News Analysis: Wider Implications of Atiku’s Nationality Debate

News Analysis: Wider Implications of Atiku’s Nationality Debate

Wednesday, April 17, 2019 4:30 pm

    Buhari and Atiku


By Ademola Adegbamigbe

What happened that day in Maiduguri was akin to the drama in King Solomon’s court in Israel over 3,000 years ago. Solomon, in the presence of Queen of Sheba (great matriarch of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia) who had come to witness the Israeli king’s prodigious wisdom, ruled between two women who were both laying claim to being the mother of a baby. To get the real universal mother-to- baby feeling, Solomon ordered one of his chamberlains to cut the baby into two, with each woman taking her own half home. While the real mother begged that the baby be spared and given to her rival, with the hope that in the fullness of time, he would know his real mother, the non-mother approved and was actually excited that the king should have the baby butchered. Solomon ordered, therefore, that the former should have her baby back. Case closed.

In Maiduguri, the case was not about a dispute over a baby but a real adult Kanuri man, an alangoro, who could chew real goro, own cattle and even, after his daily toil, coil his hand around the waist of his wife. In other words, the man who a woman was also laying claim to was Abdulrahman Shugaba Darman (1920–2010), a Nigerian politician from Borno State. He held sway the same time the late Sardauna, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of Northern Region, did. Not only that, Shugaba Darman was a founding member of the Great Nigeria People’s Party GNPP) on the platform of which he was, in 1979, elected as a member of the Borno State House of Assembly where he also became the Majority Leader.

King Solomon

Trouble started for Shugaba Darman because he constituted a pain in the neck of the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN). As one biographer pus it, “Shugaba Darman was a charismatic politician who attracted large crowds at political rallies, the crowds were drawn to his speeches in which he criticized the ruling NPN government.” The party and all its apparatchiks, decided, therefore, to do him a mischief; it claimed that Shugaba’s father was a Chadian, hence the son, the politician, was from Chad! Thus, GNPP went to court challenging the deportation order, through Chief D. O.A Oguntoye, a senior lawyer. The NPN government, to prove its position, brought a Chadian woman who claimed that Shugaba was her biological son and she wanted him back with alacrity. For dramatic effect, she burst into tears like a leaking faucet in the open court.


Abdulrahman Shugaba Darman

To Shugaba, the woman should tell that to the Marines-or say it where the US Marines would invade next after Vietnam! He vehemently denied knowing her from Adam or Eve or Cain. How come the impostor did not look for her so called son, while he had been occupying public positions since? Shugaba insisted that his mother “was alive and well known in Maiduguri even though her sight was now poor.”

There is nothing that ruling parties in many countries cannot do. Like the claim that Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 presidential election is a Cameroonian, Shugaba Darman was, on 24 January 1980, arrested by Immigration officers on the strength of a deportation order signed by the Federal Minister of Internal Affairs, Alhaji Bello Maitama. The deportation order entitled “Shugaba Abdurrahman Darman’s Deportation Order 1980”, stated amongst other things that “…Shugaba Abdurrahman Darman at present in Nigeria ought to be classified as a prohibited immigrant” and also that “Shugaba Abdurrahman be deported from Nigeria by the first available means….” Thus, as the media reported then, he was promptly deported to a village in Chad. This brought great public outcry as it is the case with Atiku now.

The Maiduguri high court ruled in Shugaba’s favour. NPN challenged the ruling in the Appeal and Supreme courts and lost through a unanimous judgement by the four justices led by Justice Coker. Alhaji Shugaba Darman, as reported in the media, died on Wednesday 20 April, 2010 at the age of 80. He was a founding member of the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua led Social Democratic Party (SDP), the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in which he was active as a party elder till he died.


Former President Shehu Shagari

Just as it happened to Shugaba Darman, the All Progressives Congress (APC) recently told the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja that Atiku is not a Nigerian, thus he was not qualified to have contested the presidential election in the first place. APC argued that Atiku was a Cameroonian and not a Nigerian citizen, adding that his petition against President Muhammadu Buhari, should be dismissed for lack of merit. This was in reply to Atiku’s petition that the tribunal to declare him as the lawful winner of the presidential election. The APC’s reply to the petition, filed by its lead counsel, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) faulted the candidacy of Atiku in the election.

