The Loss of Bakassi Peninsula, Another Evidence of How Unpatriotic Nigerian Leaders are and Have Always Been
By Chukwunenye (A guest writer via iCapture)
I begin with these germane questions; does Nigeria really have a foreign policy? If she actually does, what is the center piece of Nigeria’s foreign policy and how or where does she draw the strength for her foreign policy?
I began with these questions given the lackluster defense put forward by the Nigerian government to protect our sovereignty in Bakassi at the international court of justice and their refusal or unwillingness to challenge what I consider a contravention of Nigeria’s
sovereignty by the international community.
We have to understand that a viable foreign policy is predicated upon how strong the domestic conditions of a country are, and these domestic strengths range from economic to infrastructure, an educated nation and of course a military that is built to last, a military
that can comfortably defend the state with unflinching patriotism, setting an example for the next generation as well as a leadership that puts country first before self. In the case of Nigeria, these ingredients are lacking or non existent.
Through out the history of mankind, nations have had boundary disputes; some have gone to war on principle, protecting their territorial integrity. But while I am not in any way an advocate of war, I realize that war is always avoided or deterred if a belligerent
nation understands the extent of their rival country’s hard power hence, protecting that country’s territorial borders as well as its people.
Cameroon understood that Nigeria had no leverage either through the use of soft or hard power that they quickly referred a case which they knew they should have lost to the International Court Justice because, other state actors had sustained material interests
in the region, especially the oil that was recently discovered in Bakassi. Countries like France and Britain who came to Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to exploit her human and natural resources to the detriment of Africans was never going to protect Nigeria’s interests in the region because those interests could not have materialized given the ethnic and political landscape of Nigeria.
I can go on and on but it is pertinent for people to understand that on many occasions, the United Nations has intervened in various boundary disputes but none has ever resulted in any of these nations relinquishing their interests or sovereign rights over territories which they claim. So let’s look at a couple of land disputes between a few countries and what the outcomes were based on these countries leaders stance/approach to the disputes, the United Nations so called intervention and adjudication and then we co-relate them to the Nigeria’s leaders approach to the resolution and subsequent loss of the Bakassi Peninsula.
The Golan Heights: We see here that the earliest proof of human habitation can be traced to the upper Paleolithic period. A period according the Christian Bible, a certain Amorite kingdom in Bashan Middle East was invaded and conquered by the Israelites
during the period of king Og. So, through the Biblical Old Testament and contemporary international relations, the Golan has been the focus of consistent power and territorial struggle between the kings of Israel and the Aramaean’s in the Old Testament who lived
close to present day Damascus on the one hand and between the present day leadership of Israel and Syria on the other hand. Worthy of note here is that any organized Jewish
settlement in the Golan came to an end in 636CE during which period it was conquered by the Arabs under the leadership of ‘Al-Farouq’ Umar ibn al-kattab who inhabited the area until the 16th century when it was conquered again by the Ottoman Empire making it a part of the ‘Villayet of Damascus (province of the Ottoman Empire). The region remained under the control of the Ottoman Empire until it was transferred to the French control in 1918. However, when the transfer agreements expired, the Golan then became a part of the newly independent Syrian Arab Republic in 1946.
I have gone through this brief history of the Golan Heights to buttress that, based on historical records, the Golan has never been the natural territory of the Jewish people. But in 1967, the Golan Heights was captured by the Israeli military during their six day
war with Egypt, Jordan and of course Syria with the establishment of the Purple Line (the cease fire line) between Israel and Syria ensuring that the Golan Heights remained under the Israeli control. Since then, the Israeli army had administered the territory until
1981 when the Israeli government passed the Golan Heights law transferring all military administration of the territory to the Israeli civilian Jewish government control and administration. But in the wake of this development, all that the United Nations Security
Council did was issue a condemnation in the United Nation Resolution 497, which stated that; ‘‘ the Israeli decision to impose its law, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect”.
