Several newspapers had captured the feelings of Nigerians and most especially bakassi indigenes before the final handing over of the disputed peninsular to cameroun just hours before the event began one had read ’ bye-bye bakassi’ and another ‘going going gone’and so on and so forth. A week before D-day, indigenes of the peninsular had complained of the high handedness of the Cameroonian gendarmes; there were unconfirmed reports of trigger happy gendarmes firing at defenceless civilians perhaps in a bid to drive fear into hearts of defiant bakassians who had pledged to disrupt the final handing over ceremony.
The fear of the unknown perhaps is what drove the organizers of the handing-over ceremony to calabar rather than bakassi for the handing over rites. Forget the banal post war rhetoric of ‘no victor no vanquished’ by Nigeria’s former president olusegun Obasanjo after he had signed the green tree agreement with Cameroonian leader paul biya. The air of melancholy hung heavy in the air at the venue as a visibly tired attorney general of Nigeria, Michael aandokaa backed away from the scrutinizing lenses of several the media hawks to sign the document of relinquishment. Fortunately for Nigeria the entire show lasted for 58 minutes and at the end of the day the only ones who had smiles on their faces where the officials of the international criminal of justice and the Cameroonian authorities. A stern looking Nigerian minister of justice later emerged from the venue warning Cameroonian authorities to abide by the provisions of the green tree agreement. The indigenes of bakassi may just hope to God that nothing awry happens otherwise their guinea-pig role -playing; apologies to Florence ita-giwa- the most famous bakassian till date- may linger longer than expected.
According to the federal government of Nigeria, less than 30% of resettlement work has been achieved and the Nigeria media is rife with stories about inadequate drugs, housing and food for the displaced bakassians. Their clarion call has suddenly become ‘take us back home’. In all honesty their voices have been silenced long before August 15, 2008, before the 2006 green tree agreement in New York and definitely longer than the ICJ’s ruling in2002 when they were denied the opportunity of a plebiscite or referendum by the Nigerian government to decide their future.
There are indeed genuine fears whether Cameroun can play its part in this landmark development. A Nigerian, George okon, who lives at a temporary shelter erected by the cross river state government at ikong, accused the camerounian gendarmes of looting, raping and killing Nigerians in the peninsula.
As a Nigerian I am indeed saddened not because of the loss of another potential revenue earner but that several people have suddenly been disinherited, and without a natural root they have suddenly become aliens in their own land with perhaps a new language, culture and profession.
Yes for Nigeria, it is undoubtedly a painful moment but then there have been some gains; for once every Nigerian stood up to be counted as a bakassian, upset and angry not over the loss of some natural resource but rather in the loss of a fellow country man’s homeland.
Finally I implore the federal government to ensure the speedy release of the budgeted one billion naira for the recreation of a new local government for the bakassians and maybe this would be the first step towards the much awaited healing process and regaining their identity.
Filed under: AFRICAN ENVIRONMENT, AFRICAN NEWS, NIGER DELTA, NIGERIA | Tagged: BAKASSI PENINSULAR, BORDER DISPUTE, CALABAR, CAMEROUN, INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE, OLUSEGUN OBASANJO, PAUL BIYA, RESETTLEMENT | 1 Comment »