In an unprecedented display of true and responsible statesmanship, His Excellency, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma who is currently in the Federal Republic of Germany, telephoned the Head of 2013 Hajj Team to Saudi Arabia, Hon. Alhaji Moijueh Kaikai, Minister of Social Welfare in the evening of Friday 25th October, 2013 and requested to talk to a cross -section of the Sierra Leone pilgrims himself to enquire about their general status.
The president spoke to over 50 pilgrims, including, some members of the medical team that accompanied the pilgrims, cooks, the elderly, the disabled, religious and traditional leaders, among many others.
In their response, the pilgrims, who had the honor to talk to their dear president, intimated him that they were doing pretty fine and that his appointed Members of the Hajj Delegation has thoroughly done their assignment by addressing their needs and concerns accordingly and by ensuring their safety and security in all stages of their pilgrimage since their arrival in the holy land a few weeks ago.
It is indeed worthy to note that never before in the history of Sierra Leone, particularly what has to do with pilgrimage, has a president of Sierra Leone gone this extra mile to find out in person about the general welfare of his nationals in the holy land in the aftermath of their performance of the rituals of the fifth tenet of Islam-Hajj.
Since President Koroma's occupation of the highest office in the land in 2007, he has not only facilitated the Hajj process for Sierra Leone pilgrims, but has also manifested a keen interest in ensuring their general welfare and the correctness of their pilgrimage in every aspect.
Citing an example, a traditional leader from Pujehun District said: “When talks reached President Koroma last year that some pilgrims cast doubt in the authenticity and validity of their slaughtering, this year, His Excellency ordered the Hajj Delegation to be physically present at the slaughter site so as the ensure that the number of the animals slaughtered matched the exact number of pilgrims.”
The purpose of this procedure, the Chief added, was to unequivocally make sure that total transparency was the order of the day in this year's Hajj; and indeed his order was truly carried out.
A senior civil servant who begged for anonymity said in his Mecca Hotel that: “President Koroma's act and initiative on Friday evening should once again buttress to our nation, particularly the Muslim nationals who are in the majority, that in spite of him (the President) being a Christian, he views all Sierra Leoneans as his own family members; that is, he cares for every Sierra Leonean, irrespective of their religious, regional, sectional and tribal affiliations.”
For his part, Assistant Secretary General for Civil Society Movement and Member of the National Commission for Disability, Abdul Gillen said: “Sierra Leoneans of all sectors should take cognizance and heed of the caliber and worth of their God-given leader, in the person of Dr. Ernest Koroma, in order to wholeheartedly rally behind him and support him with all their might,” adding, “ so that his legacy of equality in terms of treating his nationals and in terms of his true concerns for their general welfare would be not only a norm, but also a policy to be adopted by his successors.”
Many people interviewed after the President’s telephone conversation with them said: “EBK has set a host of excellent and remarkable precedents in his governance of Sierra Leone that should be appreciated by all well-meaning Sierra Leoneans.”
It could be recalled that in the past, there were incidents that not only brought unnecessary pain upon the pilgrims but considerably soiled the image of the country. Among those incidents were the unnecessary delay in the airlift of pilgrims which kept many of them at Lungi Airport for days; delay in bringing back the pilgrims from Saudi Arabia which left many of them stranded; the high cost of undertaking the Hajj and delay in the issuance of visas to the intending pilgrims. But since the Ernest Koroma led –APC Government took over the organization of Hajj in 2010, there has been a lot of improvement in the areas of transportation, medical, accommodation, feeding, issuance of visas, to name but a few.