I was privileged, a fortnight ago, to travel to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia to attend a conference. Participants at the conference who were mainly university academics in the field of Arabic Language, Literature and Linguistics were drawn from eight countries namely China; Egypt; Malaysia; Nigeria; Saudi Arabia (the host country); Sudan; Turkey; and the United States of America. Five participants were invited from Nigeria by the host country. They are Dr. Yahaya Imam Sulaiman of the Bayero University, Kano; Dr. Kamal Babikr of the Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto; Dr. Najmudeen Raji of the University of Ilorin, Ilorin; Dr. Mardiyyah Mashi Abbas of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; and my humble self.
It could be asserted based on my personal experience in the past that each time one travels out of Nigeria, he surely comes across issues and events that compel him to either lament or show some pride over many aspects of our political, socio-economic and infrastructural development. Most often, one finds more things to lament about. There are people who will tell you they cannot even find anything to appreciate in nearly all facets of our national life. Only the architects, designers, promoters, workers and mercenaries of the ‘transformation’ agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan are likely to have more things to celebrate than lament.
I will attempt in the next few paragraphs to outline some conventional and un-usual features between the two cities of Abuja and Riyadh. Very importantly, Riyadh like Abuja is a beautiful modern city designed with wide and good road networks. The edifices in Riyadh are symbols of modern sophisticated architecture. While Abuja is decorated with a natural green landscape dotted with valleys, rivers, rocks and hills, which perhaps make its weather friendlier; the landscape of Riyadh city appears artificial with a weather that is less friendly probably because it is situated in the Arabian Desert. The Oakland plaza in Maitama district of Abuja is short of what you find in several plazas and complexes in Riyadh including the King Fahd National Library Complex.
High rise buildings and towers which for now do not form part of the structural features of Abuja city are the distinctive elements that colourfully make Riyadh a real modern city; parhaps ahead of Abuja. The Burju Faisaliyyah and the Buruj ul-Mamlakah (The Kingdom Tower) in the heart of Riyadh are some state-of-the-art towers which equivalents could only be found, at least within the Arab World, in cities like Dubai. Another high-tech edifice which is located in the diplomatic layout of Riyadh city is the Ritz Carlton Hotel, which without mincing words, leaves much to be desired by the engineers, architects and managers that respectively designed, built and operate the Nicon Hilton Hotel Abuja.
It though appeared to me as if everyone in Riyadh owns a car because I didn’t notice anyone walking on foot during my brief stay there. Maybe that’s why I didn’t see pedestrian bridges at least in the areas I visited in Riyadh. The streets in Garki districts of Abuja on the other hand are littered with pedestrians on “foot-wagons”; some of them alms-seekers, hawkers and vendors. One “third-world” phenomenon that is characteristic of Abuja streets but completely missing from the streets of Riyadh is KeKe NAPEP. But how could you see tricycles on Riyadh streets when Saudi leaders are committed to the prudent and judicious management of the Kingdom’s resources and economy; ensuring equity and fair distribution of national wealth among all classes of citizens?
Of all the fascinating things that caught my attention either about Saudi Arabia as a country or Riyadh as a Capital city, six of them deserve mention on this page. First, out of the entire participants who traveled by air from seven out of the eight countries including Nigeria to attend the conference, it was only those of us who traveled from Nigeria that had to stop-over in another country to take a connecting flight to Riyadh. All other participants arrived Riyadh on direct flights from their home countries. Our failure to sustain a viable national carrier as a consequence of deep-seated corruption will continue to enrich other economies and shortchange ours.
Second, my ears while in Riyadh did not suffer the usual daily nuisance of sirens on Abuja streets against which we have been compelled to develop immunity Riyadh plays host to the kingdom’s seat of power where the king, all the ministers, and members of the diplomatic corps reside. When I sought explanation from a Saudi colleague, his reply was “only ambulances and fire service trucks here use siren”. In Nigeria, even a ward councilor in a local government could use siren if he desired and could ‘settle’ the regulatory agencies. Third, every police patrol vehicle I came across in Riyadh did not have more than two occupants. This is a very strange operational tradition compared to the practice in the Nigeria police where a pick-up van on patrol is loaded with at least 15 constables.
Fourth, the ancient buildings and other vestiges of the ancient part of Riyadh are preserved in the Dir’iyyah district of the city. Where, if we may ask, are the vestiges of Abuja or specifically the old Garki? The masmak museum in Riyadh also preserves the Al-Masmak fortress built in 1865AD during the reign of Imam Abdullah bin Faisal bn Tuki bn Muhamad bn Saud.
Fifth, while the current Minister of Education in Saudi Arabia has spent over two and half decades in office, Nigeria has had 19 Cabinet Ministers (excluding Ministers of State) between 1990 when Professor Fafunwa was the Minister and 2013 when Professor Rukayyatu left; a period of 23 years. Why then can’t we have policy inconsistencies and summersault in the education sector? This may even explain why the Nigerian ministers of education think it is not important to implement any agreements signed with ASUU because doing so may jeopardize their economic or political interest.
Sixth, when I arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Abuja and waited to pick my luggage, the motorized belt conveying our baggages like other appliances in the arrival hall suddenly stopped working due to power outage from the public power source – the PHCN. May Allah (SWT) liberate Nigeria from the ruthless clutches of wicked leaders, amin.
Source: AllAfrica News Article written by:BY M.U NDAGI