I like Nigeria people’s smile – Outgoing Japan Ambassador, Kikuta Yutaka

I'm leaving Nigeria with positive impressions

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Ambassador Kikuta with Apex News Exclusive Editor-in-Chief, Anthony Maliki, right.

In this interview, the outgoing Japan Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Kikuta Yutaka speaks of his impression of the country and the memories he will leave with after two and half years of tour of duty.

By Anthony Maliki
Your excellency, you have spent two and half years as ambassador of Japan in Nigeria. What are your highpoints of your tour of duty?
There are many highpoints especially last year we see some high-level exchanges including President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Japan to take part in TICAD-7 followed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and also the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and we have received from Japan representative of Prime Minister to the celebration of Democratic Day. So, we have a lot of close exchanges at the top level as we as the grassroots level. Like you observe, I think the people-to-people exchange including education, economic relations, business, investment and in all fields, we observe even closer relations between Japan and Nigeria.
Perhaps that is on a diplomatic level, what about the economic field?
I observe the increase on the number of Japanese companies operating in Nigeria especially after the recession of Nigeria few years ago. We observe the upward trend in number of companies coming to Nigeria and it was encouraging to me. Unfortunately, last year because of the coronavirus, a lot of Japanese businessmen returned to Japan for a while but are returning to Nigeria. The same number of Japanese businesses in Abuja and Lagos are maintained. As COVID-19 situation is going down, the economy of Nigeria is picking up again.
How do you describe the Japanese-Nigeria trade relations?
I have always said that the trade relations between the two countries is in favour of Nigeria. We sell a lot of automobile, electronic appliances and so on, but we import a lot of energy like natural gas from Nigeria and in agriculture. We import a lot of sesame seeds, we are world number one sesame seed importers from Nigeria. There is a very interesting relationship between us and I hope as the Nigerian economy diversify, then we have more commodities to import from Nigeria.
What was your first impression when you first arrived Nigeria on your tour of duty and has that changed?
My first impression was the smile. Nigeria people smile a lot. I like Nigeria people’s smile. My second impression is that Nigeria is such a diverse, big country. I thought Nigeria is the giant of African continent but as a came here, I saw so many diversified people, religion, political interests but most of all Nigeria is a country that maintains democracy in a unified way. This is the point I have most respect. Nigeria’s democracy is so important not only for the country but also for Africa.
Now that you are leaving Nigeria, what are the things you will always remember about the country?
I like the lyrics of the Nigerian national anthem because it contains unity, freedom and all the important things for Nigeria future is contained in the national anthem. That is what I like about it. So, it brings out those important things like liberty, democracy, freedom, love and unity in diversity.
There was an appeal that there should more slots for Nigerian to study in Japan. What are your thoughts about that?
I put a lot of efforts in that area. So far, I think I did my best and I think I put a lot of seeds and the plants are growing and I expect my successor will put more efforts so that Nigeria educational exchange with Japan will grow more.
What about Nigerian dishes?
I like jollof rice, suya and fofo. As you may know, Japan Foreign Minister visit to Nigeria was cancelled but I prepared all the Nigerian food for him.

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