Pages

Friday, November 15, 2019

FOR FIRST LADIES ONLY (2)





              Aisha Ummi Garba El-Rufai






How do you become a good First Lady? Unfortunately, you cannot find any handbook to guide you on First Ladyship. “It’s not technically a job, nor is it an official government title.” Just bear in mind the number of people who occupied the seat before you and how each one of them conducted herself in the office, the kind of projects she dedicated herself to and how all that impacted on the lives of the people so you may tread the same path, pursue your own programmes and leave your mark for posterity. 

I was fascinated by what Michelle stated of a tradition where an outgoing president will engage the incoming president in a guided tour of the White House. We do not have this in Nigeria at least for First Ladies. With her bilious and rancorous attack on the North as a whole and the Buharis in particular, Patience Jonathan, for instance, could not have taken Aisha Buhari on such tour of the Villa. Former President Jonathan has been to the Villa to have a tête-à-tête conversation with his successor Muhammadu Buhari, but not once have we seen such spirit of fraternity from their wives. Whoever occupies the Presidential Villa should be viewed as one who represents Nigeria, not his political party, region or religion, and thus he merits the support of Nigerians in so far as he acts within the law, in order to succeed. 

Incoming President Obama and wife were received at the White House for the customary guided tour by outgoing President Bush and wife. “The First Lady clamped my hand warmly.” Said Michelle, “‘Please call me Laura,’ she said. Her husband was just as welcoming, possessing a magnanimous Texas spirit that seemed to override any political hard feelings.” 

Whatever anyone might have said during electioneering was all politics. They were now united in serving the United States of America. “Throughout the campaign,” Michelle continued, “Barack had criticized the president’s leadership frequently and in detail, promising voters he would fix the many things he viewed as mistakes. Bush, as a Republican, had naturally supported John McCain’s candidacy. But he’s also vowed to make this the smoothest presidential transition in history, instructing every department in the executive branch to prepare briefing binders for the incoming administration. Even on the First Lady’s side, staffers were putting together contact lists, calendars, and sample correspondence to help me find my footing when it came to the social obligations that came with the title. There was kindness running beneath all of it, a genuine love of country that I will always appreciate and admire.”

The tour covered areas like the Family Residence, Rose Garden, the Oval Office as well as reminiscences of former occupants of the White House - “the Clintons, the Carters, two sets of Bushes, Nancy Reagan, and Betty Ford.” “This was all heartening.” Michelle said, “I already looked forward to the day I could pass whatever I picked up to the next First Lady in line.”  




President Bush fulfilled his vow of making “the smoothest presidential transition in history,” but compare that with the wrangling and acrimonious debate that characterised the transitional teams of outgoing President Jonathan and that of incoming President Buhari. But to his eternal credit, Jonathan, despite the agony of defeat, was able to take the then president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari on a guided tour of the Villa. Vice President Namadi Sambo also took Yemi Osinbajo, the vice president-elect, on a tour of the vice-president wing of Aso Rock. It remains to be seen whether or not the current tenants of the Villa will be magnanimous enough to take their successors on such tour when their tenancy expires come 2023. 

As First Lady, you live “in a kind of bubble now, sealed off at least partially from the everyday world.” Everything is done for you, almost, surrounded by secret service personnel and a regular police escort. Do not allow the allurement ensconced in the bubble to deceive you into thinking that it will last forever. Make sure that when it busts, and certainly, it will, that you exit it unscathed. Necessary security measures may be taken to shield some of your friends and family members from you. Find a way of maintaining contact with them at whatever level your schedules permit. 

“I was allowed to use a personal BlackBerry”, Michelle said, “but had been advised to limit my contact to only ten of my most intimate friends - the people who loved and supported me without any sort of agenda. Most of my communications were mediated by…” “my deputy chief of staff…” “who knew the contours of my life better than anyone. She kept track of all my cousins, all my college friends. We gave out her phone number and email address instead of mine, directing all requests to her. Part of the issue was that old acquaintances and distant relatives were surfacing from nowhere and with a flood of inquiries.” 

What I like most about Becoming is the Obamas' concern about instilling discipline in their daughters, Sasha and Malia. On their first day of school in the White House, since he could not ride with them to the school, as his custom before he became president, Obama admonished Sasha and Malia: “(keep smiling, be kind, listen to your teachers), adding finally, as the two girls donned their purple backpacks, “‘And definitely don’t pick your noses!’” 

Michelle and her mom accompanied the girls to school that day “in what would become their new form of a school bus - a black SUV with smoked windows made of bulletproof glass.” 

Michelle did not forget where she came from, her humble beginnings. She saw herself lucky “to be living this way.” Her “master suite in the residence was bigger than the entirety of the upstairs apartment” her “family had shared when” she “was growing up on Euclid Avenue.” “I was a child of the South Side,” she said, “now raising daughters who slept in rooms designed by a high-end interior decorator and who could custom order their breakfast from a chef.” In spite of all these privileges, Michelle prevented her daughters from acting in an overbearing, dictatorial manner towards the people that were employed to ensure their comfort. “I made it clear to the housekeeping staff”, she said, “that our girls, as they had in Chicago, would make their beds every morning. I also instructed Malia and Sasha to act as they’d always acted - to be polite and gracious and to not ask for anything more than what they absolutely needed or couldn’t get for themselves.” 

Women, not necessarily First Ladies, have a lot to learn from the way Michelle cared for and trained the girls. Some women have no compunction about maltreating a housemaid or anyone in their employ. In their very sight and to their hearing, but without any form of reprimand, their children ill-treat and abuse domestic servants the age of their parents. Do whatever you may with the end in mind. 

The Government or State House is not the end of the world, and of course, the power that your husband wields is nowhere near that of the President of the United States. Your residence is an infinitesimally small house when compared to the White House “with 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 28 fireplaces spread out over six floors.” But even with this splendour, the Obamas were humbled when they travelled out of the States. “I’d been walking around”, Michelle said, “thinking that our new house was big and grand to the point of being over the top, but then I went to England and met Her Majesty the Queen.” 

Michelle narrated step-by-step details of their experiences during that visit to her Majesty. “It turns out”, she said, “that the Buckingham Place is big - so big that it almost defies description. It has 775 rooms and is fifteen-times the size of the White House. In the years to come, Barack and I would be lucky enough to return there a few times as invited guests. On our later trips, we’d sleep in a sumptuous bedroom suite on the ground floor of the palace, looked after by liveried footmen and ladies-in-waiting. We’d attend a formal banquet in the ballroom, eating with forks and knives coated in gold. At one point, as we were given a tour, we were told things like “This is our Blue Room” our guide gesturing into a vast hall that was five times the size of our Blue Room back home. The Queen’s head usher one day would take me, my mother, and the girls through the Palace Rose Garden, which contained thousands of flawlessly blooming flowers and occupied nearly an acre of land, making the few rosebushes we so proudly kept outside the Oval Office suddenly seem a tad less impressive. I found Buckingham Palace breathtaking and incomprehensible at the same time.”

