By- Lawal Sale Maida
“There is no better mirror than a best friend”. – African proverb
Nigeria and People’s Republic of China have come a long way; it is a relationship that dates back 1971 when the two countries established diplomatic relations. The two countries have many things in common: Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world while China is the most populous in the world. Also, Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa while China is the second largest economy in the world. Another interesting coincidence is that the two friendly countries share independence/national day of October 1. The relationship between these two giants knows no bounds come rain, come shine.
As friends and partners in progress, no conflict or misunderstanding should put the decades-long bond asunder. Recalling the unfortunate episode in the Southern city of Guangzhou in Guandong province, like a scintillate, a minor crack happened as a result of communication gap between the Chinese authorities and some Nigerians over a medical exercise in the heat of COVID-19 pandemic in the far eastern country.
It is worthy to note that since the outbreak of the pandemic in late December 2019, Chinese authorities had taken extreme measures in an effort to contain the marauding disease. These included total lockdown of the affected areas, aggressive testing, tracing and treatment of the identified cases. The exercise was general one and was not restricted or limited to anyone but all the Chinese citizens and foreigners living in the mainland China. The whole exercise was smooth.
Gladly, as the conflict was raging in Guangzhou, diplomatic efforts were made to calm nerves and the situation had since been brought under control employing responsible diplomacy and dialogue to further maintain peaceful coexistence between the host country and Nigerians living and working there.
Appositely, that episode does not and will not have much negative effects on the decades-long relations between the two countries. And this is just as in the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, Nigeria was one of the first countries to exprress its solidarity with China through a message put out by the Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari. In his message, President Buhari noted that China had been exceptionally supportive of Nigeria and Africa, and more so in recent years; therefore, it is important to let China know that Nigeria and her citizens are firmly standing with China during the outbreak of COVID-19.
Correlatively, China in it’s magnanimity and in the spirit of the existing mutual friendship decided to assist Nigeria in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak with some protective gears and medical personnel in the fight against COVID-19. It will be recalled that Nigeria recorded its first case in February when an Italian visitor was diagnosed with the disease upon arrival in the country.
On 23rd March 2020, the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Zhou Pingjian presented some items including masks, gloves, and protective gears to the Nigeria’s ministry of health. Since then, Chinese medical equipment made available by different companies and institutions continued to arrive the country in batches.
Similarly, the philanthropist and Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, also sent in his package of medical equipment and protective gears to the Nigerian people as his contribution in the fight against the pandemic.
Recently, in collaboration with the Chinese government, CCECC, the giant Chinese construction company that is involved in many projects in Nigeria, facilitated the deployment of 15 Chinese medical personnel with the aim of sharing their experiences with Nigerian counterparts in the fight against the dreaded COVID-19 disease in Nigeria. The Chinese personnel who are experts in infectious diseases, respiratory illnesses, intensive care, cardiology, neurology and anaesthesiology landed in Abuja with drugs and equipment to carry out their assigned duties.
Bilateral relations between Nigeria and China have since reached a new height through cooperation in multiple areas since the establishment of diplomatic ties more than four decades ago. In a recent interview with Xinhua news agency, President Muhammadu Buhari described the relations between the two countries as “ very satisfactory on win-win level”. Nigeria is a member and signatory to the China’s Belt and Road Initiative and also a partner in Forum of China and Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). According to Chao Xiaolian, the former Consul General of China in Lagos, FOCAC is a major platform for Belt and Road Initiative. It is a platform established by China to bring African countries together for collective consultation and dialogue; and that it is a cooperation mechanism between developing countries – Nigeria and China inclusive. It was established in 2000 in Beijing.
Nigeria-China relations were built on mutually beneficial cooperation for common development. According to Mr. Zhao Yong, charge D’ affairs at the Chinese embassy in Abuja, the strategic cooperation between the two nations had birthed “spectacular accomplishment” in sectors such as bilateral humanitarian aid and construction of infrastructure. He added that the bilateral trade between Nigeria and China saw an increase of $15.3 billion in 2018, 10.8 percent higher than in 2017. Mr. Zhao made this known at a Belt and Road forum in Abuja recently.
Noticeably, since Nigeria joined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and became a member at a summit in Beijing in 2018, Nigeria began recording tremendous success in it’s development efforts. Belt and Road Initiative was launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, to enhance trade relations, connectivity, investment in infrastructure for common development with other countries of the world.
Some of the success recorded by Nigeria under the FOCAC and BRI platforms are there for all to see. These include: the popular Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge railway, Abuja airport’s new and expanded terminal, Abuja light rail mass transit, the Port Harcourt international airport remodelling, Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway, Kano international airport remodelling, Abuja-Lafia expressway expansion and the Kaduna urban renewal project among others. Having all these developmental projects Nigeria is indeed harvesting the benefits of strategic partnership for common development. Nigeria and China friendship has always been on the basis of win-win cooperation.
It is certain that the mutual bond between the two countries will continue to prosper on mutually beneficial practices based on inclusiveness, equal opportunity, people to people engagements, and respect for one another in the face of the diversity of cultures and political systems.
– Lawal Sale Maida is Abuja based Global Affairs Analyst (firstname.lastname@example.org)