In this interview, Ambassador Yusuf Mamman, a delegate at the on-going National conference representing the North West geo-political zone shares his thoughts with Hassan Haruna Ginsau on whether or not pilgrims’ welfare boards should be scrapped and the progress of the conference thus far.
There was a heated debate over whether or not pilgrims’ welfare boards should be scrapped or not and the matter is still unresolved, what are your thoughts on this issue?
There are a lot of people that benefit in the name of religion. For example public funds are the rights of the people, but when someone attains a certain position he will pack his in-laws and relatives and pay for them to go for Hajj using the people’s money, so you see the aim is defeated. Meanwhile pilgrims have been abandoned in Saudi Arabia, left in harsh conditions. Therefore the Government should help only in consular services and assist Nigerians whether he/she is there on holiday or pilgrimage, simply to make sure he/she doesn’t get into a difficult situation.
It is these consular services I think are better, instead of setting up a body for pilgrims whereby people are crying out about over corruption, or someone goes to Saudi and disappears with pilgrims’ money, or the person that is supposed to assist pilgrims is nowhere to be found upon getting to the holy land. Some Christian pilgrims go to Jerusalem for their holy pilgrimage and stay back, so you see it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure the well-being of its citizens.
There are a lot of Nigerians living illegally in Saudi Arabia. Someone will go there with his wife and she says she won’t come back, and before you know it she has disappeared, maybe she is somewhere selling food or begging for money. When you consider all of these things you then ask how much is being spent and who is benefitting from these funds?
If the purpose is to help the people, then people that are illegally benefitting from religion must be stopped. So you see what brought about this confusion.
What are your thoughts on the national conference thus far?
Thanks to God, most of the issues that people thought were going to create divisions among delegates have been resolved, though not all the issues because some delegates are here with a certain ideology or stance on some issues. But there have been numerous discussions and it has been resolved that any time there is a disagreement then the issue will be looked at carefully in order to find a way out before it goes to a vote.
We still haven’t gotten to the stage of casting ballots, because before you do this you have to sit down and discuss about three or four times, then you can vote. Hopefully though there will be no need for that, we will try our best to reach a consensus because everybody knows there is a need for us to live in peace, development, and patience with ourselves in Nigeria at large.
Finally, we pray for peace and all the crises in the North to come to an end, and may God bring us closer to each other, and give us peace in Nigeria. Also, may God grant us the opportunity to hold peaceful elections next year.