Comets were not seen on the day his appointment was announced nor was any eclipse of the sun, moon or star evident. On the contrary, a pertinent poser hung on many lips like the proverbial sword of Damocles: Will the new man on the saddle, Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Mohammed, be a performer and/or reformer, or will be like one of these run-of-the-mill administrators who come, do their little bit and eventually bow out minor or no ovation?
What made that question particularly pertinent is that for so long, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) had been yearning for proactive leadership. Year after years, Muslim pilgrims to the Holy Land had been having cause to complain over the tardiness or laxity that characterised the otherwise straight-forward exercise. When they were not being over-charged for one service or the other, they would be subjected to all sorts of delays, shoddy arrangements (such as abject living quarters in Makkah and Madina), and the like.
Against this backdrop, it is not difficult to fathom why Nigerians in general and Muslims in particular were keenly interested in knowing whether the new NAHCON Chairman and Chief Executive would “come, see and conquer” or “come, see and become confused.” Granted, prior to his appointment Abdullahi Mukhtar Mohammed had distinguished himself as an accomplished administrator and outstanding manager of man and materials, but as most compatriots are well aware, all too often, it eventually turns out that glittering experience do not necessarily translate to remarkable on-the-job competence vis-à-vis a big outfit like the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria.
Abdullahi Mukhtar Mohammed would, however, soon prove that he is an uncommon brand of leader. For barely had he settle down as the helmsman of NAHCON than he hit the ground running, dazzling all and sundry with his management and administrative acumen. Before the very eyes of all stakeholders what had hitherto appeared like “mission impossible” started becoming as simple as A, B, C., Nigeria’s Hajj operations received a breath of fresh air, as evidenced by the following heart-warming highlights.
Since his appointment as NAHCON boss, a legion of innovative policies and programmes has been introduced by the commission. These include the improvement in the quality/capacity of service providers, introduction of a National Medical Teams (as opposed to the old situation whereby each state embarked on Hajj with its own large contingent of medical team) and increase in efficiency of airport screening, thereby reducing to only one or two hours (from between six to eight hours) the time spent by Nigeria pilgrims at Jeddah airport.
Then there are other laudable moves such as the drastic reduction in time spent by pilgrims at camp during Saudi-bound flights; reduction of rates of pilgrims accommodation (as well as improvement in their accommodation in Saudi Arabia); conveyance of all pilgrims’ luggage together with or ahead of their owners; and taking over the responsibility of delivering Zamzam water to for pilgrims – to mention only a few of the laudable initiatives that have made pilgrimage a thing to look forward to by the Nigerian Muslims.
In fact, ask say, ten stakeholders, and you dare say without fear of being proved wrong that nine of them would affirm that since Abdullahi Mukhtar Mohammed’s appointment, particularly in the past two years, NAHCON has truly taken giant strides in a way and manner that only few people could have predicted prior to his coming. But if you asked those who had known this gentleman fondly called the “Action Man of NAHCON,” they would not hesitate to point out that given his track record of performance and industry, they are not in the least surprise by the manner of pacesetting achievements that have come to define his leadership over the years.
In particular, the unprecedented level of empathy, responsiveness and selflessness that has been brought to bear on the welfare of Nigerian pilgrims in the Holy Land has been source of joy and pride to all and sundry. During a typical pilgrimage, the NAHCON Chief Executive does not only ensure that his officials accord priority to the pilgrims’ welfare and consular services/requirements, but works tirelessly day and night with a view to ensuring that both the staff and officials of all the states’ pilgrims boards/agencies as well as other stakeholders all ensure a hitch-free exercise.
From all indications, one would merely be stating the obvious in saying that in Abdullahi Mukhtar Mohammed, NAHCON is blessed with not just an able and visionary administrator who is second to none, but is also an embodiment of excellent leadership by example. As one of the Nigerian pilgrims to the last hajj put it eloquently, Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Mohammed is not just a patriotic Nigerian but one of the trusted and tested leaders of his generation and beyond.