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Pilgrims throng Mount Arafat for peak of hajj

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Their palms facing the sky, around two million Muslims gathered Thursday on Saudi Arabia’s Mount Arafat for the highlight of the hajj pilgrimage, one of the world’s largest annual gatherings.

Muslim worshippers, some carrying umbrellas to protect them from the scorching sun, gather for prayer at Namirah mosque near Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahmah (Mount of Mercy), where the Prophet Mohammed is believed to have given his final sermon, on August 31, 2017, ahead of the climax of hajj.

With temperatures pushing 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) under the desert sun, the faithful climbed the hill east of Mecca where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed gave his last sermon some 14 centuries ago. The second day of the hajj — a five-day pilgrimage which all Muslims must perform at least once in their lifetime if physically and financially able — is dedicated to prayer and reflection.

“I came up here last night and prayed, took pictures and called my family and friends,” said Maolana Yahia, 32, who made the trip from Indonesia. This year’s hajj has seen the return of pilgrims from Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran following a diplomatic row and a deadly stampede in 2015. But thousands who would normally make the journey from neighbouring Qatar are absent apart from a few dozen because of the diplomatic crisis shaking the Gulf.

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Helicopters flew around the area as the pilgrims converged from dawn on the Mount Arafat plain and the hill known as Jabal al-Rahma, or Mount of Mercy. Forming a sea of white, the pilgrims ascended the hill and took up positions to pray on rocks already heated by the morning sun. On the concrete pathways linking the plain to the hill, hundreds of thousands of devout Muslims invoked God, as others rested in makeshift tents or on sheets along the side of the road amid empty bottles and waste. – Beating the heat – Tunisian mother-of-three Fatima Arfawi said she was moved beyond words. “This is the first time I see anything like this, ever,” she said.

“This day is dedicated to prayer for my three children and my family.” In a hospital opposite the mountain, an area was set aside for people suffering dehydration or heat exhaustion. Saudi Arabia’s Red Crescent said it had deployed 326 ambulances along the pilgrimage route to handle health emergencies.

“Some pilgrims, for example, forget to protect their heads with an umbrella when they pray,” said Bandar Al-Harthi, a nurse at a hospital facing Mount Arafat. In the evening, the pilgrims will travel to Muzdalifa where they will spend the night before taking part in a symbolic stoning of the devil. The Jamarat Bridge, where the ritual is held, was the scene of a stampede in 2015 that claimed the lives of nearly 2,300 pilgrims — the worst disaster in the history of the hajj.

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Tehran reported the largest number of stampede victims, with 464 Iranians among the dead. – Politics and pilgrimage – The next year, amid heightened political tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Iranian pilgrims stayed away from the hajj after authorities from the two countries failed to agree on arrangements and logistics. Iranian authorities say more than 86,000 Iranian pilgrims are taking part this year, each equipped with an identity bracelet in case of any accident.

Reza, a 63-year-old former oil company official from Iran, said he was torn between the joy of taking part and lingering grief over the stampede. “They’ve taken more security measures otherwise we would not have come,” he said. Saudi Arabia says it has deployed more than 100,000 security personnel to keep pilgrims safe. At the foot of Mount Arafat, mobile barriers have been installed to control the movement of the crowds.

“They will be moved to enlarge the passages when there are more pilgrims,” said Ahmed al-Baraka of the Saudi security forces. Seated near the barriers at Mount Arafat, eight young women from Ghana who are all related took a brief respite after making their way from Mina, east of Mecca. Aged between 18 and 30, for some of them it was their first time away from home. “This is the first time I leave Ghana,” said 25-year-old Khadija. “My husband let me come alone because it is Mecca.” AFP

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Oyo: Makinde Mother’s Burial Holds December

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Body of Chief   (Mrs.) Abigail Makinde, the mother of Oyo state governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde will be interred  in the first week of December.

Governor Makinde disclosed this yesterday while playing host to a delegation from the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi Ogunlade Odundun II, which was in Ibadan, the state capital to commiserate with him on the death of his mother.

The governor said he was very delighted with the visit, urging Akure people, the kingdom where his mother was born, to actively participate in her funeral.

Makinde, who  described them as one of the most upright, bold  and honest  people in Yoruba land and the nation at large, also added that his late mother was a role model whose dedication to work, uprightness, boldness and honesty were the traits of Akure people.

A statement by Mr. Taiwo Adisa, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Makinde,  quoted the governor as saying “when you see an average Akure man or woman, you see courage and see people who are true to their words.”

While delivering the condolence message from the Deji of Akure, the leader of the delegation, who is the Asae of Akure Kingdom, Senior High Chief Sola Adegbonmire, described the governor’s mother as a worthy daughter of Akure Kingdom.

He stressed that the Omoregie family, where Madam Abigail Omojolagbe Makinde hailed from, is a family of exceptional and wonderful people in Akureland.

Oba Aladetoyinbo further described the death of Madam Makinde as a painful loss not only to the Makinde family but also to the entire Akure Kingdom.

He then prayed that God would grant the family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.

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‘My mother was an epitome of love, humility’ – Gov. Makinde mourns

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The Oyo  state governor, Engr Seyi Makinde, has described his late mother, Chief (Mrs.) Abigail Omojolagbe Makinde, as an epitome of love and humility, despite being a disciplinarian.

