Ghana is to request from the Saudi Arabian authorities, an increase in the quota of Hajj pilgrims from the current 5,424 to 7,000.
The request for the quota increase is in response to the dramatic increase in prospective Hajj pilgrims from Ghana.
President John Dramani Mahama asked the National Hajj Board to send the request, when he addressed hundreds of Muslims at the National Eid-ul-Adha Prayers at the Black Star Square in Accra yesterday.
He was optimistic that the increase would enable more Ghanaian Muslims to embark on the pilgrimage to Mecca.
A number of prospective pilgrims from the southern sector were unable to make the trip for this year Hajj as the maiden direct airlifting of 2,500 pilgrims from the northern sector from the Tamale Airport to Saudi Arabia, reduced the numbers to be airlifted from Accra, which used to be the main flight route.
Also, the number of prospective pilgrims for this year’s pilgrimage far exceeded Ghana’s quota, leaving the Hajj Board with no option than to refund moneys to the affected Muslims.
President Mahama, announcing plans to avoid a recurrence, appologised “to all those who due to certain reasons, were unable to embark on the Hajj this year,” and assured the Muslim community of government’s continued intervention to improve the organisation of the Hajj pilgrimage.
He thanked Allah for his blessing to the country, and urged Muslims and Ghanaians in general, to live by the tenets of Islam to ensure peaceful co-existence, national cohesion and development.
According to him, the blessings of Allah for the country required that Ghanaians remained united and support the national cause instead of pursuing selfish interests at the detriment of others.
Drawing on the essence of Eid-ul-Adha which celebrates the obedience of Prophet Abraham who passed Allah’s test by heeding to the call to sacrifice his beloved son, President Mahama wondered how Ghanaians would have fared in that test.
“It is the ultimate test of faith Allah could require from anyone of us, both Muslims and non Muslims.
“Would we have passed the test Allah subjected us to,” he asked.
He said the festival serves as a reminder of the things Allah requires of his people.
“I believe that Allah wants us to live peacefully together, and just as Allah enjoins us to symbolically give two-thirds of the sacrifice lamb to our neighbours, he requires to be each others’ keeper.
“Allah would require of us to speak the truth and not to deceive other people for our own selfish reasons,” he said.
President Mahama also urged Muslims to contribute to peaceful elections in December, reminding them that the upcoming general election was presenting another test for Ghana’s democracy.
Expressing confidence of Ghana’s ability to pass that test, he said “I am always thankful that Allah has blessed me with the opportunity to be the president of such as industrious, united and peace-loving people like Ghanaians.”
Touching on the economy, President Mahama indicated that the naion would start recording a rapid economic transformation from next year as the economy has been adequately prepared for that transformation.
According to him, all the sectors of the economy have been successfully bolstered with the requisite infrastructure and investment interventions for the take off which he said would happen in his second term.
“Across all sectors we are laying a solid foundation of the imminent take off of what I call an economic transformation.
“We continue to move closer to fully realising the enormous potential that our country holds in order to achieve the optimum development,” he said, and urged Muslims and Ghanaians in general to support the government to achieve that objective.
Deputy National Chief Imam Sheikh Husseini Zakaria, who stood in for the National Chief Imam, who is in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj festivities, led national prayers in which he asked for Allah’s continuous favour and blessings for the country.
The Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharabutu, in his address read for him, called on all Ghanaians, irrespective of differences in beliefs, to remain calm and united as the country heads for the December 7 general election.
He was optimistic the country would achieve its development targets through peaceful co-existence, stressing that “with unity we would be able to move ahead.”
The Chief Imam cautioned the media to be circumspect, and urged political actors and commentators to refrain from campaign of insults.
“Flag bearers represent large communities, hence they must speak well of themselves to have the moral rights to advise their subordinates,” he said.
On the Electoral Commission’s role in the election, the Muslim leader called for transparency, accountability and a fear of God in dealings with all stakeholders to avoid mistrust.
He further called on the security services to uphold the law at all times, and urged Muslims to demonstrate their commitment to peace, justice, love and fair play.
“Let’s resist self-seeking politicians who will attempt to lure us into doing their dirty works for them,” he told the youth, adding that it was imperative Ghanaians remained supportive of one another for development.
By Edmund Mingle & Claude Adams