By Ayo Akinfe
(1) Annually, about 80,000 Nigerians perform the hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. On average, each trip costs about $5,000, which is way below the average Nigerian salary, so the government has to subsidise it from our meagre national resources
(2) Similarly, about 30,000 Nigerian Christians go on annual pilgrimages to Israel each year. According to the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Board, the cost of each fare is about $2,000
(3) Let is just so the arithmetic. Adding up these two figures, we are spending about $500m on annual pilgrimages. Now ask yourselves how many schools, hospitals and libraries $500m could build in Nigeria each year
(4) If Nigeria had been setting aside $500m each year for power generation, we would have been adding about 1,000MW to our generating capacity annually since 1960. I doubt if we would have any power shortages if we had been doing that
(5) What I actually find more exasperating is that we do nothing to promote religious tourism in Nigeria. I recently found out that Usman Dan Fodio’s tomb actually contains a black stone like the Kaaba. Why do millions of African pilgrims not visit it every year?
(6) Usman Dan Fodio was by far West Africa’s leading Muslim cleric. Indeed, the only African cleric who I would put on a par with him would be the Mahdi of Sudan. If you go to Omdurman in Sudan today, the mahdi’s tomb is a great tourist attraction, with visitors from Egypt visiting in their bus loads
(7) When it comes to the Christian faith, Samuel Ajayi Crowther was not only our first Anglican Bishop. He also translated the bible into Yoruba and Nupe. As far as I am aware, no other African cleric did this before him
(8) Today, Reverend Ajayi Crowther is buried at Ajele Cemetery in Lagos. Does this site even attract 500 tourists annually?
(9) Building tombs for saints is an age old tradition started by all the old faiths in the Egyptian, Inca and Pagan civilisations. In Turkey, the Pagans spent 120 years building a marble temple for Artemis. It contained his remains and attracted millions from across the Roman Empire annually, generating huge sums of revenue
(10) Given how religious we are as a people, I am surprised we have not latched on to this. I think it is time we started setting ourselves targets. Our National Assembly should pass a Religious Revenue Bill, mandating the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, to generate at least $10bn each annually in tourist revenue