46 DIPLOMATIQUE ‘We have over 5 mil­lion Su­danese of Nige­rian ori­gin in our coun­try’

Nigeria and Su­dan share strong, his­tor­i­cal re­la­tions, dat­ing back to when Nige­rian pil­grims to Saudi Ara­bia crossed Su­dan. The north African coun­try with over five mil­lion Su­danese of Nige­rian ori­gin, has be­come a des­ti­na­tion for many Nige­rian stu­dents se

Weekly Trust - - Interview - Ab­dul­la­teef Salau Am­bas­sador Ibrahim Bushra: Amb. Bushra: Amb. Bushra: Amb. Bushra: Amb. Bushra: Amb. Bushra: DT: Hav­ing been in Nigeria for so long, what is your im­pres­sion? Amb. Bushra: DT: How would you like to be re­mem­bered when you leave Nigeria?

Daily Trust: How will you as­sess the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween Nigeria and Su­dan? One might say the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Nigeria and Su­dan is a long stand­ing and deeply-rooted his­tory. As a mat­ter of fact, it is a unique re­la­tion­ship as the two coun­tries do not share bor­der. Yet, blood re­la­tions, as ev­i­denced by the mil­lions of Su­danese peo­ple of Nige­rian ori­gin, con­vey the strong so­cial and cul­tural bonds be­tween the two coun­tries. In the past, pil­grims from Nigeria seek­ing to per­form the hajj would trek all the way to Hi­jaz, cross­ing through Su­dan. Many of those mak­ing their way back from the holy trip would set­tle and in­ter­marry with the lo­cals, given the long dis­tance. That is how we now have ap­prox­i­mately over five mil­lion Su­danese of Nige­rian ori­gin in the Su­dan.

DT: How would you as­sess eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion be­tween both coun­tries?

Eco­nomic re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries re­gret­tably falls far be­low our ex­pec­ta­tions. It is quite im­por­tant to es­tab­lish a robust eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion to en­hance sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. Our coun­tries need to in­vest in eco­nomic projects that would ben­e­fit both, and there are many op­por­tu­ni­ties at hand since both coun­tries share com­mon grounds. For in­stance, the cli­mate in some parts of Nigeria is sim­i­lar to that of Su­dan. In terms of agri­cul­ture, we can ben­e­fit from the ex­pe­ri­ences of each other and per­haps en­gage in large scale trad­ing of crops. Re­cently, Nigeria com­menced an agri­cul­tural project with the gov­ern­ment of Morocco that has re­sulted in the re­duc­tion of fer­til­izer prices by up to 30%. This un­doubt­edly has served as an in­cen­tive for Nige­rian farm­ers, en­sur­ing in­creased pro­duc­tion. Su­dan and Nigeria can en­gage in such projects as both coun­tries have abun­dance of arable land.

In an­other venue, it is worth men­tion­ing that thou­sands of Nige­rian stu­dents seek to study in uni­ver­si­ties in Su­dan. When you ask them or their par­ents why they made such a choice they would tell you Su­dan is akin to their sec­ond home. Both coun­tries need to work closely to reap the eco­nomic ben­e­fits of this phe­nom­e­non. It would also be per­ti­nent, in this re­gard, to men­tion that the Em­bassy of Su­dan in col­lab­o­ra­tion with au­thor­i­ties in the two coun­tries is pre­par­ing to or­ga­nize a fo­rum on univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion be­tween the two coun­tries, but we hope it would also spur in­ter­est in eco­nomic mat­ters.

DT: How would you de­scribe Nigeria’s role in the Su­danese peace process?

We be­lieve Nigeria’s role is quite im­por­tant, as it is a tes­ta­ment to the level of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries in tack­ling se­cu­rity is­sues mainly in the area of counter ter­ror­ism. We are also thank­ful for the Nige­rian contin­gency in Dar­fur for the ef­fort it has taken to en­sure peace and sta­bil­ity in that area.

DT: 44 African coun­tries re­cently signed the Con­ti­nen­tal Free Trade Agree­ment which aims to boost in­tra-African trade. But some coun­tries, in­clud­ing Nigeria and South Africa, with­held their sig­na­tures. What is your view on this?

The AfCFTA is a step ahead for the African con­ti­nent and is a step in the right di­rec­tion in achiev­ing true unity be­tween African coun­tries, and per­haps it is the an­swer to in­creas­ing eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion be­tween us, what we have dis­cussed ear­lier. This agree­ment holds a lot of po­ten­tials, it will fa­cil­i­tate trade across the con­ti­nent and pro­vide busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties for the youth. That be­ing said, the fact that some coun­tries like Nigeria pre­ferred not to sign at the cur­rent time in­di­cates that per­haps there are some fur­ther con­sul­ta­tions to be made be­fore mak­ing a com­mit­ment. It, how­ever, does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that it has com­pletely with­drawn from the agree­ment. The eco­nomic and se­cu­rity im­pli­ca­tions of the agree­ment dif­fer for each coun­try and it is un­der­stand­able that care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion needs to be taken.

DT: In­se­cu­rity is one of the ma­jor chal­lenges on the con­ti­nent. What do you think should be done about it?

Like Nigeria, Su­dan is fac­ing se­cu­rity chal­lenges in spe­cific ar­eas in South Kord­o­fan and Blue Nile states. Su­dan be­lieves that such prob­lems are best solved through di­a­logue and as such the gov­ern­ment has worked to con­vince the dif­fer­ent rebel fac­tions to sign a peace ac­cord un­der the aus­pices of the African Union. We be­lieve that the sign­ing of this peace agree­ment will bring peace to the re­gion. Sim­i­larly, we ap­pre­ci­ate the tremen­dous ef­fort by Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari in com­bat­ing Boko Haram and we are ready to co­op­er­ate with Nigeria to tackle ter­ror­ism through any means nec­es­sary.

DT: What is the pop­u­la­tion of Nige­ri­ans in Su­dan?

Cur­rently, we have over 5,000 Nige­rian stu­dents study­ing at var­i­ous uni­ver­si­ties in Su­dan. When you fac­tor in the Su­danese peo­ple of Nige­rian ori­gin, you may say we have over five mil­lion Su­danese of Nige­rian ori­gin in Su­dan.

We find Nige­ri­ans to be po­lite, dis­ci­plined and hard­work­ing peo­ple. As men­tioned ear­lier, we share many cul­tural val­ues and so­cial norms. We are very much alike. There­fore, we are blood broth­ers and sis­ters and we hope that the re­la­tions be­tween us con­tinue to pros­per for­ever.

it is worth men­tion­ing that thou­sands of Nige­rian stu­dents seek to study in uni­ver­si­ties in Su­dan. When you ask them or their par­ents why they made such a choice they would tell you Su­dan is akin to their sec­ond home. Both coun­tries need to work closely to reap the eco­nomic ben­e­fits of this phe­nom­e­non

As mes­sen­gers from our coun­tries, we work dili­gently to en­hance re­la­tions with other coun­tries. We con­sider Nigeria a part of our home and it is quite sur­pris­ing to know that some peo­ple in both Su­dan and Nigeria are not aware of this spe­cial re­la­tion­ship. We as­pire to bridge the phys­i­cal dis­tance be­tween us by rais­ing the aware­ness of th­ese peo­ple to a level that we will both be com­fort­able with. If we can achieve that, we are happy.

Am­bas­sador Ibrahim Bushra Mo­hamed Ali

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