Comrade Zulu Solomon is a cultural economist, lecturer and human rights activist base in Port Harcourt. In this interview with Jungle Journalist, he dismisses the whole ICJ ruling as a total fraud. He stated that in the first place, no government, United Nations, Nigeria or Cameroon has a right over the people of Bakassi, as they are a free people, that whatever document was signed during the colonial era was totally illegal as they were dubious since the colonial governments were illegal.
He said that the land and people of Bakassi are one and the same thing, and any law that separates the two is satanic and not binding on the people. He said that it is criminal to take away or give away Bakassi because of military might or due to business and selfish interests, and stated that such a ruling only affirms that European colonialists are a superior people who can decide the destiny of a people. He spoke in a telephone interview:
What is your view about the loss of Bakassi to Cameroon?
I am stating that a land cannot be separated from its people. Every land belongs to the people on that land, and once you take away a people’s land by force, then automatically you have robbed them of their land. You have to conduct a plebiscite to ask the people what country they belong to. So what is happening in Bakassi right now is not a matter of World Court Ruling, but a matter of the choice of the people.
Are you saying that Bakassi land should not belong to Cameroon as ruled by the ICJ?
According to United Nations’ Charter on the Rights of Indigenous People, people have a right to determine their own future, where they belong. They have to be able to determine it economically and politically. You cannot for instance, go to a place like Ife, the people of Ife and the land of Ife are one and the same thing. The people cease to be Ife when you move them away from Ife land. It is their ancestral home. You cannot move them away from Ife, and get somewhere in Lagos or Edo and give them. Once you do that, you have extricated them for their land, and they cease to be Ife people. For them to remain whom they are, they must insist on remaining on their land.
If you move them away from their land, you have violated their fundamental human rights. So it is with some other prominent lands, like you go to Onitsha and move the people away to take over the land, or you go to a place like Arochukwu, and take over the land. It is not a matter of ICJ ruling at all. Nigeria and Cameroon are giving out Bakassi as if it is a piece of land that have no occupants. You have to allow the people of the land decide where they want to belong to. That is the truth. Plebiscite should have taken place. The last we know is of Southern Sudan. People have to come together and make a choice what country they want to belong. The people of Southern Sudan chose to go their way. Eritrea also chose to secede and move to from Ethiopia. Countries can decide where they want to belong, with their lands. For you to determine the choice of the people, you have to organize a voting process, a plebiscite. It’s not just playing politics as Nigeria and Cameroon.
Last week, the Senate suddenly made a turnaround against the Presidency’s stand that Bakassi is a foreclosed matter. They stated they are going to appeal. What do you make of this?
Their only interest in Bakassi is not the indigenes but the oil. Unfortunately in this country, the oil that belongs to the people don’t ever come to the people. So the government does not even care about the people who live in the Oil-producing areas, and the people themselves don’t get any share of the oil. So they are destroying the lands of the people based on Nigeria and Cameroon politics.
What do you think is the way forward?
The best thing for us to do now is to ensure that we hear the voices of the owners of the land, which even the Cameroonian, German, French and British governments did not care to take into cognizance. We are Africans and we know our land. We know that the place belongs to us, we know how we came there. We know that our forefathers came to that land, and you cannot forcefully move us away from that land without recognizing the position of our ancestors and the nature of our people. Bakassi people are fishermen and moving them away from water is like moving fish out of water to a desert and it will eventually die. They should know that even the agreements which were claimed to have been signed by European countries to cede Bakassi to Cameroon are null and void. It was illegal and null and all the documents are null and avoid in the first place. You cannot cite illegality to prove legality.
The balkanization of African lands in the first place was a breach, an infringement on the fundamental rights of the African communities that were involved in that sharing. The ICJ ruling therefore smirks of colonialism, and is unacceptable. You cannot derive legality out of an illegal, and unacceptable, political and economic arrangement to favour the European countries in the past 100 years. For us to ensure that the rights of the people of Bakassi are well protected, we must go back to hear the voice of the people through a plebiscite and a public debate on the issue.