31 Aug 2005
NIGERIA/CAMEROON:TWO CLOWNS OF A SORT
Since the International Court of Justice handed down judgment on the disputed border between Nigeria and Cameroon, I have been bemused by the reactions of both governments. The two countries are an interesting pair. One has a population eight times the other but somehow they manage to impress on the world that they are equal especially in manifesting negative deeds. Both countries have occupied the number one position of the most corrupt nations on earth. Citizens of the two countries are trying to outmatch one another as the leading ‘feymen’* on the African continent. Hypocrisy is a trait also common to both governments.
The ICJ ruling affected oil rich Bakassi peninsular and other places on the northern border but most of the noise we have been hearing is about Bakassi only. The hypocrisy of both governments has been exposed. It is clear that it is the natural resources of the disputed border areas and not the people that inhabit them that is of interest to both of them. It is a lie when they claim that they are fighting to protect the rights of the people. We are familiar with the plight of people like the Egonis of oil producing areas in Nigeria. On the Cameroon side, the people of Ndian division (main source of Cameroon’s oil) have known nothing but poverty and neglect. By their actions, these governments give the impression that natural resources are more precious than people.
Nigeria’s initial stand on ‘neither accepting nor rejecting’ the outcome of the verdict was most ridiculous. Here is a nation with some of the best legal luminaries on the African continent adopting an ambiguous stand on a judgment in a case she participated from the beginning to the end. She could have refused to accept the jurisdiction of the ICJ over the matter in the first place if she wanted to keep Bakassi at all cost. After all, the Americans and Israelis have taught us that in the world of today, if you are powerful, you can selectively choose to cooperate with such international bodies like the ICJ. To avoid ridicule, always make that choice before and not after the verdict is known. Cameroon’s situation can be likened to a person that always expects compassion from other people but will not extend same to others. Here is a country going to seek justice from the ICJ when she cannot ensure the same justice for her citizens. According to an unedited UN sponsored report released in Vienna on May 10 2001 on prisons in Africa, Cameroon’s pre-trial detainees (one of the highest of 34 countries surveyed) stood at 82.3%. Some of those awaiting trial have certainly been there before the ICJ commenced deliberations on the border dispute with Nigeria. Government officials in Cameroon are shamelessly talking about justice as if we have two kinds of justice, one for Bakassi and another for Cameroonians.
The ordinary citizens of both countries have nothing to gain but a lot to lose as the predatory ruling classes of Nigeria and Cameroon hover over their heads pretending to protect them whereas they are vultures eyeing their very flesh. The states of Cameroon and Nigeria have nothing to show but a pile of debts for decades of oil exploitation. The potential oil reserves in Bakassi are therefore another curse for the common man that has known nothing but environmental degradation and misery since the advent of oil exploitation in this region. If Bakassi had no oil potential, there will be less noise on the boundary dispute. I have trekked from Dumbo in Cameroon to Bisaula in Nigeria (a journey of 12 hours) on a roadless unoccupied hilly terrain. Nobody familiar with the area knows where the exact boundary is or cares. I doubt whether officials in Cameroon or Nigeria charged with boundary issues even know the location of the area I have mentioned. They are waiting for oil or diamonds to be discovered there before they start scrambling to lay claim to the nomadic herdsmen that currently roam the vast area that is devoid of modern amenities.
As usual, we the ordinary people on both sides of the border keep on toiling day and night while our governments are playing cat and mouse game over the ICJ verdict on Bakassi. Our prayer is that they should not trigger any crisis that will turn us into refugees and destitute people. We never benefited from decades of oil exploitation and we certainly will not benefit from whatever oil remains in Bakassi.
* Feymen: People who steal with tricks
Copyright ã2005 by Njei Moses Timah
Njei Moses Timah [e-mail]