Sardauna and Awolowo saw it as an opportunity to reduce the representation of the NCNC both in Lagos and in the East.
Gowon told President of Cameroun Ahmadou Ahidjo to “Choose the boundary yourself and close it, after the war, we shall discuss”.
Bakassi is an example of the evils of inter-tribal politics, evil of colonialism and of North-South dichotomy. If I tell the story of Bakassi, it may take too long but we started losing Bakassi in 1959.
That was when we lost South-West Cameroun. You know South-West Cameroun is Adamawa in the North and Barmanda in the South. They were part of Nigeria because the League of Nations after the Second World War shared Cameroun into two.
It belonged to Germany. They gave the East to France and the West to Britain. Britain then shared its own into two, administered the North as Adamawa Province with the Northern Nigeria and the South with Eastern Nigeria.
In 1959, most colonies were to get independence and the British thought of what to do with this Western Cameroun being administered by Britain under Nigeria. Britain decided to give the Southern Cameroun back to France and the Northern one, Adamawa to Nigeria.
Britain was adjusting population so that the North should have overall majority in Lagos. I took part in the United Nations plebiscite which was to decide who goes where. I was the only Nigerian indigenous officer that took part in that exercise.
The British realized that South-West Cameroun under Hendeley was NCNC.
That was why they called it National Council for Nigeria and Cameroun (NCNC). They had 14 seats in Nigeria in the Eastern Region and one seat at the centre. That seat at the centre was won by Hendeley and he became Minister of Labour.
Mr. Hendeley won 13 of the 14 seats in Enugu. Mr. Funcher was being used by the British to remove Cameroun from Nigeria. Funcher won only one seat, yet when the plebiscite came, he defeated Hendeley who had 13 seats.
It was possible because Sardauna and Awolowo saw it as an opportunity to reduce the representation of the NCNC both in Lagos and in the East. You know this is short-sightedness. I won’t dwell much on that, so eventually we lost that.
Having lost that part of Cameroun, Britain and Nigeria were rejoicing that NCNC’s wing had been clipped. They didn’t realize that after losing it they had given the North over 52 per cent representation over the South. They didn’t need anybody in the South to rule Nigeria. That was the beginning of the end.
When the civil war came, having taken that part of the Cameroun, they were too happy to bother about demarcating the area. We decided to bring all our weapons from the Cameroun.
Ahmadou Ahidjo, the President of Cameroun said he didn’t know where the boundary was, so we should carry on. He was blackmailing Nigeria. If that place had remained open, Nigeria would have defeated Biafra, but it would have taken about 10 to 15 years.
Gowon told Ahidjo to select the boundary and close it after the war, ‘we shall discuss’. Ahidjo said, okay thank you sir.
Ahidjo then went and told Biafra enough is enough. He marked the boundary and policed it. Eventually, we lost the war. At the end, Nigeria went back and said that was not the boundary.
Ahidjo reminded Gowon that he told them to mark the boundary.
‘‘We marked the boundary, you won the war, forget it’’. Ahidjo, being a Fulani, each time he wanted to discuss the Nigerian border with Cameroun, he might even go to Sokoto and speak in vernacular.
Journalists wouldn’t even know what they were saying. That was how they took Bakassi. We tried from 1972; they started enforcing it with soldiers.
People would say you can’t eat your cake and have it; you sacrificed Bakassi for Biafra. If you say take what you want, we want Biafra, you have got Biafra, so you have lost Bakassi. It is unfortunate that they are our brothers.
My troops were there and, if we are to be truthful, that place is Nigeria. But if you have in anyway given it to them, let them have it.
Maj Gen. Alexander Madiebo was one of the Elite Nigerian Military officers pre and post-Independence.
He later joined the Biafran Army as the third in command and was the Commander of the then Biafran Army.