NIGERIAN President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday promised increased economic and cultural cooperation with Jamaica in an address to a joint sitting of the bicameral parliament celebrating the country's 50th anniversary of independence.
The Nigerian leader committed to increased discussions on bilateral trade and investments, starting with the exploration of technical cooperation on cultural matters with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller during talks which will commence at Jamaica House this morning.
Jonathan said that his first objective was a technical cooperation agreement on Jamaican/Nigerian collaboration with the Centre for Black and African Civilisation in Nigeria, which is an offshoot of FESTAC 1977, and similar structures in Jamaica. The centre was created to consolidate the achievements of FESTAC '77, a month-long African festival of arts attended by thousands of Africans and African-Americans in Lagos in 1977.
"Jamaica and Nigeria must work together to make a difference and improve the fortunes of our people," Jonathan told the sitting.
The Nigerian president arrived in Jamaica yesterday with a delegation of some 70 persons, including his wife Dame Patience Jonathan. They travelled from Trinidad and Tobago, where they shared in that country's emancipation anniversary celebrations.
One of the highlights of their visit to Port-of-Spain was his announcement of the possibility of an air services agreement with Trinidad to facilitate direct flights between both countries.
They were met at the Norman Manley Airport by Simpson Miller and other dignitaries, before travelling to Gordon House for the historic meeting of Parliament which forms part of the Jamaica 50 celebrations.
Dressed in his usual black Nigerian formal shirt, gold chain and black felt hat, the Nigerian leader sat beside Jamaica's Governor General Sir Patrick Allen for more than an hour — unsmiling and focused on his clasped hands in his lap, listening to speeches from the governor general, Simpson Miller, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, President of the Senate Stanley Redwood, and Speaker of the House Michael Peart.
Meanwhile, the prime minister stressed the need for the current generation of Jamaican politicians to remain focused on the mission of economic independence, based on the charge given by the late national hero, Norman Manley.
She said that Jamaica's links with Nigeria were very deep and argued that " while we may be separate by distance and water, we are united by blood".
Holness said that the truth about Jamaica was that " during the past 50 years we have achieved much, but during the past 50 years we could have achieved more".
He said that the mission for the next 50 years, is not so much about political power, but about using political power to gain economic independence and removing poverty from our midst. He also paid tribute to Jamaican women and mothers for the contribution they have made to the society over the past 50 years.
After the speeches, Simpson Miller and Holness jointly unveiled a plaque recognising the 50-year history of Gordon House.