For our special Ambassador Talks series, we speak to Nigeria’s top representative in China. At the beginning of the year, when many diplomats fled China as the outbreak was slamming Wuhan, the ambassador did the opposite — he returned. CGTN’S Wu Guoxiu brings us his story.
The Nigerian Embassy lies in Beijing’s Sanlitun, an area in Chaoyang district popular among expats with a large number of embassies.
Ambassador Baba Ahmad Jidda’s office is on the second floor.
If you ask him to show you one of the fancy things he keeps, he’ll probably show you something his wife bought for him, such as this special Chinese plant.
BABA AHMAD JIDDA Nigerian Ambassador to China “My wife brought it to my office. She said this one brings you a lot of fortune, a lot of money. Chinese Bank of China money will come to this, the Exit and Import Bank money will come, so I send it to Nigeria for infrastructure development.”
Jidda took up his current post in September, 2017. At the beginning of the year, he went back to Nigeria for the Christmas holiday. But when Wuhan was struck by COVID-19, he decided to rush back to Beijing.
BABA AHMAD JIDDA Nigerian Ambassador to China “China is our second home. So I discussed with my wife, and said we cannot be away from China during the trying time of China. And in any case, there were so many Nigerians in China, especially students. So there is a need for me to go back, as a captain of the ship to ensure we sink or swim with China. So I returned to Beijing with my wife. And everybody was surprised to see us, because the airport was empty, very few people. Few immigration officers were even there. It was like there was nobody. We have 75 Nigerians in Wuhan, 65 of them were students. 10 are other Nigerians. I told them please stay put. I assure you that things will be good. So we sent them support, and the government did more than we did to support the students and other Nigerians. I made a press conference, a press release, urging all Nigerians to stay in China, assuring them that sooner or later China will do something about the COVID-19. Finally, I’ve been vindicated that China contained the virus. In the whole world today, China is the safest. Therefore I feel very proud that I have taken that bold decision to come back to China when everybody was running out of China.”
WU GUOXIU Beijing “Can you share any personal stories or moments about how our two countries fought the pandemic together?”
BABA AHMAD JIDDA Nigerian Ambassador to China “In the case of Nigeria, we have the CCECC this big construction company undertaking railways and airports, were very helpful. And loads of medical equipment and medical personnel, you know, were sent to Nigeria, and they have done great job. They trained my people, making sure some of the equipments that we lack were provided, and we have since been cooperating in that area, and we’ll not stop appreciating China for the support that was mostly needed at the time it was given.”
WU GUOXIU Beijing “With the coronavirus situation now under control in China, what are the major focuses of bilateral cooperation?”
BABA AHMAD JIDDA Nigerian Ambassador to China “China believes in multilateralism. China does not operate alone. China must ensure that other countries in the world also get healthy. Maybe that’s the reason his Excellency President Xi Jinping contributed some of 2 billion US dollars during the last World Health Assembly. Maybe that’s why China is everyday supporting the World Health Organization, because it’s very important for other countries to be healthy, for us to conduct bilateral relations, especially African countries. We can’t not wait to receive vaccine from China, we cannot wait to see China sending millions of vaccines to Africa, so that the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation, the Belt and Road Initiative you know, to have healthy countries, to have health bilateral and multilateral relationship with China.”
WU GUOXIU Beijing “There have been words saying China’s been setting a debt trap for Africa, how do you respond to this? ”
BABA AHMAD JIDDA Nigerian Ambassador to China “If you are naive type of leader, you’ll be frightened of what the western press says about China’s loans to Africa. But our leaders are responsible leaders, our leaders are intellectuals, they are educated, they know what’s good for their people.”
Jidda says he’s been to almost every province in China. He praises China’s development blueprint, saying that the “five-year plan” is an important tool for the country’s progress.
BABA AHMAD JIDDA Nigerian Ambassador to China “The 14th development plan of China is like a global plan. It encompasses almost everything the world is going through, because China has reached a point where whatever it does, affects the rest of the world. The plan has its ramifications to friendly countries, like African countries, they mentioned the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation, mentioned the Belt and Road Initiative, and these are areas that touches on several other countries of the world.”
Ambassador Jidda says he’s staying in China for his second three-year term, as he aims to deepen the already friendly ties between his host, and home, countries. Wu Guoxiu, CGTN, Beijing.