IT is 0259HRS local time in Vietnam on Monday night/Tuesday morning and 1959HRS on Monday in Nigeria. I am writing these lines in the absolutely stunning Victoria Hotels & Resorts in the Vietnamese town of Can Tho.
We had flown into the commercial city of the south of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, named after the national hero and communist leader. The drive from Ho Chi Minh City to Can Tho took about four hours, through Mekong River Delta towns, with rows and rows of rice paddies on both sides of the road, as far as the human eye could see!
The two-hour flight from the Chinese city of Guangzhou was not eventful, except perhaps for the funny way the airbus plane sounded at take off and landing, points that Chief Audu Ogbeh noted as we steadied into the flight and which all other members of our delegation discussed briefly after airport formalities.
The Ho Chi Minh City airport is much bigger than any of the airports in Nigeria and is very neat. We noticed the orderliness about the place and the city itself is a sprawling metropolis, with the heat and humidity very much like Lagos’! This country must be the moped capital of the world! There are motorcycles everywhere, ridden by men and women, young and old.
We left Nigeria on Sallah Day, via Ethiopia where we transited for four hours before the near 11-hour flight to Guangzhou. I had been invited by the Borno State government to join a delegation attending the Canton Trade Fair, where deals were struck to make purchases of equipment central to efforts the state is making in the development agenda for the post-Boko Haram insurgency period.
The main issues for the government are agriculture and agro-allied businesses, poverty alleviation and empowerment issues as well as water resource development, irrigation adapted to the realities of the state as well the large scale production of wheat, rice and groundnuts and vegetables. We are in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam as part of the rice production initiative, because Vietnam is now the world’s second largest producer of rice.
Borno wants to tap into the expertise for an all-year round production of rain-fed and irrigated production. This is my first visit to Vietnam, a country whose struggle played a very significant role in the development of my consciousness. I read everything that Ho Chi Minh wrote and I used to enjoy his collection of poetry, with its patriotic melancholy and steely determination to achieve freedom from colonialism.
They achieved it but with tremendous sacrifice, because the United States dropped more bombs on Vietnam than were used during the Second World War! Yet these people have returned to their humanity and are now waging a battle against underdevelopment.
The Borno State delegation is here to borrow a leaf from the efforts of the Vietnamese people. Next week, we will talk a bit more about the week I have spent in China and Vietnam. Who says you can take away the gene of travel from a Fullo? Not from this reporter. I am a very loyal nomad; I carry the gene of travel!.