By Josef Omorotionmwan
At times, it is prudent that you throw a stone on a house with a view to finding out the actual location of the house owner.
Similarly, at the level of perceiving a particular policy, it is allowed that you fly a kite with a view to determining what the people think of the proposal. Certainly, flying a kite cannot be embarked upon when the policy is already on the front burner of public discourse.
For some time, two issues dominated the debates in the popular press in Nigeria – the N5, 000 note and the prospect of our permanent loss of Bakassi. The former was soon elevated to the level of serious confrontation between the Legislative and the Executive branches of government.
At the height of it all, the government spokesman, Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, came up with bold and seemingly unequivocal assertion that there was no going back on the issues of the N5, 000 note and Bakassi.
Coming directly from the government mouthpiece, one would have thought that Maku was speaking not only the mind of his boss, the President, he was also speaking the minds of all Nigerians. But no, he was on his own. The President came up the very next day to announce that the proposal to print the N5, 000 note had been suspended. This was embarrassing to the President and his administration.
It shows a serious disconnect between the President and his team; and total incoherence on the policy domain. It happens all the time; that the President would be saying one thing while his Ministers would be saying something totally different.
Maku has since honoured the invitation of the Senate Committee on Information on this issue. We think this invitation was not the most appropriate. If anything, one man that was most embarrassed by the inconsistencies is the President himself. It was therefore more the duty of the President to point his Minister to order, not the Senate.
Elsewhere, the morning after the serious embarrassment, the Minister would have walked into the President’s office with a bag of apologies and with his resignation paper in his hand. But here, anything goes.
For a moment, can we imagine a situation in Libya where the American Consulate in Benghazi was bombed resulting in the death of Ambassador Chris Stephens and three others; and the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in a press conference is saying one thing while President Barack Obama is saying something totally different? That type of thing is possible only in Nigeria!
Like on the issue of fuel subsidy in which government deliberately alienated itself from the people, Maku spoke with a voice that seemed to suggest that government had already decided on ceding Bakassi to the Cameroun and whoever disagreed with government’s stand could find his way to hell.
Again, this was at variance with the people’s mind. Many thought that ceding of Bakassi to the Cameroun was not properly handled. For one thing, there was the thinking that there should have been a referendum for the residents of Bakassi to decide which side they wanted to belong.
For another thing, no nation ever cedes any part of its territory without a fight. It is after a big fight in which you have been conquered and subdued that you let go. This was not the case in Nigeria.
In any case, Nigerians suddenly saw the opportunity of regaining the lost territory. For whatever it is worth, Nigerians saw that there was a little window for them to appeal to the International Court of Justice, ICJ, judgment which gave the territory to Cameroun. What would be wrong in trying the appeal option, even where the chances of succeeding were very slim?
We were at this level when Maku jumped in to shut us up. That was as crude as it was rude. All told, Nigeria should not be in a hurry to give up on Bakassi – particularly as the full consequences of giving up have not been addressed.
We are reminded of the provisions of Article 61 of the ICJ Statute which stipulates that a judgement of the court could be reviewed whenever new facts that were not brought to light at the time of the judgement emerge, provided the process for the review is lodged before the expiration of 10 years from the date of the Judgment, which means that we have up to October 10, 2012 to put in our appeal papers.
Why should we throw away such an opportunity? Is it no longer true that if you meet an antelope in the bush, you should pursue it for you never can tell if it has a bad leg?
If we do not want to listen to the voice of the impoverished people of Bakassi who have consistently cried out against the ICJ verdict, we should at least listen to experts in the field. Hear Prof Bola Akinterinwa, Director-General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA: “Nigeria is not a monist state that accepts the superiority of international law without domestication by the National Assembly as required by section 12 of the 1999 Constitution”.
Prof Akinterinwa maintains that unless urgent steps are taken to resolve the Bakassi question, the situation could degenerate to self-help and blossom into the type of ugly situations with the Kurds who are a people without a home land or Palestinians that have been denied home state by international conspiracy.
If Nigeria is carefree, many other nations are not. These nations are interested in the resources of the Bakassi Peninsula and they are lurking around to recognise the people of Bakassi in their quest for self-determination.
The Bakassi Self-Determination Front means business. Already equipped with a flag and a coat of arm, it is simply a time bomb waiting to be detonated! Nigeria still has barely four days to appeal the self-imposed death sentence or face the hangman’s knife!