|Mike Chinedu Anekwe||Friday, December 27, 2002|
ICJ RULING ON BAKASSI: MATTERS ARISING
concur with Reuben Abati that “in a matter of days, something else will happen and the story of the riots that followed the hosting of the Miss World pageant in Nigeria, and the consequences will disappear from the front pages, and this country will move on to something else. And that will be the end of it, until something happens again. Amazing, how we find it so easy to live with the rot in our lives. We are perhaps the most curiously optimistic group in the world. We always manage to move on”. But, this is not about the “Miss World riots”. It is about Bakassi. Not Bakassi Boys but Bakassi peninsula. How come we seem to have forgotten this one and are trudging on?
On October 10, 2002, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on the protracted boundary dispute between Nigeria and Cameroun.
In its Judgment, which is final, without appeal and binding for the Parties, the Court determined as follows the course of the boundary, from north to south, between Cameroon and Nigeria:
“In the Lake Chad area, the Court decides that the boundary is delimited by the Thomson-Marchand Declaration of 1929-1930, as incorporated in the Henderson-Fleuriau Exchange of Notes of 1931 (between Great Britain and France); it finds that the boundary starts in the lake from the Cameroon-Nigeria-Chad tripoint (whose co-ordinates it defines) and follows a straight line to the mouth of the River Ebeji as it was in 1931 (whose co-ordinates it also defines) and thence runs in a straight line to the point where the river today divides into two branches.
Between Lake Chad and the Bakassi Peninsula, the Court confirms that the boundary is delimited by the following instruments:
i) from the point where the River Ebeji bifurcates, as far as Tamnyar Peak, by the Thomson-Marchand Declaration of 1929-1930 (paras. 2-60), as incorporated in the Henderson-Fleuriau Exchange of Notes of 1931;
ii) from Tamnyar Peak to pillar 64 referred to in Article XII of the Anglo-German Agreement of 12 April 1913, by the British Order in Council of 2 August 1946;
iii) from pillar 64 to the Bakassi Peninsula, by the Anglo-German Agreements of 11 March and 12 April 1913.
The Court examines point by point 17 sectors of the land boundary and specifies for each one how the above-mentioned instruments are to be interpreted (paras. 91, 96, 102, 114, 119, 124, 129, 134, 139, 146, 152, 155, 160, 168, 179, 184 and 189 of the Judgment).
In Bakassi, the Court decides that the boundary is delimited by the Anglo-German Agreement of 11 March 1913 (Arts. XVIII-XX) and that sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula lies with Cameroon. It decides that in this area the boundary follows the thalweg of the River Akpakorum (Akwayafe), dividing the Mangrove Islands near Ikang in the way shown on map TSGS 2240, as far as a straight line joining Bakassi Point and King Point.
As regards the maritime boundary, the Court, having established that it has jurisdiction to address this aspect of the case -- which Nigeria had disputed -- , fixes the course of the boundary between the two States’ maritime areas.
In its Judgment the Court requests Nigeria expeditiously and without condition to withdraw its administration and military or police forces from the area of Lake Chad falling within Cameroonian sovereignty and from the Bakassi Peninsula. It also requests Cameroon expeditiously and without condition to withdraw any administration or military or police forces which may be present along the land boundary from Lake Chad to the Bakassi Peninsula on territories which pursuant to the Judgment fall within the sovereignty of Nigeria. The latter has the same obligation in regard to territories in that area which fall within the sovereignty of Cameroon.
The Court takes note of Cameroon’s undertaking, given at the hearings, to "continue to afford protection to Nigerians living in the [Bakassi] peninsula and in the Lake Chad area".
Finally, the Court rejects Cameroon’s submissions regarding the State responsibility of Nigeria. It likewise rejects Nigeria’s counter-claims.” (International Court of Justice official website- www.icj-cji.org)
However, on Wednesday, October 23, 2002, the Federal Government of Nigeria rejected the ruling. After the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting , Chief Ojo Maduekwe (the Minister for Transport), not Prof. Jerry Gana (Information Minister), was mandated to brief the media. Maduekwe, a sophistical rhetorician inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity, read the federal government’s position on the matter. “There will not be any requirement for Nigeria nationals to move from where they are living at present," he said. "The judgment will have no effect on Nigeria's oil and natural gas reserves," he added. He further stated that “On no account will Nigeria abandon her people and their interests. For Nigeria, it is not a matter of oil or natural resources on land or in costal waters; it is a matter of the welfare and well being of her people on their land.”
