By Ahmadu Shehu, PhD
For the first time in history, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Republic of Poland, H.E. Andrzej Duda, visited Nigeria on 6th September 2022. Apart from being a landmark in history, this visit has renewed the longstanding alliance and friendship between these great nations and has substantially reduced miscommunications and misperceptions among the citizens and officials of both countries.
The visit has yielded bilateral agreements of enormous importance to both nations, especially on agriculture and technology transfer. Moreover, judging by its history and relationship with Nigeria, nay Africa, Nigeria and its sister nations stand to gain more level playing ground in bilateral negotiations with Poland than many other more advanced western countries. This, however, is a topic for another day.
The resilience of the Polish – Nigeria relationship was tested in the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As the Russian army steadily and mercilessly advanced toward major Ukrainian cities, foreign residents scampered for safety across all Ukrainian borders in search of safety. Thousands of Nigerians, mostly students, found themselves at the Polish border, which was already overwhelmed by destitute refugees struggling to cross into Poland. The scenes and images of the border control points shall never be missed!
While a lot of misinformation and deliberate spinning of Poland as a racist, intolerant country was being cooked and distributed, the Polish diplomatic mission in Nigeria busied itself with solutions and helping Nigerians trapped in this conflict. A few days later, news surfaced that Polish officials were actually particularly kind to all citizens, especially Nigerians who were given special treatment by various missions based in Poland.
Back at home, Polish companies and financiers have landed significant business deals to ramp up Nigeria’s solid minerals sector to ameliorate the foreseen global energy crises occasioned by the war. In addition, the Polish agro sector looked at Nigeria as the next solution to the food crises, raising the hope that the Nigerian agricultural value chain would become a global competitor.
Tracing the roots of Poland’s contribution to the growth of Nigeria’s tertiary education in the ‘60s, ‘70s and even ‘80s, several Nigerian universities have found valuable opportunities to collaborate with major Polish universities in various academic fields.
The Nasarawa State University, for instance, had a significant project that translated the works of a Polish scientist whose contributions to the Nigerian academic community cannot be quantified. Several first-class Nigerian universities, such as Bayero University, Kano, have maintained a functional MoU with the University of Warsaw for many years.
In line with its cultural heritage and educational development support, the Polish mission in Nigeria built a specialized school to support Almajiri and out-of-school children in Kaduna State. Although many foreign non-governmental organizations do these kinds of projects, Poland is the only country to start this foresighted initiative as part of its foreign mission activities.
The Polish mission established and sustains a vibrant Polish Alumni forum, which is meant to foster and strengthen the understanding between the citizens of the two countries. Nigerians who studied, trained or visited Poland in a working capacity discuss relevant issues of interest to Nigerians in Poland and the bilateral relations and areas of cooperation between the two countries. This initiative has led to mutually beneficial opportunities for Nigerians and Polish people willing to study, live or do business in either country.
Polish – Nigeria relations is a sixty-year-old business that stood the test of time. However, to whom do we owe this enthusiastic revival of the friendship between these crucial countries? The bulk stops at the table of Her Excellency Joannah Tarnawska, the Poland ambassador to Nigeria.
Tarnawska is an African-born and bred Polish lady with a degree in African studies from the Faculty of Oriental Studies of the University of Warsaw. Mrs Tarnawska is currently doing a PhD in economics, with a research interest in economic issues in Africa.
Her cultural ties, deep understanding and love for Africa are unmatched. Thus, the amount of success she will record as a diplomat in Africa is promising. Her resilience and understanding of the murky waters of the Nigerian political landscape give her an edge to thrive. The balanced, respectful and dignified way in which the Polish mission now treats Africans will undoubtedly bring back the glory of the Republic of Poland as a true, non-colonial ally of this continent.
Africa is the future! Therefore, this shall be a win-win for Poland and Nigeria!
Ahmadu Shehu is an Associate Professor at Kaduna State University. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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