Just a year to celebrate her centennial independence anniversary, Finland on December 6, celebrated her 99th anniversary, marked around the world where the country has a presence. Peace Obi who was at the reception in commemoration of this great event in Lagos, reports

Finland, one of the Nordic countries in Northern Europe recently marked her 99th independence anniversary. The country which passed from Swedish to Russian rule in 1809 at the time had her elites kick off efforts to assert Finnish identity as an autonomous part of the empire.

This, it was said opened up the opportunity for a bigger freedom that saw Finland declared an independent state on December 6, 1917. A small country of about five million to six million people, has ever since leaped from being an agrarian society to an enviable global status of education and technology giant in the world. Just a year to celebrate her hard earned centennial independence anniversary, the 99th anniversary was marked around the world where the country has its presence.

In Nigeria, where the relationship between the two countries dates back to the early years of Nigeria’s independence, the occasion was celebrated in a low key, as the country looks forward to a more elaborate celebration for her centenary this 2017.

Speaking at an anniversary reception hosted by the Nigerian-Finnish Association in conjunction with the Embassy of Finland and Team Finland, the Ambassador of Finland to Nigeria, Ms Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury, said Nigeria and Finland have come a long way in their relationship and that it is getting stronger by the day. Suomela-Chowdhury also remarked that the participation of the very important people in Nigeria at the event was a demonstration of a very strong commitment to building stronger ties between the two countries.

Stating that the relationship between Nigeria and Finland span in many different areas, she however noted that business is it at the heart of it and that Finland as a country is working hard to explore the huge opportunities this offers. According to the Ambassador, the embassy is aware that there are many Finnish companies already present in Nigeria such as Nokia, KONE which is represented by Kresta Laurel Limited, among others. “I know that KONE has fantastic representation in this country and there are much more opportunities, much more potential and you can see many Finnish companies interested in this country, exploring the possibilities,” she said.

Noting that though businesses might be faced by some challenges, the Ambassador said that she was confident that the opportunities far outweigh the challenges. And that Nigeria is a country, Finland cannot afford to ignore. “We can see that in the interest of the Finnish companies that they know that Nigeria is too important a place to ignore. And that is why they are here.

“Of course, personally I want to see business relationship between Nigeria and Finland grow. The embassy and Finpro are set out to achieve this. We have given and we will continue to give all the support we possibly can to this effort. And we are extremely lucky to have Finpro office in Nigeria and in its commercial capital, Lagos.”

Adding that Finland is strategic in positioning and establishing its presence, adding, “it is not many countries in Africa where we have offices,” the ambassador said.
The Honorary Consul, Dr. Kingsley Akinroye hinted that while Nigeria-Finland Association was formed in 2002, Nigeria and Finland have been together for long a time. Disclosing that Finland was the first country to recognise Nigeria after independence, the Honorary Consul said that it was a pointer to the mutual interest they have shared and continue to enjoy.

In what seems like reading the lips of many, Akinroye said, “what everybody is interested to know is that with Nigeria towering high with a population of over 150 million people and Finland around the mark of between five to six million people, what do we have in common?

“We have a lot in common. A lot has been in common and we have benefited from each other and we want to thank our ambassadors, especially in the last 10 years that Finland has sent to Nigeria to partner with us. Last two years, we were here to show that Finland is in fashion. And our gain has been in our community that is Finland that is growing from time to time. And we are happy that trade between Nigeria and Finland is also increasing. We are hopeful that in the next few years to come, it is going to grow more and better,” Akinroye said.

In his goodwill message, Senator Omoworare Babajide, congratulating Finland on her 99th independence anniversary said that it was high time Nigeria consolidated and concretised her relationship with the Nordic country. And that with his visit to some businesses in the country, he also discovered that Nigeria and Finland can do a lot of things together. “We can do a lot of things together in the area of agriculture, mining, timbering. We still have a lot of forest in Nigeria. What matters most is not taking our raw materials out of these shores without having impact on the economy.

“It will be better where a lot of value chain is added to it, so that we can have fruitful partnership in the area of technology transfer, equipment for both economies,” Babajide said.

The President, Nigeria-Finland Association, Otunba Gbenga Daniel in his speech, congratulated the Republic of Finland on their independence anniversary. Commending the enduring relationship between the two countries, he hinted that progress made so far since the assumption of duty by the present Ambassador of Finland to Nigeria could be described as geometric progression. And that with his 25 to 30 years active relationship with the Nordic country, he could describe the “people as one of the most honest people on earth, whom honesty and transparency are most suitable as their second name.”

Speaking further, the former governor of Ogun State, noted that the relationship between Nigeria and Finland is unique in various ways and that he is confident there are a lot the two countries stand to gain from each other. “I have no doubt in mind that Finland will be able to support our dear country. And I think especially now that the country is working very hard to combat incidence of corruption.

“It is one period when our dear country requires support, because you are very much aware that it is a time when we are facing dire economic challenges, when we begin to actually think out of the box. All over the world, when countries face challenges, solution is not about partisanship, it is by everybody dropping their garb of partisanship and supporting the government of the day. And by using your network of connections and information about this country, I have no doubt that there is a whole lot you can do to foster this kind of development in our country,” he said.

Adding that there are so many areas Nigeria could get support from Finland, Daniel said, “I want to ask you to consider the possibility of establishing some kind of scholarship for a few Nigeria students. It doesn’t have to be many, if you do five this year and five in another year, it tends to have a multiplier effect. So, we can really begin to foster relationship from this perspective,” the president suggested.

And congratulating those who have emerged as the present leaders of the Nigeria-Finland Association, the President of the association said his team would sign-post new perspectives and evolve better relationship between the two countries.

In her goodwill message, Senator Oluremi Tinubu noted that Nigeria and Finland have come a long way in their friendly relationship. Represented by Honorable Omobolanle Akinyemi-Obe, Tinubu said Finland has been known for its commitment to quality of life, education, technology among others and that it is hoped that the mutually beneficial relationship between Nigeria and Finland will continue to exist. Also speaking, the former military governor of Lagos State, General Mohammed Buba Marwa, represented by Alhaji Mohammed Olagbaye, in congratulating the country on her independence also prayed that both countries will witness the centenary celebrations in 2017 in peace.

Part of the activities marking the 99th independence celebration of the Finland was an art exhibition by two Nigerian artists. Presenting his artistic works like ‘Sweet Mother’, ‘My Mother’, ‘United We Stand’ and ‘Let’s Celebrate’, Mr. Muyiwa Adetula noted that while his works are diverse both in concept and style that they are however brought together in one respect – unifying the culture of excellence.

Also, an award-winning journalist, Ms. Evelyn Osagie whose passion for pictures has had some galleries discover and exhibited some of her pictures, had her picture like Wengar’s Art, 2009, Let’s Dance, 2010, Harmony 2011, among others on display. Explaining the concept of some of her pictures to the guests at the independence celebration, Osagie whose perceptive mind for creative details and an eye for image said that she finds her voice through diverse art forms, creating pictorial and written narratives that celebrate the beauty of Africa and its people.

According to Osagie, “Catching each moment in a flash gives me the most satisfaction as a journalist and artist.”