After the ICJ ruling and the rejection of the judgement by the Nigerian government, several people across the country and beyond have been expressing their views on the issue. Even in the Nigeriaworld.com website, the debate was alive. Some weeks ago, there were been tantrums on this website between H.E. Ambassador Albert G.P. Omotayo, MFR (Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Mozambique) on one side and Uchenna Odogwo, Mike Onwukwe and Kennedy Emetulu, on the other side. I do not wish to join issues with them but to express my own views on this contemporary issue.
It is my view that the Federal Government and Nigeria’s legal team bungled this case. This is what brought us to the current cul-de-sac we find ourselves in. First, the President and his Camerounian counterpart, Paul Biya, were “summoned” to France on September 5 by the French President Jacques Chirac, where both African leaders were said to have pledged to abide by the court ruling. In a very incisive editorial, The Guardian Newspaper took exception to this. It had written: “Very recently, it transpired that the French President, Monsieur Jacques Chirac, had invited President Olusegun Obasanjo and his Camerounian counterpart, Mr. Paul Biya, to France in connection with the Bakassi palaver, which is subjudice in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague. In all probabilities, the French President's aim in arranging the tripartite meeting was to discuss the likely outcome of the judgement of the ICJ, which, as must be well known to Monsieur Chirac, is imminent. France has copious investments, particularly in the oil sector, in the disputed area.” (“France and the Bakassi Case”, The Guardian, September 18, 2002)
However, the president recently denied accepting to abide by the court ruling. President Obasanjo told the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Sola Odunfa that he would never give a "blank cheque" by agreeing to respect a judgment without knowing which way it would go. I think somebody is being economical with the truth. Both the Presidency and the newspaper need some explanations to do.
Secondly, the Federal Government accused the ICJ of being partial since it has a Frenchman (Gilbert Guillaume) as president and also a British (Rosalyn Higgins) and a German (Carl-August Fleischhauer) among the 16-member jury. In the argument of the Federal Government, the countries of these judges have vested interest in the case. However, the same federal government forgot to mention that a Nigerian, Prince Bola Ajibola, was also one of the judges. Likewise, a Sierra Leonean judge, Abdul G. Koroma (Sierra Leone is Nigeria’s “close door” neighbour).
This is Chief Richard Akinjide’s (he was on the Nigerian legal team) view on the issue: “If in 1913 Britain signed the Anglo-German Treaty purporting to transfer Bakassi to Germany, can Britain transfer what she hasn’t got?” (“Nemo dat quod non habetet”- No one has the power to transfer the ownership of that he does not own.) (The Guardian, October 19, 2002)
This is in consonance with his position on the matter in an interview with Newswatch:
We must accept that, that ICJ judgement is 50 percent international law and 50 percent politics. And as far as the case between Nigeria and Cameroun was concerned, the dispute was really between Nigeria and France. Cameroun was just the proxy for France. There is no doubt that in law and in fact that Bakassi belongs to Nigeria because that is supported by a lot of documentary evidence, which were tendered before the court. But which the court ignored…You don’t ask somebody to transfer to you what belongs to you. So as far as I’m concerned the judgement of the ICJ is a complete fraud and unacceptable…If indeed Bakassi belongs to Cameroun, how can Camerounians be asking them to transfer it to them. (Newswatch, November 4, 2002).
When asked why the French representative was allowed to preside over the case, since the Nigerian team knew that the matter was between “Nigeria and France”, Akinjide said:
You cannot, you cannot. You have to operate within the status of the court. And the status of the court didn’t allow you to do what you say we should do. All we did and we were to do were all within the status of the court. Don’t forget Nigeria did not sue Cameroun. Cameroun took us to court. And when you are taken to court you have to defend yourself. (Newswatch, Novemeber 4, 2002).