The governor stated this on Friday while receiving the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by the National Chairman, Prince Uche Sencondus, on a condolence visit to his house at Ikolaba GRA, Ibadan.

According to a statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, the governor expressed gratitude to the PDP NWC, noting that the fact that the leadership of the party made it to Ibadan barely 24 hours after Mama’s demise showed the love they have for him.

The statement also noted that apart from the PDP NWC entourage, the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Edo, and Delta States, Alhaji Daud Akinola, Chief Imam of Ibadanland, Sheikh AbdulGaniyy Abubakri Agbotomokekere, the Grand Mufti of Ibadanland, Sheikh Abdul Fatai Alaga, and other Muslim leaders also paid condolence visits to the governor.

Similarly, the Oyo State Judiciary led by the Chief Justice of the state, Justice Muntar Abimbola, and the General Officer Commanding, 2 Div, Nigerian Army, Ibadan, Major General Anthony Omozoje, were also at the Makinde residence to condole with the governor.

Speaking while receiving the PDP entourage, which included the National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu (retd); Deputy National Secretary; National Financial Secretary, Alhaji Abdullahi MaiBasira; National Woman Leader, Hajia Mariya Waziri; National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, as well a leader of the PDP from Osun State, Hon. Soji Adagunodo, Governor Makinde said the family remains grateful to God for the life Mama lived.

He said: “I want to thank you most sincerely for this condolence visit. I want to say, on behalf of myself, my wife, immediate family, and extended family, we are very grateful and appreciative of this visit. This happened yesterday morning and you are here this morning. It shows that you truly love me. So, I want to say thank you.

“Actually, we were preparing for my mummy’s 81st birthday, which would have been on the November 7, exactly three weeks from yesterday. But who are we to question God?

“We are grateful to God for the life she lived. To us, she was an epitome of love, humility. She was tough. If you see that trait in some of us, it came from her. And we also thank God that it was not like we were carrying her from one hospital to the other. She died peacefully in her sleep. So, we thank God for what He has done.”

Governor Makinde, who also took the opportunity to appreciate the PDP NWC for the confidence it had in him to lead the Ondo State governorship campaign, said what the outcome of the election meant was that the party would have to go back to the drawing board, adding that the campaign council will submit a report as soon as practicable.

“I will also like to use this opportunity to thank the National Working Committee of our great party for the opportunity you gave to us to lead the campaign in Ondo State. We can’t question God for the outcome of that election. What it means is that we have to go back to the drawing board. We will be submitting a report of those areas where we fell short, to the NWC as soon as practicable.

“I really want to use this opportunity to thank all of you who were there in Akure for the love of our party and for the support that you gave to our candidate in Ondo State.

“Once again, my Chairman, I am appreciative of this visit and I thank you and all the members of the NWC of our party.”

Earlier, the PDP national chairman said that the visit was to condole with the governor and the family for the loss of their mother.

He said: “A time like this is the time you know those who care and those who are with you. Unfortunately, we have two situations on our hands. We lost the chairman of the party in Zamfara. Obviously, we divided ourselves; the Deputy National Chairman of the party left for Zamfara yesterday morning for the burial of our late chairman of the party. And I and the rest of us in the National Working Committee leadership decided yesterday to come to Ibadan today.

“We are here by the grace of God to console you and the rest of the members of your family. We have no other way to do it than to join you in prayers.

“It is a very painful experience that you have to go through, sometimes alone. I know what it is because I have experienced it. It is only God that can fill the vacuum in your heart because the care of a mother is quite different from that of a father.

“So, on behalf of the leadership of our party, we are here to console you on this condolence visit. The Lord will strengthen you. And because you are one of our best and doing good works for the people of Oyo State and at this time that you are giving out your best, suddenly, God who gives has taken your beloved mother.

“We are here to share the pain and sorrow with you and to let you know we will continue in prayers during this period, even as we prepare for the funeral. After the funeral, we will continue to pray for you, your immediate and larger family. It is important for us to do so, having worked with you and having seen you as a man who is compassionate and cares for others.

“Today, we are here with you and we pray that God will energise you at this period and stretch His right hand of righteousness to touch every one of the members of the family to bear this great loss.

“Therefore, as members of the National Working Committee, we pray that God will keep you now and thereafter to make you continue to do the good work for the people of Oyo State

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Nigeria: Group drums support for #ENDSARS

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Benchmark Group of Nigeria on Friday declared its support for the ongoing peaceful #EndSARS protests, as Nigerians  speak up against police brutality.

Akanbi Bukola, founder of the group in a chat with Mega Icon Magazine said it is imperative to identify with Nigerians as protests continue around the country to end police brutality and the abuse of power by the institution established to protect its citizenry.

She noted that aside corruption and oppression from the hands of some elements of the Nigeria Police Force, “this time around, Nigerians, irrespective of faith, ethnic or political biases,  must come together to eradicate police brutality once and for all in the society”.

According to her, for many Nigerians, the police has failed to fulfill its mandate of providing public security as enshrined in the constitution, adding that officers are now viewed more as predators than protectors.

Akanbi lamented further that Nigerians struggling to make ends meet are accosted on a daily basis by these officers who demand bribes and commit abuses against them as a means of extorting money.

“Those who fail to pay are usually threatened with arrest and physical harm, by those expected to protect them”, she said.

Akanbi, however called for the overall reform of the country’s police force.

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