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|‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by jason123: 11:47pm On Jan 24, 2011|
Lawrence Akindele, the Nigerian Ambassador to the Republic of Benin, speaks to Elizabeth Archibong on the historical ties between Nigeria and Benin Republic, the challenge of managing Nigeria/Benin relations and other issues. Excerpts:
Recent visit of Jonathan to Benin
You know we have been waiting for the visit for quite a while now. Since Jonathan became the president, many times the visit was scheduled but had to be postponed. Nigeria, just like the Republic of Benin is preparing for elections this year. You know that both countries have a lot in common. About 25 percent of the population of Benin are citizens of Nigeria. The people of Benin conferred on Mr Jonathan the highest national honour of Benin. This is worth being celebrated.
The relationship between both countries
The relationship between Nigeria and Benin has been quite strong. You will recall that Beninoise President Boni Iyayi has visited Nigeria several times and, in fact just like President Jonathan jokingly said in his speech to the Nigerian community here, Mr Iyayi refers to Benin as Nigeria’s 37th state.
And like I said earlier, we have a huge population of Nigerians here. So when we talk about the relationship, you will find that they are deeper than what you can see on the surface. Those of us who come from Nigeria and are unable to speak French will be surprised to see that most Benin citizens can also interact with them in their own local dialects, especially those who speak Yoruba, Egun and others. Those social bonds still exist despite the so called international boundaries
Challenges of representing Nigeria in Benin
The challenges before us are of consular nature and the way Nigerians are perceived here. By consular nature, I mean the harassment of Nigerians even despite the closeness I referred to earlier on. Many Nigerians have taken advantage of the ECOWAS protocols on free movement of persons. Nigerians are also very mobile, that is why they are found everywhere in the continent.
Some of the Nigerians we have here are doing extremely well and are quite comfortable. They speak French and other local languages. This, of course, have attracted enmity to them from their hosts. So, once in a while, we come across pockets of problems arising from issues of envy and so on. There is no doubt that Nigerians are easy targets everywhere. If you go to other African countries, you may find that things are not very different.
Nigerians are very proud of their heritage anywhere they are and they demonstrate this . For some people, this is pride but to the Nigerians, it is not. We have what you call citizen diplomacy which teaches that people must protect human rights at all times. We ensure that no Nigerian is detained unnecessarily for minor crimes. Nigerians are quite happy here I must tell you.
The type of problems we have seen in other countries are not here and I think this can be attributed to the long historical relationship which I spoke to you about earlier which dates back to the period before the Independence.
His thoughts on the behaviour of Nigerians
Nigerians are well rated here. Several Nigerians have been commended by the government of Benin Republic for their outstanding performances and contributions to the country’s economy. There is a Nigerian who recently attracted the visit of his state governor during his house warming. We have another Nigerian who recently won multiple awards for his contributions to the economy; a Reverend gentleman, Geoffrey Izemojo, who is the Managing Director of Songhai Center of Excellence. He has been involved in the training of Nigerians and other citizens of Benin Republic in integrated farming, fishery, aquaculture, all kinds of animal breeding. Any time the president here receives a very important visitor, he takes the visitor to the Songhai Center of Excellence.
As we speak, I can tell you that there is a struggle between Nigeria and Benin on who should lay claim to the man. He is a pride to Africa. So many Africans have benefited from his poverty elimination projects.
Areas of co-operation between the two countries
Since I assumed office, we have had several areas of co-operation within the frame work of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU). We also have the Joint Nigerian/ Benin Commission to promote trade in oil, gas, power gas turbines. We have facilitated the coming of many Nigerians into Benin Republic to pursue legitimate business. This has attracted the coming of financial institutions such as the UBA, Diamond Bank and others.
Nigerian traders are also doing well here. We have also been working very hard to manage our border, which is well over 700 kilometers. We have to make sure that we work to reduce smuggling. The heads of state of both countries have also resolved that any dispute which may arise must be resolved amicably rather than resort to external bodies for adjudications. We have accepted the fact that we are brothers and this is the guiding philosophy of all our actions.
