The Man Mai Aliyu Usman: Leadership And Dedication In Hajj Management

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By Muhammad Bukar Kime

“He who strives, finds.”

In 2022, the Executive Governor of Yobe State, Hon. Mai Mala Buni CON appointed Mai Aliyu Usman Biriri as the helmsman of the State’s Pilgrims’ Commission. Though a seasoned administrator who had worked in several Ministries in the State as a Permanent Secretary and as an Islamic cleric whom we stay glued to our television set to watch and listen to as children, many doubting thomases doubted his capacity to head the Commission- their reason being that he has not being in the Hajj administration before. It is mind-blowing how people easily forget that every journey starts with a misstep. Mistakes are inevitable when we start something new and we shouldn’t be discouraged by initial setbacks, as they are part of learning process. Those in the academia will understand this better where a Post-Graduate Thesis undergoes series of academic critique until it reaches a certain level of perfection that will later make it an award-winning work. With patience being the key to relief, the Executive Chairman persevered and this resulted in better outcomes. Matters they say are judged by their outcomes.

However, The Man Mai Aliyu despite all odds didn’t give room for the doubting thomases. He defied the naysayers by staying firm and applying wisdom in all he does. As an astute administrator, he demonstrated core skills which distinguish him.  I thought of writing this piece after the completion of his first Hajj Operation as the Chairman of the State Pilgrims Commission who saw first-hand how the Man worked along his staff right from Hajj Transit Camp in Maiduguri to their departure, something whispered to me that people will say it is too early to carry my trumpet and sing his praise. I shelved the idea of telling the world how he actively participated in the nerve-breaking Hajj Operations. Anyone who knows how Hajj Operations works will tell you how tiring the work is that one can compare it with nothing but a battle field. One has to anticipate the worse and act swiftly to forestall any unpredicted and never-thought- of conundrum.

Fast forward to 2024, the Man Mai Aliyu came with another rigour, vigour, commitment, extra energy and braveness of a General to this Year’s Hajj Operations. Least I forget, what makes some works easy for the Man Mai Aliyu is his power that lies in effective communication that will dowse any tension or confusion that arises either on Camp, Madina, Makkah or anywhere amongst Pilgrims. He ensures he keeps track of what all the committees set are doing. His doors are open for any complaints for problem solving and redress. If you are wondering where his good communication skills and on the field complaint-handling skill comes from, he was a teacher for years.  His ability to speak the language which 80 plus percent of the State’s Pilgrims speak was and is an added advantage and will continue to be. His near native fluency of Kanuri Language is another tool he uses. You will see him cracking the Fulani-Kanuri banters with Kanuri speaking pilgrims. The Fulani and Kanuri satirical jokes makes the both his office staff, Pilgrims and Hajj Stakeholders like the Customs, Immigration, NDLEA, POLICE, FAAN officials, HAJJ REPORTERS, NAHCON ZONAL staff and others too numerous to mention endear him the more.  Humility they say is the crown of manhood. His wealth of experience also came handy when ensuring devolution of power in the office.

As a youth myself who is just in his early 30s, I find it difficult to understand how a man of his age will stand on his feet at the Maiduguri International Airport for hours and leave until the Flynas Aircraft departs. This, between me and God, he did in all the flights that airlifted the Pilgrims. At some point, myself and other staff of the Commission had to rest at the Airport’s departure lounge and come back to the airside to continue standing with the workaholic Chairman.

It was during one of such foot arching waiting(s) for takeoff when a Max Air aircraft landed. When passengers started coming out of the plane, lo and behold, the Executive Chairman of the National Hajj Commission was among the passengers. It was an unscheduled visit to see for himself how the airlift was going at the Maiduguri Airport. He was very happy and impressed to see Yobe’s Executive Chairman standing on his feet alongside mid-level and junior staff, assisting pilgrims to board the Flynas Airbus that had started boarding.

