Monday, December 14, 2009

Nigeria's President is currently recovering from surgery to combat a heart condition called Pericarditis, which according to the BBC, is likely "triggered by cancer". Despite this, his spokesman made it clear, at that time, that the President would still attend Hajj in Mecca. This revelation indicates how seriously the President and his handlers take the Hajj, that a sick man should feel the need to publicly commit to attending the Hajj. It also illustrates how importantly Nigerians, Muslims and Christians take their religious practices of participating in the Hajj and/or Pilgrimage to Israel (for Christians).

The Hajj is an Islamic tradition. According to the Koran, every able bodied Muslim must make at least one trip to Mecca to participate in the Hajj. In 2009, over 95,000 Nigerians from across the country are participating in the Hajj. The Nigerian government has historically subsidized every Nigerian's trip to the Hajj and picks the Amirul Hajj or leader of the Nigerian Hajj contingency. Also, local cell phone companies even offer roaming for Nigerian customers in Saudi Arabia during the period. The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) facilitates the travels for Nigerians.

 Source: Ilyani

Nigerian Christians also take their Pilgrimage to Israel seriously. While the Christian religion does not require a trip to the Holy Land, Nigerian Christians have historically taken advantage of government subsidies to visit Israel as part of their religious customs. In 2009, Nigeria's 20,000 Pilgrims will be the largest contingent from any other country in the world to Israel. Christians also take a government subsidized trip to Rome, Italy on account of a religious pilgrimage. The Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) acts just like NAHCON to facilitate these journeys.

Nigerian pilgrims in Bethlehem
Nigerian Pilgrims at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

There is great debate over whether or not the Federal government should participate in funding these pilgrimages. Some Nigerians argue that the government should simply regulate the travel of pilgrims and not provide financial and other subsidies. Being that the Constitution does not mandate this act, it is clear that the government facilitates these events as a way of seeking goodwill from citizens, which in itself is not a bad thing. The main issue is the financial commitment the nation makes to help citizens attend either pilgrimage. Given the current economic downturn, and the fact that the 2010 budget is said to be at a deficit already, the financial commitment to the pilgrimage might be an issue worthy of review. However, given that politicians continue to make millions, despite a requirement to reduce their pay, it would be unconscionable to deprive pilgrims of the assistance they receive from the government. What is more important than how much is spent on pilgrimage travels is whether the federal government, and particularly this administration fulfills certain goals especially those involving electricity generation and supply, infrastructural development , health care and education. These objectives are likely not significantly impacted by the amount spent sending Nigerians on pilgrimages. But, only if the federal government satisfies its obligations to the populace.

Of particular interest is the fact that Nigeria's President has been to the Hajj at least once as President and plans to do so again, despite his health issues. This begs the question of whether the nation's President should attend the Hajj more than once while in office. Considering that the Quran only requires one trip, and that Nigeria needs its President in the country to effectively carry out his responsibilities, it might be time for the president to reconsider making any more trips to the Hajj while in office. This is especially important because the cost of sending the President to the Hajj is likely enough to send a good number of average citizens who end up sleeping in tents at Mina, Saudi Arabia and not fancy 5 star hotels in the Saudi Kingdom.

Yar'Adua's predecessor, a Christian, is not recorded as having made any pilgrimage trips to Israel or Vatican, save for official state visits. But despite this, he spent much of his first term traveling all over instead of staying in the country. he was heavily criticized for this. Yar'Adua would do well to learn from that mistake, particularly as his health, and the fact that he is currently still in hospital, lends to concerns over his ability to govern in the first place.

Regardless, it is clear that Nigerians take their religious ceremonies and practices quite seriously. Whether that makes them better Christians or Muslims is another matter that this writer will leave to others to decipher.

From the Archives:
- More Yar'Adua Health Uncertainty
- Yar'Adua And The Continuing Heath Issue
- The Consequences of Yar'Adua's Mysterious Health
- Nigeria, Be Careful What You Wish For
- Suppression In A Democratic Regime
- Wanted Dead Or Alive
- Rest In Peace
- "We Need Fresh Blood Haba!!!! Bones Are Weak!!!"

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Anonymous said...

Hmmmn. Interesting.

Shadenonconform said...

wow. i never knew that the government funded pilgirmages. You would think that with all the pilgrimages to Mecca and Isreal, our leaders would have something to show for it...

It is so unreal that Yaradua has not even considered stepping down. i mean seriously...him being ill and going to Mecca is not going to benefit Nigeria. Personally, i believe that an especially important aspect of what truly makes a person a great leader is knowing when to step down or relinquish one's role(s)..We need a healthy president who can effectively run Nigeria...sigh...

There is hope for Naija...

Seyi said...

State sponsorships of religious pilgrimage is another hole the nation has dug itself into. On one hand we say Nigeria is secular state. But on the other hand, the govt wastes billions of naira sponsoring pilgrims to Jerusalem and Mecca.

Let's not forget, religious pilgrimage is a 'big business'. There are govt cronies who profit immensely from ferrying people to the holy land. There was a rumour during the Abacha regime, that his wife Miriam, holds the monopoly on the contract for airlift of pilgrims to Mecca(!).

One issue that bothers me also is, what about non-christians/muslims? If I'm an traditional worshipper, I don't think I will be happy to see my tax been used to sponsor christians and muslims. In fact, I'm waiting for the day, the govt will be taken to court on this matter.

Anonymous said...

I had thought the UMYA had already gone on Umra (lesser Hajj) this year and that would make his third since he became President.

Well, he probably needs to be as close as possible to his doctors (or to his Lord) in the case of any eventualities.

I have known many Muslims whose only wish, God willing, is to die in Mecca .....


t said...

Isn't it irresponsible to leave the office of the President unfilled for such a long period? What did George W. Bush do on his long vacations to Crawford, Texas? How did the business of the presidency there continue in his absence? We need tips to make sure that the business of government can continue here, even if the President is off-location.

NaijaBabe said...

Honestly, I dont actually believe that the trip is subsidized. I know the government helps alot with the trips but I dont think its subsidized.

Also, ignoring the fact that he'd rather go to hajj or be in office, looking at the president's state of wellbeing, he doesnt have the energy to perform the hajj and when one does not perform certain duties over there, you cannot claim that you've been to Hajj. So its either he didnt go, or he went on a holiday.

Still though, did he have to go?

Beauty said...

There are certain issues one shouldn´t touch and this one is it. Religion is the cocaine of the people as it has become as essential as their blood. It is all the self determination they know. It goes beyond books and blogs, it is simply is. Sick Yardie walking wants to go on a pilgrimage? Let those able bodies drag him there for he has earned it. It is not only in Nigeria that you get this ignorance but in very country on the planet. Aristophanes once wrote, roughly translated; "Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, and drunkenness sobered, but STUPID lasts forever."

Anonymous said...

Well as a Nigeria in London I'm not surprise that your president can't just resign and give a good example of himself, I will keep saying that only revolution will better Nigeria as a country in getting rid off corruptions, miss-used of government funds and national resources etc. Until Nigerian people stand up and wedge war against government, Law maker (judges) before we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.


skornik-security said...

Interesting indid.
I wish i could go see Mecca, i saw pictures and looks beautiful.

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