Nigeria enjoyed robust relationship with the former Soviet Union especially with the part of the division that remains today as Russia from the 1970s to 1990s.The history of Nigeria’s civil war, which was fought from 1967-1970 will not be complete without the military support the Russians provided the government of Gen. Yakubu Gowon to successfully prosecute the war. At a time the Western powers were ambivalent to give Nigeria the needed support to prosecute the war, the Russians who believed in the indivisibility of Nigeria came in handy to throw their weight before the government of the day. The former Soviet Union’s influence also extended to the rest of Africa where it provided the liberation movements in Zimbabwe, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, South Africa and several other territories the required support to win their various wars of liberation for their people. But the influence of Russia waned as a result of the collapse of the former Soviet Union, leading to China and USA playing more dominant roles in African affairs. But of recent, Russia wants to cover its lost grounds in the continent, and the first summit involving the nation and the continent, was held at the Black Sea resort of Sochi from October 23-24 is a major step in that direction. It was on this account that President Muhammadu Buhari was in Russia about a fortnight ago to attend the first ever summit between Africa and Russia, where he was able to reach some far reaching agreements with Russia.
The Russians had noted at the summit that their relationship with Africa was improving with trade between them and the continent accounting for $20 billion in 2018 alone. If the momentum is maintained, it will outgrow this in the year that is coming to a close.
For Nigeria in particular, the government reached understanding with the Russians that would see them return to complete the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill and commission it.
President Buhari had lamented that Nigeria had expended over five billion dollars on Ajaokuta Steel without it coming to fruition.
President Buhari reiterated an earlier promise to complete Ajaokuta to provide jobs and the steel backbone that the nation’s industrial complex requires so desperately.
Presidents Buhari and Vladimir Putin also agreed to expand cooperation in energy sector, petroleum and gas, trade and investment, defence and security, mining and steel development, aluminium and phosphate, education and agriculture and a plethora of other issues.Significantly, President Putin also noted at the summit that the traditional friendly relationship between Nigeria and his country has gained a new momentum, symbolized by a 93 per cent growth in trade between the two nations in 2018.
He promised that Russian companies were ready to offer their scientific and technological developments to their African partners, and share their experience of upgrading energy, transport and communications infrastructure. The summit could be described as a great success. We agree with President Buhari as he noted that this meeting was a necessary anchor to kick start what has been a very cordial and mutually beneficial relationship in past years.
What is more, Nigeria and the rest of Africa can learn a lot from the experiences of Russia’s ongoing reforms of transitioning from an oil- dependent economy to a modern, diversified and inclusive economy.
As a sign of good faith, the Russian government donated 12 Mi-35 attack helicopters to Nigeria to help its military defeat the Boko Haram insurgents that have been terrorizing the North eastern region of the country for a decade. This nation will once more count on Russia in its moment of security challenge, and we hope it can rely on the East European nation just as it did in the 1970s to keep the country a united and indivisible entity.