So this is very important because, that was all the United Nations did, ‘issue a statement of condemnation’ without any threat of sanctions or even the use of force against Israel.
However, because Israel is a global power player, she responded to the United Nations statement by firmly asserting its right to retain the Golan Heights referring to the United Nations resolution 242 which determined that; ‘‘safe and recognized boundaries” be
free ‘‘from threat or acts of force”. Even when the United Nations rejected Israel’s claims to ownership of the territory, maintaining that the Golan Heights is the sovereign Syrian territory, Israel NEVER relinquished occupation of the territory. The United Nations
could do nothing about this because, Israel plays the global politics effectively, has patriotic leaders who truly understand the legitimate threat their nation faces on a day to day basis. Israel has a very formidable military force that can withstand any external
aggression, is an ally of the most powerful nation on earth, The United States and has got a very good economic standing in the world which makes them indispensable to the world as a force to reckon with. Given these and many more facts, it is then near
impossible for Israel to give up the Golan Heights whether or not it actually belongs to them and nothing can be done about this either by Syria or the international community because, at the end of the day, this is how the international system works, with nations
strictly pursuing their permanent national interests without any equivocation.
Kashmir: The Kashmir region has been a hotly contested territory between India and Pakistan. Today, it is administered by China in the northern portion (Aksai chin and Trans-Karakoram Tract), Pakistan on the northwestern portion (Northern Areas Azad
Kashmir), while India controls the central and southern portion (Jammu and Kashmir). India and Pakistan have fought wars over this region in 1948, 1965 and 1999.
Worthy of note is that while these regions are administered by their three respective claimants (Pakistan, India and China), neither of these countries has formally recognized the accession of the claimed and administered territory by the other. India still claims
the area ceded to China by Pakistan. In all these, the United Nations or the ICJ has not forced India to cede any of the regions they currently hold to the other contenders.
Even the plebiscite which the United Nations required India and Pakistan to conduct during their ceasefire agreement in 1948 was never adhered to, but this has never caused any of the countries to be held in contempt of any UN resolution or order. So come to
think of it, India, China and Pakistan are nuclear powers and cannot be invaded without serious international threat from them; India and China are members of the G20 and also members of the BRIC nations, they are major global economic and political players
and like the case of Israel nothing can be done about it but to manage the situation in Kashmir. The ICJ or the United Nations cannot force any of these belligerent nations to cede any part of what they claim to be their territorial integrity; their leaders even if
corrupt are patriotic enough to defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The Falkland Islands: The Falkland is presently a disputed Island between Argentina and Britain without any end in sight. At various times though, there have been settlement of the French, Spanish, English and of course Argentina in the Island.
Though unclear as to who actually owns the island, there is a wider consensus that the Argentines claim of the island is more credible. They claim to have acquired the land from the Spanish in 1816 when they gained independence and that the British only
exceeded their authority by expelling settlers in the island in 1833, while the British claim they discovered the island in 1690. On April 2nd 1982, the Argentine military government invaded the island and took it over causing the Falkland Island war of 1982
when the British launched a counter offensive forcing the Argentines to surrender on June 14 1982 and Britain retook control of the Island. So the point is that before, during and after the war, the United Nations has not forced the British to relinquish control of
the Island even though it is very clear that it just cant be possible for Britain to effectively claim to be the natural owners of the Falkland Island given the geographical distance between Britain and the Island in question. In fact on April, 3rd 1982, after the Argentine military invaded the Island, the United Nations issued a resolution in the United Nation resolution 502 calling on both parties to seek diplomatic solution and urging Argentina to pull its troops. The United States supported their ally great Britain. Britain of course could play the international politics here having great allies and good diplomatic skills; she has since retained control of the region especially now that plenty of oil has been discovered on the Island. In fact the closest that Britain has come to ceding the Island
was only a few months ago when prime minister David Cameron said that unless a referendum is held and the people living on the island decide not to be part of Britain, then shall the British government ‘consider’ leaving the region. But we all know that
majority of the over three and half thousand (3500+) inhabitants of the Island are British citizens so, there’s no way they’ll vote to seize being part of Britain. This I call patriotic leadership in the sense that in the wake of immense pressure, David Cameron still looked out for his people and British interest in the Falkland Island so, as far as I am concerned that is patriotic even if you disagree with my definition of patriotism here or the moral wisdom of the British leadership position with regards to the Falkland Island. At the
end of the day, no nation or even the United Nations has forced or even successfully threatened Britain to give up their claim and control of the Falkland Island.
