Friday, December 2, 2022

Independence Anniversary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

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Roy Lie Ajtam

The Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, H.E. Dr Eniola Ajayi, invited dignitaries, Business personalities, compatriots and friends to a reception celebrating the 62nd  Anniversary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Independence Day on Monday, 3 October 2022. Venue, the  Hilton Hotel, The Hague.

The organist Mrs Noeline Onukwugha Idut, gave renditions of the national anthem of the Netherlands and Nigeria. Further featuring on the program was a performance by the cultural dance group Nigeria Media/Entertainers Groups, Netherlands. The group put on a dazzling performance showcasing Nigeria’s rich and  variated cultural heritage.

H.E. Mr. Vusimuzi Philemon Madonsela, Ambassador of South Africa, H.E. Dr Eniola Ajayi and H.E. Mr. Olivier Jean Patrick Nduhungirehe , Ambassador of Rwanda.

Ambssador Eniola Ajayi captivated the attendees with her welcome remarks. The guest speaker was Mr Tijmen Rooseboom of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 Dr Eniola Ajayi related “: It is with great joy that I welcome you all to our 62nd Independence Anniversary, being the National Day celebration of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I congratulate my Nigerian compatriots for the grace to celebrate this year. I would also like to congratulate our co-celebrants of the October 1 National Day, namely; China, Cyprus, Tuvalu and the Republic of Korea.

I acknowledge Mr Tijmen Rooseboom, the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who is a Special Envoy to the Sahel/Head of West Africa and Great Lakes unit. I also acknowledge another Special guest in our midst, Mr Michael Balogun, the CEO of Tour2Nigeria.

H.E. Ms. Maria Isabel Gomes, Ambassador of Angola, H.E. Dr Eniola Ajayi, Ambassador of Nigeria, H.E. Ms. Salima Abdelhak, Ambassador of Algeria and H.E. Madeleine Liguemoh Ondoua, Ambassador of Cameroon.

It has been the honour of my life to represent the President and the beautifully diverse people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Nigeria and Netherlands enjoy a very cordial relationship especially in the economic sphere. I am delighted to note that the Kingdom of the Netherlands has footprints in Nigeria predating our Independence when they established an office in Lagos in 1959.

Nigeria established its mission in the Netherlands on 26th November,1966. The highest level of engagement in the past year was the meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and Prime Minister Mark Rutte on 24th September, 2021 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. We have also had strategic engagements through Bilateral Consultations and the hosting of delegations in different sectors within the past year.

Netherlands being home to several important multilateral organizations in which Nigeria is a member has provided additional platform for us to contribute to world peace and order especially at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Common Fund for Commodities and the International Courts.

The focus of this year’s celebration is the uniqueness of our country Nigeria and the talents of our diverse population as expressed within the various sectors of human endeavours across the world. This year we are focusing on the Entertainment Industry in Nigeria. We have grown in leaps and bounds especially in the area of Music and Movie making.

“Nollywood”, the name given to the Nigerian film industry is the second largest film industry in the world. It produces 1500-2000 films a year, earning over $660 million annually. It is not surprising that Nigeria has witnessed a series of landmark Nollywood deals in form of content acquisitions from the most popular streamers – Amazon Prime video and Netflix.

A total of about 150 Nigerian films have made it to NETFLIX in just the last 2 years. Netflix will be showing us snippets of what they are doing in Nigeria titled “Naija to the World” this evening. The prospects for greater collaboration is immense, little wonder they are our top sponsor tonight. Thank you NETFLIX.

Nigeria being an African country located in the west, with a population of about 217 million according to Worldometer estimates of the UN in 2022 is pretty well known. That it comprises of 36 federating states and a Federal capital territory occupying a land space of 923,769 square kilometers is in the public domain. The fact that Nigeria is also the largest economy in Africa is common knowledge. Thankfully Nigeria is currently committed to the active diversification into the non-oil sector and has recorded serious growth in Agriculture and Telecommunications sectors in recent years.

One of the greatest partners in our diversification quest is the Kingdom of the Netherlands, being the number 1 trading partner of Nigeria in Europe. Netherlands is very strategic for us because many Dutch companies have been household names in Nigeria for nearly a century. Some of such companies Friesland Campina and Shell International are also partnering with us for this celebration.

This relationship has been truly dynamic in its response to changing economic and climatic challenges in our world. We also thank Ngbaka Brew, the Manufacturers of Ngbaka range of beer drinks for supporting this event. Ngbaka Beer is the success story of (4) four African boys in Europe who chose to keep the authentic African flavour alive.

The challenges of insecurity are receiving attention and thankfully it is abating. We are looking forward to a great year ahead especially with the promise of a free and fair election by the current Government and ultimately a smooth transition of power.

