General Olusegun Obasanjo has often seen his role in Nigeria’s political and military history from a messianic point of view. As the War Commander who received the instrument of surrender, Gen. Obasanjo’s role in the concession of Bakassi is symbolic.
He is fully aware of the strategic importance of Bakassi which was liberated from Biafran forces in the Calabar sector by the Third Marine Commando, led by Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle, before it was given to Cameroon to occupy. It was Gen. Obasanjo who replaced Adekunle, after the fall of Port Harcourt in 1968 and can not be educated on Nigeria’s national security and economic interest in Southern Oil protectorate and the position of Bakassi peninsula in achieving these strategic objectives.
But he was playing the script of those who argued that even though the Nigeria civil war had ended on a philosophy of “No victor, no vanquished” the ability of any of the ethnic groups in Southern Eastern Nigeria or the Niger Delta to fight future war, must be constrained.
Whether former president Olusegun Obasanjo was motivated by his selfish designs to please the Western nations to endorse his ill fated third term agenda or by a higher national interest and patriotic zeal, to accept the October 10, 2002, the ICJ judgment that awarded the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon, is now a matter of conjecture.
He disdained legal and legislative opinions as he signed the Green Tree Agreement, GTA without recourse to the National Assembly, legal experts, leaders and people of Bakassi, public opinion and regard to the fundamental human rights.
Although the former President claimed that he had “sent a letter to the President of the Senate as well as the Speaker of the House of Representatives and other relevant agencies” to act on the GTA,” the legislature rejected the Green Tree Agreement, out rightly.
But the haste and the method adopted to implement the ICJ decision had left a sad taste in the mouth of Bakassi people and Nigerians in general. Obasanjo brazenly disobeyed an Abuja High Court order to halt the implementation of GTA, which was rejected. He was posturing to show the world that Nigeria is the global peace maker and would do anything to sustain that image.
He had played key roles in resolving the crisis in Sao Tome and Principe, Cape Verde and could not see why Bakassi should be different? As far as he was concerned those so called Nigerians living in Bakassi peninsula should be brought home just like those that were brought home from Equatorial Guinea in 1975.
He pledged to release the sum of N4billion for the resettlement of the displaced people of Bakassi, but only N2billion was released; but his cronies are yet to give account of how it was spent. His memoir will not be complete if he fails to tell the world why he willing ceded Bakassi to Cameroon.
Paul Biya, President of Cameroon
The long reigning Cameroonian dictator was smart enough to approach the ICJ in 1994 after reluctantly signing the ICJ charter just a few years before dragging Nigeria to the World Court. When Cameroonian President Paul Biya got France to invite Obasanjo to France on the eve of the ICJ judgment, to get the Nigerian leader “to commit to honouring the decision of ICJ regardless of the outcome”, it was another master stroke of Cameroon’s diplomacy which has continued to make Nigeria bite dust in international circles.
Biya was a long time Vice President to late Alhaji Ahmadou Ahidjo, the first president of Cameroon who tricked Gen. Gowon to concede Bakassi to Cameroon. While Nigeria went to the ICJ with civil servants, political appointees, cronies in the media, Biya assembled a team of 15 Professors from different backgrounds and effectively exploited its colonial links with France.
Cameroon signed the ICJ treaty just a fear years before taking Nigeria to the court, and the intrigues of international politics played out in its favour with a French National Mr. Paul Guillume as president of ICJ. The evidential value of this move was lost on the Nigerian team that appeared to suggest that representation was more focused on the monetary take-away of their assignment.
Dr. Koffi Annan, former UN scribe
The Ghanaian born former Secretary General of the United Nations exploited the hubris of Obasanjo, in executing his role as the undertaker of ICJ. He successfully manipulated President Obasanjo to bow to pressures from witnesses to the GTA namely France, Britain, US, Germany.
Koffi Annan who goaded Nigeria into the Nigeria-Cameroon Mixed Commission, which was contrived to hoodwink the people of Bakassi into believing that something good will come to them from dispossessing them of their ancestral home.
Ironically his home country Ghana has been forceful in ensuring that the Ewes in Togo are not maltreated, neither has Ghana overlooked activities that take place at its border with Togo at Aflao.
Alhaji Umar Musa Yar ‘Adua, former President
Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’ Adua was a self professed apostle of the rule of law. It was under his charge that a Federal High Court in Abuja in August 2008, made an order halting the FG from the August 14, 2008, handover of Bakassi peninsula until the substantive issues raised are resolved.
The Yar Adua administration, like the Obasanjo administration before it, did not bother to approach the National Assembly to look into the Bakassi issue which had become a messy national and international affair. The displacement and resettlement of Bakassi people finally became a secondary matter when the president took ill and finally died in office.
As observed in the book entitled Fraud at the Hague “It was President Umar Yar’ Adua who handed over Bakassi to Cameroon as his predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo had instructed to do. This questioned his motives. The handover and compliance by the presidency had been a one-man decision.
Bakassi is part of our constitution in the first schedule and section 8(4) and 9(3). The President had breached the constitution, committing impeachable offences by supporting the lawlessness of his predecessor, irredeemably rubbishing his supposed commitment to the rule of law.”
Mr. Donald Duke, former Governor CRS
Mr. Donald Duke, the governor of Cross River State is an Efik man and a victim of the politics of minority ethnic groups in Nigeria. He was pre-occupied with attaining his personal ambition of becoming Vice president after the tenure of General Obasanjo, hence he played the role of Nero, the Roman emperor who was fiddling while his empire was on fire; but he was shoved aside when unfavourable security reports thwarted his scheming.
As a governor, he could not raise a voice to say that the Nigerian team was not inclusive enough as notable Efik leaders including the Obong of Calabar were not included. Mrs. Nella Andem Rabana, SAN, who was the Attorney General and the Commissioner for Justice was the only known Efik person at the Hague but even then, she was not vast in the history and the activities of colonial powers in the Southern Oil Protectorates, especially the nature and content of the various treaties that were signed by the colonial powers.
The subject matter also required people with deep history of Bakassi but the former governor was both too haughty and puritanical or too disdainful of other people who would have helped to save Bakassi. Duke ignored the geopolitical forces at work and concentrated on self glorifying projects that would become white elephant projects without viable access to the Calabar sea port.
Barr. Liyel Imoke, Governor CRS
He was the first to put the Bakassi issue in the budget in 2008 and has been confronted with what he called the unintended consequences of the ICJ judgment. He has been faced with loss of revenue arising from declassification of the state as a littoral state.
He built 208 blocks for the displaced persons in Ekpri Ikang and has been constrained to expose the dealings of the administration that he took over from especially as it affects the Bakassi case. He has also been restrained from being seen as anti-FG by his calm disposition to the issue that has pitched his state and its neighbours, Akwa Ibom State on each other’s jugular.