Hajj controversy: 7 reasons why Nigerians got super mad

by Salau Oluwatorinmo

– Over a year ago, President Muhammadu Buhari (or PMB as he is fondly called) was ushered into office to the chorus of “Change.” Beyond being practically fed up with the inertia of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, a major reason the electorate voted enmasse for the present one was his trustworthy image. An image he built during his stint as military a Head of State between 1983-1985 – but what now seems to be a mirage, a figment of our hazy, rose-tinted imaginations. During the last elections, PMB promised, amongst other things, to stabilize the economy. In keeping with that promise, last year July, PMB informed the Executive Secretary of The Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission, Mr John Kennedy-Opara of the government’s intent to pull the plug on sponsorship of pilgrims to Israel and Saudi Arabia. This news was greeted with applause and admiration. With the economy’s downward spiral, one would think the best time to put said decision into effect is now. But noooo, PMB goes off granting concessionary exchange rates for Hajj, as at other times. As if the Naira is stable. As if the economy is cresting on a high of unbelievable gains from oil.

Why won’t Nigerians be mad?

– Nigeria is in a recession. The Naira is trading at almost 400 against the dollar. And he is busy granting concessionary rates for personal prayer meetings? Really? It shows an absolute lack of awareness. It’s like a house that is burning and the owner is busy dancing Azonto instead of trying to get his family out to safety, getting as many valuables out as possible, calling fire fighters and rousing the neighbours. It shows an absolute absence of concern for the economy and government he is running.

– It reeks of hypocrisy. In March, PMB made the following statement to Al Jazeera:

“Nigeria cannot continue to subsidise the forex needs of everyone. Those who can afford foreign education for their children can go ahead, but Nigeria cannot afford to allocate foreign exchange for those who decided to train their children outside the country. We can’t just afford it. That is just the true situation.”

And a few months after, he does an about-face and subsidizies foreign exchange for a sect. So the way he sees it, religion trumps education, ba?

Baba, kontinu.

Whereas foreign trained students will return with knowledge gained abroad and open industries, start businesses, basically give back to the economy, what does the yearly pilgrimage do for our economy – besides drain it?

– It is pretty much a slap in the face of investors. It shows the world where our priorities lie. They certainly do not lie in boosting our economy. As SBM intelligence writes,

The signal is clear – patronage of religion is more important to the Nigerian government than business and even the government itself functioning. It is counter-productive that we say we have floated the naira and yet religious sections of society get subsidised dollars which will cost the Nigerian state ₦7.6 billion in tax payers’ money”.

Investors are not stupid. They are in business for profit. It therefore stands to reason that the necessary Foreign Direct/Portfolio Investments we covet from these folks will not be coming our way anytime soon.

– PMB just drew a map for Nigerians about the rest of his administration. In Biblical terms, the hand writing is now on the wall. This means that Nigerians should be as expectant of change as the sun shines every morning. Go to bed knowing that your long term welfare is not being thought about. That you are captured in the national cake only if you are a Muslim going on pilgrimage. Christians, African traditional religious practitioners should take several seats. Y’all aint going anywhere.

– It makes his pontificating about Jonathan’s sins a sham. Apparently, PMB is as corrupt and as blame worthy as his predecessor. Nigeria does not have money, yet he spent state funds hosting breakfast during Ramadan. How is that any different from Baba Jona and his troupe spending state funds on political activities? How is that not corruption?

– Nigeria is a secular state. Yes, the two notable religions are Christianity and Islam. Still, Nigeria is a secular state. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria declares Nigeria’s secularity. But this action by PMB says otherwise. And if PMB is treating a certain group of people with favour- what’s the destiny of the rest?

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