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« Nigerian Women and Indecent Dressing: The other Side of the Coin | Main | Igbo Diaspora Most Wanted Man »

July 31, 2006

Plight of Bakassi: Local and International Conspiracy?

by Dr. Paul O. Nwaogu (Gaborone, Botswana) --- That Bakassi is to be ceded to the Cameroon territory is a continuation of an ugly policy of governments-imperial and indigenous, meant to reduce the land mass of the former Eastern Region. After independence there was a plebiscite conducted by the United Nations to ascertain whether Southern Cameroon then part of the Eastern Region will remain in Nigeria or opt for unification with French Cameroon.

The outcome was the rigging of the vote in which the people agreed to be part of French Cameroon. Britain played a key role in the outcome of the vote simply to punish the Eastern Region for producing politicians who were in the vanguard for independence agitation. Part of Cameroonian territory in the Northern Region was helped to vote for integration with the region. It later became Sarduana province. This was done deliberately by the British to ingratiate the North for its limited agitation for independence movement. When the plebiscite was held in 1961 Bakassi was an undisputed part of Nigeria. If it was part of Cameroon that was administered by the British, why did the people of Bakassi not take part in the United Nations referendum? The Bakassi question came to light only during the Nigeria-Biafra War.

Nigeria wanted to win the war at all costs even if it meant severance of more land mass from the Eastern region. That negotiation was done by Gowon’s government as attested to recently by Alhaji Isyaku Ibraham in his address to Middle Belt Forum which was carried by the Daily Trust Newspapers on line Thursday January 12, 2006. In that address, he mentioned how Nigeria enlisted the cooperation of Ahmadu Ahidjo of Cameroon and Hamman Diori of Niger during the Biafran war without which they would have lost the war. At the time of negotiation with Cameroon, Bakassi was to Gowon and government a wasteland that could be traded in for Ahidjo’s war effort. That, the government did. Later oil was discovered and this raised the importance of Bakassi. As soon as Cameroon realized that Bakkassi has become strategic as a result of the presence of oil, it remembered its treaty with Gowon and demanded the fulfilment of the war time bargain.

In addition, it went to its archives and dug up antiquated laws that could help it lay claim to Bakassi. The case became internationalized with Cameroon going to the World Court at The Hague. The court decision is now history favouring Cameroon in the process. Some pertinent questions come to mine here. Why did the Nigerian government not reject the decision? This is another conspiracy from Obasanjo administration against the people of the South-South. His government has been bogged down with resource control and derivation principle being canvassed for by the people the Niger Delta. The government thought that to checkmate further headache coming from Akwa Ibom and Cross River states, it were better that the territory of Bakassi be ceded to the Cameroon to foreclose all agitations as well as remove both land and water mass of Bakassi from the adjoining states. The next question is- why was a plebiscite not used to decide which way the inhabitants of the area should go- Nigeria or Cameroon? A true conspiracy indeed! Let the people of Bakassi petition the UN and demand a fair play. Whatever agreement that ensued as a result of a meeting between Kofi Annan, Obasanjo and Biya should be regarded as not binding on them. Referendum is used always to decide the wishes of a people caught up in the web of two contending states. To do less in Bakassi amounts to local and international conspiracy.

Dr. Nwaogu writes from the Department of Educational Foundations, University of Botswana, Gaborone

Posted by Administrator at July 31, 2006 12:16 AM

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