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Nigeria's Fledgling Friendship with Japan: The Beginning of a 'Special Partnership'?

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image of African and Asian Studies
For more content, see Journal of Asian and African Studies.

Since the inauguration of President Olusegun Obasanjo as President of Nigeria Japan's attitude towards the West African state seems to have been positively transformed. The relationship between the two countries kicked-off with panache after the President's first visit to Tokyo in April 1999 as President elect to renew acquaintances. The two countries are now bound together in a "Special Relationship", which provides them with a coherent framework for regular and constructive consultations. The recent developments replace a period of immobilist diplomacy between Tokyo and Abuja especially during when Nigerian domestic politics was infested with military dictatorships.

Tokyo's recent initiatives toward Abuja have to be seen within the context of Japan's invigorated diplomatic initiatives toward sub-Saharan Africa as manifested through the Tokyo International Conference on African Development. The relationship is also premised on Nigeria's hegemonic position within the sub-region of West Africa. As a result, Japan has relatively increased its economic assistance to Nigeria in recent years and is seemingly showing signs of interest in the economic development of Nigeria. On his part, President Obasanjo has pledged his country's determination "to change from the way and manner business was done in Nigeria in the recent past in order to institute a new regime of accountability and transparency in conformity with internationally accepted codes of business ethics".

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