APC averred that Atiku was born on Nov. 25, 1946 in Jada, Adamawa, in Northern Cameroon and was therefore a citizen of Cameroon and not a Nigerian by birth. According to APC, contrary to the assertion of Atiku in his petition, he has no right to be voted for as a candidate in the election to the office of president of Nigeria.
Here is the section of APC’s submission about the “nationality of Atiku:

1) The 3rd Respondent vehemently denies paragraph 1 of the petition and states that the 1st petitioner had no right to be voted for and returned in the election to the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria held on Saturday 23rd February, 2019 having regard to the clear provision of Section 131(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) 1999 as amended which unequivocally stipulates inter alia, that for a person to be qualified for election to the office of President, he must be a citizen of Nigeria by birth.

2) Further to paragraph 1 above, the 3rd respondent states that the 1st ?petitioner is not a citizen of Nigeria by birth and ought not to have even been allowed in the first place, to contest the election.

3) It is further averred that from available records,
i) The 1st petitioner was born on the 25th November, 1946 in Jada, Adamawa, in Northern Cameroon and is therefore a citizen of Cameroon.
ii) His father was Garba Atiku Abdulkadir who died in December, 1957
iii) Prior to 1919 Cameroon was being administered by Germany. But following the defeat of Germany in World War 1 which ended in 1918, Cameroon became a League of Nations mandate territory which was split into French Cameroons and British Cameroons in 1919.
iiii) British Cameroons was administered by the British from neighbouring Nigeria.
v) In 1961, a plebiscite was held in British Cameroons to determine whether the people preferred to stay in Cameroon or align with Nigeria.
vi) While Northern Cameroon preferred a union with Nigeria, Southern Cameroon chose alignment with the mother country.
vii) The transition took place on June 1, 1961
viii) It was as a result of that plebiscite that Northern Cameroon which included Adamawa became a part of Nigeria and by derivation, the 1st petitioner became a citizen of Nigeria but not by birth.

ix) The 1st petitioner therefore, contrary to the assertion in paragraph 1 of their petition, had no right to be voted for as a candidate in the election to the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria held on 23rd February, 2019 across Nigeria.
4) The 3rd Respondent avers that by reason of the 1st petitioner not having qualified to ?contest the election, all votes purportedly cast for the petitioners at the 23rd February, 2019 election and as subsequently declared by the 1st Respondent on 27th of February, 2019 are wasted votes.

Atiku Fires Back

Atiku, however, did not allow the missile to land before intercepting it mid-air. In a statement signed by Mazi Paul Ibe, his Media Adviser, Atiku Abubakar argued:
“Dear citizens of our beloved country, Nigeria, His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar, told us previously that he has verifiable and incontrovertible evidence to show that the last Presidential elections were fraudulent, not credible and did not reflect the will of the Nigerian people, and he has been vindicated by the response of the All Progressives Congress and its candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, to his petition to the Electoral Tribunal hearing the petition he filed.

The former Vice President based his case on facts and statistical evidence and challenged both the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the APC, to disprove his factual submissions.

The fact that the APC chose to base its defense on the ridiculous assertion that the Waziri Adamawa is not a Nigerian should show to Nigerians the type of characters we have in the APC and its government, whose legitimacy runs out on May 29, 2019.

The position of the APC is so pedestrian and shows such straw clutching desperation on their part, that I shall not dignify it with an answer. Our lawyers would, of course, do the needful in court. But the point I want to draw the attention of Nigerians to is that both the APC and its candidate have by this infantile logic admitted to the fact that they trampled on the will of Nigerians and that their only defense is to attempt an unconstitutional redefinition of the term ‘Nigerian’.

I am, however, confident in the Nigerian judiciary, as well as in the Nigerian people. I trust that the Tribunal will treat such a claim with the contempt it deserves. We must maintain our fidelity to the rule of law and to our fountain of origin, the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended).

