The calls for reviewing and in some instances, implementing a radical 360 degree experiment on the “international community” induced court decision for Nigeria to hand over to Cameroon the disputed Bakassi peninsula, have been played numerous times over the entire media spectrum, so I will leave that task to the howling of history and its’ scribes. Since 1994, when the Cameroonian government dragged the Nigerian government and the sovereignty of its people before the so-called “International” Court of Justice to validate the geopolitical and economic demands of ….well, let’s just call them the “usual suspects”; the Giant of Africa (that’s Nigeria by the way) has passively handled the affront to the essence of national pride in a most unassuming manner. The decision by the Obasanjo government to go behind the backs of over 140 million people and sit down in New York to finalize a subject that should be beyond the confines of smoky rooms and the aura of conspiratorial wheel dealing, serves not only as an affront to the sensibilities of the Nigerian people but a diabolical insult to the wishes of our Efik brethren who have the right to self determination with regard to what country they wish to belong to.
Of course, our ‘leaders’ know how to hide under the shadow of deliberate ignorance and don the garb of complex international law prepared by Europeans over a century ago to justify their adherence to a foreign judicial adjudication system that does our people no good. Here’s a simple question: how do documents and treaties prepared and signed by British, French and German government officers in the 19th century who never set foot on African soil, get approval from Nigerians and Cameroonians in the 21st century? To assist those Nigerians who believe that everything European is the standard for thinking and living, let me quote the small Latin wey I sabi: “Nemo dat quod non habetat” which literally means that no one has the power or authority to transfer the ownership of that he does not own. How the political leadership on the Nigerian end missed this simple concept is beyond incomprehensible! It just goes to show what can happen to a nation that allows incompetents a free rein over its foreign policy and national interest. The very fact that government officials from both nations would not seek an alternative adjudication process from an African based entity (hello, never heard of the African Union?) is a shame the political elite in Yaounde and Abuja must bear. Definitely we know that the Africa Court of Justice is not in place but it should have been an impetus for Nigeria as a regional superpower to lead the efforts for such a regional tool to resolve the matter before airing our dirty laundry (albeit stained by European minds) on the world stage.
There exists a plethora of options both parties could have pursued but for the sake that both national leaderships suffered from chronic cultural inferiority, public opinion apathy and a stark deficiency in leadership skills when most needed. Scientists may be sweating to design an anti-AIDS solution but I suggest that policy experts across the continent start working on an antidote to the psychological symptoms some leaders face in the face of Western; sorry…I meant “international” solutions to African problems. Anyone who does not realize the impact the ruling and its precedents would have on the Nigerian psyche should shed such naivety and take to heart that Nigerian urban proverb Shine ya eye! As that learned legal mind, Richard Akinjide explained, “…. the ICJ (International Court of Justice…who dash dem?) decision is 50% international law and 50% politics” and I agree 101%!! Africans, led by Nigeria, have now opened a Pandora’s box for Hague-styled national border disputes and dispute-resolution scenarios across the continent. Considering that the vast majority of national lines in contemporary Africa have no origin in the cultural and property ownership context of native Africa, who is to tell what other nation would be the next to pick up the drumbeat of land reclamation and run to their colonial masters for support in dragging neighboring countries to the Hague? Who would send in their multinational investment companies to benefit from lucrative resource contracts after playing havoc with border demarcations to place natural resources under the regulatory regime of nations that are willing to sign economic agreements that receive pass marks from international financial institutions while their people fail the test of eating three basic meals a day? Who really benefits from the legal battles in air-conditioned courtrooms in Europe and discussions at ‘forums’ in New York, while the destiny of millions of lives are snatched from the grasp of the vulnerable? Your guess is as good as mine.
No matter what side of the argument, we should remember that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. For all the rants of Nigerian conservatives, nationalist groups and patriotic citizens, the pride of the Nigerian republic takes a back seat to the pride of the Oron, Efut, Efik and other local peoples. How do we tell our brothers and sisters from the Niger Delta that we care when we are so willing to let go of the soil that is under their feet? How do these people who depend on the rivers to fish go out in confidence, hoping that Cameroonian gendarmes would not attack them, while our women and children struggle with the fear of rape and intimidation? How do the 3 million Nigerians living in Cameroon hold their heads high when the Cameroonian government has subjected them to usury, extorting billions from them in the name of work permits, while Cameroonians live in peace across Nigerian cities?
It is a sad fact that the majority of Nigerians do not even know where Bakassi local government is located? All we know is that Na Naija wey get am and the island dey near dem Calabar people side. Now Nigerian citizens (those who decide to remain so) on the peninsular are waiting for the curtain call on this shameful play acted out by a spineless Obasanjo administration to commence as Nigeria formally and finally places the disputed area into the arms of Cameroon and its international backers. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we might as well call it a day with regards to the Bakassi debacle and spend the rest of our days wondering why Cameroon and Nigeria allowed themselves be used as pawns by the “usual suspects”. For all my pain, I am still optimistic about the future of Nigeria and its people and hope that we learn from this mistake and as survivors of the Nigeria/Biafra war say clearly: NEVER AGAIN. The nonsense of emptying government coffers for Swiss bank accounts may be forgiven but not the theft of the earth under our feet. Farewell Bakassi and may God keep and bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.