If President Olusegun Obasanjo had displayed just half the courage, firm resolve and strong determination over the Bakassi matter as President Vladimer Putin did over the Crimean crisis and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did over the Falkland Islands dispute, the Bakassi Peninsular and all it’s people would still have been part and parcel of Nigeria today.
The people of the Crimea want to be part of Russia and not the Ukraine just as, in 1982, the people of the Falkland Islands wanted to be part of Britain and not Argentina. In both of those territories the people exercised their right of self-determination and, because their respective countries and governments not only respected that right and choice but also cherished it, they stood with them and they effected their will and purpose.
Sadly in Nigeria this was not the case. Obasanjo turned his back on the wishes and yearnings of the people of the Bakassi Peninsular to continue to be part of Nigeria and he handed them over to the Camerounians on a plate. This was a great betrayal and, in my view, it was the greatest failing of the Obasanjo adminstration- an administration which I proudly served and which I have often defended.
If we had to go to war over Bakassi we ought to have done so knowing that our cause was just and our right to that territory was not only rooted in history and embedded in the wishes and aspirations of the people that lived there but was also legitimate and lawful.
A government that cannot protect it’s own people from the foreign invader and that cannot secure it’s own borders from external aggression is an object of shame and ridicule. Each time I consider what we did in the Bakassi Peninsular, how we turned our backs on it’s people and how we gave up what was part and parcel of our nation to the invading Camerounians without a good fight, I feel a deep sense of revulsion and shame.
This is one of the few aspects of President Obasanjo’s record in public office that I simply find impossible to justify or defend. In this respect Obasanjo had much to learn from both Vladimer Putin and Margaret Thatcher.