Buhari perpetuating religious burden

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

SIR: Sponsoring some privileged persons on pilgrimage to Christo-Islamic holy lands became Nigeria’s financial burden in the course of her history. Those usually sponsored are vocal persons to be settled: vocal imams, vocal pastors, vocal politicians, etc. The sponsors use sponsorship selfishly to secure loyalty and gain popularity.

It became an instrument of divide and rule, even though Christianity and Islam have divided us beyond recognition along innumerable denominations, and replaced blood relationship with religious relationship. Think of Christian fellowships and Islamic brothers and sisters, which make nonsense of Africa’s extended family relationship. That is the matrix of our current individualism, self-centeredness, and self-aggrandisement.

Even when some governors could not pay their workers’ salaries and allowances, they were still keeping the tradition of sponsoring people on pilgrimage, and lavish festival gifts of ram, cow, bags of rice, and brown envelopes from public funds. But this 2015 Ramadan was different, because of deafening public outcry against many months of unpaid salaries and allowances. Unfortunately, the person who perpetuated the practice was the expected messiah, the President himself, Muhammadu Buhari, even though he claimed he met “empty treasury”. Realistically speaking, 30m dollars amounts to empty treasury for a captain of Nigeria’s ship.

How did Buhari manage to sell dollars cheaply to those going on pilgrimage to mark the end of the 2015 Ramadan? I note that in Kwara State where I reside, many people were jubilant that finally their Governor saw reason why nobody should be sponsored on pilgrimage with public funds, and they enjoined him on radio (Royal FM, Ilorin) to stop also giving festival gifts from public funds. The Governor, AbdulFatah Ahmed, would reserve money for ‘festival obligations” even when unable to pay the meager salaries and allowances to which the ordinary citizens are subjected.

• Pius Abioje,
University of Ilorin.

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