Government wants no hand in Hajj Politics.... After a US$600,000 bailout this year The Press Secretary to the President and Presidential Spokesman, Mr. Kwabena Agyei Agyepong has described the attempt by certain individuals and groups of people to divide the country along ethnic and religious lines as "undesirable and utterly unpatriotic." and that is high time well meaning Ghanaians condemned in no uncertain terms their fellow compatriots who had made the "creation of wedges" amongst different sections of the society their stock in trade.
The Press Secretary was reacting in an interview with the Accra Daily Mail to a story carried earlier this month in one of Accra's numerous political newspapers, which sort to create the impression that President J.A. Kufuor, was anti-Muslim.
Mr. Agyepong said the paper's story was clearly part of grand plan to sow seeds of hatred among Muslims towards the President. Said Mr. Agyepong, "The facts clearly do not support such a view.
This is a President who has appointed as his Vice-President for two consecutive terms a law biding, God-fearing and devout Muslim in the person of Alhaji Aliu Mahama. It is a historic feat which has never occurred in the contemporary political history of our country."
In the story in question a claim was made that the President did not honour an invitation to a Hajj Conference and had therefore slighted Muslims and showed his anti-Muslim sentiments.
Mr. Agyepong described the claims as unfounded because the President had shown himself consistently as "a true and great friend of Muslims."
The Press Secretary made reference to the recent glitches which affected the Hajj pilgrims which prompted the President to request extra funds to the tune of over $6000,000.00 to deal with the crisis.
"Such a gesture of goodwill marks the President out as being deeply concerned about the welfare of Muslims."
He explained that invitations to the President had to go through laid down rules or protocol which could not be short-circuited adding that the fact that the President could not attend a function he had been invited to was not a mark of disdain or disrespect.
On organizational problems, which seem to continuously hound the Hajj yearly, the Press Secretary said the issue needed closer and detailed scrutiny for any lasting solutions.
He said all well meaning Muslims and the government had a stake in making sure that Mecca bound Muslims underwent their scared religious obligations without any undue and avoidable hassles.
He said beyond the personal level, even the political tradition to which the President belonged had demonstrated impeccable affinity to Muslims in Ghana.
"Victor Owusu in 1979 had a Muslim gentleman as his running mate in the person of the Tolon Na. Again in 1992 Professor. Albert Adu- Boahen had Alhaji Roland Alhassan, a Muslim as his running mate.
Clearly any attempt to label President Kufour's political or behaviour as anti-Muslim is laughable."
It would be recalled that last month a coalition of Muslim groups met in Accra to discuss how to make the Hajj organization more efficient following the many complaints that were leveled against this year's organization.
The adverts for the event announced that the President and his Vice would be present at the opening of the conference. They were both unable to attend and this was picked up by some of the organizers and the NDC media as a slight to Muslims.
Over-reliance on political patronage has been one of the major problems of Hajj organization in Ghana and many observers had expected that the conference would have been truly independent without the "distinguished patronage" of any politicians.
Already, for trying to politicize the Hajj conference because President Kufuor was not at the opening session, it can be argued that it has started on the wrong foot by making politics the public face of the conference.
Mr. Agyepong concluded that the "Hajj is a deeply spiritual undertaking and we must try not to stain it with our worldly politics."