NIGERIA CAMEROON RELATIONS DURING GEN. SANI ABACHA’S REGIME
BACKGROUND TO STUDY
The existing theoretical structure of the CameroonNigerian relations fall within the confines of distributive ethnic compositions, colonial influence on indigenous boundaries, permeability of the Cameroon–Nigeria border and the dispute between both states over the Bakassi Peninsula. In fact, however separated these nation-states seem to be they remain a common people, especially the inhabitants of the frontier-line .
They are duly associated not by colonial effort but through ethnic affiliations. Rather, colonial state creation dishearteningly fragmented brethrens. No wonder, Njoku claims that the permanent presence of a population with a common historical experience, and of the same ethno-cultural stock on both sides of the ostensible international divide is one of the natural features which have stubbornly frustrated Cameroon and Nigeria attempts to physically demarcate their borders. He maintains that ethnic groups and sub-groups of Nigerian origin cut across the Nigerian international boundaries with Cameroon. The four major ethnic groups that originally occupied the boundary area between both nations are the Ibibio, Efik, Ekoi, some Bantu and semi-Bantu peoples, and that the semi-bantu .
This is confirmed by Hansen (1981) when he indicates that these groups constitute part of the Bakassi border region which “ . . . falls under sub-national areas where the socio-economic lives and well being of the people are directly and significantly affected by proximity to international boundaries.” These boundaries (artificial in nature) once created as Niger Thomas (2001:55) suggests, cut across native areas, split communities and distorted the functioning of some of these communities, like the Ejagham and Boki groups of Manyu Division divided between Nigeria and Cameroon into Ejagham-Nigeria and Ejagham Cameroon . Fanso (1989:53) adds that the Ejagham, who straddle the Cameroon-Nigeria border, are also located in the area extending from west of Nchang near Mamfe town to Ikom in Nigeria. They also extend from Agbokem on the Cross River to the Oban Hills and Calabar at the month of the Cross River.
They are only divided by the River, which represents the international borderline between Cameroon and Nigeria, and they all depended on one another’s political, economic and social contacts. This interdependence introduces a high degree of permeability on this boundary. Similarly, Kane (1976:23- 24) points out that within the Kanem Bornu Empire, the presence and connectivity of these Cameroon-Nigeria peoples, like the Kanuri made them to consistently see themselves as brothers despite colonial influences.
They depended on one another’s political, economic and social activities and thus enhancing the permeability of the Nigeria-Cameroon borders. Njoka (2012:199) sees the interconnectivity of these crossborder communities as a serious issue for the respect of the international boundaries since some of these groupings share deities and totems, ancestral shrines and major rites (birth, manhood, maidenhood, womanhood, marriage, child-bearing and death), annual festivals and rituals that all members of each group across the frontier are traditionally obliged to take part in. For their convenience and interest, the colonial masters portioned out various ethnic groups among themselves. Asiwaju (1984) points out that a study of European archives points to the idea of an accidental rather than an intentional making of African boundaries. This means that the European interests were of primary concern.
Therefore in determining boundaries , the Europeans did not take African interests into consideration. An AngloFrench Commission of diplomatic and colonial experts was formed for the purpose of demarcating the boundaries, but the limits of its expertise soon became evident. Lord Salisbury commented: We have been engaged in drawing lines upon maps where no white man’s feet have ever trod; we have been giving away mountains and rivers and lakes to each other, only hindered by the small impediment that we never knew exactly where the mountains and rivers and lakes were’ .