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Atiku Was Born In Nigeria

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Tribunal: Women invade court premises, Protesting for Atiku

In an attempt to deflect judicial scrutiny from the electoral heist that was the 2019 presidential election, President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have only succeeded in reducing issues in the polity to below the abyss of the mundane. For an administration that has gained notoriety in the last four years for its polarisation of the Nigerian state along ethno-geographic and religious faultiness, mainly through the instrumentality of its sectional exclusionists rulership style, its latest attempt to impugn on the legitimacy of the citizenship of its major challenger, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, is evil ingenuity taken extremely far.

Faced with a strong judicial challenge by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s Atiku to retrieve what many have described as a stolen mandate made possible by a thoroughly compromised election in 2019, which surpasses the notoriously fraudulent 2007 election in magnitude and dimension, but with the bleak prospect of President Buhari and the APC’s ability to defend their pyrrhic victory, they have resorted to delegitimising the citizenship status of an otherwise bona fide citizen. Whereas, a candidate seeking to occupy the office of the president of Nigeria is constitutionally required to be a citizen by birth, for a body of Learned Silks to infer before a court of law that Atiku is not a citizen of Nigeria by birth is not only a fallacious attempt at historical revisionism but a dangerous form of hate speech that approximates to a crime against millions of humanity who are indigenous to the former United Nations mandate territories of the British (northern) Cameroons.

Atiku was born in Jada town in 1946, to an itinerant trader father, who was of Fulani ethnicity, with ancestral origin in Wurno area of the Sokoto Sultanate. At the time of Atiku’s birth, Jada town, alongside several towns and villages straddling the north-eastern flank of the Borno Empire, the Fombina Emirate, as well as cluster settlements along the western flank of the Cameroon Mountains in the old Gongola area, formed what was then known as the northern Cameroons. This territory was by no means part of the republic of Cameroon but a British administered mandatory under the framework of United Nations’ trusteeship. This strip of land, which was a victim of European imperialist gerrymandering, was a contiguous territory to the rest of Nigeria, with strong traditional and cultural ties and whose final status was established to be settled ahead of Nigeria’s independence in 1960, at a date set in 1961 through a plebiscite.

By 1961, when the indigenous peoples of Atiku’s home town of Jada and other communities that formed the now defunct British northern Cameroons voted in a plebiscite to merge with the Nigerian state, it was deemed that everybody born before and after the merger was born in Nigeria. Atiku and others like him would not have been deemed as Nigerians by birth, if their birth place of Jada was not part of the present Nigerian state. When the indigenous peoples of the defunct British northern Cameroons opted to be part of the larger Nigerian state, they came into the union with their native lands, out of which they were never relocated and before or after were never part of the republic of Cameroon. Atiku can only be deemed a Cameroonian by birth if his Jada home town is currently a part of the republic of Cameroon, and would only have been rightly considered a Nigerian citizen by other legal means, hence his ineligibility to contest for the position of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The fact of Atiku’s birth in Nigeria was established in law when the I963 Constitution of Nigeria made a special provision to accommodate the peculiarity of the merged communities within the emergent Nigerian state. Section 10 of the 1963 Constitution stated that, “10[1] For the purpose of determining the status of persons connected with the part of Northern Nigeria, which was not included in the federation on the thirty first day of May, 1961. The forgoing provisions of this chapter and subsection [3] of section 17of this constitution shall have effect as if:

Continuing, section 10 [2] emphasised further to the effect that “nothing in subsection [1] of this section shall prejudice the status of any person, who is or may become a citizen of Nigeria apart from that subsection.” By interpretation, the 1963 Constitution, in this section, backdated the 1961 plebiscite to before independence in other to legally sanction the fact that all persons of the defunct mandate territories of the British Northern Cameroons are deemed to have been born in Nigeria, like every other person from other constituent parts of Nigeria, without prejudice to their inalienable rights and privileges as bona fide citizens of Nigeria.

Furthermore, the framers of the 1999 Constitution didn’t overlook the significance of section 10 of the 1963 Constitution when a provision was made in section 309, pursuant to the subject matter of citizenship by birth to the effect that “any person who became a citizen of Nigeria by birth under any other constitution shall remain a citizen by birth under the present constitution.” The fact that Atiku was born in Nigeria is firmly consolidated in the 1999 Constitution, in Chapter 1 Part 3, wherein his home state of Adamawa, where Jada town is administratively domiciled in Ganye local government, is clearly listed in the schedule of the 36 states of the Nigerian federation. To proceed in this unfortunate error of impugning on Atiku’s legitimate status as a Nigerian citizen by birth will be to delegitimise the citizen status by birth of Nigeria’s foremost founding fathers – Ahmadu Bello (1910), Obafemi Awolowo (1909) and Nnamdi Azikiwe (1904) who were mostly born before the 1914 year of amalgamation of all native lands in which they were born by British colonial authorities to form modern Nigeria.

That President Buhari and his ruling APC that are entrusted with the responsibility of upholding the fundamentals (intent, spirit and letter) of Nigeria’s Constitution are the ones making efforts to undermine it on the basis of crass partisanship, signposts a grim existential threat to the Nigerian state. This latest assault on the Constitution and brazen attempt at historic revisionism is unbecoming of a ruling party that is supposed to lead by example but has refused to do so. The attempt to delegitimise Atiku’s legitimate citizenship by birth on the basis of partisan politics follows a familiar pattern of a dangerous form of hate speech preceding crime against humanity in a number of troubled spots in Africa. A similar attempt to delegitimise the citizenship status of Allasane Ouattara and his kinsmen sparked off a two year civil war in Cote d’Ivoire beginning from 2002, while Tutsi’s in Rwanda were derided as “foreigners” from Burundi who were nothing but “cockroaches”, to set the stage for eventual genocide by Hutu power mongers. One thing history teaches is that only the wise learns from it.

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