Nigeria Cameroon Relations during Gen. Sani Abacha’s Regime
1.1 BACKGROUND TO STUDY
The existing theoretical structure of the Cameroon Nigerian relations fall within the confines of distributive ethnic compositions, colonial influence on indigenous boundaries, permeability of the Cameroon–Nigeria border and the dispute between both states over the Bakassi Peninsula. In fact, however separated these nation-states seem to be they remain a common people, especially the inhabitants of the frontier-line[i].
They are duly associated not by colonial effort but through ethnic affiliations. Rather, colonial state creation dishearteningly fragmented brethrens. No wonder, Njoku[ii] claims that the permanent presence of a population with a common historical experience, and of the same ethno-cultural stock on both sides of the ostensible international divide is one of the natural features which have stubbornly frustrated Cameroon and Nigeria attempts to physically demarcate their borders. He maintains that ethnic groups and sub-groups of Nigerian origin cut across the Nigerian international boundaries with Cameroon. The four major ethnic groups that originally occupied the boundary area between both nations are the Ibibio, Efik, Ekoi, some Bantu and semi-Bantu peoples, and that the semi-bantu[iii].
This is confirmed by Hansen (1981) when he indicates that these groups constitute part of the Bakassi border region which “ . . . falls under sub-national areas where the socio-economic lives and well being of the people are directly and significantly affected by proximity to international boundaries.” These boundaries (artificial in nature) once created as Niger Thomas (2001:55) suggests, cut across native areas, split communities and distorted the functioning of some of these communities, like the Ejagham and Boki groups of Manyu Division divided between Nigeria and Cameroon into Ejagham-Nigeria and Ejagham Cameroon[iv]. Fanso (1989:53) adds that the Ejagham, who straddle the Cameroon-Nigeria border, are also located in the area extending from west of Nchang near Mamfe town to Ikom in Nigeria. They also extend from Agbokem on the Cross River to the Oban Hills and Calabar at the month of the Cross River.
.Nigeria Cameroon Relations during Gen. Sani Abacha’s Regime
They are only divided by the River, which represents the international borderline between Cameroon and Nigeria, and they all depended on one another’s political, economic and social contacts. This interdependence introduces a high degree of permeability on this boundary. Similarly, Kane (1976:23- 24) points out that within the Kanem Bornu Empire, the presence and connectivity of these Cameroon-Nigeria peoples, like the Kanuri[v] made them to consistently see themselves as brothers despite colonial influences.
They depended on one another’s political, economic and social activities and thus enhancing the permeability of the Nigeria-Cameroon borders. Njoka (2012:199) sees the interconnectivity of these crossborder communities as a serious issue for the respect of the international boundaries since some of these groupings share deities and totems, ancestral shrines and major rites (birth, manhood, maidenhood, womanhood, marriage, child-bearing and death), annual festivals and rituals that all members of each group across the frontier are traditionally obliged to take part in. For their convenience and interest, the colonial masters portioned out various ethnic groups among themselves. Asiwaju (1984) points out that a study of European archives points to the idea of an accidental rather than an intentional making of African boundaries. This means that the European interests were of primary concern.
Nigeria Cameroon Relations during Gen. Sani Abacha’s Regime
Therefore in determining boundaries , the Europeans did not take African interests into consideration. An AngloFrench Commission of diplomatic and colonial experts was formed for the purpose of demarcating the boundaries, but the limits of its expertise soon became evident. Lord Salisbury commented: We have been engaged in drawing lines upon maps where no white man’s feet have ever trod; we have been giving away mountains and rivers and lakes to each other, only hindered by the small impediment that we never knew exactly where the mountains and rivers and lakes were’[vi].
1.2 Statement of problem
Despite so many measures adopted to manage and contain, if not extinguish totally the Nigeria-Cameroon boundary dispute, both by the leaders of the two countries and the third parties to the problem, the issue of boundary and territorial claims between Nigeria and the Cameroon remains unresolved. In other words, from bilateral negotiations, through diplomatic means involving international mediators (good offices of United Nations and Africa Union), to the arbitration proceedings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the border problem between the two countries is still faced with multi-dimensional problems. Put differently, a cursory look at the efforts and strategies employed to tackle the Bakassi problem, indicated that some of the measures taken so far, did not reflect a thorough understanding of the issues involved in the case.
To this, it shows that the dispute over the Bakassi includes a number of other contradictions aside the political and economic issues that were determined in the past to manage the conflict. One that requires a closer examination, attention and perhaps the most crucial, is the “Ethnic” context of the dispute. The “right to self determination” agitated by the Bakassians, borne out of their ancestral and cultural affiliation and attachments to the disputed area, has not been fully appreciated. Therefore, pressure from the real victims of conflict, that is, those whose livelihood chances are directly threatened by the conflict, is often critical in bringing about a resolution of the conflict.
1.3 AIM AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
Granted that every academic endeavour has stated objectives it seeks to achieve, the objectives of this study are in two folds; the general objective and the specific objectives. In general, this study aims at examining critically Nigeria Cameroon relations during gen. Sani Abacha’s regime, the dynamics of the ethnic factor in Nigeria Cameroon boundary dispute. The specific objectives also aim at the following.
- To ascertain if the ethnic interests of the people living in the Bakassi, have had any impacts on the entire dynamics of Nigeria-Cameroon border problems.
- To ascertain whether the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling inspired the secessionist bid of Nigerians residing in the peninsula.
[i] Omede, 2006:17; Ate and Akinterinwa, 1992
[ii] , Njoku (2012: 198-199
[iii] Ibibio/Efik, Ekoi and Boki
[iv] Kah and Nkwi (2011: 44-51) attribute this ethnic division and disintegration to the German and British boundary demarcation exercises of 1912-1913
[v] often referred to as the Kanuri of Nigeria and Kanuri of Cameroon