Thursday, November 7, 2019

FOR FIRST LADIES ONLY (1)










"KNOW [O men] that the life of this world is but a play and a passing delight, and a beautiful show, and [the cause of] your boastful vying with one another, and [of your] greed for more and more riches and children.  Its parable is that of [life-giving] rain: the herbage which it causes to grow delights the tillers of the soil; but then it withers, and thou canst see it turn yellow; and in the end it crumbles into dust.  But [the abiding truth of man's condition will become fully apparent] in the life to come: [either) suffering severe, or God's forgiveness and His goodly acceptance: for the life of this world is nothing but an enjoyment of self-delusion". (al-Hadeed 57:20)

This would have been the third and final part of Between Aisha and Michelle but the caption has to change to encompass first ladies in the State House as well as all Government Houses across the states. What I will do in this first part is to quote copiously from Becoming those paragraphs that depicted the meaning of the verse in the above epigraph. Let every first lady ponder over her condition before her husband ascended the throne and know that four or eight years is just like tomorrow. The first family will leave the scene for another set of a first family; as part of the vicissitudes which Allah causes to follow one another for mankind. (Aali-Imraan, 3:140)

Don’t forget where you were before you became the First Lady for all this will be over as quickly as it started, at the expiration of your husband’s first term or certainly after his second and final term. Only the unthinking supposes a mirage in a desert to be water. It is when he reaches it and finds no water that he discovers himself once again. (An-Nur, 24:39)

In a minute, after the hand of your husband is placed on a Qur’an or a Bible and an oath repeated, your life is changed forever. Michelle experienced that change when she came to the airport for the first time to receive the newly elected President Obama: “…and I turned to look.” She said, “Exactly on cue, something massive came around the corner: a snaking, vehicular army that included a phalanx of police cars and motorcycles, a number of black SUVs, two armoured limousines with American flags mounted on their hoods, a hazmat mitigation truck, a counterassault team riding with machine guns visible, an ambulance, a signals truck equipped to detect incoming projectiles, several passenger vans, and another group of police escorts. The presidential motorcade. It was at least twenty vehicles long, moving in orchestrated formation, car after car after car, before finally, the whole fleet rolled to a halt, and the limo stopped directly in front of Barrack’s parked plane.” 

For those eight years of Obama’s presidency that was how he moved and travelled. “I had yet to grasp that Barack’s protection was still only half-visible.” Continued Michelle “I didn’t know that he’d also, at all times, have a nearby helicopter ready to evacuate him, that sharpshooters would position themselves on rooftops along the routes he traveled, that a personal physician would always be with him in case of a medical problem, or that the vehicle he rode in contained a store of blood of the appropriate type in case he ever needed a transfusion.” This car, the presidential limo, just ahead of Barack’s inauguration, was “upgraded to a newer model - aptly named the Beast - a seven-ton tank disguised as a luxury vehicle, tricked out with hidden tear-gas cannons, rupture-proof tires, and a sealed ventilation system meant to get him through a biological or chemical attack.” It was then that Michelle realised that she was “married to one of the most heavily guarded human beings on earth.”

On her sojourn as First Lady, Michelle said: “For eight years, I lived in the White House, a place with more stairs than I can count - plus elevators, a bowling alley, and an in-house florist. I slept in a bed that was made up with Italian linens. Our meals were cooked by a team of world-class chefs and delivered by professionals more highly trained than those at any five-star restaurant or hotel. Secret Service agents, with their earpieces and guns and deliberately flat expressions, stood outside our doors, doing their best to stay out of our family’s private life. We got used to it, eventually, sort of - the strange grandeur of our new home and the constant, quiet presence of others.”

Then, suddenly, as if from the blues, this grandeur and exquisite taste that the Obamas became accustomed to over the eight-year period in the White House - a fleeting comfort of the life of the world - “it was over. Even if you see it coming, even as your final weeks are filled with emotional good-byes, the day itself is still a blur.” As if they had not dwelt there. “One president’s furniture gets carried out while another’s comes in. Closets are emptied and refilled in the span of a few hours. Just like that, there are new heads on new pillows - new temperaments, new dreams. And when it ends, when you walk out the door that last time from the world’s most famous address, you’re left in many ways to find yourself again.” 

And so it was, that after eight years the Obamas moved out of this state of power and felicity, from the White House a “redbrick house” “on a quiet neighborhood street.” 

Now the First Lady was alone with the family dogs; no retinue, no hovering crowd and guards. “And I was hungry.” The former First Lady said, “I walked down the stairs from our bedroom with the dogs following on my heels. In the kitchen, I opened the fridge. I found a loaf of bread, took out two pieces, and laid them in the toaster oven. I opened a cabinet and got out a plate. I know it’s a weird thing to say, but to take a plate from a shelf in the kitchen without anyone first insisting that they get it for me, to stand by myself watching bread turn brown in the toaster, feels as close to a return to my old life as I’ve come. Or maybe it’s my new life beginning to announce itself.” 

Friday, November 1, 2019

BETWEEN AISHA AND MICHELLE (2)










In a Hadeeth narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas in the Book of Prophets, the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam mentioned the earliest settlement in Makkah which composed of Ismael and his mother, “the first lady to use a girdle”; how Prophet Ibraheem (Abraham) left them, at Allah’s behest, “in an uncultivable valley near” the “holy House” and prayed Allah to “incline some hearts of men that they may yearn toward them” (Ibraheem 14:37). And so it was that Zamzam water attracted new entrants to the settlement and with that the subsequent birth of a community. The settlers were the Arab tribe of Jurhum from where little Ismael learnt the Arabic language, and when he attained the age of majority, married one of their girls. 

It is a long narrative that touched on a number of happenings one of which was how Ismael’s father, Prophet Ibraheem came visiting his family decades after he left them but he only met his daughter-in-law who did not know him. He asked her the whereabouts of her husband and she said: “Ismael has gone in search of our sustenance”. He further asked her concerning their condition generally and she answered: “We live in straitened circumstances, in abject destitution.” She painted a very bleak picture of the household. It was then that Prophet Ibraheem said: “Convey my salutations to your husband when he returns and tell him to change the protective cover of his dwelling.” 

When his wife told Ismael the whole story after his return he interpreted his father’s allegory in these words: “Yes the unknown visitor is my father and he has ordered me to divorce you. Please return to your family.”

