THE recent parliamentary visit of the Senate to the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, in Moscow, led by the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, remains one of those engagements where the Senate has continued to extend its legislative influence beyond the shores of this country for the socio-economic benefit of the country.
It is important to point out that the Senate and by extension the National Assembly, made history as the first legislature in the history of the country and the third in Africa to make parliamentary visit and address the plenary of the upper chamber of the Russian Federation. Only two other African countries – Zambia and Egypt – have had such privilege of parliamentary visit. Needless to say that epochal event has further lifted the country to a new pedestal in terms of legislative diplomacy and economic cooperation between Nigeria and Russia.
Second, it was observed that even though there exist good relations between Nigeria and Russia on the political, economic, cultural and diplomatic spheres, there is much space left to be covered in order to improve on the relationship. Saraki, during the parliamentary visit, highlighted the similarities between the Russian Federation and Nigeria in his speech. He noted that both countries are largely oil-dependent economies. He further told his Russian colleagues that Russia is presently not playing its role in Nigeria as expected. He made it clear that it is time for the relationship between both countries to move from the flow of aid to Nigeria to mutually beneficial partnership, capable of unleashing untapped potential between both countries.
He called on the Russian government to reckon with Nigeria as its focal point in Africa, by taking a more serious view of its longstanding ties with the country. “I make this point because we are not seeing enough of that at the present time. There is a vacuum currently, and the reality is that no other country can take your place,” Saraki said. “As a fellow oil producing nation, we do believe that Russia has a keen insight on some of the challenges we face in Nigeria with regard to the economy, as well as our drive towards diversification.” The Senate President also insisted that as both the Nigerian and the Russian economies are recovering from recession, that part of the consolidation process ought to be a stronger focus on Africa, and Nigeria in particular.
According to him, “As leaders of our nations’ parliaments, therefore, we must think of not just today but well into the future, to pursue and implement initiatives that release the potentials of our people in their desire for economic development. With Russia and Nigeria projected to be the biggest economies in Europe and Africa respectively in just three decades from now, it would be a travesty if we did not strive to strengthen cooperation and partnership to reap the gains in terms of GDP growth. As the country with the biggest gas reserves on earth, Russia should be a leading player in the African oil and gas sector. Stronger collaboration for gas development would help Nigeria solve acute problems of power generation as well as provide for other local uses. The time is ripe to redefine the relationship between our two countries, based on partnership, to improve the state of infrastructure and economic development, for the good of our people,” he said.
Another benefit from the parliamentary visit was the inherent capacity of the leadership of the National Assembly to complement the executive’s drive for economic diversification through worthy cooperation with parliaments in advanced democracies in filling developmental gaps that currently exist in the efforts to grow and make strong the nation’s economy. “Nigeria’s leadership role in Africa is unassailable. An improved relationship between us would be a definitive pathway to a stronger relationship with the whole of Africa,” Saraki said.
Another gain from the parliamentary visit was Saraki’s emphasis on a paradigm shift in Nigeria’s expectations from developed nations. He said it was time for Russia and Nigeria to revitalise their ties with greater emphasis on partnership rather donor-aid-recipient relationship, since “aid alone will no longer sufficiently tackle the challenges ahead.” He insisted that partnership, on the other hand, will open doors to new investments and other beneficial opportunities. “It is for this reason that we in Nigeria are putting a lot of effort into ensuring that we build a strong foundation for the future and one of the ways we are doing that is by deepening links with other parliaments such as yourselves, because legislation is a necessary key to unlocking potentials in people, and delivering better prospects for citizens,” he declared.
“I therefore come to you today as an economic ambassador of Africa’s largest economy. Our economy is increasingly stable and offers immense potential for investment. Our people are self-motivated, ambitious and seeking new opportunities and avenues to make their mark in the dynamic world of today. And I say to you: let us work together to explore new and exciting areas of cooperation and economic opportunities that will be mutually beneficial to our peoples. For us, there are compelling arguments for looking to Russia. I say this for the obvious reason that our two countries share certain, striking similarities,” Saraki stated.
Moreover, another vital lesson from Russian parliamentary visit is the undeniable importance of fostering national unity and cohesion through the preservation of the nation’s culture and history. Apart from laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin Wall by the President of the Senate, the delegation’s guided tour of Moscow’s Kremlin Museums, the Archangel Cathedral – the burial church of Muscovite princes and first Tsars of Russia – and the Tretyakov Gallery – which houses the Russian art of the 11th through the early 20th Century, the heavily tourist sites point to untapped potentials in Nigeria which can be developed and made beneficial.
Even though Nigeria has very rich historical sites, art and cultural artifacts, the lesson from Russia is that the Federal Government must of necessity make efforts to ensure that the nation’s history is faithfully and consciously documented and told through commissioned books, artworks, paintings, films, sculpture and persevered in centrally located parks, squares and buildings, where they can be easily accessed by Nigerians and tourists alike. Besides, a well-developed museum and art gallery is not only a rich educational repertoire but a money spinner that can boost the internally generated revenue of the Federal Government, generate employment and confer a sense of pride on all Nigerians.
Lastly is the need to ensure that all pending legal, business and diplomatic agreements between both countries are resolved and sorted out as soon as possible as a sign of readiness to work together and extension of good faith. Compared with the Russian embassy in Abuja, it is important to ensure that Nigeria’s embassy building is improved upon in the spirit of reciprocity since optics are crucial in all diplomatic dealings.
In addition, it is logical to think that Nigeria would still be at the ongoing 2018 World Football Championship in Russia by now if Saraki had been at the Super Eagles encounter with Argentina to cheer them to victory. He was not there at the first match with Croatia, Nigeria lost. He was was in Volgograd during the match between Nigeria and Iceland, Nigeria won 2-0. He was not there during the last encounter with Argentina, Super Eagles are on their way home! How I wish he returned to Russia after the All Progressives Congress National Convention!
Notwithstanding the disappointment suffered by sports loving Nigerians following the ouster of our national team from the FIFA World Cup, the benefits of the Senate’s parliamentary visit to the Russian Parliament and the germane issues canvassed on both sides, will go a long way to place the country at a great advantage at the local and international level, now and in the foreseeable future.
- Onogu is the Chief Press Secretary to the Senate President.
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