Nigeria’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama has described the past 50 years of the Nigeria-China diplomatic relations as extraordinary and fruitful.
Onyeama said this in his office in Abuja in an exclusive interview with the ACE in commemoration of the golden jubilee anniversary of the diplomacy that has flourished between Asia’s largest country and Africa’s.
Also in another exclusive with Onyeama’s predecessor, former Foreign Minister and one time Nigeria’s Ambassador to China, Ambassador Aminu Wali, the old diplomat said all he has is praises for the leadership of Nigeria that established the relationship when it did.
Nigeria FM looked back into history and said: “China however was very supportive of Africa’s total decolonization movement like the Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde in West Africa that were still Portuguese colonies, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe in the southern Africa region and of course the fight against apartheid in South Africa.
China became a strong ally of Africa and Nigeria in those battles which we appreciated a lot. At a point China was also going through strain in the membership of the United Nations, a slot that was occupied by Taiwan. Then Nigeria and Africa gave a strong support to China in that quest for its proper slot at the UN and as a member of the Security Council which they greatly appreciate.
“In a little while, because of that integration into the mainstream of world affairs, China became a core of world issues and system and started playing a very prominent role in global affairs. The African countries all voted for China. China has never failed to show its appreciation to Nigeria and the rest of Africa for that act of alignment and support. It was at such time China established diplomatic accord with so many countries in Africa including Nigeria
“So, the 50 years of relationship between China and Nigeria have been very commendable period which we also hope would get better in the coming years.”
He stated that regarding industrial advancement, trade and economic dominance: “We haven’t been able to export as much to China to buy. We export mainly crude oil and agricultural products. But we work towards making ourselves more competitive by producing and upping our processing and manufacturing ability.”
Onyeama also praised China for a great support to Nigeria to build her infrastructure base which is the prerequisite for real industrial growth.
Wali said: The diplomatic relations between Nigeria and China has manifested itself in a very positive way in terms of what we tend to achieve in the union of two prominent countries. There have been very positive benefits to the country Nigeria and Nigerians.
“I would say without doubt that the leadership of Nigeria which created the relations took a wonderful and positive step that has yielded so much dividends for our country and individual citizens.
“If you are in China, you would be really amazed at the number of Nigerian students studying in that country. They pursue studies in all types of courses and disciplines. Before the relations, this did not exist. There are thousands of Nigerians scholars in China, all young people and they are imbibing the type of education, culture and positive attitude of the Chinese people.
“You know its discipline, tenacity and patriotism that took China to its height. They are known for commitment to hard work and respect for rules. All these made China achieve all they did. If our students would imbibe the Chinese lifestyle and sense of industry coupled with the discipline they learn in their schools, and they come back to Nigeria with such attitudes, we will be quite comfortable to say we have gained much for the future of the country through that relationship. If they pursue their professions with the attitude they imbibed in China, it would be good for the social development of Nigeria.
Talking about how Nigeria can gain competitive edge in economy relating with China, Wali advised that: “Anywhere or any country that has not been able to regulate, sustain and structure its system in business and the general economy, people living in such country or operating within such system must exploit the lapses and take the shortcut to get what they want. Human beings naturally exploit the easier way. What would guide how others from the world to us, not only China, would do business in Nigeria should be the duty of Nigeria to enforce.”
On how best to grow investment between the two countries Wali said that: “As China is investing here, other people invest in China. So long as I know, there is no strong and big multinational corporation with origin in the West that doesn’t have business investment in China. So as China goes to the world, the world also comes to China. They go to China because it is a big market and potential gold mine.
However, China has entrenched rules and regulation to make sure that as the investors come, the country derives maximum benefits from them too. Their systems are strict about regulations. So what we should do is to learn what the Chinese have done to domicile those investments and businesses to operate under very effective regulations that benefit both sides in the best interest of all. We have a lot to learn from China on what they did to become what they are today as the second world industrial giant that would soon be the number one. In fact, we have benefitted from the relationship than China.”