By Ochereome Nnanna
SINCE we were involved in the failed campaign to retrieve Bakassi Peninsula from Cameroon, we might as well give it an appropriate post-mortem analysis now that it is gone for good.
While the debates raged on the pages of Vanguard and other media forums, the nation was greeted with absolute silence from presidential quarters until the President, Goodluck Jonathan, travelled to New York on Tuesday, September 25th 2012 to address the plenary of the United Nations on the Rule of Law.
He shocked millions of patriotic Nigerians by saying Nigeria would continue to abide by the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), thus apparently foreclosing the pursuit of a review of the 2002 judgement of the Court awarding the Peninsula to Cameroon.
Then, on Thursday, October 4th, barely five days to the close of the ten-year window for review, the President appeared to have had a rethink and set up a committee to examine the fresh evidence that could be taken to the Court for review and possible reversal of the verdict. Evidence from many members of the committee suggest there was no real meeting nor commitment by the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, to do as the President said. Instead he issued a statement saying Nigeria would not revisit the case, as the time to do so was too short and going there would “hurt” Nigeria’s diplomatic image! Then he hinted at the possibility of a “buy-back” option.
To me, this strange fancy footwork from the Presidency amounted to a dribbling of Nigerians, and it was so shoddily done that the crass lack of will was there for all to see. We had all of ten years to seek for fresh facts. We woke up, five days to deadline, to discover time was too short! There were no fresh facts because the President and his teams were not interested in looking at what was being pushed under their nostrils. Otherwise, what did we have to lose, especially as seeking a review did not amount to disobeying the ruling of the court?
The issue of a possible “buy-back” was as laughable as it was fraudulently meant to give false hopes. Pray, does Cameroon want to sell? Can you buy a commodity that is not for sale? Has a buy-back option ever been tabled in over forty years of Bakassi controversy? How smart is a nation that gives away its territory only to go and buy it back?
The fact is that Bakassi was just an available booty for the ruling establishment. General Gowon used it to win a war. Olusegun Obasanjo used it to try and win a Nobel Prize for Peace, while the lawyers he hired went home with billions of naira (who knows what other concessions) for merely going to work with their Cameroonian counterparts to go with our land. Jonathan used it to maintain his image of an international “good boy”, a policy he has pursued in his attitudes to the crises in Cote D’Ivoire, Libya and Mali, where the vital interests of Western powers seemed to override our own national and regional interests.
Deal sealed and delivered
Now that Bakassi Peninsula has been permanently ceded to Cameroon, the options towards cleaning up after the party are very simple. Bakassi is in Cameroon. Bakassi indigenes are now Cameroonians, even though they are Efiks. They should return to their country. The so-called resettlement centre in Akpabuyo should be shut down. However, any Cameroonian (including those from Bakassi) who desires to live and make a living in Nigeria should obtain their papers and feel free. After all, there are millions of Nigerians living happily in Cameroon. In any case, Bakassi will not be the only place where a Nigerian ethnic group spills into a foreign country. There are Yorubas in Benin Republic and many Nigerian clans along the eastern border bestride the two countries.
I am totally opposed to the issue of “resettlement” of Bakassi people in Nigeria. Nothing good will ever come of it. The land in which they are being “settled” already belongs to Akpabuyo people. Even before now, Bakassi castaways had been disenfranchised because they are foreigners. Now that the cession is complete, they will be no better treated than the Liberian refugees camped in Ogun State since 1991 when their civil war broke out. They are no longer under our flag. Why live the miserable life of refugees when you can go back to your homeland where you really belong?
The “Resettlement” racket
Resettlement” is being packaged by the likes of so-called Mama Bakassi, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, after the post-amnesty deal, whereby the Federal government pumps money to ex-militants through noisy local brokers and not-so-noisy repentant “ex-generals”. Those asking for “resettlement” of the Bakassi displaced persons only want to benefit from a post-amnesty look-alike racket. It is the same racket that those clamouring for amnesty for Boko Haram terrorists have been angling for. Therefore I say “No” to Bakassi indigenes “resettlement” in Nigeria just as I opposed a Federal government-funded amnesty deal for Boko Haram. Local elites angle for these “deals” for their own selfish interest.
The Bakassi people and their surrounding kinsmen participated fully in the conspiracies that led to the confiscation of their land by Cameroon. For forty years they laid back supine and allowed buccaneers from other parts of the country to stomp all over them. In fact, the Igbos were more passionate and vocal for the return of Bakassi to Nigeria than the people who owned the land.
Two options are open to them. Number one is to ask for a plebiscite for self-determination from the UN. In this Nigerians will be solidly behind them. Number two is to join the onerous struggle for a Republic of Ambazonia.
Whatever they choose to do, I wish them good luck and goodbye!