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In 4 years, I discovered many interesting things about Nigerians -Iranian Ambassador

How did you find Nigeria in the last four years you served as the Iranian ambassador? You see, my foreign minister was my classmate and…

How did you find Nigeria in the last four years you served as the Iranian ambassador?

You see, my foreign minister was my classmate and close friend. He told me that I was going to be sent to Nigeria because Nigeria is a big and important country to Iran.  He told me that Iran wants to establish very close relations with Nigeria. That was why he was sending me because he knew of my capacity. I came to Nigeria not only by chance but by plan.

What are some of your accomplishments in the last four years in the areas of bilateral relations with Nigeria?  

I already concluded the arrangement for the successful take-off of the Nigerian-Iranian Joint Economic Commission. The fourth meeting of the joint commission is going to take place in Tehran, Iran. The third one took place here in Abuja. I may not be around when the meeting will take place but I am assuring you that I have already concluded arrangements for the successful hosting of the meeting by the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is therefore very evident that the Nigerian-Iranian relationship is working.

Also, there are a lot of consultations and business meetings between Iranians and Nigerians. Several Nigerians are going to Iran as well as several Iranian businessmen are coming to Nigeria. Even recently, our President, Dr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, visited Nigeria with a very high delegation.  His visit with a very high political, economic and even cultural delegation to Nigeria is an indication of what Iran is doing with Nigeria in the areas of bilateral relations.

President Ahmadinejad talked about power generation during his visit. Iran is successfully generating adequate power, is there talks with the Nigerian authorities on power generation, which is one of the major problems in the country currently? 

There was a discussion in that regards between President Ahmadinejad and President Goodluck Jonathan. That is why during the forthcoming meeting of the joint committee in Tehran, the two countries will specifically establish a committee on power and energy. This committee will specifically study the Iranian experience, particularly its investments in power and see how the two countries will benefit from each other in the areas of power generation. I think the joint commission is a very good opportunity for the two great countries to benefit from each other. 

During the last Iran national day you made mention of some of the benefits Iran is gaining from its controversial nuclear enrichment programmes, particularly in the areas of health and medicine. Would you expatiate on that aspect?

I indeed mentioned some of the benefits we are getting from that uranium enrichment programme, which is below 20 percent which is strictly for industrial, medical and agricultural purposes. You see, Iran has been making progress in food orientation. What I mean is that the progress of Iran is not restricted to enriching the uranium for power alone. Only recently, we have launched satellites, this is apart from dam constructions and so on. Also, many people across the world are trooping to Iran for medical purposes. I can tell you that hospitals in Iran are performing successful heart operations.

Also, from uranium enrichment, you can extract over 400 benefits for medical purposes. Apart from that, over one million Iranians have some diseases that need some of these uranium extracts for its cure particularly the isotopes. We need the isotopes which we were already importing, spending huge amount of money. That explains why we needed the enrichment to cure our people.

Do you restrict this medical benefit to Iran alone? If not, how can Nigeria benefit from this medical breakthrough using the Iran- Nigerian bilateral relations?

The use of uranium enrichment for medical purposes is for Iran alone. But according to our president, Iran is ready to share this knowledge with any country that is interested. But we are very ready to work with Nigeria in several areas of development. You can see that the two countries share so many things in common. They both have oil and gas. They can benefit from each other in the areas of construction, engineering, agriculture, among other vital areas.

Talking about economic ties between the two countries, can you recall how many Iranian companies came to Nigeria and how many Nigerian firms went to Iran for business and trade?   

The volume of business and trade between Iran and Nigeria is very impressive. Our visa section is indicating that several Nigerians are going to Iran. But most importantly, apart from the companies and firms, the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are very active. We have seen a lot of Nigerian NGOs, who found their counterparts in Iran applying for visa to go to Iran for one workshop or seminar and so on. I can say fortunately, that the Iranian-Nigerian relations is beyond business and tourism. It is a wonderful development.

During the recent visit of President Ahmadinejad, the issue of establishing an Iranian university just like we have Turkish, Egyptian, American, British universities was raised and the president gladly gave instructions to the effect that an Iranian university will be established. How far have you gone with that aspect?

Actually, in the areas of Iranian universities opening their branches in this country, we are almost ready to establish an open university. We also received indications from these universities but we are waiting for them to come and sign some of the papers for the take- off of the universities. This issue will be discussed during the forthcoming joint commission in Tehran. This is one aspect. Another aspect is that there are several Nigerian students who are applying to study in the Iranian universities for degrees, masters and even PhD courses. I met some academics recently who told me that they have searched for foreign universities and they found out that some of the best are in Iran. They are therefore making arrangements to go there for their PhDs in medicine, mathematics and other physical sciences.

