By Vera Samuel Anyagafu
Haven arrived Beijing, the capital city of China at the time of its Golden Spring, actually exposed me to the reason behind Chinese government’s interest in boosting the economy of Nigeria as country.
Vivid, striking and absolutely stunning is the fact that both countries have similarities and differences in historical legacy, historical development and composed of numerous ethnic and religious groups,with the largest population on their respective continents.
While in the urban China, I meet with one of the country’s top government official, Prof. Yong-Peng , who discreetly narrated the core similarities his country share with Nigeria.
That was enough for me to understand that China shares both natural and historical connection with Nigeria, haven seen both countries relationships grown from exploratory trips of the 1970’s to political errands.
And I saw the reason Nigeria happened to be China’s first consideration in the New Silk Road Economic Belt, expected to link China with Europe through Central and Western Asia and also included in her 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, connecting the country with the rest of the world.
Deliberating on the government’s growing financial support through the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), established in the year 2000, I remember Nigeria and her role in ending Apartheid in South Africa and how she use to mobilise funds and personnel to support fellow African countries and then, it summed up.
It summed up
The stunning similarities summed up that Nigeria and China both resilient citizens, internally endowed with natural resources and share status symbols as was seen in many of the historical museums I visited, such as the Temple of Heaven, The Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Mutianyu Great Wall, and so on
And I quickly understood why the Chinese government is offering a hand of friendship and is strongly standing with Africa, particularly Nigeria.
Unfortunately unlike China, Nigeria seems to have blindly ignored the one money spinning machine for China and that is building on industrialisation and tourism.
For the first time during my tour in China, I paused a moment to think about Nigeria. China has gained stability and respect over the years. The country has developed socialism with her characteristics and is reaping the dividends, whereas Nigeria, even with both the natural and human resources lagged behind.
At every tourist site I visited, over 85 per cent of the tourists were Chinese, while the remaining 15 per cent were made up of Europeans and other nationals from across the globe.
Most thoughtful and humbling aspect of the tourist sites was the commitment of the Chinese people and I wondered what happened to the many pronounced high level bi-lateral agreements signed, especially on revitalisation projects in Nigeria
At every tourist site visited, many of which were built hundreds of years ago, about 15,000 tourists were accommodated, then multiply and sum up the amount realized from tickets sold and you would not, but weep for Nigeria that abandoned many tourist attractions to rot away.
Should I also talk about tickets bought at China Red Theatre to watch an illuminating story of the true essence of the art of Kung fu, told through the story of the rites of passage of a young boy to adulthood, or the Mutianyu Great Wall, simply referred to as the Great Wall, one of the seven wonders of the world. This imposing monument which was built in 1404 has been opened to tourists since April 1988.
No doubt that the rise of China in the last 2 decades has been phenomenal, especially after the open door policy, which contributed to her becoming economically strong and emerged as a power to be reckoned with.
However, I thought I had seen enough of the country’s enchantingly beautiful historical sites, until I visited Chinese Railway Construction Company (CRCC) and made a tour of the railway museum and through my mind’s eye, I ran through Nigeria’s abandoned one time magnificent Railway cooperation.
Going round the museum, I clearly depicted the similarity the Chinese shared with the then patriotic Nigerians, the humble beginnings and struggles in pursuit of a better nation amidst natural and man-made adversities.
Listening to stories of how they struggled through and after wars to recent success stories is a story to be told to Nigeria of today.
CRCC, which gave birth to CECC, is presently contacted to construct railways and bridges almost world over.
That was not were it stopped because I shared in the company’s expertise. A ticket was made available for me to travel in the exquisite speed train from Beijing to Shanghai, the country’s financial muscle.
The movement within Shanghai for me was also an eye opener and a story to be told back home.
The Railway Station is so massive that it could be mistaken for an international airport.
Inside the train, I was building up thoughts on how Nigeria can revitalise her railway transport sector. With such a train from the agrarian far north, connecting the commercial south and connecting more cities, would in the process, take Nigeria’s wobbling economy to the next level.
From records, China in 1978, had about 250 million poor people, which, had however, reduced to 26 million by 2010 and hopes to rid the country of poverty in 10 to 15 years time and one wonders why it appear so difficult for Nigeria to do, going by her bountiful endowments.
Harnessing Nigeria potentials
Following from these, it is easy to guess to which of the pendulum that the deficit tilts. Nigeria has indeed lagged behind. Although is no news that China seeks to pursue investment drive in Africa, can we not also commit same effort to our emerging markets.
If Nigeria can ensure technology transfer, understudy how the country has been able to lower poverty rate, perhaps, pump more funds into the social empowerment scheme here and try to generate employment by backing indigenous companies, perhaps, our march to industrialisation and a better life would not be a mirage after all.
There was also the thought of Nigeria been able to harness her industrious and enterprising regions, going by the fact that Nigerians are hard working and can surpass China if and when the right policies are put in place. Amazingly, almost 90 per cent of the merchandise at markets visited in China had on display created in China products with number of tourist trooping in from all walks of life, eager to strike a bargain or two.
I also got marveled at the number of Nigerians in some of these markets, with a sprinkling of American and British shops.
However, I tried not to be too embittered but after visiting the country’s Global Financial Centre, which is actually the Shanghai World Financial Centre Observatory, as the tour guide drove past rows and rows of high rise buildings, mass transit, with some buses powered by electricity, thoughts on how corruption in Nigeria has successfully diverted funds for infrastructures deepened. The Shanghai World Financial Center stands at approximately 474 metres above sea level, spanning almost 55cm and as I walked on the transparent glass-floor walkway, I saw China’s money spinning city in all its glory.
This centre which was certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s highest observatory in 2009, is one of Shanghai tourist attraction and a site to behold.
Coming to Guangzhou
Guangzhou, the commercial city of China however, seem to be home for a teeming number of Nigerians, mostly traders.
Nigeria Consul General to China, Ambassador Wale Oloko, together with the consulate team spoke frankly about building the image of the country through concerted effort from each and every Nigeria. The team expressed that there is vast potential for growth of trade between Nigeria and China and there is scope to build stronger economic and political ties.
But for all I know, can this not be vice versa, even as I looked at China’s Canton Fair, which sits on 1.18 million square meters complex, Nigeria’s lost opportunities in its Trade Fair Complex along Lagos/Badagry Expressway flipped through my mind. This bi-annual fair, left no room for comparism, with products which cover all spheres of life, from domestic to industrial.
The fair has not been cancelled since it opened shop in 1957, and with an inscription which states, ‘moved away from Made-in- China to Created-in-China’, I wished that Nigerian buyers who visited the 120th session of the trade center could join hands in effort to pull together Nigeria’s human and material resources and transform the economy into an enviable state and ensure that our leaders harness our diversity for economic growth and progress.
Throughout my China tour, I could not but think of Nigeria, as a leading country in the African continent can be forthcoming in bi-lateral cooperation that will materialise into mutual benefits with countries shared diplomatic ties with.