Thursday, December 26, 2019

TO THE OUTGOING CHAIRMAN OF NAHCON (3)















WHAT YOU COULD NOT ACHIEVE 

The last part of this series would hardly be very palatable, I must warn, as it touches on either what you should have done or what you desired to do but did not or could not do. The former may look like an indictment of your leadership; the latter, a lament over what should have been but was not, which, in Islam is not altogether bad since good intention, even when it fails to come to fruition, is recompensed. Both cases should interest the incoming board which Zikrullah (Sikiru) Olukunle Hassan Esq shall superintend, and, as Hajj appertains every Muslim, you will oblige the board any clarification that would lead to resolution or realisation of what you did not or could not do. 


WRISTBAND

I am certain that you will recall the wristband project which was launched with aplomb under your watch; that the wristband could, among other uses, guide pilgrims who lose direction to their places of accommodation in Makkah, Madinah and the Mashaa’ir; that it could serve as a communication device for pilgrims to ask for assistance, and whatnot. After all the vaunt concerning the wristband and its usefulness to pilgrims during Hajj, the whole project was a total failure as it was not allowed to prove its worth. At the point of entry, Saudi security personnel confiscated it from the wrist of every pilgrim that donned it. Many wondered why NAHCON exposed our pilgrims to this folly, made them pay for so expensive an electronic equipment without first clearing its admission into the Kingdom with Saudi Hajj authorities. What was more bitter than the embarrassment suffered at the entry points into the holy land was that the Commission refused to refund the pilgrims what they paid for the wristband that did not serve its purpose. NAHCON should have explained to the pilgrims, with equal vigour the project was launched, what went wrong and when they were likely to receive their refund. Silence, as you know, Mr Chairman, breeds suspicion. Cynics saw the whole wristband issue as a fraud orchestrated by you in favour of companies in which you had an interest. During the public presentation of the wristband by NAHCON nobody doubted what was said about the device, and no one thought that it will be denied entry into Saudi Arabia. But unfortunately, that was what came to pass.

Mr Chairman, whatever might have occurred in this regard was not unknown to you. You knew what went wrong and whoever must have frustrated your good intention on the wristband. NAHCON insisted then that the Saudi Hajj authorities, during one of the meetings in Makkah before that year’s pilgrimage, had permitted Nigeria to come up with its own version of the wristband for the exclusive use of its pilgrims. Whatever was the case, Mr Chairman, the pilgrims who paid for that "fated to fail" device deserved to be refunded just as you had always championed, with immense success, the cause of giving Nigerian pilgrims value for their money from all service providers, and adequate refund where such services were not delivered or poorly rendered! 


INTERNATIONAL HAJJ TRAINING INSTITUTE

You have always wanted to have a training facility, a learning centre which will not only enhance the management of Hajj in Nigeria but shall also serve special academic and commercial needs of the Ummah. The International Hajj Training Institute is one of many things that you could not achieve as head of NAHCON, but this institute has the imprint of many people’s DNAs who must be given due credit. The current Governor of Bauchi State, His Excellency, Senator Bala Mohammed allocated the land for the project when he was the Honourable Minister of the FCT. The current Minister of the FCT and your predecessor Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello, when he was NAHCON Chairman perfected all formalities for the collection of the Certificate of Occupancy from Bala Mohammed and went personally for the receipt of the title document. And you have done almost everything for the takeoff, (design and build) of the project including the funds to be spent on it. Now, over to Zikrullah! 



HAJJ SAVINGS SCHEME

You could not achieve the Hajj Savings Scheme that you designed to assist indigent Muslims pay for Hajj through trickle deposits over a stretch of time. Depositors to the scheme will have the chance to perform the Hajj as well as gain dividend on a Shari'ah compliant venture in which their deposits would be invested. By initiating the savings scheme you started a process by which Hajj would be independent of the encumbrance of government’s financial support. Hajj is both a ritual and an institution capable of attaining financial autonomy if properly managed. Hajj savings programme, in some of the countries operating it, has been so successful that governments borrow billions of dollars from it. I believe that was the picture you had in mind when you took the idea to whatever level it is in the Commission today. The incoming board will continue from whence you stopped. 

