Dr. Lukman Raimi (L. D.Phil., MNIM, FAAE, FCEnt, FIFP, FIMC, CMC) is the immediate past Amir of The Muslim Congress (TMC), one of Nigeria’s leading Islamic organisations. He recently relocated to Brunei with his family after serving Allah through TMC for eleven consecutive years. In this interview with Muslim News’ RASHEED ABUBAKAR, Dr. Raimi, a former Assistant Professor at the American University of Nigeria (AUN) spoke on his choice and relocating with his family to Brunei, a tiny Asian country, rated among the best places to live in the world with global best standards of living in the world. Excerpts….
MN: We heard that you have relocated to Brunei with your family. How true is this?
Dr. Raimi: It is absolutely true that I relocated to Brunei to take up a new lectureship appointment at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam in far Asia, as an Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship in the UBD School of Business and Economics (UBDSBE). Besides, intellectuals and academics by nature cannot be boxed or confined to one place. They must touch lives and leave their indelible marks everywhere on earth. I had worked in Yaba College of Technology for 19 years with records of academic and administrative excellence. I worked with the American University of Nigeria, Yola, Adamawa State for 3 years and 6 months where I occupied the positions of Chair of Entrepreneur and Management; the Assistant Director AUN Centre for Entrepreneurship; and the Coordinator, Graduate Studies Programmes. Academics gain knowledge, experience and exposure working in various contexts and climes.
People travel to new places on earth to learn divine messages (Q31:31, Q12:105, Q22:46); for trade and commerce dealings (Q17:66, Q2:164, Q62:10); to explore new horizons (Q16:14, Q35:12, 45:12); for recreation (Q10:22, Q5:96, Q30:46); to learn from visiting new places (Q22:46, Q31:31); as immigrants (Q4:97, Q16:41); to explore evolutionary science and anthropology (29:19-20); to study archaeology and history (Q47:10, Q40:82, Q35:44, Q40:21); and learn from the historical past (Q6:11, Q3:137, Q16:36, Q27:69, Q30:41-43).
Above all, traveling is part of the injunctions of Allah. He admonishes:
“Do they then not travel through the Earth, so that their minds gain wisdom and their ears thus learn to hear? For surely it is not the eyes that are blind, but blind are the minds which are in the foremost.” (Qur’an 22:46)
“Do they not travel through the Earth, and deeply observe what was the End of those before them?” (Qur’an 47:10)
“Have they not travelled through the Earth and deeply observed the consequences for those who were before them?” (Qur’an 40:82)
MN: Why Brunei? What is so unique about this Asian country?
Dr. Raimi: There is no special reason for opting for Brunei, it could have been any other location in the world. I had several employment offers in Gambia, India, Oman, Bahrain, and even in Gusau in Nigeria. And a pending interview at the University of Lagos for the Michael Adenuga Professional Chair in Entrepreneurship. But, at a point in the life of a man, one has to make a decision on available options.
I applied like every other person and got the job on merit after about two years. Since the terms and conditions of the job meet my expectations and accommodated my family members’ welfare, it is logical to pick the offer. I also prefer the region and the country, specifically because it is enabling for practicing Islam and raising the children unlike other climes with a licentious and permissive culture of immorality and perversion. There are gains and pains in the decisions, but the gains are far more than the pains.
MN: Tell us more about this country, Brunei?
Dr. Raimi: Brunei is a small country with less than 1 million people, located on the beautiful island of Borneo in Asia. It is officially called Negara Brunei Darussalam (the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace). It gained independence from the United Kingdom on 1 January 1984 and has since been transformed into an industrialised country. It is strategically surrounded by Malaysia and the South China Sea. This country is reputed for its beaches and biodiverse rainforest, much of which is protected within reserves. Hassanal Bolkiah is the current Sultan and Yang di-Pertuan of Brunei and the Prime Minister of Brunei. The capital, Bandar Seri Begawan housed the opulent Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah mosque that has 29 golden domes. The residence of Brunei’s ruling Sultan is called Istana Nurul Iman palace. Unlike other destinations in southeast Asia, Brunei is relatively the safest. With ultra-low crime rates and solo travelers are safe in Bandar Seri Begawan at all times of the day and night. The people are humble, religious, and accommodating.
MN: What informed your decision to relocate with your family?
Dr. Raimi: Brunei is far from Nigeria; I cannot leave the family members in Nigeria, and work abroad for academic and professional development. It is an anomaly. It is not a case of working in Northern Nigeria, and having the family settled in Southern Nigeria. It takes three days to get to Brunei from Nigeria. In Islam, family life is the foundation of human society, as it systematically provides a secure, healthy, and nurturing environment for growing the children. The children are growing up and this is the time to mentor, coach and nurture them to become responsible members of the society.
