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Opinions of Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Columnist: Alpha & Shaibu

Hajj 2010 - Efficiency And Deficiency Analysis

Hajj, the last of five pillars of
Islam has proven over the years to be at the heart of every well meaning
Ghanaian Muslim and rightfully so. The journey to please our creator as
adherents of the Islamic faith has over the years been a needless hustle we
dare say is with an end in sight.

The trajectory of Hajj
organization throughout our history as a nation has time and again been dogged
by inconsistencies and reports of blatant exploitation by “Muslims” of fellow
Muslims. Then came the 2009 process which virtually turned what was hitherto a
nightmare into a standard for many Hajj Committees in the future to take a cue
from.



So well organized was the process
that for the first time in a long while, Muslim pilgrims did not have to endure
the hustle and bustle of staying at the AFGO village and Aviation Social Center
under the sun and in unsanitary and more worrying, islamically prohibited
conditions where men and women cohabited in an area.



Hajj 2010 I believe ends
officially with the presentation of a report by the Alhaji Alhassan Bene led
National Hajj Committee (NHC) to its appointing authority. The first point the
NHC we contend should state in its 2010 report vis-à-vis the 2009 process is
that, the 2010 process in several respects plays second fiddle to the preceding
year.



The president, His Excellency
John Evans Atta Mills’ charge to the NHC on the day of the Eid Ul Fitr to
ensure a better Hajj coupled with the Vice President, John Dramani Mahama’s
advice that fees for the pilgrimage be paid in advance set the tone for the
2010 process.



THE
PASSPORT PANIC/RUMPUS

Passports we all know are of the
essence in times of global air travel, but much as the ministerial directive
that all prospective pilgrims acquire biometric passports may have been in line
with international standards, its communication to interested parties was
poorly executed in our opinion, the result of which was the rumpus that
followed thereafter.



The passport office may have done
well to decentralize the biometric passport acquisition process by their mobile
regional offices, but in another vein, their inability to sort out passport of
pilgrims and other applicants became a source of worry leading to the
unwarranted attack of Azorka boys on the spokesperson of the NHC, Alidu Haruna.




Another sour point was the undue
advantage that non-pilgrims took to get their biometric passports, by so doing
creating congestion in the release of passports to those who really mattered,
i.e. pilgrims.



THE
LEGAL “MENACE”

Circumstances that led to a
fellow Muslim (one Afa Hakeem), dragging the NHC to court in efforts at
retrieving some money owed him by a similar body years back would have passed
off as nothing on an ordinary day as a fair and genuine claim but for the
timing.



Sadly enough, Muslims who should
have known better went about casting vile aspersions at Afa Hakeem instead of
looking to proffer measures that could avoid the process from being derailed.



In desperation to accuse, the
accusers forgot the Qur’an’s admonishment in Chapter 49 Verse 12 which states; “O ye
who believe! Shun
much suspicion; for lo! Some suspicion is a crime. And spy not, neither
backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead
brother? Ye abhor that (so abhor the other)! And keep your duty (to Allah). Lo!
Allah is Relenting, Merciful.”



All that as they say is history
against the backdrop that the NHC managed its utmost best to safeguard the
process from being derailed, whiles ensuring that the process was not
unnecessarily stalled by so doing, diffusing mounting tension at the Hajj
Village.



A
MUST TO DEPOLITICIZE THE PROCESS

The call to depoliticize Hajj in
our opinion is critical if all and sundry are to rally round the singular
interest of seeing a successful Hajj pan out year-in year-out. Politics has forced
down a “they versus us” mentality leading to a situation where for the sake
of political expediency, opponents sit in wait for the worse to happen so as to
latch onto.



We would be the first to admit
that politics would not, cannot and shall not for a long time to come be
isolated from our lives, Hajj for that matter. Be that as it may, we opine
that, the politics of Hajj should be played at the
diplomatic/inter-Governmental level relative to issuance of visas and
communication between consulates of respective countries, (i.e. Ghana and
Saudi).



The whole Hajj thing being a
campaign issue, pitching Muslims on both sides of the political divide has not
in any way helped the process, save to create unnecessary noise, a typical case
in point being the donation of water to prospective pilgrims and issues thereof
which did nothing but paint the Hajj a political event, sadly so.



The Hajj process is a purely
religious one that we (Muslims) revere for as long as it leads us on the path
to obeying that which our Lord and Creator instructs us. Sacrifices are made
far in advance of the period and for some cheap politics to threaten a life
dream aimed at fulfilling a divine directive, we think is most unfortunate.



STRANDED
PILGRIMS

The inability to airlift some 600
prospective pilgrims may have been due in part to the injunction slapped on the
NHC, crippling its operations for a few days.



Official explanation with respect
to how the NHC had taken money from more pilgrims than visas applied for, only
to request for more visas as and when necessary, albeit a convention over the
years in my opinion has backfired badly hence the need to right an obvious
wrong the next time round.



A
passionate call however is that the NHC puts top of their agenda the need to
prioritize the stranded pilgrims come next year.



ISSUE
OF GRATIS TICKET

The issue of gratis ticket is
another part of the process that should be looked at with keenness, but yet
again the politics embedded in it goes to derail any efforts at streamlining
what has over the years with successive governments become a drain on national
purse.



With about 328 tickets reportedly
going out at no cost, the nation would be spending close to GH¢ 1,016,800. In
any case, the majority of these tickets go to party members (NDC/ NPP) and with
no criteria on which Muslim is due a free ticket; individuals have landed
multiple tickets and traded some for their upkeep during the pilgrimage.



Point of emphasis; successive
Governments have hardly done anything different in this respect.



OTHER
BRIGHT SPOTS

Efforts by the national chief
Imam Sheikh Dr. Osman Nuhu Sharubutu to appease stranded pilgrims went a long
way to forestall the imminent incidence of a row at a time that the NHC were
virtually at their wits end.



Zoomlion for the Hajj Village and
Intercontinental Bank for the waist pouches that were to keep documents of
pilgrims in safe condition, all contributed to the success of the process
thereby earning our praise, the NHC might want to get a permanent Hajj Village
in the future to make some money in the off-Hajj period whiles serving pilgrims
as and when necessary.



The media; print, radio,
television and online media all played varied roles in giving the Hajj due
coverage through the good and tough times. The NHC must a matter of urgency
establish a working relationship with media – who have become key players in
the all facets of social life.



NHC
REPORT IS CRITICAL

In the light of accountability,
probity and transparency, ingredients to good governance and traits Islam
enjoins on its adherents, the NHC must present its report to its appointing
authority as is required of them, having made use of tax payers money.



All of this affords them the
opportunity to give the general citizenry necessary information to be able to
make informed pronouncements and conclusions from a process that never ceases
to whip up controversy on varied levels, be it of political discrimination or
misappropriation of funds as is usually the case.



CONCLUSION

No doubt the current Hajj
Committee has as a matter of fact cut a path that successive committees cannot
but build upon the successes thereof. The challenges are as ever present and it
behoves on all stakeholders to make a conscientious effort to ensure that the
downsides are minimized whereas the gains are built on.



Pilgrims must have inner peace as
the answer the call of their lord in the talbiyah as they recite thus, “Labaikal
Laahum Ma Labaik”
translated; “Here I am O Lord! Here I am.” 6.5 out of 10 for the effort of the NHC
in its
organization of Hajj 2010, wish and pray Hajj 2011 is better.



May
the peace of Allah be on us All.



Authors:
Shaban Barani Alpha & Abdul Nasiru Shaibu (President, CMYA)

E-mail: alfarsenal@yahoo.com