Bakassi and tyranny of Nigerian State

With the spate of virulent attack on President Ebele Jonathan even from his own South-south constituency over the ceding of Bakassi home to about 300,000 Nigerians to Cameroon, it is difficult not to sympathise with him. The final phase of the Bakassi tragedy could not have come at a worse time for a president facing the crisis of legitimacy from the whole of the North-east and that of identification from the South-west that has sustained a principled opposition to nearly all the policies of a president who has equally responded by shutting out the area for appointments to sensitive positions in his administration.

It is of little relief to the president’s critics including his cousins who have called for his impeachment over the Bakassi national tragedy that his role was no more than that of a caretaker long after the deeds had been done by other state leading actors such as Balewa, whose naiveté was exploited by Ahmadou Ahidjo, a fellow northerner with roots in Nigeria, Gowon who panicked over the threat of Ojukwu, his friend and rival to the unity of Nigeria and Obasanjo, who having tasted war, opted for diplomatic settlement following unfavorable ICJ ruling against Nigeria.

Jonathan, who those who have become immigrants in their own country had thought should be most touched by their plight on account of being from South-south, was deemed to have performed less gallantly than former state actors such as Shehu Shagari, Murtala Mohammed and even Sanni Abacha. It was Shehu Shagari who for instance told his Cameroonian counterpart “that the existing Nigerian border at the sea coast of Rio Del Rey was protected by the OAU Resolution of 1964, respecting the inviolability of inherited colonial boundaries”. It was also Murtala Mohammed who consigned the Maroua declaration into the cooler insisting no part of Nigeria will be ceded to appease supporters of Nigeria during her civil war, while Abacha on his part called off the bluff of Cameroon over the disputed Bakasi peninsula.

One can therefore understand why Cross River State that has half of its Efik population forcibly removed from their ancestral homes felt betrayed by the Nigerian state for failing to appeal the ICJ ruling especially after its Attorney General had provided seven additional grounds for an appeal.

The ruling itself was a travesty of justice, an international conspiracy of the offspring of those who exploited our pre colonial antecedents and post colonial division they created for the purpose of pilfering our resources to cushion the social problems in Europe. Otherwise how can the ‘Yaoundé II Declaration’ of 4 April 1971 and the ‘Maroua Declaration’ of 1 June 1975, products of unratified agreement between two self-serving African dictators and the Anglo-German treaty of 1913 take precedence over a treaty of protection of 1884 between Britain and Obong of Calabar? It is curious how, in the wisdom of the ICJ, fraudulent horses trading between European fortune seekers carry more weight than the fundamental human rights of about 300,000 indigenes that are to be uprooted from their ancestral homes.

But beyond President Jonathan, currently every body’s whipping child, this betrayal of the fundamental human rights of the Efiks of Cross River State has once again demonstrated the failure of Nigeria state that has since independence constituted itself in to an obstacle to the self-actualization and aspirations of most of our over 250 federating ethnic nationalities.

Most of the groups have always striven to preserve their respective cultural values, religious beliefs and indigenous languages as supported by the United Nations Charter. Our founding fathers for political expediency failed in London in 1959. The social engineering efforts of the military brigands in creating states had been self-serving. Some of the current state actors both in the executive and legislative arms behave like hoodlums with little or no allegiance to the state they have repeatedly raped.

Deformed and rendered dysfunctional, the state has today been reduced to an orphan by those who are expected to show more concern for her health. The children of those who have repeatedly raped the state in the last 30 years, caring very little for her health have followed the footsteps of their parents. Obviously neither the fathers nor their thieving children see the state as their own. After all, no thorough born of a father deliberately sets out to destroy his father’s estate.

The tragedy of Bakassi and its 300,000 citizens occupying an area of about around 665 km² is the tragedy of Nigerian state that has always physically or metaphorically killed the best of its own rising ‘sun’ such as Isaac Boro,Saro Wiwa, Professor Awojobi, Fela , Vatsa, among many others as well as suppressing by force, groups that demand for self-actualization.

For instance, a United Nations brokered accord between Cameroon and Nigeria specified that on taking over the peninsula, Cameroon should respect the rights of the Bakassi people, who should be free to remain in their homeland. The Bakassi were expected to either become Cameroonian citizens, or retain their Nigerian nationality and be treated as foreigners.

We have also been told by experts that the collision of warm and cold oceans has built in Bakassi submarine shoals rich in fish, shrimps and amazing variety of other marine life forms which makes the area a very fertile fishing ground, comparable only to Newfoundland in North America and Scandinavia in Western Europe.

We therefore had an opportunity in the last 10 years to have changed an adversity to an advantage since the ICJ judgment itself only asked Nigeria to transfer possession of the peninsula, but did not require the inhabitants to move or to change their nationality. But for those 10 years, those that have taken over the state have been too busy fighting over what they could take out of the state to worry about the economic potential of Bakassi. Economically empowered Bakassi would have become an indispensable ally of Cameroon even if they are regarded as foreigners on their own land.

Similarly for 10 long years, none of the state actors was resourceful enough to scheme about exploiting the spirit of the judgment through turning the area to a new haven for its Nigeria inhabitants. But for the greed of the actors, we have enough resources this 10 long years to build schools ,provide health facilities and other infrastructures that would have set out Bakassi Local Government area as a Nigerian ‘new London’ within a rusty Cameroon territory.

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