HAJJ HOUSE

Aside from the renovation work that is ongoing, the Hajj House is not part of what you could not do. That edifice at the Central Business District of the Federal Capital Territory is a  glowing testimonial to your contributions to Hajj in Nigeria. It is mentioned here to strengthen the point on Hajj Savings Scheme. You had stated in not a few forums how you came about the funds for the purchase of Hajj House. Some of my colleagues in the private Hajj operations and many Nigerians wrongly imputed the source to the Hajj Levy account. But according to you, the Commission got revenue from (a) the sale of pilgrims’ accommodation in the Markaziyyah (central) area for periods outside the time that Nigerian hajjis stay in Madinah, (before Arafah and during the peak of Hajj/Eid festivities) and (b) penalties for breach of accommodation contracts from property owners in Madinah. If NAHCON could raise more than N2b from its paid bed nights in Madinah accommodation alone to buy the Hajj House within five years, how much more could have been achieved if similar thinking was in place, say, twenty years ago? Look at the various multibillion naira projects in the states from the Hajj Levy - pilgrims will now wait for their Hajj flights in "hotel-like" facilities, amidst other structures at different levels of completion. And all that is just a little fraction of what the Hajj Savings Scheme would do to Hajj administration in Nigeria when implemented.  


Mr Chairman, aside from the above, NAHCON was able to conduct Hajj 2019 with naught financial support from the government, thanks to your prudence and foresight. The incoming board has to maintain this reality together with all the projects enumerated earlier so that pilgrimages of both Muslims and Christians in Nigeria be self-sustaining. The government can put its resources elsewhere and stop the sponsorship of religious pilgrimages. From there Nigerians shall witness a revelation, a criterion that will distinguish between a pilgrimage with textual evidence, and the one contrived by men in clerical raiment to have a share in the national pie!  



FINAL WORD

You might have wronged many people, yourself or the office during your chairmanship of the Commission. That is natural for the occupancy of an office as powerful and alluring that, before the expiration of your term, even former governors, former legislators and former ambassadors were among the suitors to take over after you. 

The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam said: “Whoever is thoroughly examined in reckoning is undone.” Certainly, you have committed numberless of things that were displeasing unto many. As stated earlier this correspondence is not to paint you with the brush of sainthood but to state, in spite of your human frailties, what profound advancements have been wrought in Hajj and Umrah operations under your watch. Nevertheless, if given the opportunity a third time, which is impossible for now, there are things, I am certain, that you would have done differently, with hindsight. The Amaanah is now on you to pass on whatever you garnered in NAHCON and what you gained in your 26-year experience in the service of the guests of Allah to the incoming board that it may avoid repeating what you would have done differently. Only in Nigeria are people of your stature allowed to fade into oblivion without creating a new role for them within their sphere to tap from their vast expertise for the benefit of mankind.

If all my interventions in what affected you and the Commission in the past were seen in some quarters as mere blandishments during the subsistence of your tenure as Chairman, why am I writing this correspondence now that you are outgoing? NAHCON is not like any government establishment. The Commission is greater than any individual, singly or as a group. It represents a pillar of the Deen. Whoever exerts their utmost in serving Allah’s guests through the Commission deserve praise, just as “whoever seeks wrongful partiality therein, him shall” Allah “cause to taste a painful doom.” (Hajj 22:25)    