From the above, some jurists averred that such union be set asunder in which the wife will not conceal, but will, instead, noise abroad the weakness and internal blemish of her husband.


The Obama’s had their “frustrations” and tense moments, “as if at the centre of” their “relationship there were suddenly a knot” they “couldn’t loosen” but still “loved each other deeply”. Michelle “had seen other marriages come undone in a way that made” her “feel protective of” theirs. “I had close friends go through devastating breakups,” she said, "brought on by small problems left unattended or lapses in communication that led eventually to irreparable rifts.” But instead of speaking to the press they took to counselling though “Barrack was reluctant at first to try couples counselling.” Michelle said counselling “turned out to be the big revelation” to her: “No validating went on. No sides were taken. When it came to our disagreements, Dr. Woodchurch (not the real name of the psychologist) would never be the deciding vote. Instead, he was an empathic and patient listener, coaxing each of us through the maze of our feelings, separating out our weapons from the wounds. He cautioned us when we got too lawyerly and posited careful questions intended to get us to think hard about why we felt the way we felt. Slowly, over hours of talking, the knot began to loosen. Each time Barrack and I left his office, we felt a bit more connected.” 

Michelle and Aisha, each one of them has a husband around whom crazy rumours swirled during their first and second term campaigns for election to the presidency. Obama, it is said had “been schooled in a radical Muslim madrassa and sworn into the Senate on a Koran. That he refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. That he wouldn’t put his hand over his heart during the national anthem. That he had a close friend who was a domestic terrorist from the 1970s.” As for Buhari, aside all lies said about him, his bitterest foes said he died long ago, that he had been “cloned”, replaced with a body double called “Jubril” from Sudan.

Unlike Aisha who only got new sets of aides recently, Michelle had all the personnel she needed even before the first inauguration of her husband as president. Thus, she had control of her residence vast as it is. “It is a huge place,” she said, “the White House, with 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 28 fireplaces spread out over six floors….” This is where she stayed with her husband, two girls, Malia and Sasha, and her mother, Marian Lois Robinson who reluctantly agreed to come and stay with them at White House. No interference from anyone in the way that Michelle superintended the affairs of her residence. Yes, there were instances when she had to be mildly overruled by secret service personnel due to security reasons, but largely she was the “mom in chief” of the White House. 

Better late than never; let Aisha use her reinforced retinue to speak in her stead on national issues in order to forestall the gaffes in improvised press interviews like the one she granted at the airport upon her return from the United Kingdom. Certain questions are better left unanswered, or by simply denying to comment on them.  

Every woman wants that space, let alone the First Lady; needs to have control of her residence. If Aisha Buhari had that control in her residence that viral video would not have been recorded in the first. Only Allah knows the details of what actually happened, and of course the parties involved; Aisha, as a human being, may have her own issues in her interaction with the people in the Villa, but this conjecture itself proves the point that the First Lady is only exercising a blunt influence within her dwelling due to unexplained factors. I really cannot imagine any of the past first ladies of Nigeria to be subjected to anything near the apparent indignities that Aisha endures. I heard of a former first lady in whose presence some cabinet ministers crouched down and seated themselves beside, and not on, the sofa cushions. It was not possible for the president’s nephews, if there were any during that reins of power, to provokingly block the path of the first lady, in her husband’s residence, in order to record her angry reactions for the world to see. 

I am indigent Almajiri but my scant study of the Seerah of the Prophet, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam taught me how he consorted with his consorts, and how he respected and honoured them. My wife will not be undermined because of my relationship with any mortal, besides parents; (even parents understood the invisible sanctuary and respectfully avoided approaching it during their lifetime). That is a redlined mark that no-one will approach without incurring my wrath. Dishonour to my wife is a disgrace to me, as whoever honours her, honours me. It all begins with me; if I treat her with respect, people will accord her dignity in like manner. On the other hand, if my attitude is bereft of any honour towards her, even the family chauffeur will debase her!    


Thursday, October 24, 2019

BETWEEN AISHA AND MICHELLE (1)











Her Excellency, Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, the First Lady shares a lot in common with Michelle Obama. They are of course dissimilar from each other in a number of areas (on which more later). Michelle has made this analysis easy with her memoir, Becoming in which she chronicled all stages of her life from a humble beginning to the sojourn of her family in the White House. 

Our politicians and their wives will do well to copy memoir writing from where they emulate their system of governance. Before Michelle’s Becoming there was Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton; her husband, Bill Clinton authored My Live. Other memoirs from politicians about their life experiences and leadership include, (not an exhaustive list), Donald Rumsfeld’s Known and Unknown - A Memoir, George W. Bush’s Decision Points, Tony Blair’s A Journey - My Political Life, and David Cameron’s For The Record. In Africa we can only boast of a few: Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk To Freedom, Olusegun Obasanjo’s My Watch and Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai’s The Accidental Public Servant

If Nigerian politicians and people who work in the corridors of power keep to themselves by not writing about their challenges, successes and possible failures when in office, Nigerians are not likely to learn from such experiences, and Nigeria will be the greatest loser in the race. Whenever I meet someone who is or has been in any position of authority especially in a government house and the Presidential Villa, I urge them to write their memoirs for the benefit of posterity. I concede that certain events would be classified, but there will be the time that the period for such restrictions elapses, becomes declassified.

Reading Michelle’s Becoming I kept hoping to read Aisha Buhari’s account of life in the Villa. Muhammadu Buhari’s family would be the first family to spend two terms in the Villa. I am not unaware of the two terms of Olusegun Obasanjo (and even the failed third-term attempt), that is why I emphasised family. Buhari would be the first two-term democratically elected president to live in the Villa with a consort! 

Her Excellency, Aisha Buhari’s book would make interesting reading, another first, since to the best of my knowledge no first lady before her has ever written any. That book will afford her the liberty to express herself fully and clear the air on a number of issues. 

I have a confession to make. I am now a born-again columnist in respect of Her Excellency, Aisha Buhari and others in a similar situation like hers which requires listening to the other party before dispensing judgement. Recent happenings in the Villa made me realise my presumptuousness in the position I assumed after the BBC interview she granted in which she spoke about a cabal that enervates her husband in fulfilling his part of the bargain to the electorate. I wondered then and still wonder why a first lady of Fulani-Muslim extraction would do this to her husband at a time that he needed every ounce of support he could get. I tried, then, in vain to draw any line of demarcation between Her Excellency’s utterances during the interview and acts of sabotage the wife of Lut (Lot) meted out to the mission of her husband (ash-Shu’ar’aa 26:171). But now I am born-again in that I behold her actions through the lens of fair hearing without absolving her of blame. Though He knows the secrets of hearts, Allah asked Satan why he refused to bow down to Adam, as if to draw our attention to the need for fair hearing (al-Hijr 15:32). 

