Gyang Bere, Jos
The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC), Rev. Yakubu Pam, has urged Nigerians to organize themselves and kick against politicians who incite people to kill themselves through crisis in the country.
He noted that with the blank approval given to him by President Muhammadu Buhari on national peace building, he has visited all the troubled zones in the country, where he reconciled warring communities, Christians and Muslims, to strengthen peace and unity of the country through the NCPC. Excerpt:
You have been holding peace summit in troubled states across the country, you have held one in Southern Kaduna, Plateau and Taraba, what did you observe as the root causes of these crises and how can the issues be resolved?
Well, I have been on ground and some of the causes of these crises are local issues that community leaders didn’t attend to in good time and they degenerated into criminality. You will believe me that each community has criminal elements among itself and if issues like boundary adjustments are there and you couldn’t resolve them in good time, you leave it lingering, the two communities will start fighting coupled with so many other state issues. We have issues of grazing, we have cows destroying crops, these are little issues before some people, but to the farmers they are issues of importance because that is what they depend on completely. Also, for the locals to kill or steal a cow, it looks very simply, but it is a very serious issue, but what I am saying is that when those things were there, there was no mechanism to resolve them locally and when they blew up, they begin to shake the unity of the country, they begin to destroy the strong foundation of unity among the people and there is nothing that destroys more than rumour. Rumour is not reality, it is shadow, but it works more than reality, it creates division and those who released the rumour know what they want to achieve. To me, these are some of the causes of crises in the country, there could be many more causes. My advice always is that communities must sit down to restructure themselves in such a way that they will have primitive way of gathering intelligence when something happened. They should know what causes it, their leadership should be strong because it is not everything that the authorities will come from the top to come and resolve for you. There are also heavy matters that belong to the state, so the state will not be absent in all issues, there are some local government chairmen who spent more of their time at the state capital or go to Abuja and stay, it is wrong. When you are the chief executive in in your local government, you should always identify with the people and settle some of the issues that are bordering your people. What we do is that we go into the community, bring the people together and guide them on how to resolve their issues by themselves after identifying the problems while the issues that are above them, we bring in government to help resolve it for them. To me, people need to wake up because if we begin to go with the society that is not organized like the way it is, you will see people killing themselves without even knowing the reason. Communities need to be well organized, if we are well organised we can help the government succeed, if we are well organised we can vote in or vote out a government, but if we are not organized, the politicians will just be using us and we can’t vote them out so what they want is for us to be disorganized always. The most important thing is for us to be organized and once we are organized, we can resolve our issues by ourselves and if this is done, the killing in the country will stop.
You just told us that you have a presidential blank approval on national peace building and you are the chief executive of this exalted office, how effective will you be in building national peace and guiding Christians in search of their salvation?
Well, to me it is the same work, Jesus Christ is the Prince of peace, He came because the world needed peace and if we are doing this for salvation, it is geared towards peace, regaining who you are, just like the prodigal son. Peace is not all about the wealth that you have, it is not all about the cloth that you have, but it is about the inner calmness that you need. We are educating people to know that the devil really wants us to kill ourselves, so we better come to terms with the reality, many people have killed themselves, but the crises has not finished, a lot of ugly things have happened, but the killing is still going on, therefore, the best thing is for us to sit down and resolve some of these things. That is why we can combine the issues of traveling to the Holy land and the search for national peace, it works together. I discovered the search for peace is not about the professionalism, but it is about the genuineness of the heart. There are people who have studied peace educationally to a higher level, but when you are genuine, people know that you are genuine, that is why today I can call on both Christian and Muslim together and they will come, I have done that several times and it has reduced most of the issues. I am not pretending over what I am doing and I am not doing it because I want to earn approval from Mr President, he knows that I was doing that before he gave me the current appointment and I need more approval from the masses. The president has to give me blank approval for national peace so that I will not be suspected for doing what I am doing, but then I need more approval from Nigerians, when they look at what I am doing in terms of building national peace, he will say this man knows what he is doing.
