Former Cross River Governor, Donald Duke, yesterday disclosed that France threatened to level Nigeria if the country had gone to war with Cameroun over the Bakassi Peninsula.
Speaking at the 60th birthday lecture in honour of Justice Charles Archibong (rtd) held in Lagos, Duke said any attempt to ignore the International Court of Justice, ICJ, judgement would have been disastrous for Nigeria. He said: “France would have wiped us out. Cameroun is still a protectorate of France and has a defence pact with France. And France is duty bound to honour that pact, even though it has a lot of investments in Nigeria.
“The French President made it clear to us that it has put on alert its military and showed us the entire position of our military and exactly where we were and our daily movements.
“If we engaged Cameroun in war, France would have wiped us out. We tried to liaise with the Chinese and the Russians, but America made it point blank that where the British stands that is where they stand. We were ready to table it before the Security Council, but they were not ready to take it.”
The former governor said after the ICJ judgement, Obasanjo tried to remedy the situation by seeking protection from Britain and United States, but they were not ready to assist. Duke also said Camerounian President, Paul Biya, snubbed former President Olusegun Obasanjo when the latter visited him over the Bakassi issue.
The former governor said Obasanjo and his entourage were kept waiting for about three hours before they were grudgingly attended to by the Camerounian president. He said a lot of meetings were held behind the scene to resolve the issue, but the Camerounian leader refused to cooperate. Duke said it was later discovered that the reason Obasanjo was snubbed was due to an earlier confrontation between Biya and former Military Head of State, the late General Sani Abacha over the issue.
He said: “No one questions the ancestral ownership of Bakassi. Behind the scene there were lots of works, lots of meetings that went on. The problem of Bakassi did not start with the civilian administration; the case actually went to court in 1996, even before we were sworn in into office in 1999. “There was this famous world tour by President Olusegun Obasanjo.
One of the places we visited was Cameroun, we arrived at the airport, we met President Paul Biya who was seeing-off another leader, but he snubbed us. “He left us at the airport for over three hours. We were there and the embassy staff did not know what to do. Grudgingly, he met with us, and lectured us on Bakassi.
Later on, we found out that he was reacting to an earlier confrontation he had with late General Sani Abacha. “We thought we could settle the matter out of court, because we knew we should never have gone to court in the first place, we don’t stand a chance. But, we thought we could settle it out of court, but Cameroon was adamant. “We took the matter to the African Union, AU, the union tried to facilitate peaceful resolution of the matter, but it couldn’t work.”