In a piece, I Am Mijin Hajiya which appeared on these pages in March this year I said: “I would rather be Mijin Hajiya, even though the term is used derogatorily in my community; being a Mai Gida is the norm. People in Mai Gida’s world consider a marriage successful only when the wife is enslaved, and bereft of her husband’s love and respect. Therefore, a husband who displays any form of affection to his wife, or honours her, or seeks for her opinion on anything is Mijin Hajiya. For such marital harmony to exist, according to my community, the husband must be a weakling, subservient to the wife, without any authority over her.” 

Politicians in the civilised world tend to be more inclined to being Mijin Hajiya than the opposite. Donald Rumsfeld told me in his Known and Unknown, speaking about President Ford, that he “had real strengths and one of Ford’s most important assets was the First Lady. Betty Ford was a gracious, lively and entertaining woman whom the president clearly adored. She helped set the standard for modern first ladies by talking openly about controversial public issues, a role that traditionally was not considered the province of a president’s wife.”

When David Cameron wanted to seek for leadership, as he stated in For The Record, the sought for support, understand and advice from political associates and his parents, but he spared the most important part to his wife Samantha. “The most important,” he said, “of course was Samantha. Just as she had been worried about the effect on our life of me becoming an MP, she was worried about what being leader would mean. She could see why that side of it worried me but was also in many ways the ultimate Tory moderniser. It was a crisp spring day in the garden at Dean when she said words to the effect of, ‘What is the point of spending your life in a Tory Party that can’t achieve any of the things that you believe this country needs to do?’ That was what I really needed, and after her words, the decision was made. I was running.”

I will mention more on the issue of mutual respect between the husband and the wife within and outside the home later. 

Public life as its zakah which must be paid by the famous and mighty in the form of worries, turbulence and public scrutiny. 
  
“Sometimes watching the news or reading the paper,” said Michelle in Becoming, “I found myself staring at images of the people who’d given themselves to political life - the Clintons, the Gores, the Bushes, old photos of the Kennedys - and wondering what the backstories were. Was everyone normal? Happy? Were those smiles real?” 

We do not know what people in high places are going through. We only see the pictures, the smiles and we speculate. “The more popular you became,” Michelle said, “the more haters you acquired. It seemed almost like an unwritten rule, especially in politics, where adversaries put money into opposition research - hiring investigators to crawl through every piece of candidates background, looking for anything resembling dirt.” 

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Murshid’s Khutbah: HOLDING FAST TO THE SUNNAH










                                   THE MURSHID


This is the translation of the Khutbah that Prof. Shehu Ahmad Sa’id Galadanchi, CON, Murshid of the National Mosque, Abuja delivers today, Friday, October 18th 2019 at the National Mosque: 

“Dear Muslims, we live in a time full of Bida’ (plural for Bid’ah) and religious disorder that cause a lot of problems to us, not only spiritually, but also politically and socially. As Muslims, we will not be able to surmount these challenges except through reverting to our Haneef Religion and holding fast to the Sunnah of our Prophet, the Trustworthy, the one sent as a Mercy to humanity. 

  
“On the authority of Abu Najeeh al-‘Irbaad ibn Saariyah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: ‘The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam gave us a sermon by which our hearts were filled with fear and tears came to our eyes. We said: O Messenger of Allah, it is as though this is a farewell sermon, so counsel us. He said: I counsel you to fear Allah (may He be glorified) and to give absolute obedience even if a slave becomes your leader. Verity, he among you who lives (long) will see great controversy, so you must keep to my Sunnah and to the Sunnah of the rightly-guided Rashidite Caliphs - cling to them stubbornly. Beware of newly invented matters, for every invented matter is an innovation and every innovation is going astray and every going astray is in Hell-fire.’ It was related by Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidhi, who said that it was a good and sound Hadeeth. 

“The Trustworthy Messenger related in this important Hadeeth that he who lives long among his Sahaabah will see great controversy. And here we are in this  era  witnessing great controversies in our Deen that are causing religious, political and social problems. Oftentimes, moral and material losses are caused by these problems, not least the Boko Haram challenge that is ever-present with us. In times gone by, we only heard of these challenges from afar, in climes distant from us. Today, we are faced by these challenges in our country, nay, in our homes, schools, roads and Masaajid (plural for Masjid). 

“The instruction of the Messenger to us in this Hadeeth as mentioned pertains holding fast to the Sunnah. He said: ‘…so you must keep to my Sunnah and to the Sunnah of the rightly-guided Rashidite Caliphs..’ Then he placed an emphasis on this command and said: ‘..cling to them stubbornly.’

“This is an eloquent expression in which the Messenger counselled us to hold fast to the Sunnah really strongly and determinedly. 

“Brethren in Faith! It is imperative that we, especially the youths, seek for, and act according to knowledge. As our predecessors said, the ignorant has neither intellect nor religion. Islam adjures us to learn the injunctions of our religion, the upright, so we can know how to worship Allah alone, without partners; that we can distinguish truth from falsehood, and good from evil; that we can discern what is textually evident in the Book and the Sunnah of commandments and Sharia’h laws; that we can differentiate between Halaal and Haraam as well as avoid doubtful matters as Al-Mustapha commands us in a Hadeeth where he said: “That which is lawful is plain and that which is unlawful is plain and between them are doubtful matters about which not many people know. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and honour, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful…’ to the end of the Hadeeth.

“Jurists are unanimous on the importance of this Hadeeth and its various jurisprudential uses as it is one of the Ahaadeeth upon which is the nexus of Islam. Avoidance of doubtful matters, O servants of Allah, ensures the preservation of one’s religion and honour.

“We pray Allah the Almighty to assist us in following the Sunnah of His Messenger, and the Sunnah of his rightly-guided Rashidite Caliphs. I have uttered what you have heard, and I seek Allah’s forgiveness for me, you and all Muslims; seek for His forgiveness as He is Most-Forgiving, Most-Merciful.”

SITTING

“Praise be to Allah who said in His Glorious Book concerning His Trustworthy Prophet: ‘He does not speak of (his own) desire. It is naught save an inspiration that is inspired, which one of mighty powers taught him…’ Peace and blessings be upon the Glorious Prophet, our Leader, Muhammad, the Unlettered; and upon members of his household, and entire Sahaabah. I bear witness that there is no deity except Allah alone, who is without partners. I bear witness, also, that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger.

“Afterwards, servants of Allah, holding fast to the Sunnah of Al-Mustapha and following his footprints in religious and mundane affairs is mandatory on every Muslim, even though it is not easy in our daily activities nowadays. And that is so because the Shayaateen (evil ones) among the Jinn, aided by Shayaateen among humankind, are constantly whispering into the hearts of people to effectively sabotage any resolve in following the Sunnah. The Shayaateen among the humankind are so many in our times and are more deadly than their Jinn counterparts because they mingle with us. 