Atiku Abubakar has served our nation diligently in various capacities, form the civil service, where he rose through merit, to the top of his chosen field, to public service, where, by the grace of God, he was the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Moreover, he has committed his assets and talents to developing our nation through the provision of tens of thousands of direct jobs and hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs.

I make bold to state that those who have made Nigeria the world headquarters for extreme poverty are the very people whose Nigerianness should be in doubt, and not a man, who worked with President Olusegun Obasanjo to double the per capita income of our nation in less than eight years”

In the polity, the development has given rise to acrimonious debates, bearing on facts, jokes and outright invectives. There are people who spoke or wrote in support of APC, while others opposed.

Critics Who Support APC

Omowaiye Oluremi’s position is in line with APC’s that Atiku was born on November 25, 1946, a Cameroonian citizen with a birth certificate issued by the Cameroonian government. Northern Cameroon amalgamated with Nigeria through votes cast in 1959. Only people born on or after 1959 union could claim Nigeria’s birthright and birth certificates; those before (like Atiku) became Nigeria citizens as a result of the amalgamation BUT with a birth certificate of Cameroon. He added that Nigeria Constitution is explicit enough on who can contest the position of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Those who were born as Nigerians ( not those who benefited from amalgamation, nationalization or honorary citizenship).
He argued further: “No nation re-issues a birth certificate previously issued by another country of birth to accommodate privileges derived as a result of amalgamation, nationalization, etc to a person. Atiku has a birth certificate that pre-dated Northern Cameroon- Nigeria amalgamation of 1959. Nothing can change that fact. However, from 1959 onwards Atiku enjoys the citizenship of a Nigeria but his birthright and birth certificate remain that of a Cameroonian. Nobody is entitled to two birth certificates including Abubakar Atiku. This is his birther theory.”

In tandem with Omowaye was Dr Abisola Fernandez who gave what he called a Detailed Analysis Of Atiku Eligibility. In his words: Nobody says Atiku is not a Nigerian now. The cogent point about his eligibility to contest to be president of Nigeria is that he was not born a Nigerian i.e. He wasn’t Nigerian at birth as required by the Constitution! He became a Nigerian in 1961 after a referendum added his birthplace that was part of Cameroon to Nigeria at age 15, having been born in 1946. The constitution is very clear on who can be president of Nigeria. The person has to be 100% a Nigerian at birth.

You cannot backdate the referendum of 1961 that made Atiku become a Nigerian to the date of his birth in 1946. However, all Nigerians born in that his birthplace since 1961 referendum are fully and wholly Nigerians who are qualified to be president of Nigeria, but not anyone of them born before the referendum. Summarily; Atiku Abubakar is fully a Nigerian but not qualified to be president of the country.

His case is similar to what the Republicans wanted to use to nullify Obama’s presidency, until he provided his birth certificate that showed he was born in Hawaii, on US soil. Unfortunately, Atiku wasn’t born on Nigerian soil as at the day he was born.”

Supreme Court of Nigeria

Those in Support of Atiku

Owei Lakemfa, a columnist, submitted derisively in opposing APC’s position that when you mix APC and heroin with cannabis and tramadol, you will begin to imagine that Adamawa State is in Cameroun and that you need to deport Atiku Abubakar from Nigeria to his village. Senator Dino Melaye maintained that if Barack Obama From Kenya could become President of America, Atiku Abubakar of Cameroon can also become President of Nigeria.

Sheddy Ozoene, a former editor argued: “I have always held that the 1961 plebiscite conferred on those joiners from Cameroun all the rights enjoyed by the other Nigerians. It is especially so because our constitution has now listed those areas as part of Nigerian soil, so the question of being born outside of Nigeria becomes a non issue.

Even at that, even if one accepts (without conceding) for argument sake that Jada was in Cameroun, have we bothered to interrogate Section 25 of the same constitution.

Section 25. (1) (c) of the 1999 constitution is very clear that among those who are adjudged Citizens by birth, are “every person born outside Nigeria either of whose parents is a citizen of Nigeria”.

