Nigeria and Turkey established diplomatic relations in 1960 and the two countries were instrumental in the formation of D-8 (Developing Eight) Countries — a group of developing countries which formed an economic development alliance in 1997.
Other countries in the alliance are Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia and Pakistan.
At present, Nigeria is Turkey’s 5th largest trade partner in Africa and 2nd among the sub-Saharan African countries, according to some data posted on the website of Turkey’s Ministry of Economy.
Nigeria and Turkey have signed some bilateral trade agreements, including the Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation in 1986 and the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement in 2011.
Besides, the Turkey-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce was established in Lagos in 1999, while the Turkish-Nigerian Business Council was established in 2011.
Unarguably, Nigeria and Turkey enjoy sound trade relations and the volume of the bilateral trade stood at over N206 billion as at 2013, according to statistics from the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture.
Nigeria’s main imports from Turkey include clothing, food items, engine and automobile parts, while Turkey imports sesame seeds, raw and semi-processed leather as well as rubber, among others, from Nigeria.
In Nigeria, Turkish investments are visible in the areas of construction, quarrying, textile, tourism, education, healthcare, hospitality, among others.
The burgeoning economic relations between Nigeria and Turkey have elicited positive comments from officials and citizens of the two countries
For instance, Mr Murat Akyuz, who led a recent trade delegation from Turkey to Nigeria, underscored the importance of Nigeria as an emerging market for Turkey, which was a manufacturing economy.
“Our special visit here reflects our commitment to Nigeria and our recognition of its importance as a key strategic market.
“We want to develop long-term business relations with Nigeria with our high-quality products; we also want to make it easier for Nigerian cosmetic manufacturers and importers to do business with Turkey,’’ Akyuz said.
However, observers maintain that apart from nurturing economic relations between Nigeria and Turkey, cultural exchanges and festivals also strengthen efforts to boost bilateral relations between the two countries.
For instance, the 4th Nigerian-Turkish Friendship and Cultural Festival, organised by UFUK Dialogue Foundation, a Nigeria-based Turkish organisation and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, was recently held in Abuja.
The fiesta showcased various aspects of Turkish and Nigerian cultures such as dresses, food, dance and arts, even as the participants savoured dishes prepared by people from other cultures.
Cultural troupes from Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba ethnic groups in Nigeria and those from Turkey took turns to perform, while masquerades entertained spectators at the festival held on the campus of Nigerian Turkish Nile University.
Speaking at the event, Chief Edem Duke, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, said that the Federal Government was taking the festival seriously.
The minister, who was represented by Mr George Ufot, Director of Culture in the ministry, said that the festival had fostered stronger bilateral ties between the two countries.
He also commended Turkish entrepreneurs for their investments in Nigeria.
“I congratulate you on the 2014 celebration of the Nigeria Turkish Friendship Cultural Festival; I must confess that we in the ministry have fond memories of this festival.
“The festival has consistently served as a major platform to present the warm and excellent relationship existing between our two countries.
“I must express my admiration for the ideals of Fethullah Gelen, the inspirational leader and thinker who has been behind the creation of these wonderful schools, hospital and numerous noble activities which the Turkish community in Nigeria has come to be positively identified with.
“All over the world, the indomitable icon has become the voice of peace, dialogue and a source of inspiration for many hearts and minds, as well as the wonderful Turkish people and their kindred all over the world.
Duke lauded the Turkish strength of purpose, as well as the peaceful co-existence of groups in Turkey, saying that Nigeria shared a lot with the country in terms of multiculturalism.
He stressed that Nigeria ought to emulate Turkey in efforts to achieve a cohesive and peaceful society in spite of divergent religious beliefs.
“We definitely have so much to share from the way you have effectively mobilised your citizenry to foster interfaith and intercultural dialogue through education, information exchange and respect for your environment and diversity.
“I seize this occasion to wholeheartedly commend UFUK Dialogue Foundation, the organisers of this event, for their principled stand in organising various events that have contributed in raising the value of humanity, and community service.
“I share and embrace their call on all of us to become marketers and advocates of dialogue; we must all become channels to communicate and understand others,’’ Duke said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Prof. Huseyin Sert, the Vice-Chancellor of Nigerian Turkish Nile University, said that culture was the essence of life, adding that efforts should be made to celebrate cultures via festivals.
He noted that Nigeria and Turkey had cultural similarities, with diverse ethnic nationalities coexisting.
“Culture is the whole essence of man’s existence; so, we need to remind ourselves constantly of our norms and values.
“Our cultures are some of the things we need to pass to the younger generations to keep them alive.
“The Turkish are very strong traditionalists and we love our folk dance and music, we like to dance just like Nigerians; and both countries had very close relationship with each other in the past.
“We are now looking to the future for stronger cultural exchanges, educational and cultural cooperation,’’ Sert said
On his part, Mr Cemal Yigit, the event’s coordinator, said that the festival was not just to exhibit arts, food and culture, adding that it was particularly aimed at establishing bridges between Nigerian and Turkish nationals.
Yigit, who is also the Managing Director of InciProduction, said that the festival had created an opportunity for citizens of Nigeria and Turkey to understand one another and work together for the progress of their countries.
“Understanding, dialogue, respect, culture of coexistence bring riches for all; we work for these values we believe that will impact positively on the world.
“Through this forum, we are trying to emphasise the need for dialogue in the world; the need for love and living together in a society where everyone’s opinion matters.
‘By so doing, we create a stable and peaceful society where everybody will live in harmony and share positive ideals,’’ he added.
Mr Cosmos Onah, who was in charge of the Igbo culture booth at the festival, said that Igbo people recognised the need to be represented at the event because of their cultural similarities with Turkish people.
He said that the Igbos were entrepreneurial just like the Turkish people; hence the recognition of Igbo businessmen by their Turkish counterparts.
“The Igbos travel a lot for business; a lot of us go to Turkey to do one business or the other and the Turkish people know it.
“Turkey is a manufacturing economy and most of their products are of high quality; hence, the huge influx of businessmen into Turkey.
“We should also recognise the fact that not many countries are investing in Nigeria the way Turkey does. Look at the type of schools and hospitals the Turkish people have in Abuja and you will understand what I m saying,’’ he said.
Onah said that a team of Igbo people would soon travel to Turkey, as part of the cultural exchange project involving the two cultures.
Items such as foods, yams, cassava, kolanut, bitter kola and assorted vegetables, among others, were display at the Igbo culture stand.
Mr Yahaya Bala, who manned the Hausa culture stand, said that the bulk of the cultural similarities between the Hausa culture and the Turkish culture derived from religion.
He noted that the majority of Turkish people were Muslims, just like the majority of Hausa people.
He said that business deals between the two cultures were facilitated by the sound business relations existing between Nigeria and Turkey.
Items displayed at the Hausa stand were handicraft items such as hand-woven material and local fabrics.
The Yoruba talking drum echoed from all corners of the fiesta’s venue, as the crowd cheered and sand along in interpretation of the talking drum’s message transmitted by drummers of the Yoruba cultural troupe.
The cultural fiesta notwithstanding, observers insist that structured efforts should also be made to organise trade exhibitions involving Nigeria and Turkey so as to boost the economic and cultural ties existing between the two countries.
They, however, note that Turkish entrepreneurs have demonstrated uncommon zeal in exploiting the investment opportunities which abound in Nigeria. (NAN).