“What we should do, brethren is to beware lest these Shayaateen make us deviate from the even path and loose grip of the Sunnah of Al-Mustapha alaihis salaam.

“It was reported on the authority of ‘Aisha, Mother of the Faithful, may Allah be pleased with her, who said: ‘The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam said: ‘He who innovates something in this matter of our that is not of it will have it rejected.’ The meaning of this is such innovations are void without efficacy whatsoever. This Hadeeth, doubtless, is a very important component among Islamic principles.  It is also, as jurists posited, part of the all-encompassing speech of the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam in that it is plain, explicit in repelling all kinds of unlawful and misguided innovations.   

Thursday, October 10, 2019

MISUNDERSTANDING AT THE NATIONAL MOSQUE, ABUJA








A “SPECIAL INVITATION” dated September 16th 2019, from Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi Foundation was extended to the Murshid of the National Mosque, Abuja, Prof. Shehu Galadanchi, to “an annual celebration of new (Islamic Calendar) year, Zikir and Special Prayer 14441 AH.” 

In a normal setting, when an organisation wants to hold a function in any place, the first thing to do is to seek permission from the authorities of that establishment. Not so the Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi Foundation. “On behalf of the above named foundation,” said the letter, “its well-wishers and the entire adherence (sic) of Dariqah Tijjaniyya, we hereby invite you to the above mentioned event which is organised under the leadership of Maulana Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi (OFR)”. The date (September 27th), venue (National Mosque) and time (4:00 pm to 8:00 pm) of the “Zikir” celebration were mentioned. 

What made this Foundation to be so blatantly and disdainfully arrogant in its correspondence to the Murshid? The Foundation was just passing the information on its function to (and without permission of) the leader of the National Mosque and has the impudence to invite him to attend if he cared to. 

In his reply (on September 19th 2019) to the invite of the Foundation, the Murshid administratively treated their letter as if it were a formal request for permission to hold the event in the precincts of the National Mosque. He expressed his “regret to inform” the organisers “that the proposed date of” Friday, September 27th “2019 for the event will not be feasible” as (i) it is the same “date the Federal Government is conducting a Special Juma’at Prayer and Public Lecture” to mark Nigeria’s 59th Independence Day Celebrations; (ii) past gatherings by the Foundation have left a trail of damage to the Mosque’s facilities “such as carpets, toilets, landscaping, etc. (iii) “the Management of the Mosque”, given the “security  situation in the country,” will not “allow any uncontrollable crowd to” converge in its premises.

The Murshid then drew the attention of the Foundation to a saying of the Prophet, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam that was reported in almost all Hadeeth collections which established that the National Mosque, Abuja has no superiority over any other mosque in Nigeria in terms of acts of worship. Thus, whoever wants to serve Allah, they do not need to travel to Abuja as they could as well garner reward through their devotions in mosques that are close to them. A Muslim could travel for spiritual purposes to only three mosques in as much as the Prophet, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam has said:    “No (religious) journey is to be undertaken except to (pray in) the three mosques: The Sacred Mosque (Makkah), the Aqsa Mosque (Jerusalem), and this Mosque of mine (al-Madeenah).” 

The Murshid ended his letter by advising the Foundation, due to the multitudinous number of Dariqah devotees that gather for such event, to “contact Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to provide, if necessary, for an alternative venue such as Eagle Square or International Conference Centre.”

The above reply only reached the addressees by the use of a bait. Past experience has shown that the organisers of the “annual Zikir” will not care to receive the National Mosque’s response to their correspondence. So, they were invited to come and collect invitation cards to the 59th Independence Day Celebrations which will feature a lecture and special prayers at the National Mosque. That bait caught the fish since this kind of ceremony attracts the presence of top government officials and people of means, (even President Muhammadu Buhari would have attended but for the coincidence of the event with his function at the United Nations General Assembly); it will, doubtless, provide opportunity for importunity in seeking for appointments and asking for largesse. After all, their patriarch sees no difference between Islam and begging; according to him, the two are inseparable. So, they took the bait. 

When they came for the invitation cards, the above reply of the Murshid was included in the envelope and given to the emissaries of the Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi Foundation who wasted no time in reading the contents. One of them said to the Murshid’s retinue: “We have not sought for anybody’s opinion on the possibility or otherwise of our programme. It was just for your information. We are not asking for  your permission…” 


It was after the 59th Independence Day Celebrations at the National Mosque that one of the scions of Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi approached the Sultan at the facade of the Mosque to intercede (actually, overrule would be a better word) with the Murshid, who was standing within earshot, on their behalf. The Sultan advised the litigant to refer his case to the Murshid. “But you are the one that appointed him.” Said Dahiru Bauchi’s son. His Eminence, the Sultan, with surprising equanimity, answered: “On the issue of the Mosque, the Murshid is our leader”.   

“You will not have the event here. Not in this mosque.” Said the Murshid.

“But sir,” retorted Dahiru Bauchi’s son, “we have been gathering here for the past 30 years for the same event”; (which is not true. They started in 1998). “The consequences of the event not taking place at the National Mosque will be calamitous for Nigeria as a whole.” roared Dahiru Bauchi’s son.

“Let there be such calamity, but you will not have the event here.” Said the Murshid.

Amidst this scene of utter disregard to the sanctity of the place and discourtesy to our leaders, some adherents of Dariqah Tijjaniya were disdainfully asking “who can stop the mention of Allah in the house of Allah” and “who is Galadanchi…?”; jeering crowds of Ahlul Zikir devoid of decorum and discipline. If this is not extremism, I don’t know what it is!  

The only assuagement here will be the words of the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam where he warned that those who do “not respect our elders” are not of us. 

His Eminence, in his conscientiousness, benign temperament and style of leadership, desires the embarkation of all Muslims in Nigeria, as it were, on the Ark of  Nuh (Noah), Alaihis Salaam. But, honestly, he, sometimes needs the Umarness in the Murshid to suffer the waves to drown those members of his flock who foolishly assume a mountain that they perceive from afar will save them from the flood. 

One lesson that should not be missed in this sad incident is the unquestioning deference that His Eminence, the Sultan accorded the Murshid. He has established the Murshid’s evident authority on the affairs of the National Mosque: “On the issue of the Mosque, the Murshid is our leader”. Even when His Royal Highness, Alh Yahaya Abubakar, Etsu Nupe approached the Sultan on the possibility of a concession on the matter, His Eminence urged him to “go to the Murshid and plead with him..”. In a telephone conversation with a prominent Muslim leader who called on the same issue, the Sultan politely referred him to the Murshid. These efforts succeeded in the reversal of the Murshid’s position and the Zikir Foundation held the event, but the greatest winner is “our leader” on matters affecting the National Mosque.    


