Strengthening Ties Between Turkey And Nigeria Through YTB
With its population, area, geographical location and economic wealth, Nigeria is one of the most important countries not only in Africa but also in the world. It has also been the locomotive of the policies Turkey has undertaken in the continent within the scope of the “Year of Africa” declared in 2005.
Remarkable relations between Nigeria and Turkey go back a long way, as seen in the example of the Shitta Bey Mosque (alias “the Turkish Mosque”), built in Lagos in 1894, to which Sultan Abdulhamid II sent a special representative. With the opening of the Turkish Embassy in 1962, these relations continued during the periods when the two countries adopted the republican regime. D-8 (Developing-8) initiative has a special place among the contacts established at various levels since then. This initiative, led by Turkey, appreciated Nigeria’s potential a quarter of a century ago and demonstrated high cooperation intentions.
The relations between our countries have gained an increasing momentum in the 2000s. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statement of “strategic partner” for Nigeria during his visit to President Muhammadu Buhari in 2006 shows the broad vision and sincerity between two countries. With the effect of mutual efforts of both countries, there is a political rapprochement and an increase economic relations reflected in the numerical indicators.
It is necessary to emphasize our interaction in the field of cultural diplomacy as another factor that facilitates all these developments and that increases the love between the people of the two countries. Our organizations such as the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), Yunus Emre Institute (YEE), Turkish Maarif Foundation (TMV), Anadolu Agency (AA) and Turkish Airlines (THY) carry out their activities in Nigeria as well as in many countries of the world and realize the projects that make a great hit with Nigerian people. With the help of these organizations, which are the executives of the solidarity and humanitarian foreign policy understanding, Turkey also creates a new model for the perspective that the world should have towards Africa.
Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), the institution being responsible for improving Turkey’s cultural relations with the sister communities and countries, establishes long-term ties with Nigeria in the field of education. “Türkiye Scholarships” program, organized by YTB and aims to make Turkey an attractive education center for the whole of Africa, provides international students invited every year to study at Turkish universities with extensive scholarship opportunities. It is seen that Turkey is increasingly popular for Nigerian students in the field of education in recent years. From 2012, when the publicly funded Türkiye Scholarships program was launched, to 2021, 16,720 Nigerian students applied and the most successful 337 of them were awarded scholarships. Of the 125 Nigerian international students currently studying in our country, 59 are studying at the undergraduate level, 36 at the master’s level and 30 at the doctoral level. Apart from these, there are 2,208 Nigerian students studying at various Turkish universities with their own means.
International students studying in Turkey also benefit from social and cultural activities and have the opportunity to increase their professional skills related to the fields they are studying. For example, Nigerian students studying in communication departments at Turkish universities participated in the “African Media Representatives Training Program” organized by YTB to develop cooperation with media organizations of African countries, as well as Nigerian media representatives.
Being aware of the fact that international educational mobility provides a solid and humane basis for transnational networks and relations, Turkey also supports the development of other countries in this way. The opinions of the relevant countries are also pay regard in determining the departments where the students applying for the Türkiye Scholarships program will study. In this respect, it is believed that Nigerian students studying in Turkey will create a communication nexus between Turkey and Nigeria after their graduation. We would like the Turkish Alumni Association, which is present in more than 30 countries, to be opened voluntarily in Nigeria by our 142 Nigerian graduates.
Nigeria is a sister country in the eyes of Turkey. Our cultural and historical affinity provides a facilitating and empowering infrastructure for modern collaboration opportunities. The fact that we have similar potentials and security risks will turn the positive communication between us into an opportunity for the establishment of regional and global peace. We believe that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Nigeria and his meeting with President Buhari will be an important step towards making all these wishes come true. I am sure that the meeting of the two leaders, who call and congratulate each other during the Ramadan Feasts and convey their wishes to get well soon in the tragic events they have experienced, such as the recent forest fires in Turkey in August, will serve to activate the potential between the two countries.
Abdullah Eren is the President of YTB