Hajj to Mecca and pilgrimage to Jerusalem: For years now, several billions of dollars must have been spent by all three tiers of government of our country in sponsoring people on religious tourism to Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem and other religious tourist attraction sites mostly in the Middle East, in the name of what governmental obligation, I do not yet know and I am still wondering.
Good money that should have been used for development is spent on an objective that should be left entirely to the individual. For a country that is trying to privatise most of public services, it is not something of a small wonder that our governments now try very hard to publictise what ought rightly to be a private matter. For Muslims, it is somehow understandable, but not excusable, that year in year out, tens of thousands of them troop out on pilgrimage, on some of whom billions of public funds is spent. The obligation to go on pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the five pillars of their faith. But God is wise. He made it conditional. If you can afford it you should go for it, but if you cannot, you are not liable to condemnation to hell fire.
Yet in spite of this clear provision, Nigerian governments at all levels make it look as if some Nigerians are not sponsored to Mecca with public funds, they will die and face a bleak future in the world after.
For Christians, the mad rush to Jerusalem is difficult to understand for I have searched through their Holy Book and there is nowhere in the Bible where it is commanded that a Christian should endeavour to go on pilgrimage before he can merit a place in paradise. Yet, my Christian brethren must go to Jerusalem on the sponsorship of government because their Muslim brethren are doing so. When will we have a patriotic government that will withstand blackmail and intimidation and dismantle Hajj and pilgrimage commissions and redeploy the personnel recruited to man them at huge public expense and plough into development the money that will be saved through such courageous action?
Can our compatriots be politely told that it is not pilgrimage that will guarantee them a place in paradise but their acts of piety, their obedience to the laws of God and their fair and kind treatment of their fellow men and women? Just consider what happens when some of them get to the Holy Lands. There have been ugly reports of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia whose main goals seem to be shopping or the females among them who go to prostitute themselves in order to raise money to shop. What of Christian pilgrims who are known to abscond to other countries of Europe when they get to Jerusalem? Are these possible candidates for heaven?
I sincerely believe that on Judgment Day, God may take the extra-ordinary step of caning some Nigerian leaders like school children for misusing the huge resources he made available for use in really caring for his children in Nigeria but which they frittered away in endless politicking to gain political support.
Educational backwardness of the North: It is not today that there has been the realisation that the Northern region of our country is relatively backward in terms of education when compared to the South. More than fifty years ago, visionary leaders like the late Northern icon the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, saw this and did something very positive to address it.
Fifty years may be too short a time to address a disparity that was created by over a century of head start. But fifty years is long enough time to do something about it if someone or some people are really determined to do anything. But what is the situation today? The gap may have widened compared to the late 50s and 60s when real efforts were made by a concerned people to solve the problem.
Today, millions of Northern children of school age roam the streets. Some are said to be pursuing religious education in informal institutions called Almajiri schools. While there is nothing wrong in acquiring moral instruction, this system, from what we have all seen so far, is a poverty breeding kind of system because apart from the religious teaching no forms of other skills are imparted upon the children. The result: ‘graduates’ of this system are ‘destined’ to find low paying jobs as drawers of water and fetchers of firewood. Many will find employment as motor par touts, political thugs and musclemen of various descriptions who will be employed as illegal enforcers of the will of evil-minded men.
Persons who are employed (elected) to think, plan and act for the good of the people in the North have not found it necessary to act to address the lack of schooling among most of Northern youth. Yet education is the single most important breaker of the chain of poverty. This, to me, constitutes the 9th wonder of modern Nigeria.
Plane loads of sick Nigerian medical tourists trooping abroad: Those who travel abroad frequently tell stories of how on some flights out of Nigeria to Egypt, Dubai, India and South Africa you see that more than a half of those on board are sick Nigerians trooping to those countries for medical attention. To go for solutions to such ailments as slip disk, hypertension, kidney and liver problems, overweight problem, tooth extraction and the likes. For Muslim Nigerian elite from the North, their destinations of choice are usually Egypt and Dubai and for their counterparts from the south, it is usually India and South Africa.
When I hear stories like this, my heart bleeds for my country. Our foolishness is beyond comprehension. Are we a cursed people, robbed of all intelligence? Is there any law in existence anywhere that forbids us from building hospitals and equipping them with the best and most modern facilities that money can buy and staffing them with the best experts from any part of the world that money can hire?
Ninety nine point nine per cent of those who embark on this medical tourism abroad are members of our governing elite. If their heart is so filled with the spirit of wickedness which prevents them from building medical facilities to provide medicare for the ordinary people who cannot afford overseas treatment, why can they not think of doing so for themselves to save themselves and the country of the enormous capital that flies out of this country because of medical attention abroad?
Why do we have ruling elite that are so wicked even unto themselves? It is to me the 10th wonder of modern Nigeria that we seem cursed with leaders who not only hate the people, but they also seem to hate themselves. It is really a wonder because what we do have are not greedy elite who seem determined to appropriate everything to themselves, but what we have are worse than greedy people, they are simply are a class devoid of the wisdom to engaged in what is called enlightened self interest to provide for members of their class here at home.