When on June 26, I received an e-mail from the programme officer, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Mr Samson Adeniran, inviting me for a three-month media internship at Deutsche Welle, Bonn, Germany, the natural response was ‘3 months out of the country and away from my duty post?’ Germany? Yes!
I once had the benefit of visiting the country about three years ago, precisely 2016, courtesy of the same KAS. I was one of the few journalists invited to join some state lawmakers in the task of understudying the German Bundestag (parliament) – its operations, cost effectiveness and the general workings of the system. My conclusion then was (still is anyway); ‘here is a nation on the path of greatness and still striving not only to remain there, but also advance.’ What does that tell us as Nigerians? I know the simple response is; we have our peculiar challenges.
It won’t be out of place to say the process was initiated by the immediate past KAS Country Representative, Mrs. Hildegard Behrendt-Kigozi, an amiable and friendly individual who was impressed by Blueprint’s coverage of the October 2016 study tour of the German Parliament. The initiative was inherited and seen through by her successor, Dr. Vladimir Kreck, who personifies warmth and intelligence.
Well, I was still reminiscing on the lessons of the last visit when another opportunity beckoned to be in the same country, this time around for a different task. Training is what is basically missing these days in several organisations where things are done same way and different results expected. The cold weather was something one won’t forget in a hurry. Back then, we were there in the month of October when the winter was peaking. Therefore, the reality of another cold weather was, for me, a major source of concern.
Let me say here that I have had a five to six-year relationship with KAS in several capacities namely; resource person, rapporteur, participant and even reporter at different sessions of its roundtable which basically seeks to support Nigeria’s effort at entrenching democracy. I remember being invited for the first time in 2013 to speak on expectations from the media and the CSOs as the 2015 election was approaching.
Away from that, the invitation became a subject of debate among family members, who unanimously agreed to make the big sacrifice of allowing me some ‘sabbatical’ for three months.
While that was settled, confronting the management with the invite was the next stage. I remember my visibly excited boss -Salisu Umar, whom I fondly call my COO, having mixed feelings. While expressing delight at the rare opportunity which KAS offered, he also never hid his feelings that three- month duration was such a long time for a title editor to be away.
However, that didn’t take away from him the fact that it was a major milestone for the organisation that one of its staff members could be so recognised. He promised consulting with the publisher and other top management staff. Lo and behold, after the file went through necessary administrative procedure, a letter of release finally surfaced.
Germany’s romance with e-mail
From the first day, it was clear to me that the German system is perfectly entrenched in e-mail communication. Booking the flight ticket, health insurance and other necessary details connected to the programme were done via the e-mail mode. Not a single telephone call was put through to inform me certain things needed be done. For one not used to checking the inbox, that might pose some challenges.
And the journey starts…
After a less rigorous check at the Nnamdi Azikwe International airport, I was through and set for boarding. At this point, my colleague, Sola Jaiyesimi of the African Independent Television (AIT) left me worried as he was yet to arrive at the airport. I was at the airport about 9.pm while boarding was billed to commence 11.55pm. I became more disturbed when his line was not going through. However, all the fear disappeared as Solay (as I fondly call him), put a call through to tell me he had arrived the airport. Hmmm. Worst fear dispelled!
The Istanbul experience
Arriving Istanbul airport, the first thing that came to mind was the many controversies around the hullaballoo under the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan –led government. Of course, all that seems over now, giving the picture I saw at the airport.
When communication is key
At Istanbul, we were to connect another Turkish Airline enroute Bonn, our final destination. Yes, we had about four hours to wait before continuing with the journey. Like other passengers, we were seated waiting to catch our next flight. Notwithstanding that there are many arrows giving various directions, it was still problematic knowing which gate to go wait for our flight. So, at that point, the normal axiom of ‘ask if you don’t know’ struck us and we kept asking. Our enquiries either fell on deaf ears due to communication barrier or everyone facing his/her business. It took just a fellow black to appropriately direct us to the right place. It then dawned on me communication is key.
Arriving Cologne, Bonn
Even though they say it is an admixture of autumn and summer, for us, the weather was cold (may be extremely by our standard). After crisscrossing the airport’s vicinity on how to get our bus, we finally got one waiting to pick its passengers and straight we headed to Bonn, our final destination. It really came to time, giving a hint of Germany’s respect for time.
There and then, it’s been one experience or the other in a well-organised society where the system is near-perfect. We had our rest Sunday ahead Monday resumption at the Deutsche Welle training centre.
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Abdulrauf is the Editor Blueprint newspapers, Abuja