First travel abroad
My first travel outside Nigeria was to Russia where I enrolled at the Moscow State Technical Institution for Civil Aviation and studied for 10 years to obtain my bachelor, masters and doctorate degree in aeronautical engineering before returning to Nigeria in 2012. I have travelled to many other countries: France, UK, US, America, Canada, Taiwan, Malaysia and India.
The Russia experience
I arrived in Russia when the country was in transition from Soviet Union to what they are now. A lot of things changed very fast. I had to undergo one-year Russian language class. I was in the same class with Russians. We visited factories where aircrafts were produced. I was impressed. Technologically, they are very sound. But, they sometimes did not allow pictures to be taken. Otherwise, there was no discrimination. I spent Sundays going on picnic with them. We ate together. There was no Nigerian food there. But there was beans and abundance of fruits. We, however, improvised to Nigerian menu we called Manaya. It was just like Semovita. We used cow legs to prepare something close to our own kind of soup.
That is not to say that all of them are perfect human beings. Every community is a mix of good and bad people. Generally, Russians are friendly. If a Russian likes you, you will know; if he doesn’t like you, he won’t hide it.
However, a few of them would call you funny names like monkey. You only reply if you are ready for a fight. This is common to the skinheads, the racists.
I had the option to stay after my study, being the first African to attain that level of education in the university. In the Soviet Union era, the institution was closed to foreigners. It was exclusive for Russians. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was opened to foreigner and I happened to be one of the first set to study there up to PhD. I chose not to stay. Home is home.
In Toronto, Canada, I had some refreshing moments. I enjoyed the spirit of the young people in the country. They were mostly from the technical school, those young chaps working at the assembly line. Many of them didn’t even go to university. They specialised in whatever they were doing, be it painting, welding, or just assembling. I had similar experience in France while in Marseilles for training at Airbus assembling plant. I was among young men, as young as 18 years, who specialised in one thing or the other. The only black man I saw there was in the kitchen washing plates.
While in Israel recently, I was surprise dby the calm in the country contrary to the news we hear about Israelis-Palestinians conflict. I saw children playing, walking to school with their bags hanging on their back.
I was also amazed by the country’s sophisticated agriculture. It was very wonderful. It was in Jerusalem I found a monument that held my fascination. Solomon’s Temple. I was surprised at how people were able to move those mighty stones back in those days when there were no big machines. It is very wonderful.
Whenever I go to New York, I am always scared when I am inside a car because a policeman can shoot anytime. As a New York cop is stopping you, his hand is on his gun. And if you made an unnecessary move, he could shoot you first.
Lesson from travel
I have learnt to be patient. As a people, we are very impatient, always looking for quick fixes, that is why we are not getting anywhere.
Nigerians have bad image all over the world. Our green passport is not respected. For a Whiteman to respect you, you are either in his country to study or do business or just visits. But going there to be on their neck under the illusion of hustling for a living, you gain no respect. The type of jobs our people go to do abroad is too humiliating. Are you going there to study? Fantastic. Is your trip for business purpose? Good, go there and return home. But going there to hustle to make a living, I do not advise anybody to do that.
My supervisor at the Moscow University. I was impressed by his humility. While writing my thesis, there were some materials I was unable to access. I was denied entry to the factory due to my status as a foreigner. He went there, entered the factory and gathered all the necessary data for me.
By the time I left Israel, I wanted to be going there every year. My pastor jokingly said to me, “Now let’s go and eat in the upper room.” When I went to Nazareth, I told them I want to eat the type of food Christ ate. At the temple institute, I saw all the preparation for the Second Coming of Christ––things like the seven lampstands, the ark of covenant and other things I have been reading about in the Bible. I saw them.
Edeh is one of Nigeria’s top resource persons for aircraft training. Interviewed by Christian Agadibe.