Saturday, January 07, 2006

Haj tragedies

The news that 20 or so people were crushed in Mecca the day before yesterday when their hotel collapsed on them is tragic; people doing what their religion instructs them to do (go on pilgrimmage, walk round the Ka'aba if you are able bodied and can afford it) pay with their lives because some dodgy contractor/developer wants to make money by cutting corners on construction. Unfortunately, it seems that many people also try to make profit from the prophet.

When we left Lagos over a week ago, the airport was chock full of people waiting for their Haj plane. Many were dressed aso-ebi style (in the same cloth), to ensure that no one gets lost. Quite a few had been waiting for days for the plane to whisk them to their Holy land. After we left, it was Bibi's mom's turn to go take the plane. Being a woman of moderate means, this was her first Haj; she had put all her savings into the trip. She is popular and well-loved on her street in Surulere, so they had a send-off party for her (she loves parties!)

But then at the airport, she and her fellow travellers were told there would be a delay. One of Bibi's sisters started to make trips to the airport to deliver food. The days passed and the deadline for arriving loomed. The organisers then told the pilgrims there would be a N50,000 surcharge, saying they didnt collect enough money. This went up to N80,000 the next day. Meanwhile, the airport was full of muslims trying to get on the scant charter planes. Obj stepped in and obtained a 36 hour extension of the arrival deadline from the Saudi authorities. Still my mother-in-law waited..

And then the deadline (yesterday morning) passed. Everyone had to go home. They were told that they would not be refunded. At a meeting, Bibi's mom complained bitterly, at which the disappointed pilgrims were told they would at most get 25% of their money back. She continued to complain, at which point someone in the crowd told her to be quiet.

Like many others, she now has lost all her savings and cannot count herself as a Al-Haja. Where her money has gone, and the money of the thousands along with her who didnt get to go, no one knows. Someone has become enormously richer, and many thousands of people poorer.


Teju Cole 1:39 pm  

Ack! What a horror story.

Poor lady.

This is the catalogue of disappointments ordinary people have to put up with in that f*cking country...

Anonymous,  7:41 pm  

Points to ponder: the reason Nigeria is in such an apparent state of illness of some sort is with attitudes of calling one's home land names.

If we pass on attitudes like this to our children, who will have respect for our Nation?? who will have the desire to change her, groom her, feed her, grow her?

With name calling attitudes, nothing will change, we just insult the blood that run though our veins, disrespect our motherland, humiliate her infront of the world. Shame her, abuse her, and humiliate her.

Nigeria is not in the best shape and it is indeed sad - the disasters, the disarray, the carelessness and attitude of some Nigerians to work, the lack of dedication of some Nigerians to progress and growth.... and so much more, but its not enough to warrant such name - calling.

It will take alot to change the way things are... and bad seeds only end up bearing bad fruit... so what will good seeds produce?

I dont see good seeds coming from us if all we think about Nigeria are ill-spoken adjectives.

Teju Cole 3:30 am  

On the other hand, if we don't cultivate habits of truth-telling, we'll be remain stuck in mediocrity.

There's much that's good about Nigeria. One of those things, increasingly, is Nigerians who are willing to tell the truth about their country, themselves, and the world.

The age of ostriches is past.

Anonymous,  10:22 pm  

Its not about honesty - yes we need honesty - plenty of it, to move away from mediocrity as you say...

Its the insulting and name calling that is unpatriotic.

If your brother, sister, mother, father, wife, husband was fat, skinny, unserious, noisy, dirty, timid, rude... How would you tell him/her in order to correct them or help them grow or develop in to better a person?

By shouting out loud to the world: 'hey you are @#$%g fat'?

Anonymous,  2:47 pm  

In fairness to the first poster, I feel that the profanity reflects his frustration at the current state of the country. People who genuinely care about Nigeria may not always express themselves in clear terms of "patriotic" optimism.

You may think that criticizing our country shames her but in my opinion, Nigeria has long been shamed by people who would steal her money, starve her people and then have the gall to talk about how they are fighting corruption. She is shamed by us, who see all these things and shrug and say "naija" as if corruption and non performance are wielded to our DNA.

It's amazing how we Africans are so bothered about how we are perceived by the outside world but don't really care about how we look at ouselves.

Anonymous,  9:26 pm  

Simply put I think the confusion lies with self expression and definition of words. Abuse is a bad reflection of self control, ofcourse individuals have freedom of expression.

Criticism is not the same thing as profanity. Criticizing can be good and can contribute to change.

See thats exactly the mentality. The 'shrugging' and making excuses that profanity publicly used about Nigeria is ok. How different is this from someone who who puts the profanity into action by stealing money or jumping queues?

I don't think this is a case of how the outside world perceives Nigeria at all, I rather see it as how outsiders see Nigerians take their own country.

Kind of like when the Bellview plane crashed a American blogger wrote - hey who cares a plane full of 419ers anyway.

How sad.

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