Wanted: A Moses For Bakassi


By Isaac Asabor 

Moses, no doubt, would always be remembered in Christendom as a people-oriented leader. His only message to the stone-hearted Pharaoh was encapsulated in only four words; “Let my people go”. Apart from spearheading the deliverance of the Jews from the hands of the Egyptians, Moses, at various times stood for his people (the Jews) during the period Egypt was atrophied by plagues. He spiritually interceded for the Jews at the brink of the Red Sea and variously played similar roles when God blessed the Jews with manna, quails and water in the desert. Simply put, Moses was the messiah of the Jews. He saw their collective problem as his problem.

Against the backdrop of the foregoing, one is compelled to ask at this juncture, Who would become the Moses of the Bakassi people at this time of their need?” Again, If any of our leaders were to be indigenes of Bakassi land, would he not have decided to become the Moses of his people?” Nigerians, particularly President Goodluck Jonathan and the Minister of foreign affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru,should begin to intervene on behalf of the people of Bakassi the way they would have done if Otuoke, where the president comes from, and Ijebu Ode, where the minister of Foreign Affairs comes from, were to be respectively ceded to other countries. As leaders, we should always be our brothers’ keepers. Bakassi people are our brothers and sisters, and it is unimaginable and an act of wickedness for those who are in positions of authority to be treating the issue of Bakassi with arrant impassivity.  The book of Proverbs chapter 3 verse 27 says “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” Furthermore, verse 28 says “Do not say to your neighbour, come back later, I’ll give it tomorrow, when you have it with you.” Our leaders should play an interventionist role for the people of Bakassi. I believe they can intervene on their behalf. In my view, the reason for the aloofness of our leaders in this Bakassi case cannot be far-fetched since they are not directly affected by the problem of the Bakassi people. After all, an African proverb says those that are not bereaved are wont to get drunk and disorganize a funeral rite that is not connected to them. But the bereaved cannot but be decorous.

On a personal note, I find it difficult imagining myself as an indigene of Omolua-Igbanke in Edo state suddenly losing my Nigerian identity to another country. I must confess that despite my state of acculturation in Lagos state most times I still feel homesick not to talk of forever becoming a national of a foreign land. Suffice it to say that losing one’s nativity is a reality that would forever remain difficult to reconcile. For instance, my birth certificate and that of my wife and children and other members of my family attest to the fact that we are Nigerians but we would remain in a strange land where we cannot sing songs that express our cultural heritage. Psalm 137 verse 4 rightly asks: “How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land?” Contextually put, how can the Bakassi people sing the songs their forefathers bequeathed to them in Cameroon?  In my view, the fact of changing one’s nativity would be difficult to accept just the same way the changing  of one’s parenthood would be difficult to accept. Nigerians should rise up and speak in one voice in support of the Bakassi people. The problem of the Bakassi people is beyond rhetorics and debates on the pages of newspapers. Our leaders should further press the case of Bakassi at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and collectively speak their minds to the world. They should let the world know that the judgement passed on the Bakassi case is detrimental to the Bakassi people, and it is unacceptable to all Nigerians.

Peradventure  the people of Bakassi finally become Cameroonians, they would collectively live a life of psychological torture. Fellow Nigerians, apart from making commentaries in the media, have we on individual basis put ourselves in the shoes of the entire Bakassi people? I tried putting myself in their shoes as I earlier mentioned in this piece. It is obvious that living in a strange land would not be fulfilling. In fact, anyone that loses his nativity is bound to be faced with a perpetual nostalgic feeling which may in the long run  affect his or her emotional health, and by extension abridge the person’s life span.

The picture painted so far in the foregoing paragraphs aptly epitomises the plight an average Bakassi man would face by the time he finally becomes a Cameroonian. God forbid! In fact, to cede the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon would automatically put the aborigines of Bakassi in the same trouble the Jews faced in the land of exile.

Two notable scriptures in the book of Psalm in the bible vividly summarize the feelings of the Jews in the land of exile. Psalm 137 verse 1 reflects the mood of the Jews at that time as follows: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” This particular verse was later turned to a lyrical hit by U-Roy, a reggae artist that held the entire reggae lovers across the world spellbound in the 70s by richly infusing his music with Jamaican patios.

Psalm 126 verse 1 to 3 on its own expresses the feelings of those who were restored from exile. It says, “When the Lord restored the fortune of Zion, we were like those that dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.”

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Having seen the psychological trauma which anyone that was denied his or her nativity may likely face in life, it is expedient that the federal government  begins to intervene at the global level for the benefit of the people of Bakassi in particular and the people of Nigeria in general. I wish to use this medium to let President Jonathan understand that the people of Bakassi are our brothers and sisters, therefore, he should try as much as he can to become the Moses of the Bakassi people.

With a sense of equanimity, the Bakassi people at the moment need a Moses in the person of President Jonathan. They need a Moses that  would take their case to the global court. They need a Moses that would go with relevant documents and an entourage of international legal luminaries, experienced diplomats, senior journalists that are versed in the issue of diplomacy to persuade the relevant global authority to passionately look into the case of Bakassi once again and grant justice and fair play to Nigeria.

Indeed, the people of Bakassi need a Moses that is ready to be on bended knees and clasped hands in prayer for them at all times. They need a Moses that would always go with God the same way the biblical Moses always went about with his rod. Moses, as variously recorded in the bible, interceded for the Jews so much so that he became a mediator between God and the Jews.

At a forum that may be likened to present day Town Hall event, Moses stood before the people as recorded in Exodus chapter 14 verse 13 to 14 and assured them “…Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still”. In the same Mosaic fashion, would it not have been nice for our own Moses to host a Town Hall meeting preferably at Ikang, the headquarters of Bakassi local government in Cross River state and assure the Bakassi people that they should not be worried anymore that he would personally press their case further, and that they should be still that the LORD would use him to restore their land to them? The people of Bakassi need a word of assurance from the government through its representatives. Even if the issue of Bakassi is an exclusive matter of jurisdiction for the federal government, those in the executive arm of government of Cross River State and those in the state House of Assembly should literarily push the federal government to passionately appeal the case of Bakassi at the International Court of Justice. They should not abandon the case for only Senator Florence Ita-Giwa and other individuals and advocacy groups. It is very obvious she alone cannot do it.

In the same nexus, if we as Nigerians do not literarily wake the federal government up from her slumber and drag her down from the podium of aloofness she is presently standing on over the issue, it is possible that another border town may be abandoned in future when she is faced with similar problem like that of Bakassi. On the other hand, it is equally possible that any of our country’s neighbours may cash in on the aloofness of the federal government to snatch another community from us since the country would be convinced that such Nigerian community would not have the federal government intervening for her.

Finally, the people of Bakassi would need a Moses that would be capable of inviting past presidents that are conversant with the Bakassi Peninsula case for a round table talk. With this, the problem would have been half solved.

•Asabor wrote from Lagos. E-mail: [email protected]

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