Iran is an emerging power, particularly in the Middle East. How do you relate with the other Middle East envoys here in Nigeria? 

My relationship with Middle East and Arab ambassadors in Nigeria has been very close. I will definitely miss them and they would equally miss me a lot. Like I said, our relationship is very close and cordial. The gates of Iran are open to especially our Middle East brothers and other countries in the Persian Gulf. We need one another to cooperate and develop our potentials. This is particularly so because we have the same enemy in the name of Zionist regime of Israel. That explains why we need to strengthen our relationship. We have been saying that the strength of the Islamic Republic of Iran is built on the support of the Arab countries in the region.

Exactly a year ago, the deputy prime minister of Israel Mr Avigdor Lieberman was in Nigeria and he was reported to have said that Israel was really concerned about what he described as the “growing influence” of Iran in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general. Also, the Israeli ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Moshe Ram was in Zaria recently and he was quoted to have complained about the same Iranian influence. What is your take on that?

First of all, let me start with the issue in Zaria. It was the exposition of the usual unacceptable behaviour of the Zionist regime. It was not the ambassador. It was his deputy who made such statements in Zaria. He blamed Iran for influencing this or that. As a result of that, I wrote an official letter to the Nigerian foreign ministry and explained the situation. I explained also that the gathering where the Israeli deputy envoy spoke was organised by Christians. That was why I said if an embassy official would descend to the level of a religious gathering and make such uncomplimentary remarks about others, who then were influencing whom?  I wrote a letter to the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). It was the usual desperate attempts of the Zionist regime to rally support of innocent people to cover its criminal acts of attacking the Gaza-bound Flotilla humanitarian convoy on international waters.

On the whole, it is unfortunate that the Zionist regime is not respecting to rule of law and even international laws. They are no respecter of human lives. If at all they care about humanity why did they attack the Flotilla humanitarian convoy?  Are the activists on board the Flotilla vessel Iranians?  The activists on board the Flotilla vessel were not all Muslims. They were peace and human rights activists that embarked upon a mission of taking some relief materials to the people of Gaza who were under siege in the last five years. But the whole world witnessed how the Israeli naval commandos attacked and killed some of these activists on international waters. The Zionist regime is only using religion and other things, like it did in Zaria to advance their selfish interest, which is now being condemned by everybody across the world.

President Ahmadinejad visited Nigeria during your tenure as ambassador. He received a rousing welcome from Nigerians. What are your feelings as you are about leaving the country?    

Really, as an ambassador, I didn’t expect that huge number of people to come to the embassy and received President Ahmadinejad. Even though, it was raining, the power supply interruption in the area and the President Ahmadinejad was supposed to be in the embassy at 3pm but because of some weather and technical problem he reached here between 8:30 pm to 9:00pm that day;  the people were still standing waiting for his arrival since 1pm. Not only that, apart from the younger generation, they were men, children, the old and women with their babies.

Apart from the fact that they like President Ahmadinejad, I also came to realise that Nigerians are very brilliant people and they recognise who is right and who is not. I really appreciate that gesture by Nigerians. It really showcased how Nigerians understand issues and make their decisions.

What are some the challenges you face during your stay in Nigeria?

Anybody who says that it is perfect is indeed bluffing. I had served in other countries. To me, Nigeria is the most interesting country I served. This is because the Nigerian society is always alive and very lively. You would see people here even if they are carrying some goods on their head for sale, you will always see them dancing, singing and laughing. I once went to a shopping centre to buy some things. You will see people who don’t even know you greeting you, laughing with you even if you don’t buy things from them. You can only find such treatment in Nigeria. Nigerians are very interesting people; they can render help to you at no cost. And they would be happy that they have done so.

How true is this assumption that an average Iranian is very difficult person to deal with?

That is a very good question but I can say that it is a wrong assumption. I can assure you that one of the foreign embassies here in Abuja that facilitate visa easily is the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Most of the Nigerian businessmen go to Iran without any invitation. Many Nigerians go to Iran for tourism.

Ordinarily, if a person comes to the embassy for a visa or any other business, I have made arrangement for a well air conditioned room where the visitor would sit and even be served tea or water. When I first came, there were no such arrangements and you will see people beaten by rain or under scorching sun. From there they would do all the process and they would be granted visa.

So, the perception that an average Iranian is very difficult to convince on anything is not true?

Iranians are very hospitable people. You should know that people who are that familiar with civilisation can’t be difficult. Iranians are civilised people. They are friendly, hardworking and ever-smiling people.  Perhaps, it may be as a result of language. In Iran, English language is not popular like it is in Nigeria. Therefore, there may be communication breakdown since most Nigerians don’t understand and speak Farsi, the Iranian national language. So, if an average Nigerian goes to Iran, it may be difficult to shop, take a cab and so on because of the language barrier.  

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