Should Government Continue to Sponsor Pilgrimages?

By Jude Atupulazi

For long, there has been this argument on whether pilgrimages to holy lands should be sponsored by the government or not. Those against it argue that it amounts to a gross waste of resources by government since going on pilgrimages is an individual thing. Those who want government to continue to sponsor such argue that such sponsorship will help the indigent to experience what obtains in holy lands.

It is indeed a tough thing to argue but not long ago I stumbled upon the write up below by someone on social media and my opinion on the argument was immediately formed. But perhaps it will be a good idea for you, my reader, to read it too before we conclude. _______________________________________________________

79,000 Nigerian Muslims spent $5,000 each to go to Saudi Arabia to kill the devil with stones. $395 Million from a poor underdeveloped country like Nigeria. The Saudi economy is growing through tourism.

50,000 Christians went to Israel to kiss Jesus’ statue there and attach JP to their names.  $250 million equals $645 Million (over half a billion Dollars.

This happens two times a year = $1.3 billion.  Let’s not convert it to Naira because some of us will not sleep, but let’s try. (782 billion Naira, over half a trillion Naira).

This amount can be used to fund fresh graduates who have innovative ideas and in turn, create millions of jobs. Since we have been traveling to Israel and Saudi Arabia, has our economy improved? 🤔

Africans (especially Nigerians) what is wrong with our logic?

Now, having gone through the write up, it became clear to me that sponsoring pilgrimages for individuals or groups has been such a massive waste of public funds. I know some people may feel aghast at my suspicion but then the economic losses incurred by government for doing such are there for all to see.

Government sponsorship of pilgrimages, in my opinion, is akin to government sponsoring the building of cattle ranches for herdsmen which is an individual business. I know that many Nigerians agree on this last point and if they do, can anyone tell me the difference between committing funds to the individual business of ranching and doing same to the private affair that is religious worship?

Besides, how has our going to holy places over the years (whether Christian or Muslim) helped our country to become a better place, vis-à-vis, the behaviour of Nigerians? Are those going to Israel, Rome and Mecca not the same people who collect money from old pensioners before ”pushing” their files in the various government ministries? Are they not the same people who as lecturers extort money from students and even sleep with the females in order for the students to pass their exams? Even those who compile the list of those to be sponsored, can they swear not to have been inflating figures for government’s approval?

In fact the only thing I’ve seen which changed in the lives of many who have gone to the holy lands is their titles. They waste no time in attaching ”JP” after their names. JP means Jerusalem Pilgrim. Outside of this, I have not seen any other glaring change in them.

Also, many who go there on government sponsorship do not go to better their lives spiritually but go either to catch fun or do some business. Are we not aware of those who go there and buy some stuff which they sell? I call these people Jerusalem merchants and not Jerusalem pilgrims.

The bottom line which may appear painful to many is that religion is a private thing. If the government does not sponsor the building of churches or mosques, why should same government shoulder the responsibility of sponsoring pilgrimages, especially when such sponsorship drains the pocket of government?

The above were thoughts which came to my mind after reading the piece by that person on social media. As we clamour for a new Nigeria where the cost of governance will be reduced, let’s also include such pocket-draining ventures like sponsorship of pilgrimages so that government can plough back the money into providing much needed amenities in critical areas.

Those who want to better themselves spiritually by visiting holy places should shoulder the cost. Perhaps if they do, they will even take the exercise more seriously and the country will begin to feel the breeze of change.


Love at first sight

Sometimes we see someone and immediately like them. Sometimes too, we see others and detest them. The former was the case when I saw Rev Fr Chukwuebuka Nnadi. It was at an event years ago at St Anthony’s Parish field in Enugwu Ukwu where I saw him leading some young priests in a dance around the field.

When later I saw him at Fides and heard Rev Fr Obinna Dike call him ”Fr Drogba”, I immediately developed more interest, being that Drogba is a popular name in football circles. The priest in question also has the physique of a footballer and when I looked at him I conjured up an image of a great football artiste. I thus decided to find out why he was given that name and that was how the story below came about.