The volume of trade between the two nations
You know that the trade for now is largely informal and so it is very difficult to arrive at an accurate figure. Recently, however, those who import rice into Nigeria were told that they have to pay duties. This is to let the Nigerian government derive some revenue from that. But by and large, the trade between the two countries is largely informal. This is where having a proper boundary has become very important. One of the reasons why we cannot have accurate data for instance can be traceable to the loose nature of our borders.
There is a plan now to properly demarcate the border, where there will be more equity. And it will also allow both countries to properly regulate the influx of goods. We are working hard to ensure that this process comes into fruition.
There will be more sophisticated gadgets to monitor the borders and hopefully, this will reduce smuggling and other cross border crimes.
The development of Nigeria since independence
Well, the fact is that this country was once a country of great hope but, somewhere along the line, we missed it. We did not sustain our development process. But now we need a refocus of our capacity by emphasising education and I think this is where the present president, Mr Jonathan is taking the country. We need to give him a chance. I see the country being refocused again and this process must be allowed to mature if Nigeria is really interested in getting out of the present situation we find ourselves in.
Preparation for the elections
I am sure that given the current zeal shown by President Jonathan and other Nigerians, we should be able to conduct free and fair elections. We must put those who say we cannot conduct elections properly to shame. We have to do it.
Mr Jega is ready and he is committed. It is not very difficult to do it. We have what it takes to do it and we have to. For me, we have no other choice.
Permitting the Diaspora to take part in future elections
Yes they have been agitating that they want to vote. But I do not think that may be possible in the 2011 election because government is still trying to work out the modalities, including the enabling laws. But it can be done when all things are put in place. Nigerians in Benin can always take advantage of their proximity to Nigeria to ensure that they take time out and go back to the country and vote for now. We will sensitise them to do that.
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by jason123: 11:48pm On Jan 24, 2011|
Yorubas and Nigerians, What do you think? Since the north allows people from Chad, Niger etc to come in. Why can't the south do the same
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by jason123: 12:05am On Jan 25, 2011|
What do you think now?
20 views and no comment
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by aljharem(m): 12:09am On Jan 25, 2011|
why not say nigerians why say yorubas and nigerians
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by jason123: 12:12am On Jan 25, 2011|
Because the yorubas are the closest to them geographically so they would feel the most impact if there is any net immigration
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by EzeUche2(m): 12:17am On Jan 25, 2011|
Yorubas only make up a small percentage of République du Bénin. The Fon are the majority I believe in the République du Bénin. And people need to remember that there are also Hausa and a good amount of Fulani in Benin as well.
Don't understand why someone like Becomrich believe République du Bénin is majority Yoruba. However I have been to Porto-Novo and Yoruba seems like the most widely spoken language in that city.
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by KnowAll(m): 12:34am On Jan 25, 2011|
Porto Novo is a Yoruba City, there is no reason why a train link between PN & Lagos should not be established. Lagos being an expensive city full of energy & bursting in her seams, Poto Novo might be dat city that provide solace to discerning Lagosians who just requires peaceful living & existence.
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by jason123: 12:36am On Jan 25, 2011|
Please, do not mind Becomrich. He is from Benin and he wants to force the yorubas in Nigeria to join Benin.
Anyway, you are right. There is a small amount of what you and I call "Yoruba" in teh country. The Oyo empire actually conquered the dahomey empire (fon) and their yoruba is actually very similar to the yoruba spoken in Nigeria, for example, I read somewhere that they usually include the "k" letter when writing although its pronounced the same way as the yorubas in Nigeria do. But do you support it? Free immigration into the country as the northerners do??
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by jason123: 12:39am On Jan 25, 2011|
I do think so. I went to in [b]epe when my anut wanted to by some sea-food to the house. I noticed they where speaking "yoruba" although I could not understand it but my aunt could.
