The chart of Cameroon-Nigeria relations is clearly indicativethat these two countries have not been fully taking advantage of their natural and historical boundary ties. Their relations have witnessed a lot of mutation before and during the Obasanjo through Jonathan to the now Buhari era. But ever since President Muhammadu Buhari took control of leadership in Nigeria, cooperation ties between Yaounde and Abuja have since then witnessed a positive upsurge and one for the better.
That is how within a short period of time, barely a year, the two leaders have met three times and at a very high level. From the 29th to the 30th of July 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari was in Yaounde for a friendly and working visit – a visit during which both leaders took a firm commitment to turn a new page in relations between their two countries. From the 3rd to the 4th of May 2016, President Paul Biya was on Nigerian soil for a 48-hour state visit which from a diplomatic point of view is the highest ranking type of visit among states and which in itself is telling that relations between Nigeria and Cameroon have moved from cordial to close as the outgoing Nigerian Ambassador to Cameroon, Moustapha Hadiza rightly said. Barely ten days after the state visit, Mr Biya was back on Nigerian soil again on May the 14, this time for the 2nd Regional Security Summit and the Neighbouring Countries. This proves they are bent on improving and deepening ties in a mutually beneficial way and to jointly work for their economies which bear great potential growth not only for the two countries but their two sub regions as well.
Cameroon and Nigeria are two pronounced neighbours bound by strong historic and geographic affinities and sharing a 1,600 kilometre boundary stretch from the Lake Chad right to the Bakassi peninsula and into the Gulf of Guinea. At the end of 1993, relations between these two brotherly nations were on the rocks over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula and even though there was deployment of troops on both sides to intervene in the feud, it was finally peacefully resolved in 2006 under Nigeria’s Obassanjo. However during Goodluck Jonathan’s era, the state of relations between the two nations was uncertain with little or no dialogue even though they continued to share a lot in common politically, economically and culturally. Then the ugly head of the Boko Haram threat emerged as if to test their level of cooperation. At the start, Nigeria was quick to accuse Cameroon of doing very little to counter the problem and its 2012 border closure dealt a huge blow to Cameroon. In 2014, a new dawn began to set in on their affairs, with the joining of forces to counter the recurrent sporadic and cross-border attacks from the Boko Haram group. Since the Biya and Buhari encounter in Yaounde, the two men have demonstrated their strong determination not only to weaken the operational capabilities of Boko Haram but also to completely eradicate the group. Already their joint military operation on the ground, is causing tremendous devastation on the terrorist group.
One can say without flinching that the toast in Abuja during Biya’s state visit was a very defining moment in the relations for the two nations. It was then that Paul Biya and Muhammadu Buhari unanimously reasserted their determination to do away with perpetual distrust and suspicion that has for long defined their nations’ relations and they committed themselves without any further indirectness to expanding and strengthening relations in the interest of peace, security and development in their countries and on the continent as a whole.