Now Facebook-warriors of Dariqah Tijjaniya have got another pastime in propagating lies about the National Mosque and its Murshid, calling for his removal, that he is an Izala agent working for the obliteration of all traces of Dariqah in the mosque.  

Prof. Shehu Ahmad Sa’id Galadanchi, CON, Murshid of the National Mosque has a clearer vision, more than any other person, on maintaining neutrality in running the affairs of the National Mosque even before it was built. In a meeting with late General Shehu Musa ‘Yar Adua, Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters in 1978 (when the leader of this Zikir Foundation was nothing to be mentioned in Nigeria), Shehu Galadanchi it was that countered the subtle suggestion by late Sheikh Abubakar Mahmoud Gumi that since Izala has no discernible ritual in its practice of Islam, it could have more influence in running the affairs of the then yet-to-be-built National Mosque. Sheikh Sharif Ibrahim Saleh was also at the meeting.

Only the mischievous will see leanings towards Izala in the leadership of Prof. Shehu Galadanchi as Murshid of the National Mosque. There was a time that the Izala group sought for permission to hold a function at the mosque which was denied. Heavens did not fall then. On another occasion, he granted such request with the proviso that they will pray behind the imam of the National Mosque and not appoint one of them to lead the prayers. When the time for prayer came, Sheikh Ahmad Onilewura, one of the imams, led the prayers and everybody prayed behind him. Even with the resolution of the Zikir Foundation crisis, its members did not obey this condition. Before the Mu’azzin made the call to prayer, they instructed one of their own to do so and another led the prayers. That has been their custom. 

Moreover, adherents of Dariqah Tijjaniya have Wazifa sessions daily at the National Mosque aside the special weekly Juma’a Zikir. The National Mosque is the de facto headquarters of Dariqah activities in Nigeria.  Dariqah Tijjaniya is the only group with an office at the National Mosque.

There is a need for an urgent meeting of Dariqah Tijjaniya, Kadiriya and Izala adherents to address these imbalances to avert an impending crisis when other groups will attempt to establish their presence and seek for equal treatment.  

Sheikh Ibrahim Ahmad Makari, a quintessential adherent of Dariqah,  handles quite a number of important assignments at the behest of the Murshid, not because Prof. Makari is Dariqah but for the fact that he is competent and thus the Murshid reposed no small measure of confidence in him. In Sheikh Makari I was able to educe a variant of Dariqah Tijjaniya that hinges on self-effacement, refinement and observance of the rules of scholastic etiquette. His tutelage, I later deciphered, was not under a sheikh whose slanders, curses, taunts and abuses did not spare the Majesty of the Sokoto Caliphate.      




Two days after the display of unruly behaviour by members of the Zikir Foundation, the Shiekh Sharif Ibrahim Saleh Foundation, presented to the public the proposed SHEIKH SHARIF IBRAHIM SALEH ISLAMIC CENTRE (SHISIC), on Sunday, September 29th 2019 at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.


The centre shall be domiciled at the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria, and will, among other uses, (1) serve the interest of those “concerned with the promotion of research and studies in various aspects of Islamic jurisprudence”, (2) promote “unity amongst Muslim Ummah”, and (3) it “will not limit itself to education in its conservative sense only, but rather, serves as all-encompassing centre, concerned with the affairs of Muslim culture   and civilisation, by promoting better understanding of contemporary challenges and facing such challenges through knowledge and research.”
The Sheikh Sharif Ibrahim Saleh Islamic Centre (SHISIC) is neither a one-man-show ersatz project that will not outlive its founder nor a jamboree contrived to attract donatives while the real intention - personal enrichment - is cloaked in secrecy. 
The SHISIC envisions itself becoming “the highest Islamic reference centre in Sub-Saharan Africa”, dedicated “for research and learning with a view to promoting Islamic scholarship and peaceful coexistence amongst citizens.”

It is the likes of SHISIC  that Islam needs to confront the challenges facing Muslims today. Instead of intra-conflict on what group gets control of the National Mosque, let each group come up with its own edifice of Islamic centre where Islam and humanity will be served. 

Friday, October 4, 2019

VP NOW A GOOD CHRISTIAN



                                              Osinbajo

After the 2019 general elections I wrote a piece, FOR THE LOVE OF ATIKU, which was published here on March 1st 2019, in which I excoriated some Muslim and Christian religious leaders for transforming the Mimbar and the pulpit into campaign platforms for Buhari and Atiku. The herders-farmers crisis “was given the false narrative of a Fulani President using his kin to decimate Christians as part of an elaborate plan to Islamise Nigeria. This message was widely preached in places of worship by men of God quoting copiously out of context from the scriptures to stoke up the embers of ethnic hatred and religious disharmony.” 

“The fact that Buhari’s running mate, Osinbajo is a pastor did not lighten the ferocity of the Islamisation storm. There were calls “on (the) General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adeboye to strip Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of his pastorship” for exposing the misrule, embezzlement and corruption of the Goodluck Jonathan-led government. He was further maligned as “a fake man of God” and “a pastor only by name” for insisting that “it was impossible for anyone to Islamise Nigeria, as claimed by Christian interests.”

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been exerting his utmost since then in asserting his position as a genuine Christian to no avail.  The church constituency saw no wisdom in Osinbajo’s attempt to dismiss allegations of nepotism and clannishness levelled against Buhari, as well as his arguing that Southerners and Christians have benefitted more than Northerners and Muslims in this government. 
"President Muhammadu”, Vice President Osinbajo once said, “is possibly one of the most committed people I have ever met. He is committed to seeing that the resources of this country are used for this country.

"In general term, we find that there is fairness in the distribution of appointments. Many of the accusations against Buhari are not true.
"Sometimes, people listen to propaganda and if we look at the facts, things are totally different. On Islamisation, first of all, it is untrue, it is propaganda.

"Anybody who complains that President Buhari is propagating Islamic agenda, how is that possible?

"A lot of these are just propaganda, never listen to these. Many of these are absurd, they are deliberate propaganda. They come from the same source. Don't believe them. Let's be fair," Osinbajo said.
President Muhammadu Buhari has had occasions in the past to say: “My deputy is a Christian and there is no way I will Islamise Nigeria with many Christians in my team.”

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was seen as an accomplice in a grand plan by Buhari’s Fulani Government to exterminate Christians. Christian leaders addressed him sternly during his visit to Benue at the peak of the herders-farmers crisis.


One of the speakers, "the Catholic Bishop of Gboko, His Lordship, Williams Avenya", said amidst other issues: “The point I’m trying to make is that a day is going to come when you, as the Vice-President, will bear the brunt of that problem of injustices in our land, especially those perpetrated on smaller ethnic groups that have no one to fight for them.