Mr Chairman, this correspondence is a memorial to your tenure, and a signpost on a mountain for those who will come after you which they must climb to maintain the standards you have set; if they desire to surpass your record at NAHCON, they have Everest right in front to them. I have no doubt that Barrister Zikrullah’s team is capable of surmounting the mountainous challenges of their new billet at the Commission. The similitude of NAHCON today is that of an airline flight with the pilot and the entire members of the crew replaced with another set. In the airline industry, this is a matter of routine. The crew on a flight that arrives Abuja Airport, for instance, will be replaced with another set that has rested and is refreshed to serve new passengers aboard the same flight. But does it work in this fashion in Hajj and Umrah operations? The mechanics, as you well know, differs. Highly experienced as it is, the incoming board would most assuredly be faced with the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘why’ questions as it assumes its new role in the Commission. Through the embedment of a few incoming with outgoing membership in the appointment of  NAHCON boards, those in authority would serve the management of Hajj better, rather than sweeping an entire set with the broom of change and replacing it with a brand new one. As you also reckon, Mr Chairman, Hajj operations prosper by transfer of experiences from exiting players to new entrants into the stage of service to the guests of Allah. That, to my mind, should not be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency!



  





Thursday, December 19, 2019

TO THE OUTGOING CHAIRMAN OF NAHCON (2)



                                NAHCON CHAIRMAN








MEDIA TEAM

My dear Barrister, the media team you met, if there was any before you came, you altered radically, and created in place thereof an enduring Media Team, a showcase for Nigerian journalists as topnotch professionals in educating the world concerning up-to-the-minute information on Hajj operations. No aspect of the various happenings in Hajj was left to chance -  from the signing of contracts to the return of pilgrims from the holy land. To your eternal credit, Hajj was no longer a seasonal affair; every day of the year treated as part of the preparation for the next Hajj. As if you had made adequate arrangements for all this media strategy ere your appointment as chairman of NAHCON. It is now apparent that you recognised the power of the media early enough, to make or mar, that you arranged the media in the pattern that the Commission’s goals were met in information dissemination - Hajj programmes on myriad radio stations in major Nigerian languages as well as the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), and effective use of the social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). You spared no effort or expense on the media, the rumour gained the currency that you were instrumental to the creation of some media outfits that were “battle-ready to douse any personal stereotype around” your towering figure “or against” you “or against the Commission.” Thus every “negative story was explained or quenched” in the bud. 

What is indisputable, Mr Chairman is no Hajj administration in the history of Nigeria has been able to "mobilise and galvanise the media" to so potently serve the guests of Allah the way you were able to efficiently do! 

What I discovered in the composition of the Media Team during your tenure was a list of representatives of media organisations. Letters were sent to various media organisations to send representatives that made the list to the Media Team. When I promised to interrogate the charge levelled against you of alienation and discrimination of journalists from the South, I thought the names were selected by NAHCON. If LEADERSHIP Newspapers for instance which is in the North sends a journalist who is from the Kano-Kaduna axis, NAHCON should not, to my mind, be accused of choosing a Northern journalist in its Media Team since it has not dictated to LEADERSHIP who to send. I have seen in one of the lists that Daily Trust gave another journalist from the South as its representative in that year’s Media Team. My advice to the incoming chief executive of NAHCON in this regard is to find ways of including more media practitioners from the South,  ensuring adherence to federal character in the composition of the Media Team in order to have balance and forestall the lurking of rancour in the hearts of brethren inadvertently created through a fair process of asking for representations from media entities.


TOUR OPERATORS

Mr Chairman, you met the tour operators in a demeaning state by the time you came in as the Commissioner in charge of Operations. We were seen as mere troublemakers, cheats and fraudsters. During functions organised by NAHCON, tour operators’ mention did not make it even to the agenda. Hajj was discussed as if we had nothing to do with its operations; we were not treated as stakeholders. It took us time to understand your modi operandi in moulding us to what you envisioned a Nigerian tour operator to be. Every new law or condition you enacted was viewed with suspicion. We saw you as an avowed enemy of the tour operators who purposed to obliterate us out of business. Some of us have not in the least altered that assumption to this moment in time! They are the ones who repelled change and vehemently refused to move with the time, thus closed shop for failing to uphold NAHCON regulations, and ultimately hastened, just but recently, to litigation with the President because he suffered you to tarry longer than they could bear as Acting Chairman. 