Elder statesman, Chief Anthony Enahoro raised this issue in an interview with Vanguard:
“On Bakassi, I do not really know what was pleaded by the Federal Government at the court, because if it is said that the judges did not pay attention to a particular aspect of an issue I would like to know whether we pleaded that in court. Or whether the Federal Government’s action is an after-thought. I am worried by what would appear to be a fundamental challenge to the court itself ; if you are in doubt whether you can accept the court’s decision or not then do not be part of the system. When you go to court for adjudication it cannot be on the condition of your wining your case, I am concerned about that. And whether this means that it is up to any other nation on earth whether to accept the judgement or not of the court, if that is the case it is going to be difficult to make a case for the very existence of that court. And then how do you settle problems, it is war. We are then back to the old days of using war to settle disputes. So I am not myself pronouncing judgement as I do not know what was pleaded.” (Vanguard, October 28, 2002)
I want to raise this issue: Does the status of ICJ not allow parties in a suit to plead a case of conflict of interest whereby a judge (or some judges) are asked to step down? Be that as it may, why didn’t the country’s legal team make that prayer and let it be on record that the court overruled it. I am not a lawyer and I do not claim to be one. However, I wish to throw open the debate. International lawyers should please throw more light on this issue. Let the debate begin.
Thirdly, the case was so much shrouded in secrecy as at the time it was going on. I am talking particularly about the last one year. Save for the snippet of video clips and news reports on Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) and short news reports on the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN- “Radio Nigeria”), not much was heard about the case. If the matter was handled much more transparently, I believe the case would not have ended the way it did. It was only when the judgement was delivered that we started getting details of what transpired at Hague. All the intellectual inputs as it concern this case that is now pouring in would have better utilized if people had made these inputs while the case was going on.
Fourthly, I still cannot understand why the indigenes of Bakassi were not invited as defence witnesses. I remember during the the sitting of the Human Rights Violation and Investigation Commission (HRVIC), otherwise known as the Oputa Panel, the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) even invited illiterate women from the villages to come and testify on the floor of the commission and they had to speak through interpreters. On the back page of the Thursday, October 17, 2002 edition of Thisday, Olusegun Adeniyi wrote a very nice piece. He had written: “One of the community leaders (of Bakassi), Chief Okpo Eyo, said during the week that officials who provided legal defence did not seek adequate proofs of the ownership of the Peninsula from the aborigines and real owners. "Rather, what we saw was the flying abroad to testify of strangers who know nothing about the peninsula to the detriment of the country when the real owners and inhabitants of the area are there."
A pertinent question to ask now is: was the Obong of Calabar at any point involved? Were his people, especially those living in the Peninsula, given opportunities to make representation? From what one has been reading in the newspapers, they were not, yet the Obong is an internationally renowned Professor of medicine who could have helped Nigeria in the course of the case since the Peninsula belongs to his people.” I agree with Adeniyi, intoto.
This administration has this uncanny manner of handling legal matters clumsily. Fred Agabje, a constitutional lawyer, in an interview with Vanguard, berated the government on this. Commenting on the Mohammed Abacha case, he said:
I cannot blame the court nor the judge. The judge decides on the fact that the lawyers placed before him. Supposing the government lawyer did not make that as one of the conditions (retrieving illegally acquired wealth by the family), will the judge go outside the fact before him? And if a judge does that he will be acting outside his jurisdiction. Because the government lawyers were shortlisted, they did not sit down to do their research, they were myopic, they were now waiting for the executive to lift the big hammer on him. They did not do what they (are) supposed to do. They were waiting for Obasanjo to come in through the backdoors…I am not satisfied with the job the federal government has done so far on the Abachas. The substance has been left and the shadow is being pursued. There are clever ways people like us could have come on behalf of the federal government to get every kobo that has been stolen. It is like thoroughness, intellectualism, resourcefulness was not employed. It is sad. (Sunday Vanguard, September 29, 2002).
