By Mrs. Batul Binta Umar

The debacle between I. G Wala convener of CATBAN (Citizens Action to Take Back Nigeria) and Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad, the Chairman of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has finally been settled. It took no less than a court of law to put the matter to rest.

Heaps of allegations of impropriety in Hajj management in Nigeria, which the activist boldly leveled against the NAHCON Chairman, were genesis of the quagmire.

The allegations were no doubt character assassinations of NAHCON and its leadership that if true could have landed the esteemed leader into jail. Respected individuals made many advances to settle the matter amicably between the two to no avail. I.G Wala obsessively held to his gun claiming his shots were truly impregnable, with solid evidence, which he would readily produce in court anytime he was asked to. The NAHCON Chief on the order hand held that if he were not washed of this slander, the blemish would forever hang on the reputation of, not just himself but the Commission as well.

Instead of the fiasco diminishing, the faultfinders kept spinning tales even with the matter in court. Under different umbrellas, Wala and his members continually hounded the NAHCON Chairman with shameless fabrications with the aim of casting bad beam on him. False reports were repeatedly released that he had been arrested and was under Department of State Security (DSS) custody over the Wala exposure. There was this humiliating news they dished out after Barrister Mukhtar legitimately took a casual leave and travelled out of the country. CUPS (Citizens United for Peace and Stability) one of Wala’s affiliates, released a mischievous BREAKING NEWS labelling the revered NAHCON Boss as “the fugitive” who was on the run being under investigation by EFCC and the National Assembly. That he escaped to Saudi Arabia where he was denied accommodation due to the bilateral agreement between the two countries on corruption, thus he was in hiding in London. How this people conveniently sit down to manufacture these tales is a low too demeaning for a learned person.

Unfortunately for the CUPS, the CEO returned into the country the same day he had indicated in his casual leave request that he will resume. That same morning, he even proceeded to a public function almost immediately he touched down.

Yet, Wala and his clique seemed too blinded with their ‘mission dishonor’ to see the own goals they were hitting their so-called struggle with. Probably being too comfortable with the country’s customary impunity, they believed the courts would not pursue the case to its logical conclusion. Or perhaps they were simply carried away with their followers spurring them on to attack a public figure (even without sufficient proof). All the while, Barrister Mukhtar Muhammad remained calm, refusing to join issues with them except in court where he was seeking redress.

And the court did listen, and judged, and found I.G. Wala guilty of libel against the NAHCON captain. Wala could not support his allegations of corruption in NAHCON or committed by the NAHCON Chief Executive, because he had none.

One of the lessons here is that recklessness is dangerous.  Peddling or re-echoing fake information for any reason is foolhardiness. It is like a quicksand, when the wanderer starts sinking, hardly can anyone extend a helping hand to him without the risk of also being pulled in. How many among his members volunteered to be included in the litigation alongside Wala when he was charged to court?

One is not surprised with the judgement clearing Barrister Abdullahi of the accusations. It takes an insider, close associates of NAHCON to understand the level of discipline being practiced in the Hajj Commission. This explains why this is not the first lawsuit NAHCON is winning against detractors. I recall one of the recent cases which it instituted against a staff on posting to the Commission from another ministry. He was bundled for compromising NAHCON’s sensitive documents into unauthorized hands. Similarly, in the past, a number of NAHCON staff had been invited for investigations, courtesy of unfounded allegations laid by persons snitching around the Commission to find incriminating cases against it. Glory to the Maker the Most High, all staff had come out clean after submission of due documents and proper clarifications. Indeed, NAHCON staff have a lot to thank the Chairman for his insistence on appropriate documentation of all NAHCON transactions according to civil service rules. One understands that he treats even internal memos only when properly filed to safeguard record and for probity. But for this, perhaps many would have been crucified for lack of evidence to show. It is not by chance or bribery that NAHCON is receiving many accolades from its clients and partners from within and outside the country. I, being one of them. Budget defense committees at the National Assembly attested this much, commending the Commission’s proposals for precision and transparency.

One of the best lessons in this sweet victory for the Commission is that cleanliness is not only next to godliness but also fearlessness. The NAHCON chief has never at any time intimidated any person or organization seeking to expose corruption allegation against him or his staff. As a matter of fact, this writer can remember, in many fora, where the Chairman has challenged whoever has any allegation of corruption against him to be bold enough in exposing it. In other words, he has himself personally asked whoever has information on his dirty linen to take him to the cleaners. One can be rest assured that these launders had heard the Chairman loudly. Perhaps they are still searching for the stains! Certainly, cleanliness is next to godliness.

Even at the risk of being accused of sycophancy, one makes bold to say the NAHCON boss is a person whose good records have transcended the Nigerian threshold. While some people in Nigeria would like to label him the devil himself, in Saudi Arabia for instance, we read that he is seen as the enemy of the devil.  Many Saudi Arabian officials do not hide their admiration at the transformation NAHCON has witnessed within a short time. They often ask rhetorically how Mr. Abdallah was able to do it. But what is the response in the country? A certain ad-hoc committee document will tell you. A document loaded with claims that can be verified through a click on one’s keyboard.

Hence, recklessness is not courage. Simply because the social media is flooded with gullible followers should not be license for a sane person to believe his own lies, talk little of braving it in court. Social media follower-ship may be intoxicating, we have seen where it has led and abandoned some Nigerians who believe they can float a ‘red card’ movement to presidency. There are other activists still maliciously scandalizing the reputation of public office holders without substantive evidence yet persist because such persons choose not to seek redress.

May the I.G Wala conviction serve as deterrent to them before they jump into their own self-made gully.

Mrs Umar is a staff of a Licensed Tour Operator in  Kano