But gradually things started changing with your career trajectory from a Commissioner to the head of the Commission. Tour operators were embraced into the NAHCON family. The leadership of our association, AHUON was treated with courtesy and had access to NAHCON authorities at all times. The President of AHUON had functions to undertake in Hajj programmes organised by the Commission. We were part of the officials in the annual delegation to Saudi Arabia for ratification of Hajj contracts and service agreements with the Mu’assasah in Makkah.

Moreover, you saw to it that our companies were properly registered with local and international bodies; that the people behind a going concern in the Hajj industry as well as its areas of business must not be anonymous; that the company should have bank accounts, and the share capital raised to an acceptable value - N30,000,000. Our office addresses should be reachable and our staff qualified, properly trained. By this registration and authentication, you commenced the weeding process which involved NAHCON inspections team’s unscheduled visits to our offices to verify our claims, and the outcome of such verifications was either sanctioning of the erring companies or certification and Hajj seat allocation to the healthy ones. Your reforms expelled briefcase-tour-operators of old who were wont to swindle unsuspecting pilgrims out of millions of naira and disappear without a trace. Those who were obdurate and persisted in shortchanging the guests of Allah, you pursued and brought to justice, sealing off their offices and saving the pilgrims from their evil mercantile.  

On the standards of services that licensed tour operators render to pilgrims, you maintained that we are not in competition with the state pilgrims boards and thus what we offer must be higher, distinct and more qualitative than what obtains in the states - tickets arrangement, transportation within Saudia, hotel accommodation, feeding, tents in Minaa and Arafaat and other logistics. You went further to offer us gratis legal advice, by requesting that our contract documents with service providers in both Nigeria (like airline companies) and Saudi Arabia (hotels, transport companies, etc) be submitted for your perusal and counsel. You assured us that being part of the process would enable NAHCON to offer better assistance to us in case of litigation or when it is expedient to compel a service provider to shield us from impending loss.   

For years tour operators were given 10,000 Hajj slots out of the 100,000 or 95,000 seat-allocation to Nigeria by the Saudi Hajj authorities. When you came in and saw the difficulty of distributing these 10,000 seats to about 200 companies, and how the meagre number that each company got at the end of the division was emasculating our businesses, you doubled the slot to 20,000 seats for the tour operators. That was a reason for us to be grateful.

Your ascension to the chairmanship of the Commission coincided with the tough but necessary measures introduced by the Buhari administration to restrict foreign currency transactions either through bank transfers or physical movement of cash via airports.  That was a serious debacle to tour operators. Many of us who tried to travel with a lot of foreign currencies to meet datelines with Saudi service providers for Hajj operations were arrested at the airport only to be released after your intervention by establishing contact with the security personnel at the airports. You did not only solve the problem by integrating our fund transfers into NAHCON system with the Mu’assasah and then to our IBAN accounts, but you also opened a forex window for tour operators to access concessionary rates as enjoyed by the state pilgrims. Unprecedented! 

Whether we saw it, appreciated it or not, your envisagement was now a reality. Many a Nigerian tour operator could compete with any private Hajj operator in the world. Quite a number of Nigerians that used to register for Hajj services with companies in Canada, USA, UK, etc. are now convinced that what we offer as NAHCON registered and licensed companies is by far better than what they get from European and American Hajj companies! On a lighter note, Mr Chairman,  some of us had exceeded your expectation that even the Commission adopted some aspect of what we do - an archetype of Hajj operations. My company, for example, was the first to spare the pilgrims the trouble of travelling with Zamzam at the end of their Hajj. We freight the holy water ahead of them to Nigeria where they collect it after their return. Another is the annual Hajj Documentary that airs on Sahur On NTA Channel 5 throughout Ramadan yearly and which programme features all aspects of the operations of a particular year, with the pilgrims expressing their feedback freely and assessing the standards of our services. Of course, when NAHCON bought the idea, under your leadership, it thrust both into the limelight by giving Zamzam to all pilgrims here in Nigeria upon their return from Hajj and sponsoring, on primetime, a weekly Hajj documentary - As You Answer The Call - on NTA Network. NAHCON should then pay my company royalties per one and all pilgrims that are given Zamzam in Nigeria as well as for each Nigerian that watches As You Answer The Call on NTA! But seriously, Barrister, the credit goes to your versatility as a leader who can adopt and adapt to whatever and from wherever provided it facilitates the Hajj for our pilgrims.

