By Ike Abonyi
“There are no days in a year that we can do nothing, yesterday and tomorrow.” Mahatma Gandhi
Last week some strange news rolled out from the raging Cameroonian crisis that jolted Nigeria media space before it was doused. Even after drenching the news, its ripples have continued to generate conversation with the feeling that there is hardly smoke anywhere without some flames beneath.
Perhaps what gave the news the instant attention it deserve was the impish linkage of the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to it. According to the news which quoted one Prof Martin Chia Ateh a United Nations appointed Workshops Coordinator in Cameroon and Nigeria claimed that Nigeria may lose up to 24 local Government Areas by way of ceding to a new country to be known as United Nations Organisation UNO State of Cameroon also known as Ambazonia. The report even gave July 10, 2020 date for the complete fruition of the plan. UN and Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs offices in a quick response denied the story saying it does not create countries but the report did not disown Prof. Ateh.
Atiku has been Vice President of Nigeria for eight years and was almost becoming President in 2019 as the Presidential flagbearer of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, but for the new rigging technology of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Recall that the first time Atiku was linked to Cameroon was when President Muhammadu Buhari through his lawyers while defending his victory at the 2019 Presidential election tribunal argued that Atiku was not qualified to contest the election abnitio having been born as a Cameroonian since he hailed from Jada local Government Area that is not part of the geography called Nigeria.
Atiku’s lawyers did not take it lightly as they made spirited efforts to discredit the allegation which they successfully did since the Justices agreed with them and dismissed the case.
But in reality the Cameroon /Nigeria connection was first brought to the fore at the 2014 constitutional conference when as a member of the confab, a first class traditional ruler from Adamawa state, the Venerable’ royal father, Lamido of Adamawa, Alhaji Aliyu Mustapha, a delegate to the conference obviously pissed off with the nuances from contributors to the on-going debates released this diatribe on the floor of the conference “Jingoism is not the preserve of anyone.” And for Nigerians who may not know the dimension of his realm as a King, he jibed “there is a state in Cameroon called Adamawa and if I run to that place, I can easily be assimilated; if you push us to the wall, we can easily walk out of this country”. Lamido is not just Atiku’s traditional ruler but his father in law and the former Vice President is the Waziri of the Kingdom.
That weird outburst expectedly increased the temperature of the plenary at the conference and forced them to be adjourned abruptly that day. The first class royal father had watched apparently in anger how the delegates were wasting time on irrelevant things. When he could no longer bear it he went off the curve, entirely outside the issue being debated and delivered what could pass as ‘Lamido’s Abuja Declaration.’ He was jokingly referred to as Cameroon delegate to the conference afterwards but he had delivered his message.
This Lamido incident resonated in my mind in 2019 when Buhari lawyers declared Atiku a non-Nigerian and again last week when the mystery story of Ambazonia country that included some part of Nigeria came up.
Against these backdrops therefore, would discerning minds still be on the right lane if they treat this Cameroon story casually? Even with the official denial there is still more unanswered questions, how did the story come up? Who is behind it and why? Who says Nigeria will remain one indivisible entity forever, is that assertion still realistic?
It’s almost a settled case that the amalgamation of 1914 was a huge mistake that shouldn’t have happened, that it was a selfish arrangement by the colonial British to avoid repatriating money from London to manage the dry Northern protectorate hence the economic wisdom to bring it together with the Southern protectorate who has some resources.
With the emerging reality, the almighty oil is giving way with its value dwindling, the old dry North is also discovering its potentials in agro based and solid minerals including even the oil. What this means therefore is that the binding force designed by the British are weakening as potentials are spreading.
Leaders with vision should begin to align their thoughts with these developments instead of holding on blindly to this dogma of indivisibility even when the existing arrangement is glaringly not working. Fresh facts in technology, geo-political dynamics and international politics are making the old thoughts that we must stick together at all cost very ancient and untenable.
If the Ambazonia story was kite being flown by some persons, the idea should not be treated in isolation. Remember our own Nobel laureate Prof Wole Soyinka’s durable saying concerning spirited efforts by some people to kill and bury Biafra that “Once an idea has taken off, you may defeat those behind it in a war but that does not mean the end of the idea” Nothing can be truer than this because 50 years after the so called defeat of Biafra, it’s matter has continued to dominate the space. Just last weekend the nation’s Presidency took time to cry out about what it alleged one of the Biafra agitators, Leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu is doing to it.
What this Ambazonia story even with its denial from the United Nation, UN entails is that Nigeria is yearning for restructuring from all angle. Only a restructured Nigeria will prevent a decimated Nigeria if not today one day not too long. The earlier this matter is given due attention the better.
So long as some persons in authority continue to see restructuring as tantamount to dividing this country, so long the country’s unity will continue to be unsteady. A forced marriage lasts as long as the enforcer is standing by. For Nigeria, all the enforcing variables are giving way the last being oil whose value is vanishing.
Since the Southern Cameroon crisis took a new turn leading to the withdrawal of troops by Cameroon authorities, there has been some excitement among Biafra agitators that same might happen to them. But this is burn out of ignorance of the two cases. Even though Biafra went to War, Southern Cameroon struggle has remained sustained for years with virtually all political, business, traditional and religious leaders including youths and elderly united in the fight.
Their legislators have been very vocal and adamant in their national parliament. There was even a time the entire political office holders from the region resigned in group from the Cameroon government.
In their case the struggle was total and well-coordinated unlike Biafra case where some persons rise from nowhere cling on the name of Biafra and run doing their thing without guide and direction.
Ambazonia is not like Biafra where political leaders are too timid and afraid to raise a voice for their people.
Not until the Biafra struggle gets coordinated approach, the dream of realizing it will remain a far cry. The realistic demand which every well-meaning person should support is restructuring of the country. What exists now has proved a gross failure and unworkable. The right thing to do is to move with the times. No nation progresses by being stagnant and unbending in a changing World. If we fail to restructure, we reap the consequences, one of which is this type of embarrassing story from Cameroon which we are yet to hear its last. As American author Terence McKenna said ‘we can begin the restructuring of thought by declaring legitimate what we have denied for so long” And we have only today to start because like Mahatma Gandhi said in our opening quotes above, yesterday is gone and tomorrow is yet to come.
God help us.