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Friday, 4 September 2015

Nigeria's President To Stop Sponsoring Pilgrims


After writing this, I decided to scour the web for more news about about the sponsorship of pilgrims by the Nigerian state. My pleasant surprise on seeing this report was short-lived after reading that the federal government was going to save $1m by not sending a government delegation! This means that the government not only subsidizes - or does it pay in full? - the journey to Mecca for ordinary citizens, it also sends delegates to represent the federal government.
This was why I had suggested that the Mecca trip was simply a jamboree. Does sending delegates to Mecca for the hajj not suggest that Nigeria is an Islamic state? Are federal government delegates also sent to the Jerusalem pilgrimage? Exactly how many delegates were usually sent to represent the Nigerian government and how were they selected? Was it official state business? Would estacodes be paid? I would really like a detailed breakdown of how the $1m would have been spent. President Buhari is silent because it concerns islam, his religion; not that he would raise any dust if it involved christians anyway. Does this not fall under the radar of his anti-corruption war? Why has he neglected to bring this to the notice of the anti-corruption agencies? No mention has been made of the amount of money the federal and state governments spend on these pilgrimages. Why the silence on this monumental waste? Why is nobody saying much about it?
I remember former vice president Atiku Abubakar regularly went on pilgrimages to Mecca. If his excesses while in office were to be probed today, his 'security vote' (the money set aside by Nigerian government officials purportedly for the provision of security, which can neither be probed nor questioned, and which is, thus, usually grossly abused) and his religious pilgrimages expenses would most definitely be left out. Religion is a no-go area in Nigeria and one would do well to let sleeping dogs lie in this regard; stir the hornets' nest and a million stings awaits. President Buhari himself was a victim as at least one of his three previous defeats at the presidential polls was a direct result of his playing with the tail of the tiger that is religion in Nigerian politics. His current stance therefore is indicative of a man who has learned the hard way.
Nigeria has much more pressing needs like education, power, and healthcare. Prayers and pilgrimages will not educate our children, neither will they power our homes and moribund manufacturing sector. We need to, as a matter of paramount urgency, wrest scarce and sorely needed resources from these artificial financial blackholes devised by our elected officials and their religious collaborators.