This question may be answered within hours, weeks or months. The “show” may even stretch on for years. But what is clear is that the arrest over the weekend of Ambazonian separatists in an Abuja hotel is fueling heated legal, constitutional, diplomatic, political and social debates.
While apologists of the Biya regime hurriedly rejoiced and cursed “secessionists and adventurers” for clutching the balancing pole too far on one end that it tipped them over, diehard separatists and frontline actors in the fight for Ambazonian nationhood ranted on social media, threatening fire and brimstone and warning the Nigerian Government against handing over the “prized catch” to Biya.
But as it stands, “negotiations” most likely to be anchored on vested socio-economic, political, diplomatic, legal and other parochial interests might mean having the issue of the arrest of some nine spearhead Ambazonian separatists drag on for quite a while. Plus, the Ambazonian question might just have hit the glaring limelight of the latest in the quest for self-determination.
As we write, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe Julius, head of the Interim Government, IG, of Ambazonia and eight others are the unwilling guests of Nigeria’s Directorate of State Security, DSS. News about their imminent release or extradition to Yaounde is still hazy. What is clear is the fact that some diplomatic “hobnobbing” has so far been ongoing between Yaounde and Abuja ever since the renegades retreated to Nigeria about a year ago. Then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo received a key figure of the Biya regime, Emmanuel Rene Sadi (Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization) sometime last year and must have sought the good influence of the neghbouring Federal Republic of Nigeria to help neutralize the burning appetite for an Ambazonian state. This was followed up by Mr. Biya receiving the Nigerian High Commissioner to Cameroon at the Etoudi State House.
From the look of things, President Biya, might just be hoping that the arrest of the cream of the Ambazonia leadership might just turn out to be the ultimate nuncdimmitis or death of the uprising during which security operatives have mowed down hundreds of innocent civilians, raped and maimed many more. He might just be fancying having crushed the rebellion without as much as starting the much trumpeted dialogue that his regime has been preaching, singing and rhyming.
But such a dream could only materialize following due legal/diplomatic process as well as a considerable invocation of international conventions. At the very worst, crass resort to the manner of brinkmanship that informed former President Matthew Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo’s betrayal of Liberian fugitive, Charles Taylor might mean shipping across the big catch to Yaounde. It should be recalled that after assuring Taylor of his safety in Nigerian territory, Obasanjo surreptitiously set up the former Liberian strongman to be arrested in a remote Cameroonian border village. Taylor is today serving a 50 year jail term at The Hague.
President Biya had in a state of the nation address on December 31, warned that “all those who have taken up arms, who perpetrate or encourage violence should be fought relentlessly and held accountable for their crimes before the courts of law.”
The above warning is clearly indicative of what fate awaits the likes of Ayuk Tabe should the Nigerian authorities introduce them to Biya’s den of “one and indivisible wolves.” This probably explains Nigerian foremost lawyer and human rights advocate, Femi Falana’s concerns. The fiery lawyer has asked President Buhari to immediately release the detained freedom fighters. He has also warned him against releasing them to Biya “because Cameroon and Nigeria have no extradition treaty.”
In a media outing, Falana noted:
“The Attorney General also lacks the vires to initiate extradition proceedings under the Extradition Act (E25) Law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Noting that Nigeria may be under pressure from Biya to hand over the arrested men and woman to the Cameroonian security forces, the learned Queen’s Counsel, QC, pointed out that they are entitled to reside or visit Nigeria without molestation. He advised Buhari that instead of using the SSS to fight Biya’s proxy war, the security outfit should rather fish out criminal elements that have unleashed war on the people of Benue State in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.
“As Africans, the detainees are entitled to human rights, to personal liberties, freedom of association guaranteed in the Nigerian Constitution. Furthermore, their unquestionable right to self-determination is protected by Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights which has been ratified by both Cameroon and Nigeria.
“Having failed to crush the ideas which recently led to the demand for the state of Biafra by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, the Federal Government should not attempt to provoke the marginalized people of the Southern Cameroons, SC, by frustrating their legitimate demand for an independent state of Ambazonia.
“Since the Federal Government has not succeeded in completely defeating the dreaded Boko Haram sect, it should not declare war on the people of Southern Cameroons and further expose the displaced people.”
Be that as it may, it may be the wish and hope of the Biya regime, that like happened in Angola after Jonas Savimbi, the rebellious leader of UNITA was killed, the dream of an independent Ambzonian territory might equally go up in smoke should its propagators be repatriated to Yaounde and decently silenced, once and for all.
By Claudia Nsono & Charlie Ndi Chia