By Umar Abdullahi
When the news broke at the Presidential Elections Tribunal that the legal team of All Progressive Congress (APC) led by Lateef Fagbemi SAN, had raised question over the nativity/ nationality of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the 2019 Presidential elections Alhaji Atiku Abubakar – claiming that he (Atiku) is not a Nigerian but a Cameroonian, one was tempted to ask if the APC team of lawyers are really familiar with the political history of Nigeria and Cameroon.
The legal team of the APC needs to note that Nigeria and Cameroon are located on the West Coast of the Continent of Africa. Both of them share common political and economic institutions as part of the British West Africa. Nigeria with population of over 180 million covers a land area of 924,630 KM extending from the Gulf of Guinea in the South to Niger and Chad Republics in the North. It shares common border with the Republic of Benin on the West and the Republic of Cameroon on the East. Cameroon, on the other hand, is a relatively smaller country both in landmass and population. The population of Cameroon is estimated at 24 million occupying an area of 475,442 Km. Cameroon shares borders with the Republic of Chad on the North; with the Central African Republic on the North-West; with the Republic of Gabon and the People’s Republic of Congo on the South and with Nigeria on the West.
Boundary development between Nigeria and Cameroon cannot be traced in isolation of events in the entire African continent between 1830 and 1960.
Looking at the boundary development between 1920- 1960, at the end of the first Word war, with the humiliation of Germany, all her African possessions were lost. They became mandate territories to the advantage of the British and the French. The League of Nations which emerged apportioned the Western area of Cameroon (North and South) to Britain which was ruling Nigeria. In addition, the British gained Tangayika (in Tanzania) and jointly ruled the Sudan with the Egyptians who had attained independence in 1922. France on her part gained the larger chunk of Cameroon (Eastern Cameroon) and Togo.
Naturally this partitioning was not kindly received by the people of Cameroon as some resistance movements emerged. At the same time, resulting from the presence of the Pan African Movements and other “enlightened” clamouring for independence to be granted to all colonized people in Asia, Latin America and Africa. And under the auspices of the United Nations which succeeded the League of Nations, all mandates territories in Africa in 1946, became Trusteeships. As a result, the Mandate territories of British Cameroon and French Cameroon were Trusteeship until 1960. That, with the pressures from groups within Cameroon, particularly, the Union Populaire Camerounaise (UPC) and from within the United Nations, Britain and France were forced to grant independence or self-rule to the people of the Cameroons.
As a result, in 1957, the French Cameroon became internally self-governing. And in January 1960, it was granted Independence. So as also was Nigeria (not a Trusteeship, but with British Cameroon still a part of it) in October 1960.
However, in 1958, before Nigeria’s independence, the United Nations had to decide the fate of the trusteeship territory of British Cameroon. Administratively, both the Northern and Southern sections of British Cameroon were integral part of Northern and Eastern Nigeria respectively. But in 1954, a minor administrative change made the Southern section a separate region in the Nigerian Federation. The change was necessitated by a series of complaints of political neglect and lack of proportional representation in the Eastern Assembly by people of British Southern Cameroon. This further prompted the United Nations to send a visiting mission. The visiting mission after an intensive tour discovered that though British Cameroon was supposed to be a single trusteeship, there were separate developments – politically and economically – between the North and South. Most noticeable was the difference in political activation. The South was more politically activated. The mission therefore recommended that plebiscites should be held for the people to determine their own future. In the first of such plebiscites in 1959, the population of the North voted to continue trusteeship . Whereas in the South the population was divided between the choice of re-uniting with Cameroon or uniting with Nigeria.
And in the plebiscites which were finally conducted in 1961, the North voted by a margin of 146, 296 to 97,659 to remain with Nigeria, while the South with a margin of 233,571 to 97,741 voted to re-unify with independent Cameroon. As a result, by October 1, 1961, border adjustment was made with Nigeria retaining (please underline the word: retaining) the former Northern Cameroon, and this section constitutes former Adamawa Province where the former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was born. Of course, Cameroon Republic retained the former Southern Cameroon. The two countries had therefore, inherited with few adjustments the boundaries delineated by former Western Imperial powers. And these delineations were largely boundaries set out by various agreements between Britain and Germany before 1920.
This excursion into history has really set the record straight concerning the nativity of Atiku Abubakar as a result of the existence of Pacta sunt servanda which means that every agreement entered by parties must be respected and be kept as a basic principle of civil law, canon law, and International Law.
As stated by a respectable elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai that it is “strange for leaders of the APC to claim that Atiku is not qualified to seek to be the president of Nigeria. It is a display of ignorance of the highest order on the part of APC, and it is the least among political parties in Nigeria to make such unpatriotic statement.
“There are people sponsored by the party who contested and won elections to elective offices and are, today, occupying such positions. Atiku is equally or even better qualified to hold any public office in Nigeria than some of such people.”
As for Sule Lamido the former Governor of Jigawa State, he made his observations by saying that the debate about Atiku’s nativity/nationality, which started as a hilarious joke is now threading on a very dangerous divisive path, and that “we must all rise to call ourselves to order otherwise the authority we have as a nation within the African Union will be lost”.
Lamido noted that there were already too many cracks in the unity of the country, warning that “if we remain on this line of ethnic, religious and tribal differences the doom of our nation cannot be averted”.
Lamido, Nigeria’s former minister of foreign affairs, also said that his heart is pounding and that he is beginning now to worry about Gaddafi’s prediction of doom about our dear country, that Nigeria will break up one day.
He said: “If we do not like the children of those whose parents chose to join Lord Luguard’s assembled tribal natives called Nigeria, let us allow the former Northern and Southern Protectorates secede to form their own country.
He, therefore, advised that Nigeria needs to be restructured to restore what the country has lost as a nation.
Recently, the Waziri Adamawa, Atiku Abubakar has also come out to debunk the allegation that he is not a Nigerian. Atiku said his father, Garba Atiku Abdulkadir was a Nigerian who hailed from Wurno in present day Sokoto State, while his mother, Aisha Kande was also a Nigerian who hailed from Dutse in present day Jigawa State. And that all his parents are Fulanis – a community/tribe indigenous to Nigeria.
He went further to say that his birth in Jada in the present day Adamawa State was occasioned by the movement of his paternal grandfather called Atiku who was an itinerant trader from Wurno in the present day Sokoto State to Jada in the company of his friend, Ardo Usman.
And his mother Aisha kande was the granddaughter of Inuwa Dutse who came to Jada as an itinerant trader too from Dutse in the present day Jigawa State.
Now that Atiku has cleared the air, it is high time the legal team of the APC concentrated on the real issues of electoral irregularities which Atiku and the PDP claim marred the 2019 presidential election.
▪ Umar, an International Affairs analyst wrote in from Kano.
(Opinion) Atiku’s nationality: Where APC legal team got it wrong
By Umar Abdullahi