From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
As Nigeria and China mark 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations today, former head of state, General Yakubu Gowon (retd), has expressed delight over the milestone recorded by both countries.
Gowon, while delivering a goodwill message as special guest of honour at a forum entitled: ‘China-Nigeria Relations at 50’, organised by the Centre for China Studies, yesterday, in Abuja, said it was his honour and privilege to have been the head of state of Nigeria at the time both countries established relations.
He recalled with pride and joy, the productive preliminary contacts and engagements from 1966 that preceded the final outcome of the ceremony China and Nigeria are celebrating.
“I recall with pride and joy the productive preliminary contacts and engagements from 1966 that preceded the final outcome of the ceremony we are celebrating today — our bilateral relations in 1971. Yang Qiliang was China’s first representative in Nigeria, followed by Li Sen Yi. The two countries worked closely together to ensure the success of the new relationship. Not long after, Nigeria helped see China’s admission to the United Nations (UN) as both member of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
“That ultimately earned Nigeria a welcome State visit to Beijing/China in 1974. It was a most successful visit that firmly established the bilateral relationship between our two countries. It included a rare visit to Chairman Mao at his home by the Nigerian delegation, led by me, my wife, Victoria, the Foreign Minister, Okoi Arikpo, the Permanent Secretary and Nigerian first ambassador to China, Aminu Sanusi.”
“We ended the visit signing a number of agreements, especially in agriculture, trade, and communications. Succeeding generations/governments expanded the areas of agreement to what is today,” Gowon said.
Gowon further said his memory of that visit was very different from the subsequent visits to China 20 years later.
The Charge’ d’ Affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria, Zhao Yong, said looking back to the past 50 years, the relationship between China and Nigeria have enjoyed a strong development on the basis of mutual respect, trust and support.
Zhao also said the past 50 years have witnessed an increasingly enhanced political trust, especially in 2005, a strategic partnership based on mutual political trust, mutual economic benefits and mutual assistance in international affairs established between the two countries.