Abba Jato Kala — Board Member, North East (left), Mai Aliyu Usman — Yobe State Pilgrims Chairman (middle), Malam Jalal Ahmad Arabi — NAHCON Chairman (right)

You will hardly see a sign of fatigue in him but you will not fail to see the anger boiling in his heart when he comes across anomalies that keeps occurring from either his staff or anyone. But guess what? In the next couple of minutes, you will see him blushing and returning pleasantries as if it wasn’t him you saw boiling in rage minutes ago!

Caption: Executive Chairman (left) and Commission Secretary (right) waiting at the airport.

His active supervisory role in all Hajj activities reminds me of Lt. Moore’s words where he tell his soldiers that when they go to battle, he will be the first to set foot on the field, and He will be the last step off, and leave no one behind. And this he did. In 2023 Hajj Operations that resulted in the invasion of Mina tents by Taqari Pilgrims that resulted in inadequate tents for Pilgrims, the Executive Chairman didn’t stay behind to see his Pilgrims suffer. He mobilized his staff and Local government fare collectors to go round the tents allocated for Yobe Pilgrims to trace and flush out all illegal hajjis. From time to time, my mind still recalls seeing him on his Ihram entering tent to tent to cushion the constraints of space management at that time.

I recall how the Executive Chairman and the Commission’s Secretary joined in the room-to-room search until midnight to identify and send out illegal squatters who had taken over pilgrims’ bed spaces. I remember how this exercise took us until daybreak to finish. Anyone who knows Daraqum Hotel knows it to be a place where illegal African migrants display their wares and sell Nigerian foods, which made our 2023 accommodation a safe haven for them to lurk behind.

See, Hajj management is something whose difficulty is only fully understood by its managers. Like teachers, the reward of Hajj managers is in heaven. He is such a good human resource manager with a resounding human relation that anyone who has come across him can attest to.

He stayed with the Pilgrims in the same Hotel accommodation to ensure all their welfare and needs are provided.

Another thing I still vividly remember was during the movement of Pilgrims from their Hotel accommodations to Jeedah Airport. Most of the flights were at night, he left his comfort to join in coordinating the movement of Pilgrims to Jeedah Airport. An exercise that lasted from late evening to the late end of the night.  This, he continued till the end of the outbound flights.

Another thing that I was really impressed with was how during a post-Hajj meeting with NAHCON in Abuja, where the Executive Chairman took full responsibility of not adhering to just one out of 1000 don’ts. Unlike others that will never admit their wrongdoing and find people to blame. We all know how blaming others is always easier than admitting your own faults or shortcomings. To date, I respect him for this sportsmanship. The greatest lesson I learned from this is that it is better to be humble and prevent future occurrence than shift blames onto someone.

Caption: Executive Chairman delivering a pre-departure message to the pilgrims. Pilgrims.

He proved doubters wrong especially this year by not giving any room for saboteurs and detractors. This was achieved by the constant prayers for a successful Hajj Operations in the office when the obligatory prayers are said.  May this continue for many years to come.

Astonishingly, while partaking in this year’s Hajj committee work that involves full interaction with Pilgrims and Hajj Stakeholders, I lost count of the number of times people commend this year’s Hajj Operations and wished the Commission and its captain will sustain the tempo.

While trying to drop my pen at this juncture, a WhatsApp message just popped up on my phone. The pictures sent to our office WhatsApp platform show the Executive Chairman of the Commission, who works round the clock, welcoming pilgrims to Makkah accommodation and ensuring they all get their bed spaces before he retires to his room.

Our ears on the ground, we are anxiously waiting to hear more news of continued and renewed commitment from the Chairman and staff of the Commission, we wish all the Guests of Ar-Rahman who are partaking in this year’s Hajj a successful Hajj.  May God Almighty grant them pardon, forgiveness, guidance and mercy.


Muhammad Bukar Kime wrote from Damaturu- Yobe State Pilgrims Commission



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