Btw, I am not saying they should join Nigeria.
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by ekubear1: 12:39am On Jan 25, 2011|
Err, they already are in Nigeria (mostly Lagos). That border is really porous. One of my dad's good friends is a Yoruba guy from Benin.
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by aljharem(m): 12:41am On Jan 25, 2011|
ezeuche shattap dai abegi, go and research about fons before u start to change history again
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by jason123: 12:42am On Jan 25, 2011|
My french teacher (sec school) is also a benin man. His name is KOLAWOLE . But do you support the 37 state statement? Do you think their should be a merger?
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by Obiagu1(m): 12:42am On Jan 25, 2011|
Sad, it's only the Igbos that are holed up in this pathetic country. I wish we have a clan in Cameroon, I'd probably move there permanently.
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by jason123: 12:43am On Jan 25, 2011|
Calm down now? . What has he said that would warrant such a reaction?
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by jason123: 12:44am On Jan 25, 2011|
I heard their are some efik tribes in cameroon. Infact, their names sounds igbo such a nneka (I saw this on youtube)
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by ShangoThor(m): 12:45am On Jan 25, 2011|
aren't we meant to freely travel as Ecowas citizens from country to country?
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by Chyz2: 12:45am On Jan 25, 2011|
The article is not talking about a merger or free immigration but having good border control to cut down criminal acts such as smuggling.
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by Obiagu1(m): 12:47am On Jan 25, 2011|
Efik is not Igbo.
Yeah, they are in Cameroon, the part Nigeria stupidly lost to cameroon including Bakassi.
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by jason123: 12:48am On Jan 25, 2011|
ShangoThor:I know but it gets to a point when the benins (yoruba) form a community in Nigeria, I mean a large community. Infact, they want to start voting in Nigeria (well, not that anyone can tell the difference between them and the nigerian yorubas)
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by jason123: 12:51am On Jan 25, 2011|
Chyz*:You are back? . Nice to see you. Yeah, but I believe Nigeria might swallow her sooner or later
Obiagu1:Whats the difference? (NO OFFENCE)
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by Obiagu1(m): 12:51am On Jan 25, 2011|
Just like no one can tell the difference between Niger and Northern Nigerians or Southern Cameroon and Eastern Nigerians. So if we want to increase our size, maybe all of them will be considered?
So do you want only Benin and leave out Niger or compromise and have Niger in Nigeria too?
I know the thought of Niger in Nigeria will scare you.
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by ShangoThor(m): 12:54am On Jan 25, 2011|
mmmmm Jason123, that dynamic is very interesting,
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by Obiagu1(m): 12:54am On Jan 25, 2011|
They are simply not Igbos linguistically but it's hard to differentiate one from the other in appearance.
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by ekubear1: 12:56am On Jan 25, 2011|
No need for a merger, but more trade, economic cooperation would be good for both sides, I think.
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by ekubear1: 12:57am On Jan 25, 2011|
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by jason123: 12:57am On Jan 25, 2011|
@ bolded . Hell yeah.
Anyway, I do not want a merger of Benin and Niger because it gives these groups an advantage in Nigeria. Even now, we witness how people from other neighnouring countries vote in Nigeria to give these groups and advantage. So, what is in it for the "minorities" like mine?
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by jason123: 12:59am On Jan 25, 2011|
I know, its food for though.
eku_bear:I hope it stays as that.
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by aljharem(m): 1:00am On Jan 25, 2011|
just keep your tagging with the yorubas as you do
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by jason123: 1:01am On Jan 25, 2011|
This debate is too intellectual for you. Go to bed!
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by Kilode1: 1:14am On Jan 25, 2011|
Lawrence Akindele = Becomrich
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by jason123: 1:19am On Jan 25, 2011|
.LOL. . Mehn!!!
|Re: ‘benin Republic Is Nigeria’s 37th State’ by fstranger1: 1:24am On Jan 25, 2011|
That is so 1860
Lawrence Akindele = Oyebambam
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