Assessing the judgement against Nigeria on Bakassi, Justice Adewale Thompson (rtd), Secretary General of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) or Igbimo Agba Yoruba, said:
Look, the World Court gives judgement, it is like our court here giving judgement and somebody out there says he disagrees. There must be law and order in society. We argued our case over Bakassi territory, and the Camerounians argued theirs, too. And a judgement was passed. And we’ve signed agreement that the judgement would be binding on us. Now, they ruled against us and people are complaining. It’s all rubbish. It’s absolute nonsense. We shoud abide by the judgement. I feel sorry when I hear lots of suggestions. Some lunatics are even suggesting force and war against the Camerounians in order to claim the oil-rich Bakassi Penninsula. War at this stage? I often screamed. When people are starving here? Do you know how much it takes to fight wars? That shouldn’t be a solution. Let’s ask ourselves, the oil we have in the Niger Delta, have we derived meaningful benefits from it?…I am a retired judge. And I know what it takes to pass a judgement. First, you take a lot of things into consideration. Secondly, this Bakassi issue is a very sensitive issue which attracts international interest. The judges would have been very careful over it. Apart from this, once a judgement is made, one is bound to obey it. I am surprised that people are remonstrating. This is sheer nonsense…When a judgement is passed, the loser would always find a fault. Remember that one is bound to win and the other lose. What’s faulty in the judgement over Bakassi? Okay, before the arrival of the colonial masters, the Bakassi Peninsula belonged to Efiks on both sides. On the colonial masters’ arrival, a portion was ceded to Cameroun and a part apportioned to Nigeria. Remember, pre-colonial days, there was nothing like Nigeria or Cameroun. Forget not that these colonial msters had many arrangements and plans among themselves. Look at Northern Cameroun; there was a referendum before independence, it opted out of Nigeria. Look, there were diplomatic manoeuvres. At that time, what arrangements do we know would have been made between Britain that ruled Nigeria and France that governed Cameroun? Forget not that our academics such as Professor Ojomo, late (Teslim) Elias, a foremost jurist, at one time or the other, wrote and argued that the disputed Bakassi Peninsula is not within Nigerian territory. I find it funny when Nigeria lays claim to it. Yes, Nigerians can settle there. It doesn’t mean that it’s our own…the only thing we can do is that the Bakassi people protest to the United Nations requesting for the formation of a nation of their own. Perhaps, name it the Bakassi sovereign state. Then, the formed state can decide on its own. That’s the only way out. (Hallmark National Newspaper, November 6, 2002).
But, in contrast, Chief Akinjide subscribes to the idea of Nigeria rejecting the judgement. He said:
If I were to recommend, I will reject the judgement, I won’t accept it. I will treat the judgement with the contempt it deserves. Because we were entitled to assume that the judgement will be unbiased but if the judgement is so blatantly biased and unfair, how do you accept that? What we agreed to accept was a fair judgement, unbiased judgement. Nigeria never accepted to accept biased and unfair judgement, which the present judgement is. (Newswatch, November 4, 2002).
Then, one is bound to ask: Is it for Chief Akinjide and the Federal Government of Nigeria to appropriate to themselves the wisdom of knowing which judgement is biased and unfair and which is not? But, as Justice Thompson said, “when a judgement is passed, the loser would always find a fault”. Supposing Nigeria had won the case, wouldn’t we be hailing the ICJ to high heavens?
I think the lawyers that were in Nigeria’s legal team should lie low for some time, stop granting press interviews and hold their peace . That will go a long way in calming frayed nerves and assuaging the feelings of the Bakassi people. I am talking particularly of Prof. Anwaal Yadudu, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi and Chief Richard Akinjide. However, Prof. Akinyemi applied utmost restraint in the interview he granted Vanguard. “The last thing you want is a Casmir type situation on your hand. And I am saying this not just to the Nigerian government but to the Camerounian government. Casmir is the crisis over the disputed territory between India and Pakistan over which they have fought several wars. So it got to be handled carefully and maturely. And this is why several of us are not commenting on the issue. Because there is no use to inflame the situation. My training in diplomacy is not to create crisis, and when ther is crisis, is not to make matters worse. So one has to be guided”, he said. (Vanguard, October 27, 2002).
