WHILE the crisis between the French and English speaking Cameroun continue to unravel, there are mixed feelings in Nigeria about the development. This is particularly the case in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states where elders and leaders of the people have continued to express concern about it while urging the Nigerian government to adopt proactive measures that would ensure the protection of Nigerians living there(Cameroun). For instance, the Ata of Ekid and a former member of the House of Representatives from Akwa Ibom State, Chief Essien Nduese, is worried that Nigerians living in the Cameroun could be at risk since they are also English-speaking as the Anglophone agitators.
“So the Nigerian government should look for a way of protecting or evacuating the Nigerian citizens there. So long as they are English-speaking they could be treated same way as the Southern Camerounians who are also English-speaking,” he said. He added that if the Camerounian government continues to clamp down on people of southern Cameroun who are currently agitating for their independence, more of them would seek refuge in Nigeria just as victims of Boko Haram attacks in the North East Nigeria did by running over to the Cameroun.
The state Executive Director of Community Policing Partners Justice, Security & Democratic Reforms, COMPPART, Mr. Saviour Akpan, pointed out that the only thing that could instil fears in Nigerians that the worst is about to happen over the Cameroun issue was the deployment of Nigerian troops to the borders. His words: “Nigerian government at this point does not have any reason whatsoever to deploy military machinery to the borders because too much presence of the military at the borders will heighten the situation and make people to panic. You know one of the causes of insecurity in the Niger Delta is too much presence of military personnel.
“If government is serious in doing the right thing they should deploy trained policemen who are conversant with the gamut of community based policing to go around the border areas and hold dialogue with the communities and build their confidence. “At this point the territorial integrity of Nigeria has not been attacked. It is only when the territorial integrity of a country has been attacked that you can deploy the military because that is their constitutional function. In a situation like this what our government is supposed to do is to issue continuous press statement on the position of the country to allay the fears of the citizens back home. But that is not done. That will only be done when the thing has gone beyond control, which is bad. This is as a result of the fact that we don’t take sanctity of lives of Nigerians citizens serious. “We are running a careless government from the Federal to the regional. As it is now we have states that have border with the Cameroun. When you talk about English- speaking Camerounians I want to tell you that about 47 per cent are Nigerians. So there is the possibility of spill over in case something happens; but anything outside that, there is no need to panic”.
In his contribution, the Akwa Ibom State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Uwemedimo Nwoko, said that it could not be ruled out completely that agitations in the South Eastern Nigeria and even other countries of the world could have influenced what is happening in Cameroun. “Cameroun has been so complacent over a long period of time. Now, for the first time, the Southern Camerounians are beginning to ask questions about their well-being and all that. Somehow when agitations begin to spring up like this, there is always an influence from one geographical area to the other. You recall when you had the Arab Spring. “So you may not totally rule out the fact that the Southern Camerounians could also have been influenced by agitations by IPOB in the South East of Nigeria. It could be a connected influence. Even with the social media which goes world wide, a lot of the activities in Nigeria are seen in the Cameroun the moment they happen. That cross border influence is always there. The world is becoming a global village. “Events at one end of the world are immediately noticed at the other end of the world and could influence developments there. So you cannot rule out the fact that what happens in Europe could influence what happens in Asia and what happens in Asia could influence what happens in Africa. That is my thinking about it. But there is nothing for us to worry about the situation for now,” Nwoko said.
Similarly Bishop Samuel Joseph, who had lived in the Southern Cameroun, expressed worry that Nigerians constitute the largest number of the English-speaking Cameroun. He, however, expressed the feeling that agitations all over the world, not just IPOB of Nigeria, could have influenced the Southern Cameroun people who, according to him, have suffered neglect, marginalisation and suppression as well as lack of political recognition and inclusion by the French- speaking Cameroun over the decades. “They have been struggling for their independence and when you look at what is happening in Catalonia, Spain and some other parts of the world everybody wants independence. We are in the Internet age where people watch what is happening in other part of the world,” he said.