Mr Chairman, on a sombre note, both during your tenure and that of Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello, NAHCON had often encouraged tour operators to consolidate; many companies working together as stronger players in the industry. One of the areas (if not the only one) that tour operatorS did not enjoy in your leadership was the highhandedness shown in punishing one company because of the iniquities of another. Company K, for instance, had issues with the Commission and because of which K was not given Hajj seat allocation. K approached company S for collaboration in line with the Commission’s vision but unknown to S that K had problem with Commission, and in the absence of any caveat from the Commission against KS entered into an alliance with K in Hajj operations - serving pilgrims from both companies, obeying in the process the Commission's guidelines and regulations. Mr Chairman, why on earth will NAHCON refuse to refund any residue funds due to S from Hajj operation because of the said collaboration between the two companies? What I think is fair and just is for the Commission to henceforth issue a declaration on the dos and don’ts of collaboration between two or more companies and eligibility of both in that regard. And, honesty, Mr Chairman, it did not make any economic sense, if K’s problem was as a result of its indebtedness to the Commission, to block any avenue through which K would be able to effect repayment of the debt. This policy neither helped the Commission in recouping its money from K nor did it help K in going out of its predicaments as a company. Ultimately, the industry was the looser. 


THE MU’ASSASAH IN MAKKAH

What started during the tenure of Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello like an experiment with the Mu’assasah as the service provider for transportation and other services (board and lodging) in the tent city of Minaa became the norm. Many did not know what you did after Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello's tenure regarding NAHCON’s interactions with the Mu’assasah. You made it plain that there was a new regime that was ready to divorce itself of the baggage of acquiescence to any authority other than that of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that you were willing to get superlative services for our pilgrims at the right price; that the letter and spirit of ratified agreements must be followed, and where such services were not rendered or poorly delivered adequate refund shall be paid to the pilgrims through the Commission. Moreover,  you refused to renew the contract (worth hundreds of millions of naira) of the Minaa A tents where Hajj officials were domiciled and spoilt a little, far removed from the poor pilgrims they came to serve. You chose to instead stay within the C tents, (the last category in the Mu’assasah standards of tent services), with everyday pilgrims, to be at their service as and when they needed you. That was a bold, nay radical position, a complete departure from the spendthrift tradition of old! 

Mr Chairman, your choice of the C tents as your camp in Minaa raised the standards of services rendered to our pilgrims there - pillows, blankets, mattresses, feeding (which later assumed new arrangement outside the Mu’assasah), etc. Of course, there were many instances when refunds had to be made in line with the proviso stated earlier. Doubtless, the Mu’assasah is manned by very hardworking individuals, very nice people, but the businesslike posture you brought into the interactions made all people dealing with Nigerian pilgrims to beware of their duties towards them because there were consequences in the event of any breach of contract.  

I did not think, when I started writing, that this epistolary piece will exceed two parts. I hope to conclude it in the third where I will address what you could not achieve as Chairman of NAHCON. 




















Thursday, December 12, 2019

TO THE OUTGOING CHAIRMAN OF NAHCON (1)






"O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to Allah, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let the hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being Allah-conscious. And remain conscious of Allah: verily, Allah is aware of all that you do." 
Qur'an 5:6





Dear Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar,

What medium will be more fitting than an epistolary style to rehearsing the chronicle of your eight-year stint at NAHCON? The first part of this correspondence which I christened ENVY had no apparent addressee but it was actually, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, a preface to this. As in ENVY, this letter speaks to everyone: to you, to me, to the scant band that celebrates your exit and to the multitudes that feel most melancholy because you are leaving. Also, it addresses the brand-new board that is warming up to assume the task of running the affairs of NAHCON. 

