Malam Muhammad Bashir is the Director of Federal Capital Territory Muslims Pilgrims Welfare Board (FCT-MPWB). In this interview with Maryam Garba Hassan, the Islamic scholar, who has served in the security department of the FCT administration for 21 years, talks about how the Board is adopting new initiatives to improve Hajj exercise in the FCT.
When you took over the mantle of leadership of the board, what were the challenges you met on ground and how were you able to surmount them, especially as you joined the board close to the commencement of the 2014 Hajj operations?
When I came on board i met some challenges which I know are surmountable because every organization has its own unique challenges but finding a lasting solution to the challenges should be one’s (leader’s) priority.
First, I will study the environment and the people I am working with then think of the way forward to improve on what I met on ground and maintain the status quo. Whenever you are in a new place, you should take yourself as a layman, that way you will learn from the messenger, your colleagues and predecessors. If you combine all of these, you are bound to succeed.
My personal philosophy is that wherever I go to a new place, I look at the past records of the organization and see where it was, where it is when i joined and projects where it will be tomorrow. And I always try to see that if I am not able to add value to what I met then I should be able to maintain the status quo because I believe that I will be evaluated based on my performance during my tenure and at the end. I believe that with experience from our predecessors, learning from those I met on ground and seeking for and taking advice from experts, we will move the FCT pilgrims’ Welfare Board to greater heights.
What is your vision for the board?
My vision for the board is to try and improve on what I met on ground and maintain standard to ensure hitch free exercise in the subsequent hajj operation.
Secondly, I hope to leave the board when it is at its best. That is the legacy I want to leave.
The board recorded successes during this year’s Hajj exercise in terms of feeding, accommodation and transportation of pilgrims. What are the measures put in place to ensure its sustainability?
I am happy that the board recorded successes in the 2014 hajj operations. The feat we achieved at this year’s Hajj exercise is the beginning of our challenge because that means that as team we will have to redouble our efforts to sustain the standard set in terms of accommodation, transportation and feeding of our pilgrims at the holy land. With the successes recorded, people will be expecting nothing less than what they got during the 2014 hajj operations, and we cannot sustain that if we don’t work as team.
The secret behind the success is team work Hajj operation is not a one man affair and requires early preparation, coordination and collaboration and synergy between staff and relevant stakeholders. It is a collective responsibility. The maximum cooperation we get from our principal officer, the minister of state (FCT), Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide, who ensures that all we required were provided contributed immensely to the success recorded. We have started planning on how best to improve the exercise and one of them is early preparation for pilgrims’ accommodation in Makkah.
Still looking into the last year’s Hajj, what were the lessons learnt?
Generally, we learnt a lot. I learnt the importance of early and timely preparation for the exercise. Securing of accommodation which is time bond and ensuring that there is synergy between the board and other stakeholders. As head of the board, I need maximum cooperation of my staff, because 80 per cent of the fieldwork is done by them.
Believe me with their support, the board was able to secure befitting accommodation for our pilgrims very close to the Ka’abah in Makkah whereby our pilgrims say their congregational prayers in the grand Mosque. Secondly, for the success of this mission, the ministerial team must also work hand in hand with the board, staff and the Amirul Hajj team. I believe that if one wants to succeed, he must believe in team work not to think he is an island unto himself.
The previous exercises were characterized by challenges such as eviction of pilgrims from their accommodation at the holy land to poor quality of food. How the board did addressed such challenges?
From the records I got, FCT pilgrims were not evicted from their accommodation in Makkah as reported in some dailies in 2013. All the same, this year, we ensured that we put our house in order, starting by introducing pilgrims’ accommodation tag where our pilgrims presented their Identity Card before given accommodation. This new initiative prevented intruders or squatters from staying in our accommodation. The introduction of pilgrims’ ID card, also addressed the issue of over stretching our facility unlike the previous years where pilgrims from other states stayed in FCT accommodation.
Initially our plan, was to give our pilgrims their accommodation or room numbers before the commencement of pilgrims’ airlift to the holy land but that was not possible because of some technical problems but it will be implement in the 2015 Hajj exercise. This has also helped, because in each of our room we had 5 to 6 pilgrims in a room.
Recently you said the board had started preparations against the 2015 exercise. How far have you gone?
We have started in earnest the preparations for the 2015 operations. We had to do that because the expansion at the Grand Ka’abah site by the Saudi authority in the last 3 years has affected a lot of buildings around it. To ensure that we tackle the issue of accommodation of our 2015 pilgrims, as soon as the 2014 Hajj operation ended, we began talking with the people concerned about the possibility of retaining our accommodation in Makkah.
We sort for the permission and advice of our principal officers in the FCT on the need for that and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with some of our service providers in the holy to retain their services. When we returned to Nigeria at the end of the 2014 Hajj we began planning on how to improve on our achievements, we are meeting with my staff to review all that was done during the Hajj operation to see how we can improve on all that we did. We are also holding our management meeting this week to find the way forward. On the proposal to retain our accommodation in Makkah, the board has been given approval on principle and we are hoping it will be granted soon.