However there are some interesting things about Nigeria that you may not be familiar with. Some of those heartwarming nuggets are as follows:

  1. Nigeria is one of the most ethnically diverse nations in the world with over 250 ethnic nationalities who speak over 500 distinct languages, little wonder that the official language of our truly diverse nation is English language. The other version of which is our pidgin English. We are so ethnically diverse even in the foods we eat, the type of clothes we wear and the festivals we celebrate. Being different from one another is an acceptable reality within our culture.
  • There is so much that God has endowed Nigeria with. You will be surprised to find out that there is no single state in Nigeria without a mineral deposit. Many of these mineral deposits are in commercial quantities. This is aside from the oil and gas resources of the country. If you like, Nigeria is a reservoir of mineral resources waiting to be mined. Our current priority minerals are: Coal, Bitumen, Limestone, Iron Ore, Barites, Gold, Lead and Zinc.
  • Nigeria is home to the largest earthworks carried out especially prior to the mechanical Era. Remnants of the Nok culture can still be found in Benin City.
  • Nigeria can claim Africa’s largest and oldest dye pit in Kano. A place called Kofar Mata. It was founded in 1498. At a point it was the backbone of the state’s economy.
  • The city of Kano is also the largest commercial hub for the leather industry. In 1851 it made about 10 million pairs of sandals. The Kano tanneries process hides and skins into leather and are the oldest and biggest suppliers of local leather. Leather here is produced in footwear, bags, clothing and it is sometimes exported. Some of the biggest fashion brands like Louis Vuitton are known to source some of their leather from Kano tanneries. I am standing on a Leather carpet from Kano this evening.
  • Nigeria boasts of the ‘Twins Capital’ of the world. Igbo-Ora, a small town in Oyo State, southwest Nigeria has the largest concentration of twins with 158 twin births in 1000. The global average is 12 in 1000. They attribute it to a diet of yam and okro. However, the jury is still out as to the exact reason.
  • Nigeria is haven to many natural wonders of nature with a very diverse species of animals and plants in the world. The Niger-Delta and Cross River state forests are some of the most important biospheres housing one of the largest diversity of butterflies in the world, about 1828 species strong. It is home to over 1000 species of Amphibians and birds. The Niger-Delta has the most monotypic fish family in the world.
  • Another Nigerian natural wonder is the Ikogosi Warm spring in Ekiti State, south west Nigeria. It is a natural spring with hot and cold water flowing side by side even at their meeting point.
  • Nigeria takes pride in many of her citizens as a country. Some of those citizens are; but not limited to, Professor Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian playwright and political activist who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986 being the first black African to be so honoured. Other notable authors are Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Adiche just to name a few. Dr Oluyinka Olutoye, the Nigerian Fetal and Peadiatric surgeon who operated a baby-in-vitro at a Texas Children’s Hospital in 2016. Some award winning musicians of Nigerian descent include, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti who started the Afro-beat, Burna Boy, Wiz-Kid, Tiwa Savage, Davido, Sade Adu, Kizz Daniel and 2Baba of the African Queen fame. Many Nigerians are excelling academically on the national and international stage. The numbers are quite impressive for any nation. Nigerians are the most educated minority group in the United States of America. A Nigerian, Engineer Róbert Sylvester Okojie is the fourth black man to be inducted into the US NASA’s inventors Hall of fame for a total of 22 products that have been patented. One of our latest accomplishment is the recent world record set by Tobi Amusan in the 100m Hurdles at 12.12seconds during the recent 2022 World Athletics Championship meet in Oregon USA, she went further to clinch the Diamond League Title for the season in that category.
  1. Nigeria has contributed significantly to the world peace, serving in many peace keeping missions and the United Nations Security Council five times. Many Nigerians are serving globally in many multilateral organizations such as H.E. Amina Mohammed – Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala- Director General, World Trade Organization, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina – President Africa Development Bank, Late Mr Mohammed Barkindo – former Secretary General OPEC, Ambassador Bankole Adeoye – Commissioner, for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, African Union Commission, Mrs Ugochi Florence Daniels – Deputy Director General Operations IOM, Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji – the immediate past President of the ICC and Ambassador Tijjani Mohammed-Bande and the current Chairman of the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations.
  1. Nigerians are well noted for their prowess in sports, especially football and basketball. We even dare to compete in sports like the Bobsled team that represented Nigeria at the 2018 Winter Olympics led by Seun Adigun.

The Nigerian citizen tells the story of dynamism, courage, resilience, strength and the ability to reinvent itself over and over again. The Human Capital of Nigeria remains our strength and hope for a brilliant future. We smile through our trials and adversities knowing that Nigeria will be greater still, because it has all the seeds of greatness waiting to bloom inevitably.

Nigeria is a very warm and accommodating society on the whole. I am yet to meet a diplomat who didn’t have a memorable experience serving in Nigeria. This is particularly noteworthy when you see how Nigerians find humour in everything in spite of the challenges we confront daily. We always find a reason to laugh. This is why we love the Netherlands so much. The Dutch people also have the culture of making people feel welcome.

H.E. Ms Odette Melono, Deputy Secretary General OPCW, Ambassador Ajayi and H.E. Mr. Fernando Arias, OPCW Director General.

Thank you all for making out time to join in our celebration today. You are all sincerely appreciated. Please enjoy this evening and everything we have to offer especially our Nigerian cuisine and the raffle draws courtesy of Jansen Holland Fabrics, makers of the popular Ankara fabrics and Bestgames Nigeria Limited, Distributors of the Nigerian Monopoly editions.

Bedankt, Thank you.”

In conclusion, guests were treated to an exquisite Nigerian buffet, including a classic version of the unbeatable King of Rice, Jollof rice.

Jollof rice is a meal that cuts across all levels of Nigeria’s diverse society.

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