Sunday, July 27, 2014

Efik Monarch, Angry over Bakassi Cession, Seeks Independence from Nigeria

The Efik nation, a traditional monarchy in the southeastern corner of Nigeria which dates to pre-colonial times, has said that it intends to secede from Nigeria, mostly because of anger over last year’s cession of the Bakassi Peninsula to neighboring Cameroon, where Efiks also live.

High Chief Eyo Bassey Eyo-Cobham, chairman of the Eburutu Royal Fraternity Forum, made the announcement at a press conference in Calabar, Nigeria, on June 23rd.  He also cited “undue government interference in Efik kingship,” in the words of one press report, and suspicions that the central government in Abuja is planning on handing even more Efik land to Cameroon.  The current obong (prince or traditional ruler, sometimes translated king) of the Efik city-state at Akwa Akpa (“Old Calabar,” in Nigeria) is Basso Ekpo Bassey II (a.k.a. Ekpo Abasi Otu), who took the throne in 2008.  The larger Calabar (a.k.a. Kalabari) Kingdom, which includes Efiks but is dominated by the Ijaw ethnic group, is headed by Theophilus J. T. Princewill, who became King Amachree XI in 2002 (though Amachree’s rule has been in recent years troubled by competing claims).

Basso Ekpo Bassey II’s coronation in 2008
Nigeria’s Cross River State administered the disputed Bakassi Peninsula until the Nigerian and Cameroonian governments agreed in 2002 to abide by an eventual ruling on the overlap by the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (I.C.J.).  The I.C.J. decided in favor of Cameroon, and in 2006 Nigeria formally ceded the area, to the anger of Efiks who proceeded to declare a Democratic Republic of Bakassi.  In this, they had allies in both the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCAPO), a group fighting for the independence of the formerly British-administered parts of Cameroon—plus Bakassi—and an Ogoni autonomist group in Nigeria called the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).  That declaration never got any traction, since the Cameroonian government cracks down much harder on separatist talk than Nigeria’s does.  In 2012, the Bakassi dispute was rekindled as the ten-year deadline for Nigeria to appeal the I.C.J. decision was allowed to lapse, prompting Efik activists to accuse Nigeria of abandoning their kinsmen in Bakassi to the Francophone-dominated Cameroonian regime.  In that same year (as reported at the time in this blog), the Efik obong openly advocated accepting an invitation to join Southern Cameroons separatists to push for an independent Ambazonia straddling the border.

This map shows the Efik ethnolinguistic group (included here with Ibibio)
in relation to the Igbo (here “Ibo”) and Ijaw peoples.
Regarding the Bakassi cession, High Chief Eyo-Cobham told reporters at the recent press conference, “With such developments and other oppressive acts and tendencies of the Nigerian State, we the Efik Eburutu people say, ‘Enough is Enough,’ and have decided to take our destinies in our hands peacefully by pulling out of Nigeria. Our peaceful aims and objectives of self-determination for full autonomy are in tandem with Articles 1, 3-21 of the United Nations Charter of which the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a signatory.”

Amachree XI, king of Calabar: is he as separatist as the Efik obong?
In an official statement, the monarchy said that the Nigeria has, in one way or another, “turned us [the Efik] into punching bags socially, economically, and politically.”

The Bakassi Peninsula, in the words of the statement, “was an integral part of Efik Eburutu Kingdom as shown in all available records” and “was secretly and heartlessly expunged from Nigerian map in October 1960, filed in United Nations and African Union (A.U.) secretariats and ceded in 1975 to Cameroun without the consent and knowledge of its owners—the kings and chiefs of Efiks of Calabar and Bakassi.  This action has demonstrated that our people are not wanted in Nigeria, and as a people, we do not want to belong to Cameroun.  The effect of this ceding has brought untold pain and sufferings to Efik Eburutu people.  With this, the spirit of our ancestors who were, as it were, buried in the now ceded territory are roaming, refusing to be appeased.”

Efik protesters angry about the Bakassi cession
It is not clear if King Amachree XI has taken a position on this latest statement—i.e., whether this latest move is an Efik initiative only or if it has the support of the larger Calabar Kingdom of which, in a sense, it is traditionally a part.  But it comes at a time of increasing fragility for Nigerian unity.  The Igbo-dominated Biafra separatist movement, which includes Cross River State and other traditional Calabar territories in its claim, has remained active in recent years, the Adamawa monarchy in east-central Nigeria—which also straddles today’s border with Cameroon, but farther north—agitated for separatism earlier this year (as reported at the time in this blog), and the radical Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram has been waging a brutal insurgency for years, killing thousands, in Nigeria’s north and has in recent weeks managed to control a large part of Borno State.

A proposed flag for “Bakassi Free State”
[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  The book, which contains dozens of maps and over 500 flags, is now in the layout phase and should be on shelves, and available on Amazon, by early fall 2014.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook.]

Related posts from this blog:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Subscribe Now: Feed Icon