Enlightenment and stake-holders engagement: Yobe’s Secret of clinging first award and having successful hajj rites yearly. (I)
If there is one thing the Yobe State Pilgrims Commission doesn’t joke with at the commencement of each Hajj calendar cycle is the ‘Hajj Enlightenment Campaign’ for its intending Pilgrims. The effect this sensitization has on the conduct of the hajj and how it shapes the behaviours of Pilgrims cannot be overemphasized. To begin with, let me start with a quote from the Holy Qur’an which the Commission has taken as its inspiration.
“And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight, and the heart- about all those (one) will be questioned” Quran 17:36
As stated in the above verse, The Commission, knowing fully, one requires basic knowledge of Hajj’s dos and don’ts before embarking on the Spiritual journey. With this, the Commission starts it enlightenment campaign in earnest realizing the fact that one doesn’t train a dog on hunting day. The Hajj education starts in various forms and foras.
The Commission begins its sensitization campaign by outlining crucial topics relating to the conduct of Hajj- onshore and offshore. It allocates more than 35 topics to individuals, Ulamas, and other relevant Agencies to come to the Commission’s Hajj Conference Hall to educate Pilgrims on how to perform the once in a lifetime spiritual journey. Considering the fact that high percentage of the State’s pilgrims are rural dwellers who are herders, farmers and artisans, the Commission’s erstwhile Chairmen and the present Chairman in person of Alhaji Mai Aliyu Usman Biriri felt it is necessary to have a sustained enlightenment campaign for its intending pilgrims to reduce culture shocks and avoiding loss of pilgrims during hajj.
Space constraint will not allow me to list all the Hajj State-holders and elaborately explain how it does it enlightenment. However, I will not fail to list a few stakeholders with which the Commission engages in its rigorous enlightenment campaign.
From the onset, the Yobe State Pilgrims Commission starts its Hajj education the moment an intending Pilgrim steps into the office premises to inquire about Hajj fare and/or make a deposit. The Staff of the Commission’s Department of Hajj Operations begins by gauging the intending Pilgrim’s level of Hajj knowledge and thus starts educating him/her.
Consequently, months before the commencement of the Airlifting, the Commission officially flags off the year’s enlightenment programme known as Bita in Hausa Language. The timetable gives room for the assigned presenters to make explain topics around their fields.
The Nigerian Immigration Service is an Agency charged with the responsibility of Migration in Nigeria and comes forth to educate Pilgrims on the processes of issuance of passports and handling them. In its lectures, it educates pilgrims on the need of acquiring a passport in earnest. This has helped tremendously in having no instances where Yobe Pilgrims couldn’t make it to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for over failure of getting an e-passport at the die minute. The moment Pilgrims start making Hajj deposits, they are encouraged by the Commission to get their passport.
On the other hand, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency which is saddled with the responsibility of curtailing illicit drugs is invited to the Commission to tell the dangers and consequences of trafficking mind-altering substances to the Kingdom. In the course of its sensitization Pilgrims who initially had the intention of moving drugs to the Kingdom have aborted their missions. Pilgrims are being educated to be cautious of taking parcels from unknown people and look after their 10kg bags to avoid getting their bags planted by drug barons who use dubious means of exporting narcotics, heroin, cocaine, and other drugs.
Concerned with the growing numbers of international trafficking of people and taking them to Saudi for sextortion, the Commission invites officials of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to deter Pilgrims to overstay their visas. Even before this, the Commission conducts an espionage background check on intending pilgrims to know if they are the sort of Pilgrims who will stay after the completion of Hajj. Being a Commission that doesn’t tolerate delinquent pilgrims and its zero tolerance for abscondment, the security measures the Commission has put in place to checkmate abscondment cannot be over-emphasized. Our end of year Hajj reports are available to show if any pilgrim has absconded from Yobe!
On the premise that it’s an International Journey, the Commission invites officials of the Nigerian Customs Service to educate intending pilgrims on items they can take to the Holy Land and items they aren’t allowed to bring to the country. A series of lectures are delivered to the intending pilgrims on dutiable items, contraband materials, and information on baggage clearance during airlifting and on arrival.
Most importantly, the Commission does its stakeholder mapping and brings on board relevant stakeholders that will help in achieving a successful hajj. The NPF, FAAN, NAHCON Maiduguri Zonal office, FAAN, State Ministry of Health, PHC’s inoculation officers, 17 Local Government Fare collectors, Independent Hajj Reporters, NURTW, Miyyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Jama’atul Nasril Islam, JIBWIS, Traditional rulers, and clerics are critical stakeholders and are engaged by the Commission for their effectiveness in information dissemination. Being a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual state, the Commission has native speakers of all the dialects in the State and uses the languages for effective information dissemination.
On Strengthened stakeholder relationship, The Commission has a good rapport with the fourth estate of the realm and leverages on the Sahel F.M Radio in Damaturu where officials of the Commission have a bi-weekly phone-in radio programme to educate listeners on any new development on hajj activities. The ‘Hajji Kiran Allah’ programme aired on the State’s radio station is the most listened programme.
More so, the Commission goes as far as Potiskum to use the private-owned radio station known as Sunshine Radio to reach a huge number of listeners all in an effort to educate people on the hajj exercise. Lest I forget, the Commission makes thousands of copies of Hajj Guide pamphlets which is translated into Hausa and distributed to its intending pilgrims to immerse themselves at home. The Hajj sensitization is done at all zonal levels in the State. For Zone A, it’s done at the Yobe State Pilgrims Commission Headquarter and at central mosque of various Local Government Areas. And they are well attended by intending pilgrims. The efforts of the State government in ensuring the welfare of its state pilgrims and having a hitch-free hajj is a piece for another day.
Narrowing it to the step-step guide on performing Hajj, the Commission has many learned clerics and guides who untiringly educate intending pilgrims on how to have a Hajj Mabrur. The Hajj, being a test of patience, pilgrims are educated on the need of exercising patience at each stage of the journey and see and delay either in Nigeria or Saudi as a test from God. Yobe’s stance on enlightenment doesn’t end in Nigeria. The sensitization continues inside the bus when Pilgrims are escorted from Damaturu to Maiduguri Hajj Transit camp, on their stay on camp waiting to be airlifted, whilst being airlifted to Saudi and at all points of worship. And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers. (Adh-Dhariyat (51:55)
To sum it up, Yobe’s success stories don’t fall from the sky. It is a collection of concerted efforts by bringing on board all relevant stakeholders so that they will also step down the outcomes of meetings held at the Commission’s conference hall. The Enlightenment campaign, stakeholder engagement, and strict adherence to the guidelines outlined by NAHCON and the host country (Saudi) are just three out of over 100 secrets of Yobe’s success story in Hajj. Following yesterday’s official announcement of the 2023 Hajj fares by the NAHCON, the Commission has already swinged into action and have reached out to its network of stakeholders to cascade the message to all nooks and crannies where our intending pilgrims abound to complete their deposits to the slated amount. As I type this, an announcement is ongoing on my Kchibo Radio from Sahel F.M calling on the State’s intending pilgrims to complete their payments. Lastly, it’s recommended that SPWBs improve their level of Hajj orientation lectures so as to meet global best practices in Hajj Management.
Muhammad Bukar Kime is a Welfare Officer with Yobe State Pilgrims Commission.