There was apprehension when I invited to be part of the delegation of the team of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) to inspect some institutions where sponsored Nigerians are studying in Sudan. The concern stemmed from the stories of insecurity in the country.
But the summary of the trip was that I was totally wrong, at least, during the duration of our visit. The 4-member TETFund delegation was led by Mallam Aliyu Na’Iya.
The trip began from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on that Friday with a stop-over at Addis Ababa and finally at the Khartoum airport where it became a bit tough to get cleared.
In fact, we were made to stay in an “endless” queue that was making no progress. Initially the officials were unfriendly until they received some “mild” complaints that they then opened other lines which were reserved for diplomats, Sudanese and Arabs to accommodate us. However, when I got to the point of clearance, due to language barrier, the woman didn’t ask me many questions and handed back my passport.
First impression of Sudan
Nevertheless, my first impression of Khartoum was that it looked like an area of Northern Nigeria. This is due to the similar architectural buildings and designs, although the buildings are high rise compared to bungalows in most parts of Northern Nigeria. Many parts were not also very clean. The night we arrived, it rained and the stagnant water and dirt covered some parts of the roads.
On the whole, I was about to conclude that Khartoum has nothing much to offer until I was taken to Omak, a highbrow area of the city.
The hunt for Nigerian jollof rice
On the next morning of our arrival, we all missed our breakfast because we checked in late and got settled about 3.00 am so we had to make alternative arrangement to eat outside the hotel.
Our first visit was to Afrah Mall. The place was busy with so many businesses and lots of fast foods stops. It is an open space with chairs and tables outside and one had to struggle to get a space. Many of the outlets sell goods ranging from clothes, shoes, perfumes, jewelries, books and cassettes which were mostly displayed in an open space in form of a bazaar.
Then the trouble of selecting what to eat started. We couldn’t make out much sense from the menu until we were guided. We settled for what we assumed was jollof rice and chicken, which was served after a while. Of course it never met our expectations. I began to miss home too soon.
The rice was served with shredded chicken, slice of lime by the side and “designed” with a sugar icing and loaf of bread placed on top. I couldn’t hold my laughter at the sight but little did I know that was going to be the best I will get as far as it goes.
The next day, after a hectic visit to the universities, we stopped for dinner at Amwaj restaurant. The place was filled with people and looked like the most patronized by the affluence.
We had to move to the second floor to get a table that accommodate the team. We made an order of rice and grilled chicken and waited for so long before we were served bread and soup. After a long wait, our order came but only the chicken without the rice. We later learnt that the rice had finished.
In an attempt to get rice, our best option, we stopped at Bukhari House, but the food came out different because the liver sauce was prepared with sugar, the rice had fruits inside making it sugary.
Dinner with Nigerian Ambassador
After the disappointment even from the adjudged best spot in Khartoum, we gave up our search for food but we were relieved shortly afterwards. We were invited for a dinner by the Nigerian ambassador to Sudan, Musa Saban Mamman.
The ambassador was already waiting to receive us. A very friendly and accommodating man and after a few chats on our visit to Sudan, he told us about life in Sudan.
After light refreshment, dinner was served. It was home just as the ambassador had said, “Feel free, this is your home.”
The menu was overwhelming and put an end to our hunger for real Nigeria food. We had on the table, Nigerian jollof rice, fried rice, salad, moi-moi, semonvita with okro soup, masa and suya, cow-tail pepper soup and assorted fruits. At the sight of the food, we all knew we were home indeed.
Ivory towers everywhere
We were well received at the three universities visited. They are University of Bahri, International University of Africa and University of Bakht Alruda, one of the oldest universities in Sudan. The vice chancellors and their management teams were full of praises for Nigerian students, especially their attitudes. They said Nigerians are respectful and kind-hearted.
There are several universities in Sudan and also a high number of Nigerian students. There could be more than ten universities on a street because, as we later got to know, university is not a concept of big landmark.
What Nigerians should learn from Sudan
It’s no news that Sudan is struggling with its economy due to sanctions by the USA but what is impressive is the way and manner Sudanese deal with it.
It is a country without a middle class, its either you are rich or poor. Though there is insufficiency, the people are happy and get by with their government.
Professors that had their salaries slashed to about $300 (N108, 000) because of the challenges were all defensive of the president, none spoke ill of the government.
The Sudanese, according to a local guide, never speak ill of their government in the midst of visitors and will not tolerate such from a visitor, but they can do that among themselves.
Almost every road in Khartoum has high traffic but motorists rarely hoot their horns. The drivers always obey traffic rules and don’t run away from the law. Whenever they flagged down by security operatives, they stop and present their vehicle document for checks without any argument.
More impressive is the fact that in most cases they are not flagged down but the sight of the road safety officers parked by the road, the drivers will pull over on their own and go to them.
Is a typical law-abiding society which one cannot take away from the Sudanese.