I take particular exception to Chief Akinjide’s views. With all due respect, I think he has been over-reaching himself lately. He seems to have taken over the Job of Obasanjo’s campaign media manager from Akin Oshuntokun, lampooning everybody opposed to Obasanjo’s second term, even The Patriots (which he is also a member). Since the ICJ ruling, he has talked to almost all the publications in the country- TheNews (“Remove OBJ, End Nigeria” (Cover Story), 28 October, 2002), Newswatch (“Bakassi: What Gowon Did Wrong”, November 4, 2002), TELL (“I Smell a Rat”, November 4, 2002), The Guardian (“Bakassi: It's International Fraud, Says Akinjide”, October 19, 2002), NTA Tuesday Live (“Phone-in Programme”, Tuesday, October 29, 2002, 10.00 p.m.-12 Midnight), etc. Pray our High Chief doesn’t start granting interviews to such fringe publications in the mould of Ikebe Super, Better Lover, etc.
Akinjide’s tantrums have been receiving the utmost contempt it deserves. In the Thisday article, Adeniyi had written: “But the manner in which the case was pursued has made some people to also argue that perhaps our lawyer, Chief Richard Osuolale Akinjide, Second Republic Attorney General, was so fixated with his 12 2/3 ‘logic' that he could not bring himself to accept Bakassi as part of Nigeria. Otherwise what efforts did he make to get the people involved?”
Also, reacting to Akinjide’s TheNews interview, Gbenro Olujuyigbe, a reader who wrote in from Marina, Lagos (he won the Star Letter of the week), had this to say about Akinjide: “It is dangerous to allow ethnicity to become an instrument of threat. The removal of Olusegun Obasanjo as Nigerian president, if justly done, would not end Nigeria. It would only end the job of Richard Akinjide’s daughter as Obasanjo’s special assistant. (TheNews, November 25, 2002)
Also reacting to his Newswatch interview, another reader, I.J. Ezeana who wrote in from Oshodi in Lagos, had berated Akinjide thus: “I write to thank Akinjide and his crew for presenting Nigerians with false reasons for their inefficiency and incapability in the Bakassi issue. Why is Obasanjo travelling abroad almost every week if he can’t influence the actions and policies of those nations he took as his mother’s home. According to Aristotle, the ruin of democracy is “the credulity of the people when faced with the insolence of demagorgues who flatter and mislead the populace.” That’s what Akinjide and his colleagues are. He stressed in the interview that Obasanjo did not commit any impeachable offence. How would he have bitten the hand that feeds him when he was offered one million dollars ($1million) to defend the country on the Bakassi crisis which they finally messed up. But they should realise that “you can fool some of the people some of the time, all the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
Akinjide and his crew are just fooling themselves not Nigerians. They should advise Obasanjo to stop travelling here and there and look inward because development starts from the grass root. They should tell him to stop his second term bid as advised by The Patriots because the quality and not the longevity of one’slife is what is important. Even though he rules for a 100 years he won’t achieve anything better for this country because of lack of focus. He should stop making life miserable and difficult for Nigerians.” (“Richard Akinjide Should Not Fool Us”, Newswatch, December 16, 2002)
Akinjide was also “honoured” with a “Double Standard Award” by Hallmark National Newspaper (November 13, 2002)
I wish to state for the records that I view the ICJ ruling as another form of neo-colonialism by the imperialist forces. It is as reprehensible as it is anachronistic. I rightly agree with the view of Aham Njoku, a lawyer and Director of Constitution Watch, that “the constitution of that court (ICJ) and the voting pattern of its members clearly show that its decisions are reached not based on the merit of each case but by lobbying which is tainted with political undertones”. But, by making appearance at the court, we have impliedly subjected ourselves to whatever ruling it may deliver. Hence, the “rule of law” has to takes its course. “The law must take its course even if the heavens fall”, the say in law. They law, they say, is an ass.
It is now time for the government to put on its thinking cap and try to find a way of resolving this quagmire. In doing this, pragmatism has to prevail. As the late M.K.O. Abiola would say, “there can be no abortion after birth”. Of late, many newspapers, prominent lawyers and citizens that otherwise should have been circumspect in their analysis of this Bakassi issue have thrown reason to the winds.
