Hajj fare: Between truth and intransigent minority

John Dee said, “He who does not understand should either learn, or be silent”.  

I’ve not failed to be amused by people who believe that Nigeria’s Hajj fare should not be less than N1million.

These people can be categorised into three. One is the group of highly dignified people who do not patronise the government arrangements because they are not satisfied with them; they crave for more than what is being put in place. And it is now expensive for them because they can no longer sponsor mammoth crowd to Hajj as it was before the government of Change which is bent on ridding Nigeria of the cancer of corruption.

The second set are those who patronise the government arrangements because they cannot afford the tour operators VIP arrangements for themselves or those who they sponsor.

The third are those who cannot afford any arrangement at all even if it is going to be N500,000.

But all of them have one thing in common which is the perception that the Hajj commission is milking the pilgrim of their hard earned money through outrageous cost of Hajj.

It is clear that these people are of the opinion that something must be done to reduce the Hajj fare, they rely heavily on the news from social media to make conclusions on what and how things are to be done, not considering the rate at which the Hajj management is changing rapidly, most times countries like Nigeria are struggling to catch up with the pace.

People  want flawless and efficient services rendered to them, but do not want to take time to know what it takes or what is costs to get those services going as planned.

Countless people go around talking about why the fare revolves around N1.5million instead of N900,000 fake price. Several explanations have been put forward to educate the public on this issue but they prefer to  believe the fake postulate and remained unconvinced and simply reasoning with chaos of competing lies that are being put out  in the media to drown the truth.

The social media is extremely slanted in favour of likes and shares, going viral and hailed for a period of time, then maintaining the status quo. One of my favourite things to observe and laugh about is people who believe that “following every news on social media” keeps them “informed”.

People don’t even notice the lies that are being spread so far as it suits them, and if you tell them the truth they think you are a crook.  And that’s how far we are from “turning things around”.

The hard thing here is telling them they have dedicated their time to illusion. People are told that the Hajj fare is not up to what the commission is charging, that is a lie. I don’t understand why these people blame the current management on all this. I can’t think of a single fundamental thing that they have changed in organisation of Hajj activities in the country since the 1970s –  medical, BTA, airline, tents arrangements, hadaya, accommodation still formed the components of Hajj – perhaps for the most recent introduction like feeding and biometric data capturing.

These new introductions while rated as one of the best things to come is at a certain cost which is not hidden at all, now people will look at it as if the current management are the ones who deliberately increased the fare.

One serious thing that is often misunderstood is the Forex. The weight it carries in organising hajj and the implications of it on the country’s economy. In general, people often feel hajj fare should be static, believing that nothing either domestic or external would affect it as if Nigeria or Saudi Arabia is an Island. Often, they like to compare previous years with current situation, turning a blind eye to economic development, growth and recession in place.

The era of this charade is to be laid to rest and we should look up to the paradigm shift of the Hajj management and the steps to make it easier for the managers and the pilgrims. Apparently, in few years to come we will be looking at daunting challenges of technology that will be faced by both players of Hajj in Nigeria. Let me be clear on this, the technological revolution is leaving nothing behind including Hajj management, so the earlier we prepare for it, the better.

Back to my opening quote, it is either you learn about the way and process the Hajj fare is arrived at or keep quiet and maintain the golden silence, which is what the Noble Prophet enjoined us  to do – keep quiet if we won’t speak good. The bitter truth is whoever has been to Hajj will attest to the fact that there is a significant change in the operations of Hajj in Nigeria and globally. There is also a possibility of you being a crook if you don’t have knowledge or information about something and you still want to comment. It’s better to keep quiet than to speak about what you do not know.

I rest my case.

Ibrahim writes from Abuja.

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