Mr Chairman, I envy your stoicism in the way you bore the news of the incoming board, during my visit to you before I travelled to Madeenah from where I wrote this correspondence. Your responses to the numerous telephone calls from well-wishers expressing their concern, the dignity and fortitude you exhibited impressed me immensely. The not-very-subliminal message was: we live in the world, and in any position that we may ascend, like strangers or wayfarers because it is ephemeral, caducous.  

This is the time of discovery, a time to distinguish between ersatz and genuine friends, a time to expect ill-treatment from those to whom you have shown favour. Recently, before the announcement of the new board, many WhatsApp groups were literally transformed into courtrooms where people, without legal training whatsoever, assumed the role of Lord Denning in interpreting the position of the law as to whether or not you merited another term as chairman of NAHCON. To your antagonists, convincing themselves that the law did not provide for renewal of another term for you as chairman was a form of catharsis. When what they ardently hoped and prayed for happened, some of these Abdullahi-must-go confederates are now lamenting that the composition of the incoming NAHCON board is too Southern, (whatever that means); that it is dominated by people whose states of origin make meagre contribution to the total number of pilgrims annually, and that the board has very few Northerners. Nonsense!

When has Islam degenerated, Mr Chairman, to placing emphasis on region, language and lineage? Let the confederates join the Arewa Forum to have an outlet for their regional bigotry. Hajj is Allah’s and a pillar of His religion. Zikrullah (Sikiru) Olukunle Hassan will finish his tenure as chairman of the Commission and have it renewed, Allah willing, and after his eight years, it will then be the turn of an Igbo chairman of NAHCON for another eight years. If Islam is what we all profess, then the chairmanship of Hajj affairs should not be confined to Northerners. Arewa should wait for the next sixteen years, around 2035, before entertaining the hope of leading NAHCON again. 

Muhammad Musa Bello, your predecessor and current Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has, during his two-term tenure as chairman, established the orbit on which Hajj operations run as well as the administration of NAHCON. Muhammad Musa’s style was akin to that of the first Caliph, Abubakr, even in his demeanour  — mild, amenable, indulgent. You served then as the Operations Commissioner. That was an opportunity for you to learn,  and you did, notwithstanding the vast experience you garnered during your sojourn in the Kaduna State Pilgrims Board. But your style was not Abubakr’s, and thus you could not tolerate what Muhammad Musa Bello patiently and silently endured. You were unlucky to have been his successor as the dispositional difference between the two of you was so apparent that some people deemed you haughty, unfriendly and vile. But Umar was not like Abubakr! 

Mr Chairman, I am not trying to exculpate you of any wrongdoing or administrative lapses if there were any. Only Allah knows you better than anyone of us. We are only human and all too fallible, but our fallibility will not blight the efforts we make in the advancement of Hajj. When you took over from Muhammad Musa Bello you, and indeed other members of the board, did not only perfect what he started, you built on it and brought innovative, positive changes to all spheres of Hajj operations in Nigeria and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The History of Hajj is incomplete without chronicling your contributions to its development. 

This correspondence is not an adulatory comment on your chairmanship of NAHCON. I write a balanced exposition, as a professional, not a dilettante, of the imperishable value you added to our industry and your unsurpassed experience, a fact that even your bitterest opponents attested to: “..that boy is a workaholic…” and “I am not a fan of Abdullahi Mukhtar, but I must confess that he has the knowledge of Hajj operations at his fingertips.” An Arab poet averred in a verse depicting this kind of testimony: “The real truth is in what adversaries ejaculated.”

