Published 8/14/2008 3:26:00 AM
Nigerians should not cry over transfer – Gowon....
Jude Owuamanam, Jos
As Nigeria gets set to hand over the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroun on Thursday (today), a former Head of State, Gen Yakubu Gowon, has said that the ceded territory never belonged to Nigeria. He also denied accusations that he handed Bakassi over to Cameroun because of its support for Nigeria during the Biafran war.Gowon, who spoke in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Wednesday, said that the International Court of Justice at The Hague, which gave the ruling ceding the peninsula to Cameroun, was right. He added that Nigerians living in that part had the choice of living there under Camerounian laws or agreeing to be resettled in Nigeria.He said the misconception about the ownership of the peninsula arose when Nigeria was administering the western part of Cameroun as part of the United Nations mandate. Gowon explained that when a plebiscite was undertaken, the people of Western Cameroun decided to go to Cameroun whereas the northern part decided to be in Nigeria.He recalled that it took the ingenuity of the then Premier of Northern Nigeria, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, to convince the northern part of Cameroun to be in Nigeria while the Nnamdi Azikiwe-led National Council of Nigeria and the Camerouns (as it then was) did little to convince the western part of Cameroun to to remain part of Nigeria.The former head of state said that the ICJ in its ruling, took into cognisance, the Anglo/German Treaties of 1885 and 1914, adding that at the dawn of independence, all African countries agreed to abide by the international boundaries agreed by the occupying powers.Meanwhile, a professor of History of International Relations, University of Lagos, Yomi Akinyeye, said, "The handover is in order. The place called Bakassi never belonged to Nigeria in the first place. The issues and the ownership are so clear."We were only misled by so-called experts who were misguided and who deceived us into going to the International Court of Justice. We never stood a chance."The documents with which the ICJ reached the inevitable decision are in the public archives, we in Nigeria have them, others have them in their own archives."They are based mainly on Anglo-German Treaty of 1913 and at Independence in 1960. It was obvious that other agreements would have to be made but based on the original legal documents signed between the two colonial powers of Germany and Britain."