The current state of relations between Russia and Nigeria is weaker than it should be, and this reflects the failure of Nigeria’s diplomatic architecture. Russia and Nigeria share a lot of things in common; covering population, attitude, social vices, natural resources, multi-cultural and multi-ethnicity etc. both have also bitter experiences of social and political regimes.
During the 60s and 70s, the Soviet Union was a critical partner to Africa, especially in giving drift to the anti-colonial and anti- apartheid Rule in the continent.
Nigeria announced non alignment in her foreign policy with the outside world after independence in 1960 because she does not want to be diplomatically tied to either the western or the eastern power blocks even though she was still tied to Great Britain, her colonial master.
But when civil war broke up, it offered Moscow an opportunity to become a primary arms supplier to the federalists throughout the conflict.
Nigeria needed Russia’s diplomatic and military support in its war efforts to defeat the secessionists. Russian involvement, on the side of the Federalists, introduced another momentum to the conflict; it afforded Nigeria to cultivate and widen diplomatic ties with the Eastern bloc, thereby given more substance to its non-alignment foreign policy.
During the civil war, France and China sided with the Biafra, while Britain and USSR backed the Federal side, United States assumed cautious neutrality, the political dividends that accrued to Soviet Union as a result of siding with the Federal side could not be compared with those gained from similar roles in some of the other major conflicts in Africa; certainly there was a new impulse in Russian-Nigerian relationships.
Nigeria’s relations with the USSR, after the end of the civil war in 1970, were clearly based on the pursuit of practicality over aesthetic qualities (pragmatism). When the civil war ended, political, economic and social pacts with USSR became more promising.
Soviets made Machines and Equipments (Cars, agricultural equipments and tools) and home appliances found their market in Nigeria. Aeroflot Airlines started to operate constant commercial flight to Lagos. Russians became respectable in Nigeria, most especially for their scientific achievements, which earned them successes in space technology and ammunitions.
Nigeria and Russia has a combine population of over 350 million people, there is the need to expand the scope of cooperation in the areas of education, science and technology and defense sector by creating conducive environments for Russian and Nigerian students and Artisans willing to study in Russia and those willing to study in Nigeria.
No other country has made a direct impact on Nigeria’s war against Boko Haram as Russia has. In a bid to help Nigeria fight terrorism, Russia and Nigerian signed a memorandum on interaction and cooperation between their security councils in 2014. This included weapons sale and nuclear research .
There is also a Memorandum of understanding between Russian Space Agency and Nigeria’s National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), under the agreement, Russia will provide the human capacity building for Nigeria to achieve her plan to launch the first satellite outer space between 2015 and 2018.
In 2007, Nigeria’s communications satellite,NIGCOM SAT-1 was launched from a Russian cosmodrome, and it marked the beginning of Nigerian presence in space.
It must have by now dawned on those who rely only on American support for existence or retention of political power that free cups of coffee are no longer free in the white house given the manner in which Nigeria was turned down, humiliated and betrayed at the darkest hour of the Nigerian state since the Civil war.
The harsh treatment of Nigeria during its darkest hour gave credence to the saying that in international relations, ‘’there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies but permanent interest’’.
When former U.S President Barak Obama, and his partner in crime, Hillary Clinton not only refused to sell weapons to Nigeria to combat Boko Haram insurgents, but slammed an arm’s embargo on Nigeria and forbade her allies to sell weapons with U.S components to Nigeria, citing human right abuses, Nigeria looked East to the Kremlin for training and supply of military hardware.
Nigeria and Russia needs each other and has a lot to learn from each other given the similarity in their economic and human base. Work is still needed to be done in the direction of media and cultural exchanges and some trade favorable policies on the part of Russian government to allow more Nigerian exports, while it is desirable that Nigeria and Russia move their bilateral relation to a new level of active cooperation in important and strategic economic sectors, both countries should take account of the disparity in capacities and ensure that this is not allowed to lead to lopsidedness and dependency, such as being witnessed in the economic cooperation with West.
Now checkout Russia’s stunningly beautiful embassy complex in Abuja.
Russia officially opened its new embassy complex in Nigeria on 10th December 2015. The ceremony was held with the participation of officials of the Russian Foreign Ministry, staff of the Embassy, and representatives of the construction company “Glavzarubezhstroy”.
The complex houses office and residential space, reception hall, consular section and fitness centre.
“The opening of the new complex,” according to the Facebook page of the Embassy “is a clear evidence of the development of the Russian-Nigerian relations, creates conditions for effective and well co-coordinated work of the staff.”