It is only very few people that have come out to speak objectively on this issue, for fear of being labeled “unpatriotic”. But, this transcends patriotism. In as much as I still maintain that justice could not have been said to be done through this judgement, but let’s ask ourselves, have there ever been justice in this sinful and wicked world? Even our Lord Jesus Christ (i.e. if you are a Christian), was he not unjustly crucified by the Jews? Even some recent rulings by the Nigerian Supreme Court, were they just? Was the offshore/onshore ruling just? Was the ruling on Mohammed Abacha just? I can neither answer the last two questions in the affirmative or negative; it depends on personal perceptions.
Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) is one of those few people that have been objective on this issue. He maintains that the judgement is enforceable. “Nigeria should brace up to the fact that she has been confronted with a judgment that not only is it enforceable but in fact, is one whose enforcement is probably imminent,” Agbakoba said. The lawyer disclosed that similarly, Article 36 of the Charter enjoins the ICJ to exercise what he described as “compulsory jurisdiction,” thereby empowering the court to deliberate on any dispute referred to it by parties for resolution. Such decision, arising from the court, he contended, “is enforceable by definition.”
I equally commend the mature disposition of Chief Arthur Mbanefo (Odu of Onitsha), the Nigerian Permant Representative to the United Nations. “Nigeria is bound by the UN charter, we can’t reject the judgement as a member of the UN. Nigeria has made observations on the judgement….We have to help the image of the country, we have to show restraint….There are openings for closer understanding in this matter. Mr Annan is going to meet the Presidents. There is hope for a diplomatic solution and we should not do anything to foreclose the options open to us…”, Mbanefo had said.
The rejection of the ICJ ruling portends great danger to our nascent democracy. The Federal Government is setting a dangerous precedent. I pray a time doesn’t come when Nigeria’s federating units- States and Local Governments- and even individuals start rejecting court rulings. Let us ask ourselves, supposing the littoral states had rejected the Nigeria’s Supreme Court’s ruling on the offshore/onshore suit? Supposing the Lagos State Government and the M.K.O. Abiola family had rejected the Supreme Court ruling concerning Mohammed Abacha? Supposing Chief Olu Falae had rejected the court ruling upholding the decision of INEC declaring Obasanjo winner of the 1999 presidential elections. Supposing…? Elections are around the corner and there are bound to be litigations. This is a danger signal lurking around the corner.
Having dwelt so much on how we got entangled in this intricate web, I will be doing myself, my readers and the nation a disservice if I do not proffer solutions. I will just be another armchair critic. Firstly, I think both the Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), who incidentally is from Cross River State, and the Minister of State for Justice, Mr. Musa Elayo Abdullahi should tender their resignation The government of Cross River State have called for the resignation of Chief Agabi, so has the Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Saminu Turaki. This is the only way they (Agabi and Elayo) can show the people of Bakassi that they identify with their plight. When the ship mishap took place in Senegal, the Transport Minister resigned. Even the government had to dissolve the cabinet and a new Prime Minister was just appointed recently by President Abdoulaye Wade. But, not in Nigeria. This attitude must change, now!
The call for Agabi’s resignation has gotten so strident that Hallmark National Newspaper not only reiterated this call recently, but also conferred on him a “Saboteur Award” (whatever that means). Vintage Hallmark:
Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Federation, Kanu Agabi, hails from Cross River State, same as the Bakassi people who are threatened with exile. In the case of Nigeria vs Cameroun, the nation’s Chief Legal Officer is the country’s leading counsel notwithstanding who led our team of lawyers. Minister Kanu Agabi should be the head mourner if we eventually give up Bakassi, because the inhabitants of the area are his kith and kin. And reading the lips of the Obasanjo government, it is not yet over. So, why did Nigeria’s Justice Minister call on Nigeria to let Bakassi go into the hand of President Paul Biya and his gendarmes. Whose script is this Kanu Agabi playing? It should not have taken the Obasanjo government a second thought to bid the Hohourable Minister goodbye. His continued stay will only spell doom for the administration. A soiled finger can only stain the others.
