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The 1st of October is the National Day of both Nigeria and China. There are significant similarities to highlight and which both countries need to care for in their relations. While the day marks Nigeria’s proclamation of independence from the British in 1960, the Chinese are marking the 74th National Day of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, as proclaimed by Mao Zedong, the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), on 1 October, 1949, in Tiananmen Square, Beijing. This predates Nigeria’s independence by 11 years. Nigeria is celebrating its 63th independence anniversary this year.
It is a work-free day in both countries, with various spectacular celebrations, deeply rooted in history and tradition. Nigeria often commemorates the day with pomp and pageantry, while the first week of October is a holiday for businesses, to enjoy, rest and relax in China. Both countries also recognise and award outstanding personalities, especially individuals and groups who have helped promote the Nigeria-China friendship, in this week. Besides the national days, Nigeria and China have shared many significant moments in the past that have helped their better understanding of each other, and as significant steps towards fostering the closer ties that began in 1971. Their commitment to building a community of a shared future and development has always been guided by their turbulent histories. Because of the two countries’ shining potentials, they have experienced external imperialist aggressions, invasions, and colonialism in the case of Nigeria, serving as inglorious episodes of their encounters, in the quest for freedom and nation-building.
They have both experienced dramatic shifts in power. Nigeria has had ambitious military juntas, which interrupted democratic rules, while China has witnessed shifts in power between rival factions and the disintegration of its empire through corruption and political subterfuge, and the cyclical rise of ambitious leaders to found newer empires. These histories have profoundly formed the basis of a trustful acceptance of their relationship. As the Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr Wang Yi, said during his visit to Nigeria in January 2021, “As a major African country, Nigeria has always occupied an important position in China’s diplomacy in Africa.” Hence, both have demonstrated mutual understanding, mutual trust and mutual support to their 52-year old diplomatic ties.
As the most populous countries and largest economies in their regions, Nigeria and China have come to understand that it is important to lead the way in multilateral engagements towards making life better for their citizens and humanity in general. Both have exerted their interests and influence in their regions. Their nationals are among the most gifted, astute and dexterous workforces on earth; and they are highly mobile and can be found in all parts of the world engaging in one task or the other. So one can assert that their shared national day dynamics interconnects with their demographics, markets, economies and national aspirations.
In the areas of their bilateral and multilateral engagements, both have shared a common narrative and their foreign policy objectives align. Examples are the non-alignment groupings and anti-imperialist struggles. Nigerian and China often stand together side-by-side to oppose hegemonic tendencies, either in the United Nations or other multilateral groupings like the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), because of their common understanding of the global geopolitical threats to developing countries. Nigeria and China took fast and coordinated actions against COVID-19 to curb its spread, and the uproar that followed the alleged mistreatment of some African migrants in Guangzhou in 2020. Nigeria led Africa to mitigate the threat of division and misunderstanding.
In a retrospect of the 52-year old cooperation, the Nigeria-China relationship has blossomed over the decades and both are drawing lessons from one another in every area of human endeavour. It is easy to say that the relations have been mutually beneficial to both sides. Being a developing country, Nigeria is drawing a lot of opportunities from the world’s second largest economy, ranging from manufactured goods, expertise, funding, to aid from China and, in return, providing a suitable business climate, as well as a huge source of mineral resources and market for Chinese industries and imports. But on the other side, the day shows the unequal development in both countries. As an industrialised nation
, famous for its visionary ideas and groundbreaking infrastructure,
China has eliminated absolute poverty, and high unemployment, while Nigeria is still on the journey to address these challenges.
That is why it is crucially important that amid the celebrations, Nigeria and China should reflect on their cooperation. Nigeria has a greater role and responsibility in this regard. The day could be the starting point of a long-term commitment to pulling resources together to transform their annual historical days into becoming a reflection of more strategic cooperation that promises to reduce poverty, hunger, illiteracy, crime, violence and corruption in Nigeria. In the current development paradigm, China should continue to share its lessons and challenges, while Nigeria can learn from its experience of rapid development. More than the national day is at stake if the two countries would not reflect on their cooperation trajectories and
uncover more of their bilateral potentials
and recreate trust, to especially wean Nigerians off corruption, poverty, illiteracy, disease, violence and poor governance. In a time of toxic global leadership and enormous challenges, Nigerian and Chinese leaderships should listen more to each other and be guided by moral responsibility. Fortunately, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will soon visit Beijing to strengthen the relations and attract investments.
Therefore, both countries should, through a shared approach, continue to guide their good relationship by showing resilience and solidarity to each other, especially in the context of the multipolar world. The deeper and more enduring diplomatic relations between Nigeria and China are more and the national day will remain as a bridge between the Nigerian and Chinese people. It is believed that the national day will pave the way for more fruitful cooperation and mutually beneficial initiatives between the two countries in the years to come.
Diplomatic relations is better fostered when partners learn from their histories. It will serve Nigeria and China better if they remain committed to their historical development, so as to promote partnerships that will contribute to their sustainable developments and the building of a global community of the shared future of all peoples, all countries and all individuals. I salute these two giants on their win-win national day celebrations.
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