LAGOS, ABUJA, DUBAI, MOSCOW.
Travelling long distances with different airlines is not new to me. I have done Taiwan through Dubai and Serbia through London but this outing to Russia through Abuja was hectic. Spent over six hours in Abuja to connect though not anybody’s making but trying to beat our poor airline connections to the game.
Hardnosed Moscow immigration
At the doorsteps of frequent travellers is the experience that each nation treats you the way they wish. At Moscow airport, our delegation had a delayed entrance into Moscow due to language barriers and as immigration officials insisted that we must have our fan identity card on our neck and not in our passport. Three hours’ wait after an 11-hour flight through Abuja via Dubai is not how we expected to be received. However, it gave us a bird’s eye view of what to encounter in Moscow, where anything English is on hold and the people trained not bother to learn to speak the language.
That is the name of the hotel where my group lodged in Moscow. From the looks of the neighborhood, it was fairly an influential district named after Lenin. In fact, the district is known as Leninsky district. The hotel is an architectural masterpiece with an iconic football restaurant and conference centre under construction. The experiment caught the eagle eye of Otunba Segun Runsewe, the NCAC DG, who prayed to have such giant replica located in football-crazy Nigeria.
2 hours of darkness, 18 hours of light
At 10pm in Russia, the sun is still blazing, going down just for two hours between 12am and 2am. The rest of the day is daylight and it affected the pattern of rest of most visiting Nigerians in Moscow. As usual, we got used to it and, for me, I still did my midnight prayers with Nigerian time of 12 midnight which is about 2am in Moscow.
Where is KGB?
The dreaded Russian secret intelligence agency is one institution I would have loved to encounter. I am a keen follower of global intelligence services and the KGB remains a star tourism hunt. From the Moscow Airport to the hotel, the Red Square and the various open markets and restaurants, I was on a secret lookout for KGB agents, watching out for careful movements, friendly and penetrating eyes and cars following us around. No dice. No KGB, they can’t be seen with ordinary eyes.
The Red Square – heart of the Kremlin
This place is the most sought-after tourism spot in Moscow. Indeed, it is the melting pot for all nations, peoples and cultures. It husbands the biggest man-made fortress in the world, the Kremlin cathedrals, the famous Bell Tower of Ivan the Great and the Lenin mausoleum. Nobody can have a total feel of this iconic place in one day not even in three days. It was here CNN captured the NCAC cultural showing in Moscow.
The walk of my life in Moscow
I was once an active physical exercise buff and had jogged through snow in Madrid and unrelenting windstorms in London. Back home in Nigeria, careless driving and the very uncharted walkways and unfriendly city life made me withdraw for a while. In fact, I had many years of intrepid walk experiment through Nigeria’s many national protected areas, national parks. In Moscow, the Leninsky district, where we lodged, provided ambiance for evening stroll and I did enjoy such walks with Osa Amadi of Vanguard, Wale Olapade of Tribune and Charles Nwam of NCAC. I also had a walk to dinner with NCAC boss, Otunba Runsewe, but took a walk I never bargained for when I went on shopping hunt with friends and ran out of cash for taxi back to the hotel. Determined to get back and put my experience to task, I walked and walked to my hotel, more than 10 kilometres from the shopping mall. My legs nearly gave up but the years of experience of exercise came to bear, definitely lost some pounds and flesh, but well to the heart.
Otunba Runsewe runs away!
Nigeria’s ambassador to Moscow, Professor Steve Ugba, was so impressed with the proactive marketing of Nigeria’s cultural offerings by Otunba Runsewe, which he dubbed as the right mental approach
to networking Nigeria, particularly in Russia and Belarus Republic. Prof. Ugba, while testifying of the richness of Otunba Runsewe’s commitment and exemplary nationalistic passion, noted that Otunba Runsewe was gifted with ideas that sit with everybody and practicably put such efforts and ideas to work for the good of Nigeria. According Prof. Ugba, “Runsewe runs away” and comes up with strategies needed to market Nigeria beyond football.
Love Nigeria fever
At the Red Square, on the road, restaurants and walkways, Nigerians are mobbed for pictures by Russians, young and old. In fact, the young people here are in love with Nigerians and begged with open arms to have a selfie.
The love for Nigeria was not limited to Russians, football fans from all over the world, seek the company of Nigerians for a picture session and I had numerous requests and, to God be the glory, when Osa Amadi of Vanguard strayed out at a shopping mall, it was the picture he took with young Russian taxi operator that gave us a clue that he was in safe hands.
NCAC – Pride of Nigeria
National Council of Arts and Culture (NCAC) is the magic wand Nigeria needs to break into the international market of tourism ideas. They came prepared to do Nigeria proud with flags, branded pins, artifacts, brochures, mufflers and many marketing items, flooded and suffocated Moscow and left some for the embellishment of Nigeria