The Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Nigeria, Hidayet Bayraktar, has said Turkey will assist Nigeria in ending the insecurity bedevilling the country.
Bayraktar, in this interview with Daily Sun in Abuja, said tapping from the experience of Turkey in battling terrorist organisations such as the PKK, the DHKPC, DAESH and the Feto terrorist organisation, the Republic of Turkey will replicate it in Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and other criminal elements.
Bayraktar, who also spoke on the just concluded Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit, said Turkey’s cooperation with African countries, particularly Nigeria, is a win-win situation for the benefit of both parties.
The third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit has come and gone. What were the high points of that summit in Istanbul?
As you know, I was over there as well at the Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit and there were heads of state invited to the summit itself. And this was the third one, the first one being in Turkey in 2008 and the second one in 2014, which held in Equatorial Guinea and the fourth one will be held in 2026 somewhere in Africa.
The theme of the summit itself was “Enhanced Partnership for Common Development and Prosperity.” There were 30 heads of state that were there, besides the foreign ministers and other prime ministers as well. His Excellency, Mr. Buhari, was with us over there with his delegation. So, besides the heads of state, there were the foreign ministers and, this time, we had invited the ministers of agriculture, education and health. On the margins of the summit, they had their own meeting in the field of education, in the field of health and agriculture. As you know, these are the main points for development, especially in Africa. So, these were the important issues that were discussed over there.
The aim of the summit is that Turkey is trying to have more relations, especially with the sub-Saharan countries, culturally, economically, politically and military-wise. And these are the things, which were discussed at the meetings. At the end of the day, it is a win-win position for both African countries and Turkey as well. And, for the last 20 years, the numbers of Turkish embassies on the continent were 12. But today, we have reached 43 embassies on the continent. This is one of the reasons you can see that we give so much importance to Africa as a continent.
Why is Turkey suddenly interested in Africa?
In October, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a four-day diplomatic tour of some African countries. Why the interest in Africa, particularly Nigeria?
As I said, since 1998, Turkey has been following more closely relations with Africa. It is a choice that we have made, not only with Africa, but with Asians as well. But we believe that Africa has the potential of growing for the benefit of both African countries and for Turkey as well. And there are so many avenues that should finalise where we can work together, like health, education and agriculture. Particularly in Africa, you have the will and you have the potential to have all these strengthened. And when President Erdogan came over here to Africa, especially in October, and even while he was prime minister, he visited 30 African countries altogether. I think it is quite a priority to the African continent. Not just the African continent, but priority to Nigeria as well. As I always say, it has the potential. We are similar as we are both regional powers, we had the same challenges, both Turkey and Nigeria; why not share our experiences and issues together? We can solve them together. So, there are so many areas that we can cooperate, especially in the field of training of security forces or military forces and other fields as well. There are so many ways that we can work together.
What is the volume of trade between Turkey and Nigeria?
It is about $2 billion and the trade numbers are going to go up this year. Most of the trade actually is that we import from Nigeria petroleum and natural gas. The other items that we import are mostly from the agriculture sector, like sesame seeds and palm oil. And these are the main things that we buy from Africa.
So, the trade volume is in favour of Nigeria?
It is in favour of Nigeria.
The new alliance forged by Turkey and Nigeria in the area of security dominated the media after the summit in Turkey. President Erdogan agreed to work with President Buhari in tackling insurgents and other security challenges facing this country.
What exactly should the people of Nigeria who are looking forward to ending insecurity in the country expect?
Turkey went through a period of insecurity and is still going through a period of insecurity, as you know. The PKK terrorist organisation, since 1984, has been carrying out terrorist activities in Turkey. It is a terrorist group and the thing is that we have suffered a lot from this terrorism. We know what the problems are and what we sometimes faced from the West, the criticisms that we are faced from the West as well. And I know that Nigeria is going through the same phase as well. There are so many issues that we had, especially with the West when we were dealing with terrorism. But, to us, terrorism is terrorism. There is no good or bad terrorist. Terrorism is a bad thing and a good terrorist to you and a bad terrorist for me is not the issue. Terrorism is a bad thing and the issue that we always raise over here is that we have gone through the same phases. We had insurgency in Turkey, which you have the same over here. You have IPOB, then you have Boko Haram, you have ISWAP and all these terrorist organisations. And, in Turkey, we have the same problem, we have the PKK, we have the DHKPC, DAESH and the Feto terrorist organisation. These are all the terrorist organisations that we dealt with. And in the field of defence industry, we have made enough investment in that area just to counter the terrorism that we had. Of course, we have gained a lot, especially in the security area, the training of the police forces, the security service and the army, according to the topography of the southeast of Turkey, the mountainous areas. We have gained a lot of ground in that area.
Are you going to replicate that here?
We want to, of course. We can help you out. We can assist you, we can work together. We can cooperate in that field and we are ready to cooperate in that field. Our President and our leadership has always said that, in Turkey, whatever you need, what kind of cooperation that you need, we are ready to help Nigeria in that area. And, as I said, we have the capability of fighting these terrorists as much as we can.
At the end of the summit, the presidency said that Turkish technology, be it drones or even through the supply or manufacture of military ordnance in Nigeria, will surely quicken the process and efforts to rid the country of pockets of terrorists and the menace of kidnappers and bandits. How realisable is this?
Well, we did it. We did it in Turkey.
How soon shall Nigerians see this replicated here?
It is up to the Nigerian government. We are ready to help you out. We have the capability and, if it is okay with the Nigerian government and the Nigerian state, if they say ‘let’s go,’ we are ready to cooperate in that field.
It was reported that President Erdogan and President Buhari signed an agreement to keep Turkish businesses linked to the 2016 coup in Turkey under surveillance. What is the actual situation?
What we are saying is that Fethullah Gülen is the culprit of the 2016 coup in Turkey. So, we consider it as a terrorist organisation. It targeted democracy in Turkey, the leadership of Turkey, and it was doing this by clandestine system. It is dangerous. It is a different type of terrorism that we face. They are very strong in Nigeria as well. They have schools over here, they have a hospital over here and they do have a university over here. So, what we are saying is that the presence of these people, these terrorists over here, not only does harm but will do harm to Nigeria itself. And how they act is through clandestine activities. They infiltrate the system, the government system, to do their thing and, of course, what they do is that the concerned Nigerians will be into the ideology and they will infiltrate them through jobs as well. So, what we are trying to say exactly is that these are terrorists that should be cleaned out from Nigeria.
The Turkish government presented a request earlier. Has it presented the request again?
We are always saying the same thing. Our position is the same. We have wonderful relations with Nigeria, the relations are growing, every day it is expanding and, at the end of the day, there are a lot of common issues to work together.
Don’t you think the issue is coming in the way of Turkey-Nigeria bilateral ties?
Nothing can distort the relations between our two countries. What is important is that these individuals or this terrorist group is understood by the country that they are in and the government over here has to understand that they are not who they believe they are. They act under the disguise of humanitarian and charity work and doing educational things and work over here in the field of health. That is the case as they did in Turkey as well. And in so many countries, they have been closed and they leave the country, of course. So, it doesn’t hinder the relations.