The beautiful story of Haj 2018…Ambode dazzles pilgrims

When last year, this newspaper wrote about the poor services rendered during the 2017 Haj, which was led by the Amirul Haj, Dr. AbdulHakeem, some thought I had an axe to grind with him or with the National Haj Commission (NAHCOM), dominated by Northerners. Nevertheless, the truth was quite obvious to those that bore the brunt of the previous year’s lapses.

For Lagos State, which had consistently taken the first position in the country for its outstanding Haj operations, to have failed abysmally last year by delivering poor services in many areas, especially accommodation, transportation, feeding and airlifting, a newspaper report was needed to ensure that the Muslim Pilgrims’ Board regain its good record the following year. This indeed worked positively because it ensured a proactive action by Haj officials this year; hence, this objective and constructive report.
Rather than get angry with last year’s report, the Amirul Haj, Dr. AbdulHakeem, met with Governor Ambode and both decided to take note of the issues and address the wrongs of last year. The result is the fantastic handling of the 2018 operations, in which every aspect of the pilgrimage, from airlifting to accommodation, from feeding to internal transportation, down to the return journey, was excellently executed. There was no hitch and no stress for any Lagos pilgrim.

What can one say about the beautiful five-star hotel accommodation the pilgrims enjoyed? The prestigious hotels lined up in one area, Reahbash in Makkah, complimented the wonderful accommodation provided in Medina.
What about the sumptuous food served to the pilgrims in Makkah, Medina and Muna? In each of these centers, everyone had more than enough to eat. It was one Haj, when many pilgrims did not touch the Nigerian foods they brought along nor cooked or bought food elsewhere. This reporter, who repeatedly had been going to Haj with stove, food items, etc., did not touch any of these because he was satisfied with the general food served in all the cities. Only God knows the magic Dr. AbdulHakeem and the board members performed to make this possible.

Another amazing feat by the organisers of this year’s Haj is the duration of the pilgrimage from the former five to six weeks down to four weeks. It showed prudent management of time and efficient operational mechanism. Kudos again to the Amirul Haj and the board members. The longest period any pilgrim spent this year could not have been more than four weeks and two days.
During the Haj proper, a wonderful atmosphere enveloped the venues of spiritual activities. It was all about prayers and lectures by seasoned Islamic Scholars and brilliant intellectuals, all of whom are well versed in the Koran and spiritual matters.

What about the Ulamas – the Haj guides that conducted the pilgrims all around the spiritual sites and centers, providing them with vital information? They were friendly and ready to help. Kudos to their leader. Alhaji Olojede and to the Chief Imam of State House Mosque at Alausa, Alhaji Tijani Adejare as well as others, who played the roles of leading over 2000 Lagos pilgrims, especially the first timers to the Haj, at Makkah, Medina, Muna and Arafat.

The Board members worked silently behind the scenes, unnoticed by many pilgrims; yet, they were effective in directing the activities and the operations of the Haj. Whenever the need arose, or any one flouted laid down orders, these board members did not hesitate to surface and be seen taking care of the situation. They acted so professionally that pilgrims gave kudos to them. At critical moments, Board Chairman, Dr. Tajudeen Yussuf and his members, rose to challenges to sort them out. Deputy Board Chairman, Araromi Yussuf, stood in for his leader whenever the former was elsewhere solving problems. The team worked in synergy to the admiration of the pilgrims.

Although the Amirul Haj did not say this to this writer, but looking at Dr. AbdulHakeem, it was obvious that he was happy and satisfied to have successfully treated Lagos pilgrims well during this year’s Haj. No wonder the pilgrims at Arafat reciprocated when the atmosphere was enveloped by prayers for Governor Ambode and for the Amirul Haj. Some of the Imams openly prayed for AbdulLateef as the right successor of Ambode after the latter’s second term in 2023. They did not hide their feelings in their prayers as they begged Allah to honour this man, who has served the State and pilgrims faithfully. They urged Allah to allow AbdulHakeem to realize his future ambition.

The prayers of the Imams were diplomatically touched. They did not explain the meanings in ordinary fashion but a discerning mind and the man they were praying for knew the direction they were headed. Sensing that these Imams would repeat such gestures in Muna, the Amirul Haj blocked any such prayer during the next programme that followed the visit of the officials of the National Haj Commission (NAHCOM) to the camp of Lagos pilgrims. He faithfully filled the duration of the programme with lectures and other activities, shutting out prayers by Imams till 11p.m.
Talking about transportation in Makkah, Medina, Muna and Arafat, they were equally fantastic and smooth; so well-coordinated and stress free. Overall, Dr. AbdulHakeem deserves our praise. This Islamic and political leader has, most times, displayed his competence, expertise and experience, proving to people at all times that he is not only an Imam but also a distinguished leader. His curriculum Vitae is intimidating, containing over sixty (60) listings. Unless you get close to him, you may not understand his enormous brain power. Like Ambode, he is a master strategist, yet humble and unassuming.
This newspaper wishes him and the board members the best of luck. We will keep focusing on his progress report by feeding our reading public with objective updates on his activities.

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