So, regardless of the position of Jada, you can only dispossess Atiku of his Nigerian citizenship by birth, only if you can prove that none of his parents was Nigerian. Because they were, even if they derived their own citizenship through their own parents, Atiku’s grandfather and grandmother who migrated from Sokoto and Jigawa states, respectively. So, however you look at it, Buhari’s argument is a hard sell.”.

Ozoene’s argument was hinged on the revelation made by Atiku himself in his mini autobiography. In his own words: “I was born on November 25, 1946 in Jada, Adamawa State, Nigeria. I was named after my paternal grandfather, Atiku Abdulkadir. It was the practice among the Fulani people to name their first sons after their paternal grandfathers. My grandfather, Atiku, came originally from Wurno in Sokoto State. There, he had met and befriended Ardo Usman, a Fulani nobleman from what is now known as Adamawa State. My grandfather decided to accompany his new friend back to his home- town of Adamawa”

The former VP added: “They settled in Kojoli, a small village in Jada Local Government Council of Adamawa State. My grandfather farmed, kept livestock and raised a family. He married a local girl in Kojoli and gave birth to my father, Garba Atiku Abdulkadir. He was their only child. My father was an itinerant trader who traveled from one market to another selling imitation jewelry, caps, needles, potash, kola nuts and other nick-knacks which he ferried around on the back of his donkey. He also kept some livestock and cultivated guinea corn, maize and groundnuts. When it was time for him to marry, my father chose a young girl from nearby Jada town whose parents had migrated from Dutse, now the capital of Jigawa State. My mother, Aisha Kande, was born in Jada.

To Albert Ewuzue, another commentator, he wondered how a foreigner had been a two-term Vice-President of Nigeria! He added: “This argument is just dumb. When the defunct NPN tried it on Shugaba, it collapsed at the Supreme Court. We do not learn from history.” Afolabi Gambari, another critic, said he was more concerned about the joke the whole thing is turning us into than the technicalities mumbo-jumbo. “How does a Cameroonian hold Nigeria’s GCON title since 1999 without being detected until now? Ridiculous, to say the very least.” Bolaji Adebiyi, another journalist, argued too: “The talk of Atiku not being a Nigerian by birth is dumb when Jada his birth place is listed in the Constitution as a LG.”

A lawyer also posted on a whatsApp group that Nigeria was an aggregate of colonies and protectorates – Lagos wasn’t even called Nigeria! It was a separate Colony. There were four units: Southern Protectorate, Northern Protectorate, Lagos Colony & British Cameroons (a former German Colony split between France & Britain after Germany lost the World War. Each had a Lieutenant Governor who all reported to the Governor-General who represented the British Crown. Hence the 1st political party of Herbert Macaulay and Azikiwe was NCNC (National Council Of Nigeria and the Cameroons).

The lawyer added: “As Nigeria voted separately for self Governance and later, independence, each entity chose separate times. Southern Nigeria made up of the Western and Eastern Regions and the Lagos Colony chose self government for 1957 (my grandfather was a Minister), Northern Region chose 1959, while the British Cameroons opted for a plebiscite. In that plebiscite, the south part of the British Cameroons chose to join the French Cameroons while the Northern Part of the British Cameroons chose to remain in Nigeria. It Must be Noted that the said Southern Cameroons WAS NOT a separate governing unit because British Cameroons stretched as one administrative unit from Bakassi peninsula by the sea near Oron/Calabar to Dikwa in present day Borno near Chibok. It was separated by the Mubi plateau and Highlands and the Cameroon Mountains. Technically, and speaking also as a Lawyer, the averment of APC counsels is an outright aberration. It is trite, alien to the Law, and therefore null and void.
If not, it means ALL RULERS born before independence were Never Nigerians. They were born holding Passport of the British Overseas Territories!”

