Former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku
By Damilola Oyedele
Nigeria made a huge mistake by allowing the conflict of ownership of the Bakassi Peninsula to be taken before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
This was the position of the former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, in his opening remarks, at the annual lecture of the Society for International Relations Awareness (SIRA)/ Friedrich - Ebert - Stiftung (FES) in Abuja, Wednesday.
He said the wishes of the people of the peninsula should have been allowed to determine where they choose to belong to.
Anyaoku recalled two similar cases in world history namely the Falkland Island which originally belonged to Argentina but was ceded to the United Kingdom after the people determined they wanted to be in the UK.
He cited the case of the Rock of Gibraltar, which originally belonged to Spain but became a legal part of the UK after a referendum by the people resulting in 12,138 votes to 144 votes in favour of being a part of the UK.
Anyaoku added that although Nigeria now has to live with the outcome of the error, it could channel its foreign policy on Bakassi in two fold.
“Nigeria should intensify diplomatic negotiations with Cameroun to ensure that all the agreements during the hand over are adhered to. Nigeria also has to take care of the people who have chosen to be here,” he said.
Anyaoku rated Nigeria’s current foreign policy as ‘doing well’ but noted that a situation where missions abroad were starved of funds, would nullify any gains made by the foreign policy thrust.
Speaking also, Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, who was the guest lecturer called for foreign policy to be channelled to better the lives of Nigerians.
Represented by the state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Haruna Wakil, the governor said history determines the present and the future of foreign policy which is a reflection of domestic politics.
“Cases where candidates backed by Nigeria have lost elections in regional organisations indicate that Nigeria is far from its foreign policy goals,” Lamido said.
The governor, who was Foreign Affairs Minister during the first tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo, recalled that his major task at that time was repairing the dented image of Nigeria which was tagged a pariah state from the Abacha era.
“The challenges from 10 years ago are still evident in our foreign policy. Economy, security, and the inability to muster the necessary strength to lead the demand for reforms in the United Nations’ system,” he added.