My heart pulsated on learning that I would be travelling to Saudi Arabia as an official of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON). I expected a calm and peaceful journey to the holy land, but the activities of some truant airliners involved in the airlifting operations robbed the pilgrims of these benefits.
For instance, take-off was made difficult by the truant airliners until NAHCON promptly intervened by contracting a jumbo jet which airlifted us to Jeddah on the eve of the closure of the Abdulaziz International Airport under the strict supervision of the Commissioner in Charge of Operations, Dr. Badmas Yusuf.
I was baffled by the high efficiency of beaureaucracy at Abdul Aziz Airport as security/immigration officials took us through the screening formalities without much fuss.
Each time I saw Malaysian pilgrims move in unison and in complete obedience to their officials, my heart bled, as their attitude contrasted sharply with ours. In fact, most of the problems we encountered during the pilgrimage were self-inflicted. Our pilgrims did not demonstrate frugality during the journey back home. While a Malaysian pilgrim would carry a small-sized bag, his Nigerian counterpart would carry two or more hand luggages, each of which was bigger than the prescribed size.
It is apparent from this attitude that many would not only have their luggage dropped, they would cause delay during the journey as airliners would refuse to accept such luggage. And where they did, it was at the expense of other pilgrims. Moreover, the hygeine of Nigerian pilgrims as with other African countries like Niger, Ghana, Benin Republic needs to be improved upon. This is not to completely absolve the Saudi Authority from blame. For instance, the approval of just one exit point contributed to the loss of direction and misplacement of hand luggage, and brought additional hardship to pilgrims who had to trek from the eastern side of the airport to the western side.