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.  










Friday, September 20, 2019

FOR THE HATE OF BUHARI (2)


                                             BUHARI


One of the scholars at the National Mosque in Abuja, a friend of mine, was kidnapped along Abuja-Lokoja road, few days to the 2019 general elections. His comportment in captivity impressed the bandits; they accorded him great respect and opened up to him. They said there will be no abatement of their operations if Buhari wins his second term bid; “cases of Kidnapping and banditry will be everywhere.” When my friend asked for their reason they said that “money is not moving under Buhari”, whatever that meant, and, that “an Atiku presidency will bring abundant wealth to the people.” These were Fulani who actually conversed within themselves in Fulfulde, but when the ransom of twenty million naira only (N20,000,000) was settled, the recipient was an Igbo man who collected the money in Abuja. 

As soon as the money changed hands few days after the incident, the scholar from the National Mosque and the friends kidnapped along with him on that disastrous day were guided to a place where they could retrace their steps to the highway. His armed escorts said to him: “We are a kidnap syndicate. Sorry for the capture and the inconveniences you went through. Rest assured, you will rejoin your family safety. From here to Maiduguri, no group will kidnap you a second time until you reach home. They are all aware of your release and the direction of your journey.” 

And so it was that my colleague at the National Mosque was released unscathed but his chauffeur was injured, shot at when the bandits were shooting indiscriminately at the time of the abduction.  

Is there any link between kidnapping, banditry and politics? Has this bleak prophecy of “cases of kidnapping and banditry…” being rampant not fulfilled? What is the relationship between the Fulani bandits and the Igbo ransom-collector? What is this “kidnap syndicate” that is so coordinated that the Abuja-Lokoja road bandits could give assurances and guarantee that, from the moment of release until their captives reach their destination, they will not be kidnapped “a second time” by any other group even if they were to travel from that point to Maiduguri? Why are these criminals described in some quarters as Fulani “privileged bandits” who are “part of an agenda to conquer other Nigerians and subject them to recolonisation by their sponsors”? Who are their sponsors - the government or opposition politicians? 

The precursor to the current debacle of kidnapping and banditry was the Fulani farmers-herders crisis. The President of the Senate, during the Third Republic, Chief Ameh Ebute spoke, Tuesday in Abuja, on this issue at a One-Day International Conference on Good Governance and Accountability in Government organised by the Coalition for Civil Society Organisations for Change and Good Governance.   

The former lawmaker said “the various security challenges facing Nigeria predate the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. It is on the heels that before 2015, there has been insinuation in certain quarters about the sponsorship of violence as a means of achieving political, religious, and ethnic goals by elite politicians.” 

According to the former number three citizen, some politicians and senior citizens “have exploited ethnic and religious clashes to their advantage.” He cited an example of how “a former minister of Defence” was silent during the killings “in Taraba state because those being killed are not from his ethnicity.” Chief Ameh said silence during such carnage questions the sincerity of these “supposed elderly political leaders in Nigeria who have been exploiting situations for their personal and selfish gains.” He also averred that the purpose of “those that lost in the 2019 general elections” and who “have vowed to make the country ungovernable, was “to cause the disintegration of Nigeria and to paint a picture of incapacity before the eyes of the International community.” He stated, “that the killings and kidnappings, as well as the rise in cases of armed banditry, is as a result of what members of the opposition have plotted thinking that Nigerians would be gullible.”


“In the wisdom of members of the opposition”, said the former lawmaker, “the farmers-herders conflict must be construed in such a way that would make the citizens lose faith in the present Administration. While this is not only despicable, it is also an indication that those that failed to actualise their political ambitions at the general elections have refused to move on with their lives. However, instead, they have chosen this dishonourable path of fuelling ethnic and religious conflict aimed at distracting and destabilising and distracting the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Most politicians hide under cover of farmers-herders’ crisis to perpetrate evil in the society. They arm and sponsor militia groups to wreak havoc. This much has been witnessed in situations where there has been a hasty ascribing any form of crime or criminality to a particular ethnicity or religion.