State Pilgrims Boards And Agencies

My dear Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad, you and your team (which includes the commissioners, representatives of ministries and agencies in the Commission, your staff and right down to drivers in both Nigeria and Saudi Arabia), should be garlanded with the flowers of honour as revolutionisers of the way Hajj is organised in Nigeria. That is no mean feat! It was all possible because you gave the right leadership. You have indeed set a very difficult and hard-to-follow precedent for any chairman of the Commission that will come after you!


Before you came, state pilgrims’ boards and agencies were operating as quasi-autonomous bodies with discordant systems of operation. Harmony was brought out of chaos under your watch as operational activities of all states, that hitherto appeared uncontrollable, were closely monitored as a complete whole, licences were issued with the policy of carrot to those who upheld regulations, and that of stick to those who flouted them. To enhance responsibility states were involved in the selection of air carriers for their pilgrims. Your assumption of the leadership of the Commission in 2015 heralded the issuance of more landing rights to outbound flights from Nigeria to land in Madeenah Airport. Our pilgrims were thus spared the odious and risky road transport from Jeddah Airport to Madeenah. 

The Ulama Team

His Eminence Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar introduced the Ulama Team into Hajj operations in order to bring together Muslim scholars of diverse hues to foster intra-religious cohesion. It is indeed heartening to observe that even though the Ulama Team was not your manufacture, you embraced, maintained it and even went further to enlarge its membership to include scholars that were not necessarily very prominent or close to those in authority but nonetheless scholars in their own rights that could add value to the Hajj through their instructions and guidance to the pilgrims. You have shown leadership by convening meetings with these ulama in Nigeria even before departure to the holy land as well as the pre and post-Arafah meetings in Makkah when you listened to their counsel concerning the operations of Hajj every year.     

National Medical Team (NMT)

Mr Chairman, the National Medical Team was another of your innovations that reduced the crowd of about 2000 medical personnel from state pilgrims board to around 500 only thus forestalling duplication, saving cost and achieving better coordination and effective dispensation of medical services to Nigerian pilgrims. This consolidation of the National Medical Team saw the deployment of Electronic Health Medical System into the medical operation which gave doctors ‘real-time data’ of the patient. You saw to the success of the EHMR by the provision of computers in all the clinics and ensuring that the personnel became ICT compliant. With EHMR, the NMT dropped the obsolete method of using ‘paper as a medical record system that manually stored a summary of daily patients’ consultations. The previous system made it cumbersome to check if patients have accessed services in any of the NMT clinics.’ By introducing the EHMR into the NMT system, therefore, you ensured ‘that the operations at the clinics run as smoothly as possible.    






In part two of this letter, I will dwell on the Media Team of NAHCON among other issues. Some Muslim journalists from the South “felt alienated and discriminated against” because it appeared that you forgot the South controlled the media; and you composed NAHCON Media Team with ninety per cent of journalists from Kano-Kaduna axis, neglecting our brothers and sister from the South. I will interrogate this complaint and address you accordingly.

Friday, December 6, 2019

ENVY







You must allow everyone the right to exist in accordance with the character he has, whatever it turns out to be: and all you should strive to do is to make use of this character in such a way as its kind of nature permits, rather than to hope for any alteration in it, or to condemn it offhand for what it is. This is the true sense of the maxim - Live and let live … To become indignant at (people’s) conduct is as foolish as to be angry with a stone because it rolls into your path. And with many people, the wisest thing you can do is to resolve to make use of those whom you cannot alter.
                                                                          - Arthur Schopenhauer 


I wanted to write on the new developments at the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), but I later decided to preface it by something that could be extrapolated from the piece - envy. 

“Avoid envy,” said the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, “for envy devours good deeds just as fire devours firewood.” 

