Frontline politician and Senator of the Federal Republic, Florence Ita-Giwa has fired back at her critics insisting she has served her Bakassi people with dedication and integrity.
Fielding questions from ENCOMIUM Weekly reporters, Senator Ita-Giwa explained she has been committed to the struggle for self-determination of Bakassi from time immemorial. “If you had read my piece on the Bakassi issue which was published last week, I made mention that I founded the Bakassi Self Determination Front out of a sense of desperation when it appeared as of the Federal Government was not interested in my people’s welfare. At the same time, I also founded the Bakassi Welfare Union. We were promised we would be properly resettled. With our traditional institution intact, political structure intact, ancestral name which means identity because there is nobody in the whole wide world who negotiates his or her identity.”
On the threat by some youths under the aegis of the Bakassi Self Determination Front to unleash violence in the area if efforts were not made by the Federal Government to reclaim the land, Mama Bakassi, as she is fondly called clarified that the body was not formed for guerilla warfare or violence but was borne out of self-determination to agitate for the proper recognition of the yearnings of the people of Bakassi.
“I can appreciate the frustration of my people. They have to roam around homeless for all these years and to crown all, we were disenfranchised in our fatherland.”
She called on the aggrieved youths to sheathe their swords and exercise some patience, while reminding them that they have a lot of hope.
Relatedly, Senator Ita-Giwa has expressed doubt over the possibility of reversing the World Court’s judgment on Bakassi. Describing the agitation of a judicial review of the 2002 ICJ judgment on Bakassi as purely academic exercise, she hoped that all energies should rather be channelled to properly resetting Bakassi people. She however, welcomed the development which suggests that Bakassi is now being described at a national level.
Asked to comment on her position on the best place to resettle her people, the former Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on National Assembly Matters, still chose Dayspring Island. She reiterated her belief that the environment was the best for the people of Bakassi since it supports their main occupation, being fishing. She also hailed President Goodluck Jonathan’s effort first as Vice President and Chairman of the Federal Government body responsible for the resettlement of Bakassi people back then. She however, regretted that none of the recommendations he made then has been implemented.
“I now formally demand that the Federal Government should complement the recommendation contained in the 3-year old report that I participated in which has been submitted to it long ago.”
Similarly, Mama Bakassi also defended, allegations by a group on Facebook, Concerned Cross Riverians or Bakassi who accused her of being an interloper since the creation of Bakassi, benefitting where she did not sow. The group had also claimed that before the creation of Bakassi, she did not pitch her tent either in Cross River State or Akwa Ibom State but was swaying like the pendulum. The group even claimed it was only when the late General Sani Abacha announced Bakassi to Cross River State then. She moved to take advantage of the federal government’s position.
In her official reaction to those allegations, Senator Ita Giwa said their unfounded claims were really entertaining.
She also called them unknown characters she can’t condescend to joint issues with. She however, clarified she had been around supporting Nigerian gallant soldiers even before Bakassi was created. She said she reached out to her people and Nigerian soldiers providing food and other relief materials at the time of the struggle.
“I took the risk of travelling in darkness of the middle of the night on turbulent water on the high sea during these hostilities and most of the boys that took that risk with me are still alive. Thank God. Modesty will not allow me to quantify the amount of relief materials and all what I had to provide succour for the people at that time. It is for gestures like this. I was nicknamed Mama Bakassi.”
She also remembered her critics she is still very much relevant in the politics of Cross Rivers State, particularly in the Southern Senatorial District. Senator Ita-Giwa boasted she is not the type of woman to be intimidated as she knows her right as a Nigerian citizen.
Also reacting to claims by the same Facebook Group that she played on part in the creation of Bakassi like notable names such as High Chief (Dr.) Emmanuel Nsan. Eutubom (Dr.) Anthony Ani and Air Vice Marshal Emmanuel Edem (rtd), Senator Ita-Giwa simply had this to say:
“We all grown up leaders, and I will not join issues with anyone who master minded the creation of Bakassi LGA. I never failed to acknowledge the role of other leaders. In all of this, we continue to give glory to God. The struggle continues.”
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, October 2, 2012