by Agba Jalingo
It is from the earth that man was created. Theoretically speaking, this could be attributed to creationism. But the simple fact that most of the world’s interment customs return dust to dust through diverse methods, lends credence to the fact that mother earth holds the secret to the existence of humankind.
Little wonder nations go to war to protect an inch, a metre, a kilometer of their land when faced with seizure. History is replete with such examples of disputes that have encroached into and continue to define contemporary world politics.
Most importantly, our own history as a nation is also defined by the events of a civil war and incessant communal disorders that have their roots in the struggle for territory.
As a soldier’s son, some of the lessons we learnt as young adults were that Obasanjo, Gowon, Babaginda, Danjuma, and so on and so forth, fought ‘gallantly’ to protect Nigeria’s unity. We were told that these men were heroes who could do everything to protect every inch of Nigeria’s territory.
It is indeed an irony that General Olusegun Obasanjo, arguably the living team leader of that generation, whose only claim to their continuous domination of our political kaleidoscope, is that they fought the civil war to keep Nigeria one, was the one who gave a very strategic territory of the country away in a manner that remains suspect and rancorous.
Even with his military background and experience, the former president’s personal ambition blinded him to the dangers of giving away a peninsular that apart from being oil rich, is also a strategic military access to the Atlantic Ocean for the eastern naval command of the Nigerian Navy.
It is agreed that violence in what ever form can no longer be encouraged in the settlement of disputes. But the art of war is an eternal tool for existence both for individuals, communities and nations. Life is a constant war. If you are still alive, you are at war. Nigeria is at war with Cameroon. Yes, over the Bakassi Peninsula! We don’t have to be violent about it to know we are at war.
There are different schools of thought in the Bakassi imbroglio. Most indigenes of the peninsular feel nothing has changed other than the fact that the Nigerian government has abandoned them. Some others have resolved that, if Nigeria feels they don’t need them again, they can rise up and defend themselves in a new found “Bakassi Republic” founded on the principles of social justice.
Their calculation is based on the fact that a small Bakassi Nation of 500,000 people with proven oil reserves and a coastal boundary that will support a thriving fishing industry, their new found nation will be able to support their small population like several other nations of the world. One thing that is clear from their agitation however is that they don’t want to be Cameroonians.
This argument is supported by a United Nations resolution in 2007 when the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for the right of indigenous people all over the world to self determination. The people of Bakassi were not exempted from that resolution.
But today the Nigerian government is using diplomatic innuendoes to tie the hands of the people of Bakassi. The nation Bakassi has been mortified by the inaction of a lame nation. Even the valiant amongst them have been turned to “effigies-in-the-land-of-akimbo”.
But how can a nation that cannot defend itself against internal insurgency from Boko Haram be able to defend its own against external aggression from Cameroon?
Like Senator Abdul Ningi rightly noted when moving his famous motion, he said Bakassi was given away because it is a minority territory. I agree because if Bakassi were Owu Land where former President Obasanjo hails from, he would not have signed the Green Tree Agreement. If it were Labaran Maku’s homeland, he would not have been “talking before thinking” like Senate President David Mark accused him of recently. If the Peninsular were Akinjide’s birth right, he sure will not be urging us to “stop wasting our time”.
The window of opportunity is still open. Five days in politics is like unto a thousand years, particularly in international politics. The nation must protect the people and the territory of Bakassi. We must refrain from creating another fertile land for “agreeable” insurgency in a search for a homeland by the people of Bakassi.
This is not the time to set up committees. Since the Senate President told newsmen yesterday that the legislative and the executive arm of government are now on the same page on the ICJ judgment, the President must immediately dispatch orders that will ensure the ICJ judgment is appealed within the remaining five days window.
That is the minimum acceptable thing he can do for the people of Bakassi. For now, the question of whether we will win the appeal or not should be left for time to answer. Urgent action to quell the impending cataclysms is most imperative.
The choice is between the legendary devil and the deep blue sea. Nigeria must either defend the people of Bakassi who want to remain under the laws, authority and protection of the country in their homeland or leave them alone to source for international support and alliances that will enable them build a new found nation either alone or with the Ambazonians of Southern Cameroon.
Agba Jalingo is a journalist and Civil Rights Activist from Cross River State.
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