In his book, MasteryRobert Green discusses envy as one of “The Seven Deadly Realities”. According to him we are all envious of others by constantly comparing ourselves to them “- in terms of money, looks, coolness, intelligence, popularity, or any number of categories. If we are upset that someone we know is more successful than we are, we will naturally experience some envy, but often we will fine a way to minimize  it because it is an unpleasant emotion. We tell ourselves that the success of another person is a matter of luck or came through their connections, or that it won’t last. But for some people, it goes much deeper than this, usually because of the level of their insecurities. Seething with envy, the only way to discharge it is to find a way to obstruct or sabotage the person who elicited the emotion. If they take such action they will never say it is because of envy but will find some other, more socially acceptable excuse. They often won’t even admit their envy to themselves. This makes it a quality very hard to recognize in people. There are, however, a few indications you can look for. People who praise you too much or who become overtly friendly in the first stages of knowing you are often envious and are getting closer in order to hurt you. You should be vary of such behavior. Also, if you detect an unusual level of insecurity in a person, he or she will certainly be more prone to envy.

“In general, however, envy is very difficult to discern, and the most prudent course of action is to make sure your own behavior does not inadvertently trigger it. If you have a gift for a certain skill, you should make a point of occasionally displaying some weakness in another area, avoiding the great danger of appearing too perfect, too talented. If you are dealing with insecure types, you can display great interest in their work and even turn to them for advice. You must be careful not to boast of any success, and if necessary, to ascribe it to just good luck on your part. It is always wise to occasionally reveal your own insecurities, which will humanize you in other people’s eyes. Self-deprecating humor will work wonders as well. You must be particularly careful to never make people feel stupid in your presence. Intelligence is the most sensitive trigger point for envy. In general, it is by standing out too much that you will spark this ugly emotion, and so it is best to maintain a nonthreatening exterior and to blend in well with the group, at least until you are so successful it no longer matters.” 


The quoted position of Robert Green here is just a summary of what he stated while expounding a law in his other book, The 48 Laws of Power. For those conversant with the system adopted by Robert in that book, he will start with the JUDGMENT which contains the law, to be followed by TRANSGRESSION OF THE LAW, where anecdotes and allegories will be given of people in times gone by who did not obey the law and how they eventually got their just deserts. He will also discuss, in a similar fashion, under OBSERVANCE OF THE LAW, people who obeyed the law and who got ample payment in like manner. But in all this, Robert will make an exception, which he calls REVERSAL, in the observance of certain laws of power when disobedience of a law under discussion serves some people better than adherence to it. 

In The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Green, discussing envy, sets the law by admonishing his readers: “Appearing better than others is always dangerous, but most dangerous of all is to appear to have no faults or weakness. Envy creates silent enemies. It is smart to occasionally display defects, and admit to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable…” 

According to Robert, only a minority can succeed in the game of life, and that minority inevitably arouses the envy of those around them. “Once success happens your way, however, the people to fear the most are those in your own circle, the friends and acquaintances you have left behind. Feeling of inferiority gnaw at them; the thought of your success only heightens their feelings of stagnation. Envy, which the philosopher Kierkegaard calls “unhappy admiration,” take hold. You may not see it but you will feel it someday - unless, that is, you learn strategies of deflection, little sacrifices to the gods of success. Either dampen your brilliance occasionally, purposefully revealing a defect, weakness, or anxiety or attributing your success to luck; or simply find yourself new friends. Never underestimate the power of envy.” 

However, Robert believes that some people have attained to a certain level of success that they become immune to the evil plans of the envious. He stated under REVERSAL that: “The reason for being careful with the envious is that they are so indirect, and will find innumerable ways to undermine you. But treading carefully around them will often only make their envy worse. They sense that you are being cautious, and it registers as yet another sign of your superiority. That is you must act before envy takes root.

“Once envy is there, however, whether through your fault or not, it is sometimes best to affect the opposite approach: Display the utmost disdain for those who envy you. Instead of hiding your perfection, make it obvious. Make every new triumph an opportunity to make the envious squirm. Your good fortune and power become their living hell. If you attain a position of unimpeachable power, their envy will have no effect on you, and you will have the best revenge of all. They are trapped in envy while you are free in your power.”