“For example, we have seen situations where people from southeast Nigeria have been arrested masquerading as herdsmen after committing a crime or engage in any criminal behaviour.  I also recall a particular episode that happened in Ghana, where a Nigerian man was arrested after killing three persons. He claimed to be a Fulani herdsman but couldn’t speak Hausa or pronounced a word in Fulani.

“That is the irony of the situation we face as it stands today. People are masquerading under different umbrellas to perpetuate evil and passing the blame on ethnicity or religion, which would ultimately lead to reprisal attacks on innocent people going about their normal businesses. The cases presented in the Benue-Taraba axis give us a hint on how the political elites have continued to exploit the situation for their benefits.

“The political elites understanding the gullibility of their subjects have formed the habit of taking advantage of communal clashes to paint a particular ethnicity or religion in a bad light just in an attempt to be able to perpetuate their nefarious activities thereby causing unrest in the polity.

“It is most worrisome that in a state like Taraba, the government would choose to play petty and feign ignorance to the monster they created. I am particularly pained that a personality such as Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma would condescend so low as meddling in petty politics despite what he has benefitted from Nigeria.

“The likes of Danjuma and his cohorts have indeed shown that they do not have the interest of the country at heart. This is also on the heels that some CSOs have been able to expose the fact that a high ranking member of the opposition is behind the wave of violent protests by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) with huge sums of monies.”


Economic Advisory Council (EAC)

I like to attend a ball that has a python as the debutante. I am infatuated with Python Dance. It exorcises the society of boisterous demons and pressurises them to unashamedly jump bail. With the new entrant from the ‘Biafraland’ into the government of “the Fulani caliphate and their collaborators within”, as a member of the recently constituted Economic Advisory Council, the list of “traitors” to be consigned to the Nuremberg treatment is growing. Do whatever you may to placate them - attend secret conferences, financially support the movement, serve as surety in their litigation with the state - it will not  be sufficient to ward off their ire once you are guilty of collaborating with the enemy, the “Fulani government and their president.” 

Friday, September 13, 2019

FOR THE HATE OF BUHARI (1)


                                             BUHARI

Their adversity among themselves is very highYou would think they were united, but their hearts are divided: that is because they are a folk who have no sense. ( al-Hahr: 14)

Caution: Haters of Buhari based on his religion and tribe are advised not to read this article. It is sure to increase the contumacy and hatred in their hearts; they will not be jubilant after reading its contents. 

Is this article a follow-up or an antonym to FOR THE LOVE OF ATIKU which was published (February 29th) on these pages sometime after the 2019 general elections? No, it is not. It will neither entertain the Presidential Election Tribunal’s dismissal of Atiku’s petition, in its entirety, against Buhari, nor discuss Buhari’s triumph in same. The army of counsellors at his disposal, spiritual and temporal, have apparently advised him to proceed to the Supreme Court, just as they goaded him into exercising his rights to challenge the results of the elections at the Tribunal in the first place; the expenditure in terms of time and resources is indeed ample. Legal minds at work and their client is equal to the task. And is President Buhari having a taste of his own medicine in Atiku’s rejection of the results, the judgement and heading to the Supreme Court? Concurrence. Sadly, Buhari’s extension “of a hand of fellowship to those who had felt aggrieved at the outcome of the election” met deleteriously clenched fist of Atiku Abubakar. The opportunity of being the second Nigerian to accept defeat at the polls and congratulate the opponent is lost forever. Atiku is just like Buhari: a Fulani Muslim, a Northerner, and a fighter to the finish!  


The congratulation came from unlikely quarters; from Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, Governor of the Christian State. He "congratulated President Muhammad Buhari on the validation of his election by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal." The Governor "urged President Muhammadu Buhari to use his victory to work for all Nigerians, irrespective of their political leanings"; he also "called on the president to work towards the unity of the country, noting that  the country is divided." Indeed!

