The President, Mr John Agyekum Kufuor, has charged those entrusted with the organisation of this year's Hajj to discharge their duties honourably and efficiently to ensure a problem-free pilgrimage this year.
He reminded them not to thwart the life-long ambition of their fellow Muslims in fulfilling their sacred obligation because it was tantamount to acting against the holy teachings of Islam.
President Kufuor gave the advice when he joined Muslims from all walks of life at the Independence Square in Accra last Saturday to observe the Eid-Ul-Fitr festival to commemorate the end of the Muslim Holy month of fasting.
"They should not be enticed by lucre or a sense of profit from the transactions," the President said, adding that with the completion of the celebration of the festival, many Muslim faithful would, in due course, be preparing to fulfil yet another important pillar of Islam.
He, therefore, expressed the hope that this year's organisation would be one without stress for those who wished to undertake the pilgrimage.
The celebration, which was also attended by the Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, and the Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu, attracted several thousands of Muslim faithful from all parts of the country.
The Muslims said prayers and recited verses from the Quran, their Holy Book. The organisation of the Hajj in the past few years by the National Hajj Council (NHC) has generated a lot of dissatisfaction among Muslim stakeholder organisations, a situation which led to the formation of the Ghana Pilgrimage Organisation (GPO), of which the NHC refused to be incorporated.
Subsequent to that, an Interim Hajj Management Committee was constituted, under the auspices of the National Chief Imam, with members drawn from the NHC and among the regional Imams to organise this year's Hajj.
President Kufuor, who was gorgeously dressed like a Muslim in a show of solidarity, regretted that "this important spiritual obligation has in the past been fraught with many problems, largely due to planning deficiencies and the pursuit of parochial interests by some members of the Hajj committees".
While congratulating the Muslims on their one-month fast, President Kufuor noted that the Ramadan fast had undoubtedly afforded devotees the unique opportunity to rekindle their faith and commitment and had thus received the much-needed strength to continue with their religious and civic responsibilities.
The President recounted the challenges that the water level in the Akosombo dam brought to the nation and the economy as a whole and expressed his gratitude to God for saving the situation to bring the national development agenda back on track.
"It is now incumbent on all of us to learn the lessons of the past year and vow never to relapse into that painful experience again," he said.
President Kufuor was of the view that with such an attitudinal change in the use of national assets, backed by continued good governance and the prudent management of the national economy, Ghana would be well on its way to attaining the goal of a middle-income status in the not-too-distant future.
"In pursuing this laudable goal, we, as a people, must also cultivate the virtues of patience, tolerance and fellow-feeling and endeavour to eschew all forms of violence and anti-social conduct," he said.
President Kufuor said the peace that Ghana enjoyed now should not be taken for granted but rather guarded jealously for the benefit of future generations.
He charged all Ghanaians to contribute their quota in building a country where "liberty will not descend into chaos and where freedom will be exercised with responsibility and fellow-feeling".
President Kufuor also called on all segments of society to take the issue of education seriously.
"In a rapidly globalising world, the qualities that will give anyone a competitive advantage are intellectual and creative abilities which can only be cultivated through investment in a balanced education," he said.
Sheikh Sharubutu, who led the prayers, said the Eid-Ul-Fitr was auspicious for Muslims to rejoice in the spiritual success which they had acquired during the 30-day fasting period.
He, therefore, urged Muslims to let the virtues of nobility and human dignity that they had imbibed during the period of fasting to “shine in full glory and continue to shine in the subsequent months ahead of us”.
Sheikh Sharubutu urged Muslims to work together and strengthen the spirit of genuine brotherhood, solidarity, fraternity and co-operation which were the foundations of unity.
He asked Muslims to invest in the education of their children, since that was the only way the children could become responsible citizens and contribute to the socio-economic development of the country.
He prayed for lasting peace in the country and asked God to “make the best among us the leaders of our nation”.
Story by Charles Benoni Okine & Musah Jafaru