“So, as a Christian person, exonerate yourself from this situation,” the bishop advised the Vice President.

In his response, the Vice President said, “My Lord Bishop, you said you are not a politician, I am also not a politician. As a matter of fact, I’m also a priest and I’m a Christian, a born again Christian. Because I’m a born again Christian, my destiny is not determined by any man but by God who I serve.

“Let me assure you that under no circumstances, none whatsoever, will I give up my faith or refuse to stand up for my faith.

“You can take that to the bank. Even the position that I currently occupy, I did not ask for it and I’m prepared to leave it at a short notice.

“It doesn’t mean anything. I became a born again Christian after I became a professor, a professor of the law of evidence, a professor of proof.

“But when the Lord Jesus Christ met me, He persuaded me by showing me clearly that there is such a thing as the evidence of things that are not seen.

“It is because of the evidence of things that are not seen, it is because you can make something out of nothing that I stand here today as Vice-President.

“How possible can anyone say that the killing of women and children doesn’t matter because he is Vice-President or because he is President? How is that possible? Certainly, it cannot be for a person who is born again. A renewed mind will know that there is justice, there is consequence even if there is no justice here on earth.”


God has recently revealed to the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is not “a fake man of God” or “a pastor only by name”; that he genuinely ministers to the needs of Christians in Nigeria. Thus, after receipt of this Devine Revelation, the leadership of CAN led by its National President, Rev Supo Ayokunle, paid an ecumenical visit to the Vice President at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Friday, September 27th 2019. 

God’s Revelation to CAN appertains to “baseless allegations” by a prodigal son of the church who accused the Vice President of collecting N90bn from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to fund the 2019 presidential election that ensured the discontinuation of the Islamisation agenda of his principal. The FIRS is a repudiator of this Revelation. Woe unto the repudiators from the wrath of the leadership of CAN! 

CAN President issued a Devine Ordinance, not a verdict of a court of competent jurisdiction, at the end of the meeting with the Vice President, to Nigerians “not to toy with the innocent that are faithfully serving the nation”. “Vice President Osinbajo”, declared Rev Ayokunle, “has cleared the air that the allegation is baseless and there is no truth in it. He said some people are plotting against him and he was ready to provide himself to be cleared.

“If there is an allegation, there must be evidence; he said it can never happen and will never happen. The church and the entire country will fight for him.”

The Islamisation trumpet blast would have blared across the Nigerian political space were these words uttered by a Muslim leader in support of President Muhammadu Buhari.  But now that the church has made a spiritual discovery in the genuine Christianness of the Vice President, Nigerians have to fall in line with the CAN position. “We must stay together”, said the Rev Ayokunle, “to fight the challenges and we must overcome.”

But the band of repudiators of the CAN Revelation is superintended by the prodigal son who told the clergyman “to face his priestly duties instead of using his sacred office to aid and abet corruption.”  
As a prodigal son of the church, he said “I am ashamed of the attitude and character of this present CAN president in the person of Rev. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle.

“CAN in its original form represents the body of Christ and Ayokunle ought to have known that it owes the citizenry or at least God, an obligation to win souls, be good ambassadors of the church and crusade for good governance.

“As a supposed shepherd of the nation’s Christian body, if two of your sheep have a misunderstanding, I think you ought to have heard from both parties before taking a position.

“I am however not surprised because like pregnancy evil cannot be hidden under tainted cassocks and collars.

“I have heard from not a few reliable quarters that he often goes cap in hand before politicians in the name of praying for them.
“It is shameful that the CAN President has turned the body of Christ into a political pressure group.

“At least, even if it is now a political party, he ought to have allowed its spokesman to speak on behalf of the organization.

“Could it be that Mr CAN President, sorry, Chairman of CAN Political Party (CANPP) took part in the illegal disbursements of taxpayers’ funds at FIRS?

“Let him tell Christian leaders who elected him how much Osinbajo and Fowler gave him to organize such an ignominious press conference.

“These are men of doubtful character that must be urgently tamed before they inflict further harm on the reputation of Christians in this country.

“The character of this man is highly suspect but I apologize on behalf of all well-meaning Christians and their leaders for this attempt by Ayokunle to stain their garments.

“Late Martin Luther King jr. was a religious leader, who used his position to fight for the oppressed and downtrodden in society.
“Let Ayokunle learn from such noble men how to be a voice for the voiceless in Christendom.”

He even advocated for a regime change in CAN. “This CAN president,” he said, “is a no show and I urge the governing body of CAN to act swiftly to correct the evil impression or else the present CAN leadership would henceforth be regarded as the servants of mammon rather than servants of God.”

This prodigal son seems not to understand the new pricey discovery and the Next Level Slogan of CAN: “You are forgiven. Go and sin no more!” 









Thursday, September 26, 2019

ON AKINTOLA'S UMMAH DEVELOPMENT FUND (UDF)






                                                                                          SULTAN



I do not entirely agree with Professor Ishaq Akintola, the Director of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) in his averments during a lecture he presented at the An-Nur Mosque in Abuja, on Saturday 21st September 2019, on the regularity of Nigerian Muslims’ observance of Hajj, and the establishment of what he called “Ummah Development Fund (UDF)".

I am a private Hajj operator whose company renders, to Umrah and Hajj pilgrims, the most expensive service in the industry. But my disagreement with the revered professor is not an attempt to avert what his position might do to my business. In an article published on these pages, on September 7th 2011 captioned Ramadan Umrah: Spirituality or Wastage?, regardless of my position as a VIP Hajj operator whose business thrives on the patronage of the rich, I  called for moderation of expenses, and criticised the wastage, by some Nigerians during Umrah, of expending huge resources, a little fraction of which would have improved the lot of many people back home.

Hajj should not be viewed from the sordid prism of mercantilism. It is a pillar of our Deen. The discourse on Hajj must be honest and for Allah’s Countenance because it is an ibaadah; and any whose purpose therein is profanity or wrong-doing - them will Allah cause to taste of a most Grievous Penalty (al-Hajj, 25). 



Professor Ishaq Akintola’s MURIC is a household name in the Ummah. MURIC is the Hassan bin Thaabit of the Muslim Community in Nigeria today. Malign Islam or the Muslims undeservedly and see how MURIC would respond. Deprive the Muslims of their fundamental human rights in ay form and await the arrival of the invincible host of MURIC at the head of which would be Professor Akintola himself.  The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) oftentimes finds itself if a position that silence is the better option as a response to certain happenings in the country, but MURIC would take up the gauntlet and address the issue adroitly. MURIC does not confine its advocacy and defence for Islam to Nigeria; whatever happens to Islam and/or the Muslims in any part of the globe, MURIC is not silent.  