Dangerous implication of the whole drama

For PDP, APC, President Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku and Nigeria, this nationality debate has a wider and dangerous implication for the polity. According to Abdul Mahmud, a political analyst, the claim about Atiku being a non-Nigerian is pretty silly. Only those who have no sense of history make such a silly claim. “I once addressed this issue and I don’t intend to address it here again, beyond stating the obvious implications of the ahistorical and unconstitutional claim, as follows:

1) if you’re are anywhere from the southern tips of the highlands of Taraba, and Adamawa, including Michika and the surrounding communities, YOU ARE NOT A NIGERIAN;

2) If you are from southern Borno, including the historical Dikwa Emirate, and anywhere extending far deep into Yobe , YOU ARE NOT A NIGERIAN;

3) If you are an indigene of any of the places referred to above and you voted in any of the towns stated above, YOUR VOTE IS VOID;

4) If you are from any of the 23 LGAs that are parts of Borno state, YOU ARE AN ALIEN because your community, indigenous to Northern Cameroons, only joined Nigeria following the February 1961 plebiscite.

We can’t all be equally yoked to the stupidity of those who make such horrendous claim, so we must stick to the historical and constitutional truths:

a) The people of northern Cameroons were never part of the Republic of Cameroun. Never. They were until 1961 trusteeship subjects of the UN.

b) The people of northern Cameroons are citizens of Nigeria by virtue of Section 10 of the 1963 Republican Constitution- Special Provisions on Northern Cameroons;

c) That communities in Taraba, Yobe and Borno are pre-colonial communities whose existence predates the European scramble for Africa. Take Dikwa in Borno for example that has existed for almost a century, but which came under Arab-Sudanese, later German and British controls, and subsequently part of Northern Cameroons till it joined Nigeria in 1961, via a referendum.

So you know: the people of Southern Cameroons, AKA Republic of Ambazonia, are today fighting for their independence and I hope the stupidity of a few will not force communities of northern Cameroons- now parts of Taraba, Borno and Yobe – to renew the historical agitation for the independence of northern Cameroons. To be fore-warned…”

Also, in a submission, entitled Atiku’s Citizenship Question: The Ramifications, Professor Talla Ngarka, Historian, specialist in UN Trusteeship History, said in no distant future, the unanswered question surrounding the citizenship of the peoples of the former UN Trusteeship Territory of Northern Cameroon will rear its ‘ugly’ head. He added: “But I never for one moment thought that it would be the Ruling Political Party in Nigeria (APC) that would help us open the matter to public debate. Thank you APC.You have made my work so easy.

* As a specialist on UN Trusteeship history, I have no doubt in my mind that the non-respect of the 1961 Plebiscite agreement was a time bomb. It is not news that the bomb has exploded in former Southern Cameroon.

* In 1979, as an undergraduate student in ABU Zaria, after participating in the effort by my lecturer and mentor, Dr Bala Usman (late), to launch what he called *The Minority Constitution, I looked into the future and saw this day coming. That effort was crushed by the military Government of General Obasanjo, who appeared to have been in a hurry to hand power civilians. Let us not forget that the Obasanjo Constitution (1979) was followed by the Abdulsalam Constitution (1999).4

* Fast forward to 2014, together with like minds and Stakeholders from the Territory we approached the National Conference organized by President Goodluck Jonathan. We sought for the full implementation of the 1961 Plebiscite agreement. The Conference graciously reasoned with us. But the APC Government of General Buhari refused to implement the decisions of that National Conference.

* Today, 2019, 58 years after the 1961 UN organized Plebiscite, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, speaking through his Lawyer, without historical reflection, publicly declares that Atiku Abubakar, a proud son of former Northern Cameroon, is not a citizen of Nigeria.

* My take from what the APC Government has foolishly done through their lawyer is that, it has declared that all peoples of the former Northern Cameroon, who came into Nigeria via the 1961 Plebiscite, ARE NOT CITIZENS OF NIGERIA.

*I hope l can be the patient enough to wait for the courts to resolve the side, but most important issue of Atiku’s and by implication the citizenship of the rest of us from the former Northern Cameroon before I can make any further comment.

* God Almighty, thank you for what the APC declared.”

As the debate for and against Atiku’s Nigerian or Cameroonian nationality rages on in the public, it is court, otherwise known as the Temple of Justice that can rule on which party is right. Nigerians are waiting with tip-toe expectancy as 29 May inches closer.

-Ademola Adegbamigbe is the Editor of TheNEWS. [email protected] 08055002056


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