So, what is happening here? At a time when his party is issuing a proclamation about going to the Supreme Court, rejecting the judgement and "describing it as provocative, barefaced subversion of justice and direct assault on the integrity of our nation's justice system", Wike is congratulating President Muhammadu Buhari. Politics is indeed dirty. 

If you marvelled at Wike’s message to Buhari, he has an explanation for his action. He spoke at the Funeral Service in honour of Late Madam Blessing Awuse, Mother of Onha Sargent Chidi Awuse, at the St Luke’s Anglican Church, Emohua on Thursday, September 12th, 2019. “I am sure,” he said, “all of you are surprised that I congratulated Buhari. Is it not good for me to congratulate him than to go to his house in the night?

“So many PDP Governors go to see him in his house in the night. I have never gone and I will not go. I won’t go.” He also said: “Politics is a game of interest. And my only is Rivers State. Anything that is against the interest of Rivers State, I will not agree.”

So, by the time that we are deep in heated political wrangling, those who rule over us will have nocturnal meetings in the spirit of deep fraternalism.   

Another congratulatory message came from a group that calls itself IGBO BUHARISTS GENERAL ASSEMBLY which felicitates “with President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) on his resounding victory at the Presidential Election Tribunal.” The Igbo group further states: “We BUHARISTS never entertained any fear over the ruling because we know you defeated your opponent squarely with a very large margin.

“We equally congratulate all BUHARISTS and well-meaning Nigerians worldwide. This is a victory for democracy, Nigeria and Nigerians.” 

What! Now! When hitherto you have rebelled and did mischief (and violence)? (Qur’an, Yunus 10:91)


When will I start discussing the main topic? So many diversions and digressions, but I think they are pertinent. My concern is not the politics, but the region and religion of the President. Whatever I mention afterwards is not blanket support of Buhari; it is stating the obvious and bringing to the fore the sordid employment of violence by some vile interest groups for their aggrandisement.


I concede that things are not as they should be in the area of security and standards of living in Nigeria. The pandemonium at train stations shows how desperate people are in trying to avoid road travel for fear of kidnapping. Bandits are growing more audaciously bold in their plunder and pillage of villages and towns, killing, raping and taking hostages for hours on end without any response from the security agencies. I heard one of the imams of a border-town mosque, in Katsina state, in a WhatsApp message, lamenting the security situation in the area and the free rein that bandits have to rape women in front of their husbands and even girls in the very sight of their parents. He decried the preferment of maintaining closed borders and seizure of imported rice over the security of lives and protection of property. The imam wondered why the munitions used by security personnel in raiding warehouses and confiscating illegal cargoes would not be turned against the bandits who are so relaxed during their operations that they spend endless hours in the same place, committing various forms of atrocities against defenceless citizens. Travellers are still susceptible to kidnapping on the Kaduna-Abuja highway. In Kaduna, many have been kidnapped around or in their places of residence with only two options: payment of heavy ransom or death in captivity. Abuja has experienced many cases of abductions including, recently, that of a lecturer kidnapped metres away from his university campus.

Therefore, I am not unaware of the above and more problems. Whatever the government is doing on these challenges, including upping living standards, the economy, we believe it could do more, as the impact is felt not by many Nigerians. 

But what is this hatred against Buhari, his religion, and region? If you do not want the sight of the man’s face, what has his religion got to do with that? Oh! His aim is to Islamise Nigeria. It is an agenda of Islamisation. Nonsense. If you hate Buhari, why will Hausa-Fulani suffer humiliation, expulsion from their dwellings and destruction of their properties because you are not happy with one of their own? Why will one bear the sin of another because they profess the same religion or speak the same language? Why will people bedizen themselves with Fulani outfits, commit crimes so that they will be blamed on the innocents? Why is every move by the government towards solving the farmers/herders crisis viewed with suspicion and rejected as landgrab? Why is Buhari’s government so irresponsive to a region that gave it much-needed votes, and is so docile to the whims of another region that spares no effort to hamper it?