What I take exception to in the said An-Nur lecture by Professor Akintola are the following:  

1- The Professor acknowledged the fact “that Nigerian Muslims have the right to go on hajj as many times as they wish,” but he also said that “in reality, hajj is only expected to be performed once in a lifetime.” In the opinion of Professor Akintola, “Nigerian Muslims overdo it by going on hajj and Umrah every year”; that “those who do so earn more rewards from Allah but they end up making Saudi Arabia richer while Nigeria becomes poorer.” The “Muslims who go on hajj every year”, the Professor averred, “should be allowed to do so because they are merely exercising their Allah-given fundamental human right of freedom of worship as entrenched in Section 38 (i) & (ii) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, they should be made to contribute to the Ummah Development Fund.” 

Hajj is not “only expected to be performed once in a lifetime”; it is an obligation on every Muslim, once in a lifetime; it is a binding duty unto Allah on every believer that can afford the journey (Aali-Imraan, 97). Hajj is responding to Allah’s summon; it is Answering the Call of the Summoner (al-Hajj, 27) to the House at Bakkah, the first Sanctuary appointed for mankind, wherein are plain memorials of Allah’s guidance, the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security (Aali-Imraan, 96-97).  

You cannot “overdo” what Allah has ordained provided you undertake the journey seeking Allah’s recompense. A Muslim should not be described as overdoing what more than seventy (70) prophets have performed. Saheed Muslim and Sunan Ibn Majah have reported Ahaadeeth of Prophet, Sallallaahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and the Sahaabah travelling along Makkah and Madeenah, and how the Prophet, Sallallaahu Alaihi wa Sallam, felt as if he was seeing some of his brother-prophets - Musa, Yunus, etc. - along the ravines and valleys riding their camels and chanting Labbaikal Laahumma Labbaik 

The Messenger of Allah, Sallallaahu Alaihi wa Sallam, urged us to perform Hajj because it is incumbent upon us once in a lifetime, but he also encourages us to “overdo it” when he said: “Perform Hajj and Umrah consecutively, for they remove poverty and sin as the bellows removes impurity from iron.” And his saying: “Sins committed between one `Umrah and another are expiated. And the reward for Hajj Mabrur (pilgrimage accepted by Allah) is nothing but Paradise.” It is not surprising then that Hassan Ibn Ali, may Allah be pleased with them, performed Hajj twenty-five  (25) times. And Abu Uthmaan an-Nahdiy, may Allah bless him, trekked to perform Hajj sixty (60) times!

Professor Akintola sees consecutive Hajj "as making Saudi Arabia richer while Nigeria becomes poorer.” I would like to know from the Professor how Nigeria is richer with Emirates Airline, for instance, having four (4) flights, almost daily, two each, from Abuja and Lagos to Dubai, and then to other destinations around the world. During high season, a first-class ticket is in the region of N4 million; the business-class around N2 to N3 million, while the economy about N1 million.  

Hajj is the sincere exhibition of the love of Allah and His Messenger, Sallallaahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and placing that over the love of one’s family, wealth and country. The Muslim forsakes all that is dear to him and flees to that uncultivable valley within the precincts of the House of Allah because his heart inclines and yearns to it (Ibraheem, 37). He does not see going on pilgrimage as the exercise of any “fundamental human right of freedom of worship as entrenched in” any constitution because generations of his forebears had performed this obligation before any manmade law in the form of a constitution was ever drafted! 
  

2- My other area of disagreement with Professor Akintola is the “strategic thinking”, the establishment of “the Ummah Development Fund (UDF)”. But is it a disagreement? I do not think so. I stand with the Professor in the need “to improve the economic condition of Nigerian Muslims.” I support the UDF idea and the division of the disbursement to the proposed sectors - education, health, and economic.  I agree totally that the Ummah needs hospitals and more Islamic universities to protect its own from being forced to attend church services or avoid the use of the hijab. I have no problem with the position that “(t)hose going on hajj or Umrah for the second, third or more times should be made to pay to the Ummah Development Fund. Anyone repeating hajj should pay 5% of the total cost as his contribution to the UDF while those repeating Umrah should pay 13%.” Of course, this is just a proposal which will be ratified or adjusted to the prevailing realities in the Hajj and Umrah industry by the UDF COMMITTEE.   

My problem is in the composition of the UDF membership of the Board of Trustees (BOT). In the names put forward by Professor Akintola for UDF’s BOT, there is none with experience in Hajj operations. “Mallam Adamu Adamu (current Minister of Education), Mallam Ahmed Ali (current head of customs)” - his name is Hameed - “and Professor Ishaq Oloyede (current head of JAMB)”; these could be “tested and trusted Muslims”, but UDF will float on the wheel of Hajj and Umrah finances. I do not know why Professor Akintola did not include the current Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello as a member of the BOT. This FCT Minister was the first Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON). 


I am not convinced of the reason advanced by the Professor that the NSCIA should “hands off the team once it has been set up” because according to him the “BOT of the UDF can only perform effectively if it is independent.” I do not think so. To my mind, independence of the BOT shall be guaranteed and enhanced under the aegis of NSCIA as the umbrella body all Muslim organisations in Nigeria. Rest assured, the BOT will comprise of people who will not accord fealty at the expense of Islam and the Muslims. 

There is a serious omission regarding the UDF and all the lofty ideals attached to it. Professor Akintola has not assigned any role to the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON). The whole idea of UDF would not be possible, it will be a mirage in the desert, without the involvement of NAHCON, a body responsible for overseeing the Hajj and Umrah activities of state pilgrims’ welfare boards/agencies and private Hajj operators. In this proposal by Professor Akintola, NAHCON was not mentioned even once. 

His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alh Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar proposed The Hajj Development Levy to NAHCON during the tenure of Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello. The current Chairman of the Commission Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar continued with that legacy of Hajj Development Levy for which N5000 is contributed by every intending pilgrim from state welfare boards and private Hajj operators. If His Eminence’s proposal had stopped with the NSCIA and other Islamic organisations as Professors Akintola is trying to do, nothing could have been possible in that regard. Now, every Hajj, NAHCON receives this N5000 from every Nigerian pilgrim according to the number of slops allotted to Nigeria - about 95,000 to 100,000 hajjis. Certainly, the number fluctuates subject to variations in the allocation of a given year as well as the actual number of pilgrims who are able to make payments for Hajj, since the current downturn that affected the industry. But, by and large, that money is for the Ummah, not the government as it is a contribution by Muslim pilgrims, running into billions with the CBN as the depository in a special account. NAHCON has not spent the money on anything, to the best of my knowledge.