For this disastrous conduct, not only does the Minister deserve an unceremonious exit, but we bestow on him, this saboteur award. (Hallmark National Newspaper, November 6, 2002).
Secondly, Nigeria should move quickly in lobbying the Security Council to stay execution on this matter. This is because the enforcement of the ruling rests on the Security Council. Hence, if Nigeria can get even a permanent member of the Security Council (such as USA) on its side, it can be sure that any decision at the council to employ military force against Nigeria will be vetoed. The country can go about this through Mr. Koffi Annan, the United Nations (UN) Secretary General. He is a known friend of the country (going by the visits he has paid to the country) and he equally comes from English-speaking Ghana. I also heard that his son, Kojo, lives in Nigeria. Some people may say that this is unethical, but they are all part of international politics and diplomacy. Talk about political solution. Afterall, the same federal government still applied political solution to the offshore/onshore imbroglio (?). Nigeria should come down from her moral high horse and face reality. If she thinks she has the military might that can withstand any military aggression against her, even from an international coalition of forces, then, she has another thinking coming. Is it our army that was into a pact with the US military (which Gen. Victor Malu cautioned against) that will withstand the Western forces (such as US and France) that already have our military secrets on their palms? Can our army stand up to that of the Western powers when Nigeria cannot handle the fallout of the January 27, 2002, bomb explosions in Lagos? Was it not the British and American ballistic experts that we invited to defuse the unexploded bombs? This people already know our military capability, having been allowed entrance into our munitions sites.
Finally, I commend the peace initiative of the UN Secretary-General has put in place in bringing the leaders of Nigeria and Cameroun to a round-table talk towards finding ways of resolving this problem. Presidents Obasanjo and Biya has already met. This is a welcome development. There should be compromises. The country’s delegation should not go to the negotiating table with a fixated mindset. If this happens, it is no longer dialogue but a debate since they already have a pre-conceived notion. It should not be a winner-takes-all situation. There should be middle courses by both parties i.e. a win-win situation. The option of war should not arise (except as a weapon of last resort). The ghost of Biafra still hunts the country 32 years after that horrendous experience. All avenues of dialogue must be exhausted. Importantly, the people of Bakassi must be incorporated in the talks with Cameroun. It shouldn’t be held at their back. Traditional rulers from the area should serve as the representatives of the people in the negotiating team. I am disgusted that the 6-member committee that was set up by the Federal Government had only a woman, who people do not know her antecedents, purportedly representing the Bakassi people.
The parties should bear in mind that it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war. As the saying goes, “there is never a good war or a bad peace”. The opinion of Godwin Nzeakah, a Punch columnist, is quite instructive here. He had written:
War is not football, where Roger Milla could dazzle our Super Eagles, and just steal victory. War serves no one any good, for not only are both the victor and vanquished practically equally bruised, exhausted and bloodied; with war, it may be futile to expect that what is imposed or snatched will cease to be a source of acrimony in the future. Otherwise, how splendid it would be to watch Nigeria and Cameroun slug it out from the trenches. When ignoble prizewinners in corruption fight with the number two contenders, only heaven knows how much of corrupt and innocent blood alike may be spilled. In the end, revolutions of unpredictable outcome may erupt and overtake both sides back home, when the surviving but hitherto emasculated and expropriated people- who, invariably would be used as canon fodder and foot soldiers- return to question the status quo. It has happened before, in France, and can happen here. History is a clever thief. It comes calling on tip-toe and stealthily. To repeat a visit, history comes in disguise. Nigeria and Cameroun are two naked and vulnerable neighbours that cannot afford the luxury of a public show. While Nigeria has no solution yet to the armed robbery onslaught, which is also a post-war phenomenon arising from mass unemployment, a section of Cameroun is reported to have been itching to break loose. Therefore, war by the two countries may prove most disastrous. (The Punch, July 3, 2002).
In conclusion, therefore, we should bear in mind this assertion somebody made a few years ago: “War is the nemesis of the politics of a few well-placed citizens, fought and mortally paid for by their less-privileged brothers, who suffer humiliation, deprivation, mutilation and death; with misplaced dedication and conviction, for the glorification, edification and material enrichment of the few political minds that declared it”.