MN: What’s the duration of your appointment and would you consider coming back to Nigeria once it expires or renew it?
Dr. Raimi: As an expatriate, It’s a contract appointment. It is for three years and renewable. It is the best practice in the world – even in the American University of Nigeria. I just signed a new three-year contract, I had to terminate it recently. Obviously, I will be coming to Nigeria from time to time to reunite with loved ones. There is nothing like bye-bye to Nigeria in my dictionary! The field of entrepreneurship is evolving and scholars in this emerging area of knowledge are globally sought after. I intend to exploit the state-of-the-art facilities and research opportunities in UBD for mutually-beneficial ends.
The mission of my new university fits my preconceived ideas of what a university should be. In clear terms, the mission of UBD is “to empower future-ready leaders through innovative education and enterprising research, driven by national aspirations and guided by the values of Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB)”. I said in the (job) interview that, I want to be part of the team to help achieve the above laudable mission. Universiti Brunei Darussalam or UBD is a beautiful university with the state-of-the-art technologies and instructional facilities. It ranks 34th among Young Universities Worldwide. Read more HERE
Over the next couple of years, I will be working with Professors and other colleagues in UBD to raise the bar of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development by deepening the ‘Spirit of Entrepreneurship’ among the students, the staff members and the host communities through Knowledge Dissemination (Teaching), Knowledge Generation (Cut-edge Research) and Knowledge Application (Community Service and Outreach Programmes). Your prayers always!
MN: Let’s talk about your travel experience especially in the era of COVID-19, how was it like?
Dr. Raimi: The travel experience was intriguing. On Wednesday January 20, 2021, we departed for the international airport in the company of family members, friends, brothers, sisters, and community members with several cars. I will be eternally grateful for this show of love and companionship. Friends and family members shed tears of joy of missing loved ones.
Traveling by air from Nigeria to Brunei is 11,695 km or 7,267 miles. By direct flight, it takes 12.98 hours to arrive in Brunei, but there is no direct flight. The flight situation was complicated and worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. My employer issued the travel tickets for the family of six, entry travel passes (ETP), entry visa for the family, stopover hotel in Malaysia, and arrival hotel for the 14-day self-isolation. We had our COVID-19 test results issued by the NCDC, Lagos State, Nigeria.
We flew Qatar airline from Lagos to Doha (Qatar) for 9 hours, and had a 13-hour stop-over at the Doha airport. The following day we journeyed from Qatar to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) for 9 hours and had another 13-hour stopover spent in Sama-Sama airport hotel. Finally, we flew from Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) to Brunei for 2 hours. The children appreciated the multicultural nature of the world; they saw different styles of dressing including hijabs. They were faced with culture shock! They saw different food items on the menu list without seeing their usual Eba, Amala, Jollof rice, Yam, and our traditional soups. They are living with these realities! Overall, the experience was fascinating, Alhamdulillah!
MN: What did you learn during your journey and what can Nigeria government learn from your experience?
Dr. Raimi: We learned a lot! The airports in Qatar, Malaysia, and Brunei were better managed and equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and staffed with motivated personnel working with digital technologies and tools. Passenger management was excellent, the toilets were well stocked with tissue papers, hand-wash, sanitizers, and frequently cleaned and disinfected in full compliance with COVID-19 protocols. For effective communication with relatives at home, there are free and premium internet connections. The same cannot be said of Nigeria. Our leaders should learn this.
On COVID-19, all the airports we passed through had strict compliance with international guidelines on the spread and management of the pandemic. Covid-19 test results are checked and re-checked. On arrival at Brunei, we were picked up by the staff of hotel designated to house people for the compulsory 14-day isolation. We were housed in a furnished three-bedroom hotel with all the needed facilities to make the stay in quarantine bearable and friendly. Food and drinks are dropped at the door thrice a day at the press of a bell.
The wisdom behind this is that, Brunei currently has zero COVID-19 cases, they do not want new infections. The few cases recorded in the first wave had been dealt with by the public health authorities proactively. The borders with other neighbouring countries are effectively managed using committed personnel, tracking tools, and other digital technologies to prevent infiltrations by unwanted people and the airspace is monitored and controlled.
Irrespective of your status, on arrival, you will be taken into isolation by the government into designated hotels pre-paid for by you before issuance of visa by the immigration and sister agencies. In our own case, the employer had paid for all these on our behalf. The local COVID-19 test from Nigeria only enables you to fly, you have to be subjected to another round of verification test, to ensure the newcomers are clean and fit to mix with the public.
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