Friday, 24 May 2024.

Top 5 This Week

Related News

18 years after, Bakassi people yet to resettle – Paramount Ruler

By Joseph Obung

The Chairman of the Cross River State Traditional Rulers Council and Paramount Ruler of Bakassi Local Government Area, HRM (Dr) Etim Okon Edet in this interview with Joseph Obung, said 18 years after the government promised settlement/resettlement for the displaced people of Bakassi Peninsula, it has remained empty promises.

What step do you think the Bola Tinubu presidency should take to change what many people see as Nigeria’s persistent tale of one step forward, two steps backwards?

I earnestly advise that the president should not waste time resetting Nigerians using what I call a tripod approach. And that is taking the country as a constituency, tackling the rots in the local government system and upholding the sanctity of the traditional institution.

Our country needs a reset because what we have today in all facets of our national life is a far cry from the dreams and visions of our founding fathers. For 63 years and counting, we are still crawling and going cap in hand to China to borrow, for instance. I must remind us that Nigeria is at a crossroads and we must all propel this country to its zenith. For 63 solid years, we have not been able to fix our security, economy, electricity, health sector, educational system, road infrastructure, water, transportation sector, agriculture and even communication. I see these challenges as surmountable if we would have the political will for what I call a national reset and I tell you, this is inevitable if we must move forward as a country.

A few years ago, we were addressed as the poverty capital of the world. This is shameful and unacceptable. As we speak, our country is ranked 142 out of 167 countries in the Legatum Prosperity Index and 22 out of 46 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. Economically, we are at the bottom with millions of Nigerians going to bed on empty stomachs each day. This is the story of a country blessed with human and mineral resources. These narratives should be made to change and the people who must do so are our political leaders. We, as Nigerians, are used to failed promises. Some of our very best brains have died while waiting for the implementation of politicians’ beautifully-worded campaign manifestoes. A reset should be done now. I shed tears anytime I remember the huge funds spent on revamping our electricity. Till today, no one has been able to tell us how to fix the electricity problem once and for all. The story is the same with our refineries. We are told Nigerians are buying fuel at such exorbitant prices because we cannot fix our refineries. Our roads have become death traps. I find it difficult to travel to a sister state of Akwa Ibom because of the complete collapse of Calabar/Itu Road. This alone has inflicted great losses on the economy of the two states. How would one explain that terrorists would invade and kidnap Nigerians in Abuja, which is supposed to be the safest? This is proof that Nigeria’s security architecture needs a reset. We cannot continue this way.

READ ALSO | Fire guts 16-room apartment in Cross River

I call on the president to begin the process of resetting Nigeria and should bring on board anyone, groups and organisations which would help him achieve this. Political party, religious and ethnic sentiment should be set aside. He should set the template for his successors to build on.

You said something about the rots in the local government system. Can you elaborate more on that, sir?

The local government system is the life-wire of grassroots development. It must be strengthened and adequately funded. The local government is where we all come from and also live. If it works, Nigeria will work. The president initiated the Local Council Development Areas (LCDA) in Lagos state when he was governor and that singular effort went a long way to making the state what it is today. President Tinubu should replicate such a vision across all the states. This is necessary because the local government system, the way it is being run, has completely collapsed but the LCDA approach would enhance grassroots administration and development. Let the governors support a bottom-up approach in terms of dealing with the grassroots which is the local government. The people should be allowed to prioritise their needs before the governor’s intervention comes. We should stop foisting undesirable projects on the grassroots without first finding out what the needs of the people really are. This is part of the reset we are talking about and I believe strongly that when this is done, Nigeria will not remain the same again.

You were quoted as saying in some dailies that traditional institutions have not been encouraged to help stem insecurity ravaging the country. What did you really mean, sir?

There’s no traditional ruler who will tell you he does not know a bad person in his domain but it’s difficult for him to tell security agencies ‘Look, that man is a thief.’ This is because he is not empowered financially to handle the security implications of such matters. I am of the opinion that our governments at both the federal and state levels have been unfair to the traditional institutions. Traditional rulers are always vilified and arrested anytime there is a security breach in their domain yet, our government has not adequately empowered them to police their areas of jurisdiction. This is unfair. For instance, security votes are in the hands of the new breed politician, the chairmen of the local government but when anything bad happens in terms of insecurity, the first person the government people would call on the matter is the traditional ruler who doesn’t have a security vote.

