want to paint us as a family of killers. But we are not, they are just shameless propagandists.

Q: Are you saying you are not being used to stop IBB?s political machine?
A: I don't even know if IBB has a political machine. We are only pursuing a just cause; and justice has to be done. IBB and his wife are they not happy with their children at home? They are retired and enjoying their retirement benefits. They turned my dad into a common criminal and they expect us to keep quiet. No, we shall not. Justice must be done. In this cause, we are not afraid, we are ready to die. In this cause, we are only seeking for justice, we are not asking for revenge. Revenge is for God. One day all of them will go and meet Vatsa where he is today. God will show them their works. God doesn'?t take bribe so they can't bribe God.

Q: What form of justice do you want right now?
A: We want a pronouncement that my father was not a coup plotter, a befitting burial arranged for him, and all his entitlements paid to him.

Q: Do you feel threatened that IBB could emerge the next president of Nigeria?
A: Threatened? For what? It is for the Nigerian people to decide if they want him as president. I am not God. God knows best. If God wants IBB as president, nobody, not even the Vatsa family, can stop God. Again, if God says no, one million campaign organisations can't put him there, not even President Obasanjo.

Q: Since you lost your dad, have you ever come in close contact with IBB one on one?
A: The last time I saw him was when I went in company of one of my friends who wanted to contest for an elective post. We went there to consult with him as an elder of the state.

Q: Did he recognise you when he saw you?
A: Even in darkness, IBB would recognise me. For the 16 years I lived before my dad was executed, the Vatsa and IBB families were one.

Q: What personal discussion did you have with IBB when you met with him?
A: I had no personal discussion with IBB. I only accompanied my friend, an old class mate, to meet him. I was not the one that did the talking.

Q: What is the relationship between you and IBB?s children?
A: For me as a person, I don?t have any grudge against IBB?s children. In fact, I play polo with Mohammed. We are very good friends, but since I stopped playing polo, we no longer see.

Q: Why did you stop playing polo?
A: I don't have money. One needs to have good money to play polo. That is why I don?t play polo; I don't have such money.

 


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