I can go on and on about countries that have refused to cede part or any of their claimed territories even after the so called United Nations has issued statements or even sometimes sanctions.
China has occupied Tibet for so long and Britain has controlled Northern Ireland, splitting the south from the North given rise much resistance from terrorist groups like the IRA in the 70’s and recently the real IRA, the list goes on and even in the wake of
these territorial claims no matter how illegitimate, these governments have always put their country’s interests first before any form of moral reasoning.
But in the case of Nigeria, with facts so clear that the Bakassi Peninsula is part of Nigeria because it belongs to the Calabar people. The so called Anglo German agreement which the international court of justice used to base their judgment cannot just be credible given
that even the ICJ recognized the fact that Britain administered the region through indirect rule. So can anyone tell me how a region can be administered through indirect rule yet the colonial masters would claim to have known the complete boundaries of where they
administered? This is because the court had to go out of its way to give legality to their biased judgment by stating that Britain had ‘clear understanding’ of the territory which was ruled by chiefs and kings of the old Calabar. Clear understanding? How possibly
could they have clear understanding of territories they were never a part of? They only collected royalties, slaves and taxes off these colonies and here are foreigners again dictating and telling us who really is from calabar and who is not. I do not however
blame the British, French or the International Court of justice. I strongly blame the Nigerian leadership before, during and post the ICJ judgment following through with this miscarriage of justice. The fact that Obasanjo would ignore the objection of the National
assembly who vehemently opposed the ceding of Bakassi is as far as I am concerned an act of treason, Obasanjo has a lot to explain to the Nigerian people as to why he had to transfer authority of the peninsula to Cameroon and why they never put up a very
forceful defense of that part of Nigeria in the courts either by appealing the judgment and playing the international politics and diplomacy required to keep Nigeria together without ceding any part of Nigeria’s territory.
Nigeria had been a non-permanent member of the United Nations and should have used that position to the good of its people. Nigeria has had decades to develop our economy, military, infrastructure and educate our people and has failed to do so. May be if all these
were evident, Nigeria would have had the respect, global power and diplomatic leverage that it deserves. The bottom line is that in the wake of Nigeria’s poor economic standing in the world, an 18th century military force and unskilled diplomatic personnel, a poor
visionless and unpatriotic leadership, Nigeria has failed to appeal the ICJ’s judgment over Bakassi thus giving away part of her territory to Cameroon. Today many people believe its over with the Nigeria’s claim on Bakassi but even as it is right now, I still believe that somehow and someday, Nigeria will get a leadership that matches the decency of its people and the Bakassi peninsula will get the full attention that it deserves because I see no reason the Nigerian government should it away in the first place.
Like I stated in my discussion of Israel in the Golan Heights, India china and Pakistan in Kashmir, Argentina and Britain in the Falkland Island, nations always follow through and defend their national interests and the United Nations cannot do anything to interfere with it unless there is a clear international security threat of which there is no credible evidence of such with Nigeria’s position in the Bakassi peninsula.
So I am hopeful, hopeful in the fresh but frustrated faces that represent the faith in Bakassi and Nigeria at large, hopeful in the possibilities that I see only if we can reflect and ponder; to search for the right leadership, and when we do, only then shall we begin
to bend the ark of history towards the path of a renewed hope and national worth, then will we show the whole world why Bakassi is part of that great one Nigeria.