Insecurity would abate in this country if we do the right thing. Our government should encourage royal fathers to do their work. The key is in the hands of traditional rulers, the government should not be buying big cars for politicians and then they forget about traditional rulers. They’ve neglected the old ways for too long. The traditional institution should be strengthened with constitutional duties. Good funding is imperative for the effective achievement of peace and security. We are hereby appealing for the release of five per cent of local government allocations to the Traditional Rulers Council of each local government. This would go a long way to taking care of logistics for security too. Don’t forget that in the olden days, traditional things were used to scare away miscreants in communities. You neglect tradition to your own detriment. I especially appeal to Mr president to try and set a template for Nigeria’s rebirth. Let all Nigerians drop sentiments and consider what could become the fate of the country in the next 50 years if the trend we are seeing continues. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine.

His Royal Majesty, how has it been since you and your people were displaced from the Bakassi Peninsula?

To date, the ceding of Bakassi Peninsula is still like a nightmare to my people and I. The shock and pains it brought have led many of my people to untimely graves while some are still passing through untold hardship in refugee camps. As a person, I feel bad anytime I remember that ugly experience. I left behind my top-notch palace, fishing trawlers, fishing nets, my palatial home and assets worth hundreds of millions of Naira in the peninsula because I did not want to be forced into being a Cameroonian. If, as a young man, I did not have a property in Calabar, the state capital, I would have been most miserable. Let me remind His Excellency President Bola Tinubu and the National Assembly that my people have not been resettled as promised by past administrations. We are still internally displaced and suffering. The federal government and the United Nations should not forget the Bakassi people whose land was taken from them without a referendum.

You have already made history as the longest-serving chairman of the Cross River State Traditional Rulers Council. How have you been able to put your council together for these number of years without dissension?

Insecurity would abate in this country if we do the right thing. Our government should encourage royal fathers to do their work. The key is in the hands of traditional rulers, the government should not be buying big cars for politicians and then they forget about traditional rulers. They’ve neglected the old ways for too long. The traditional institution should be strengthened with constitutional duties. Good funding is imperative for the effective achievement of peace and security. We are hereby appealing for the release of five per cent of local government allocations to the Traditional Rulers Council of each local government. This would go a long way to taking care of logistics for security too. Don’t forget that in the olden days, traditional things were used to scare away miscreants in communities. You neglect tradition to your own detriment. I specially appeal to Mr president to try and set a template for Nigeria’s rebirth. Let all Nigerians drop sentiments and consider what could become the fate of the country in the next 50 years if the trend we are seeing continues. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine.

His Royal Majesty, how has it been since you and your people were displaced from the Bakassi Peninsula?

Till date, the ceding of Bakassi Peninsula is still like a nightmare to my people and I. The shock and pains it brought have led many of my people to untimely graves while some are still passing through untold hardship in refugee camps. As a person, I feel bad anytime I remember that ugly experience. I left behind my top-notch palace, fishing trawlers, fishing nets, my palatial home and assets worth hundreds of millions of Naira in the peninsula because I did not want to be forced into being a Cameroonian. If, as a young man, I did not have a property in Calabar, the state capital, I would have been most miserable. Let me remind His Excellency President Bola Tinubu and the National Assembly that my people have not been resettled as promised by past administrations. We are still internally displaced and suffering. The federal government and the United Nations should not forget the Bakassi people whose land was taken from them without a referendum.

You have already made history as the longest-serving chairman of the Cross River State Traditional Rulers Council. How have you been able to put your council together for these number of years without dissension?

The peace and togetherness you see in the Traditional Rulers Council is a result of the high-level transparency and unparalleled leadership that we have demonstrated. In fact, anytime I mulled the idea of taking the back seat, the council members would always object to it. The truth is that if you are able to provide good leadership, you’ll go a long way. If we had a good leader, nobody would be talking about political parties and other sentiments, everybody would just say ‘Allow that man to continue.’ Continuity is not just given, you must work for it; that’s exactly what’s happening to the Traditional Rulers Council.

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
We are a team of experienced journalists, bloggers, writers, columnists, and content creators. We are first to breaking news, top stories and insights.

Latest News