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General News of Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Source: The aL-hAJJ

2017 Hajj in danger as Akufo-Addo denies Bawumia control

Ghana’s participation in this year’s pilgrimage to the Holy land of Mecca in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has started on a bumpy note with both vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia and the National Chief Imam; Shiekh Dr Osman Nuhu Sharabutu reported seething with anger over neglect.

Information filtering into the office of The aL-hAJJ indicates that vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia is not a happy man as a result of President Akufo-Addo denying him the honor to reconstitute the recently announced 14 Member Hajj Board; charged to oversee this year’s Hajj operations.

The National Chief Imam, who is the spiritual Head of Muslims in Ghana, is also reported alarmed by the decision to constitute the Hajj Board without consulting him.

Describing the 14-member committee as too partisan, spokesperson of the Chief Imam, Sheikh Aremeyaw Shaibu, told Citi Fm, that the Chief Imam was not consulted before the announcement of the newly constituted Board.

“It appears to me that the Board has been rashly been composed without taking time to study the structure and the outcome of the work of the previous committee so we can learn the lessons from there,” he noted.

Meanwhile, sources at the Flag Staff House have also told The aL-hAJJ that “being a Muslim, Doctor (Dr Bawumia) was of the view Hajj operations which include the appointment of members of the Board will come under his purview, but he was disappointed when the president himself performed that duty.”

Though the vice president was reported consulted on the appointment of members of the Hajj board, a source added that “persons he (Dr Bawumia) had promised key roles in the Hajj operations were not considered. Dr Bawumia had his own people he had penciled to manage Hajj even before we won the election…this was because he thought he will superintend over all Muslim affairs.”

“We know that under late Prof Mills, Mahama as vice-president was allowed, in consultation with the National Chief Imam, to oversee Hajj operations because he is a Northerner. So being a Muslim, it would have been fair that Dr Bawumia was given the opportunity to choose people he thinks could manage the Hajj very well, but unfortunately the president thought otherwise,” another source added.

Apparently, former Greater Accra regional minister, Sheikh I C Quaye, a close confidant of President Akufo Addo; had to up his lobbying skills in order to go pass NPP NASARA Coordinator, Kamal-Deen Abdulai and two other Bawumia loyalists to snatch the Hajj Chairmanship Job.

Though all those who missed out on the Hajj Chairman post have subsequently been made members of the Hajj board to oversee the annual holy journey to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, reports indicate that all was not well with the board’s composition and functions.

President Akufo-Addo last week named Sheikh I.C Quaye and 13 others to oversee this year’s Hajj operations. A statement issued by the Director of Communications at the Presidency, Eugene Arhin, named Sheikh I C Quaye as Chairman of the board who will be supported by 10 others.

The statement also named Dr Seidu Zakaria as Head of Medical Team, Abdulai Rahman Alhassan Gomda as Head of Communications and Dr Sani Abdulai as Head of IT.

In a related development, some regional Chief Imams have also reacted to the names of members of the Board, saying there was no consultation to include regional representatives.

Ashanti Regional Chief Imam, Sheikh Abdul Mumin Harun, is demanding that the Board be dissolved and reconstituted to include regional representatives.

“It will allow for all the regional Imams to be informed. We don’t want some people to blame government and say that the government doesn’t like Muslims and that is why some people couldn’t perform Hajj,” he stated.

Members of the newly constituted Board, who have commenced work even before the official announcement, sources say, have been picking on each other.

“So far their working relationship has been anything but cordial. Almost all of them had intentions of becoming Hajj board chairpersons and though they missed out, they still see themselves as such. If nothing is done about it, it may affect the smooth running of this year’s hajj,” a source close to the newly constituted Hajj board disclosed to The aL-hAJJ.

Another disturbing development that is most likely to impede smooth operations of Hajj, according to the source, “is the elbowing amongst the Hajj Board members. All members believe they are at par since they were all appointed by the President and therefore are answerable to him rather than the Hajj Board Chairman.”

The source further explained that “conventionally, the President only appoints the Hajj Board Chairman in the consultation with the National Chief Imam and he in turn appoints members of the Board he thinks he can work with. But presently, the president appointed all members of the Board, and some of these members were persons who were lobbying for the Hajj Chairman post.”

This, according to the source, if not checked, could create a situation where aggrieved members of the Board could sabotage the Hajj Chairman to ensure he fails.

“In the case of those who have been appointed to Head the specialized teams, previously; it was done by the Hajj Board Chairman in consultations with others but this time round the president directly or personally appointed these persons. These are some of the things creating problems at the initial stage of this year’s Hajj organization and I fear it may degenerate very soon. Already some members of the Board who should have been part of the delegation to the recent Hajj conference who were dropped allegedly on the instructions of the Chairman are reported harboring anger.”

Prior to the official announcement of members of the board, Sheikh I C Quaye and the Minister of Inner Cities and Zongo Development, Abubakar Saddiq Boniface were engaged in “cold war” over whether the Hajj board will operate under the newly created ministry.

The new Hajj Board Chairman recently flared up when The aL-hAJJ sort his views on suggestions that the newly created Inner Cities and Zongo Development Ministry will superintend the activities of the Hajj Committee.

“That is stupid… Tell the man going round saying this thing that he is stupid…foolish. The Hajj Committee is under the office of the President not the Inner Cities and Zongo Development Ministry. How can the Hajj Committee be under the Zongo Development Ministry? Whoever is going round saying this thing is stupid. Tell the person I said he is stupid,” Sheikh I C Quaye fumed.

He angrily said Alhaji Boniface Abubakar Saddique cannot “go round saying the Hajj Committee is under his ministry. Hajj Committee can never be under that ministry…Hajj Committee is directly under the office of the president. Nonsense! How can he go round saying this thing?”

This was after the Inner Cities and Zongo Development Minister had said on an Accra based radio station, Marhaba Fm that part of his ministry’s job will be to supervise the activities of the Hajj Committee, adding that; the Hajj Committee will be an agency under his Ministry.

Meanwhile, sources at the presidency have told this paper that Shiekh IC Quaye has managed to convince the President “to give clear instructions to Boniface that Hajj Board is not an agency under his ministry. The Board will report directly to the president so it’s an agency under the presidency.”

But with the concerns being raised by the National Chief Imam and leaders of the Muslim community, President Akufo-Addo and the NPP government may have to find ways to win the trust and confidence of all stakeholders or risk marring this year’s Hajj.