His Excellency Ambassador Abdul-Kadir Bin Rimdap has worked in the Foreign Service for 33 years. During this time, he served in seven countries: Ethiopia, Belgium, Switzerland, Pakistan, Zambia, Austria and, currently, in Germany. His career has largely centered around promoting human rights, as well as developing the economic and legislative directives leading to the creation of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2006.
In an interview conducted during the International Symposium for Cultural Diplomacy, His Excellency spoke about issues relating to Nigeria’s interaction with both Europe and the United Nations.
What are some of the intercultural initiatives currently taking place between Germany and Nigeria?
A good example is the German President's visit to Nigeria in November of last year. This raised the issue of economic and cultural diplomacy between the two countries. The President wanted to see Abuja and then to travel to Lagos to visit the commercial city. He also went to Kano where he was given a “Durbar” by the Kano Emirates Council. A Durbar is a horse-riding festival with a long history, and to the President it was extremely fascinating. He made the statement that the development of a nation is incomplete without considering its own culture.
In addition, last year Benin City cultural artifacts were displayed in various museums throughout both Germany and Nigeria for three months. This showcased Nigeria's rich cultural heritage and opened up a lot of interest to the positive aspects of Nigeria—its hidden culture and hidden treasures. We have also presently agreed on the Bujara carnival, where we’ll cooperate with Germany on a carnival performance. So these are some of the cultural diplomacy initiatives we have been involved in over the past couple of years and some of the ones we plan on developing in the future.
What speech are you most looking forward to during the Symposium?
Certainly Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga’s speech concerning the role of the UN. I am very interested in various issues concerning the United Nations, especially in terms of peacekeeping. I have been involved with the UN in the past and served in Geneva from 1990-1995. During this period, I was involved in the protection and promotion of human rights, and, more specifically, dealt with the right to development, as well as with economic and cultural rights. I am keen to see how the dialogue concerning the UN develops here at the Symposium; in other words, to observe what direction it is moving in and to see a different perspective. It will also be interesting to see how Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga herself will present the issue of the UN's role in promoting peaceful dialogue—what she understands by this, what debates she will focus on, and so on.
Can you outline how Nigeria deals with its domestic cultural affairs, especially with respect to its diverse population?
Nigeria is a complex society due to the large number of different ethnic groups. There are between 200-300 ethnic groups, all with their own individual cultures. And yet we were able to come together to make Nigeria a country. In the last 50 years there has not been a major crisis, and Nigeria has therefore been able to build itself. It has a federal system, whereby each state has its own local and customary laws. These customary laws mean that even legally the local cultures, languages, religions and the people are protected. This shows how Nigeria has been able to organise itself; how Nigerians understand and respect each other; and how we promote and protect the rights to a cultural identity.
One final question: As an Irish citizen, I've been wondering about the growing connection between Ireland and Nigeria, due mainly to increased immigration over the past years. What are some of the main forces contributing to the presence of Nigerians in Europe?
The situation is changing mainly due to globalisation. Both historically and today, Nigerians have been coming to Europe mainly for educational purposes. Here you can get a very good education; you can exchange ideas and learn the new terminology. The people who come here do so in order to learn; they want the opportunity to do so. This is the cause of all this movement: the wish to learn. We know that in Europe there is a lot of concern about illegal immigrants, but usually Nigerians who come here are not intending to stay long. The idea is just to get the services, the education, the skills and the excellent ideas, and then go back home to apply them. I think that globalisation has made living in Europe easier, which is why people think Nigerians move here to stay. Still, the primary reason is a transient one—young people come to acquire an excellent education.
Thank you very much for your time.