You can’t differentiate rich Sudanese from poor ones –Returnee
A footballer, Stephen Chidera, who was one of the Nigerians evacuated from Sudan, shares his experience with GIFT HABIB in this interview
What took you to Sudan?
I am a footballer who tried everything possible to ensure I plied my trade here but all efforts proved futile. I was told about the country and how they love players from Nigeria. They believe we are talented and that is the truth. I went there and it did not take long for me to get a club. I did not only do that but I broke into the first team. I am pleased about my football career in the country. I am a winger that could play both seven and 11 because of my ability to use my two feet.
I added business to my football career because my club is not among the top playing football clubs in the country. Alhilal, Al-Merrikh and one other clubs pay well. My dream was to wear the jersey of Alhilal one day but it is quite unfortunate.
Recently, I focused more on the business than on the football over there. Sudan was favourable to me before the war started. Sudanese do not discriminate and they are a very lovely and accommodating people.
Tell us about your experience at the Sudan-Egypt border.
My experience at the border was crazy. The first four days that we arrived at the border, there was no news about our fate. We were very angry. The Nigerian Ambassador to Egypt, Ambassador Nura Rimi sent his assistant who spoke with the Sudanese immigration. He came again the next day and we held him to spend a night with us at the border to feel what we have been feeling. His assistant later went to the Egypt side of the border and paid for over 400 people’s exit visas. The next day, the ambassador came by himself to sort out things. He made sure that we moved two days after his intervention. Initially, we felt abandoned but the government tried by giving us food.
During the war, a lot of properties were destroyed. Was yours part of such?
By the grace of God, I do not pray so. As of the time we left, my properties were not part of those destroyed. Although, up till now, I have not heard from people there, I hope my properties are safe. Now that I have arrived, I will make some contact because there has not been a telecommunication network for a very long time in Sudan. The network was shut down because of the war. I have just reactivated my Nigeria SIM card. I will keep trying to make calls to the people I have there to give me an idea about my shop/business and whether it was affected or not.
Your people back home, how did they feel when you were trapped in Sudan/Egypt?
The Sudanese communication was shut when the war commenced. Although, we see a signal which was not consistent. I could not communicate with anybody at all. We could not buy bundles or recharge cards either.
We still have a lot of Nigerians in Sudan; do you have friends that could not make it to the border or Port Sudan?
Well, whoever was not evacuated was not interested in coming back. A friend of mine said he had no money to come back. He invested all his money in business during Ramadan, thinking that business will boom for him after Ramadan. Unfortunately, just two days for the business to resume fully, the war started. He planned on coming to Nigeria by this December and that was why he invested the money so that he could have enough when he travels down. He is stuck there. Though he is not in distress.
During the war, were the soldiers nice to you?
The soldiers were very nice. They did not disturb the citizens. I was surprised at their attitude towards us. They are nice people.
If you are to compare Nigeria and Sudan what do you think stands the country out?
We usually have electricity for more than 18 hours every day. One striking thing is that you cannot spot the difference between the rich and the poor there. They eat together and move freely on the streets with their people including us that are not from the country. There are also a lot of business opportunities in the country. If one is not lazy, one can make money there. However, house rents, food, and electricity bills among others are very expensive in the country. A room goes for 100,000 Sudanese pounds per month. I pay 150,000 per month for my shop. I sell according to how the cost of living is. Their currency dropped a little which makes it difficult for businessmen like us
What will you miss in Sudan?
I will miss my business because things are very expensive in Sudan. I will also miss the lovely people. Those people were nice to a fault and their kind acts were why I decided to take my wife along with me.
What are your plans now that you are back in the country?
I came back with my wife. She is pregnant with my first child. Though, I will still return to Sudan once the war ends. I want to continue with my football career to see if I can play for a pro league. I am also planning on opening a business for my wife here. Now that we are back in Nigeria, she will go into business too. She will soon give birth, so I cannot take her back to Sudan even when the war is over.
Will you be putting your football career on hold?
I wish to continue playing. I will call my colleagues here and some coaches that I played under before leaving the country for Sudan to see if could train with them. But if I am permitted to say my wish, I will like to play for a Nigerian club. I would not mind Heartland football club. It had been my childhood dream. I do not mind going through trials at the club to show what I have got. If that can materialise, I will forget going back to Sudan.
Sudanese are generous despite conflict – Student
One of the Nigerians evacuated from Sudan, Mohammed AbdulRahman, tells GIFT HABIB he will go back to the country after the world.
What took you to Sudan?
Sudan is an Arabic country. So, we go to Sudan to learn more Arabic and have experience because when we study in Nigeria, we have less experience in Arabic. I am studying computer science at the International University of Africa. Any student who studies here must speak Arabic and any other course of study.
Tell us about your experience at the Sudan/Egypt border.
When we entered Egypt, we were screened more than seven times. Our passports were screened. We were also screened for illegal possession of items etc. At the border, we were helped by people from Turkey with food, water and medication.
Do you have friends that are Nigerians still in Sudan?
I have many friends, aside from my brothers and sisters. They are still there in Port Sudan and the Walfa border.
What is your advice to your friends who are yet to be airlifted?
I advise them to remain calm. I believe they will arrive in Nigeria soonest.
What will you be doing now that you are in Nigeria?
I pray that the war ends very soon so that we can continue our education. I am at 300 level and I have three more semesters to finish my education in Sudan. Before, I go back to Sudan; I will continue my sewing business and maybe any other possible business.
Will you want to go back to Sudan when the war ends?
If Sudan is safe, I want to go back because the Sudanese are very generous. On our way to the border, some stopped us and gave us water, medicine and some snacks. I want to go back to Sudan to finish my studies.
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