One of the problems that has bedeviled the Christian pilgrim is when people go to the Holy land, they disappear, what is your plan to tackle the issues of abscondment?
The issue of abscondment is a very serious issue and what we are planning for 2020 pilgrimage is to have a zero abscondment. First, we believe that we will have it by the grace of God because of the strategies that we have put in place. We have created awareness from one state to the other; from one zone to the other, telling people the danger of absconding and that has dent our image internationally. Every citizen should be proud of his or her country. We told them the danger and the disadvantage of absconding when they go out for Pilgrims. If you go to Israel, you will see people suffering, running from one end to another when the Israeli government begins to search for those who do not have the proper papers to stay and you will see Nigerians sleeping in gutters. That shouldn’t be your story and many people who did that don’t know the implication, if they knew they wouldn’t have done that. Secondly, we say intended pilgrims who have been approved by government, will have to sit down for three days to receive lectures and they will be educated against the implication of abscondment rather than just farewell. We will insist that once you have been approved to go, you will have to sit down for that three days and listen to the lectures no matter how highly placed except for the governors who we cannot ask them to come and sit down for three days and a governor cannot abscond and leave his seat to go and stay in Israel, but others must come and sit down for that three days for thorough awareness. Thirdly, we will place sanction on those who guarantee or stand as surety for you, they will be arrested if you abscond and we are working on certain amount that they either pay or go to jail. That will make people to be more careful on how they stand as guarantor for people who have questionable character, so it is not going to be business as usual. Lastly, we are going to apply intelligence right from the screening process and we will also have our intelligence at the airport, they can dictate what you can do even at the last minute, so with this strategies on ground, it will be difficult for someone to abscond.
As we speak, Christian pilgrims don’t usually go to Rome again because of one issue or the other, what will you do to ensure a complete package of the pilgrimage during your tenure?
Our Act spelled out clearly where we are supposed to go, it is Israel and other countries, where Jesus Christ touched his foot on. You can go to Rome and still come back to Israel or you may start from Israel and then go to Rome and you may also say you want to go Greece, but you must come back to Israel because the Act specifically mentioned that you must go to Israel. You may say you want to go to Egypt because Jesus also had his time there, we have Ethiopia and other countries like that.
How do you intend to change the tourist adventure in Christian pilgrimage?
It is lack of knowledge, going to pilgrimage is not about tourism, but about prayer. When we step into Taraba State Government House, the governor shared his experience about how God answered his prayers for his re-election into office for the second tenure, he prayed to God and he was answered. There are many other people who have similar testimonies, we are not going there for buying and selling, but for prayer to God.
Are you satisfied with the way you have fared so far as the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC)?
Well, in every journey there are long term and short term goals, but for me, I am satisfied with the short term goals we have. This is because the reason for establishing this agency is to make sure that people travel to Jerusalem and come back safely, to ensure that while they are in Israel, they give the country good image. We should be proud of our own country as Nigeria and we should be proud of Nigerians outside the country, that is what we are supposed to be doing here. When I came into office, I make sure that we make Nigerians once again feel the urge of going to Israel for pilgrimage, this is because the Commission has been abused in the previous years for various activities that are anti-establishment Act and because of this we have to make sure that we work hard. Within the few days on office, we have actually worked hard with the help of the media, we have reached out to people giving the other things that were done here that have make people lost the interest of going to Jerusalem. We now have people both as body and individuals who are willing to sponsor people, governors are now pledging to start sponsoring people from their states. Good relationship and respect has now been restored back to the commission, and that to me is the only way the commission can survive when respects and hope is restored. Beyond restoring hope and respect outside there, within the workers are very happy because a lot of activities that they were not doing before they are participating in now. As we speak, the workers are in a training in Lagos which they did last was in 2013 and so they are very happy now, the commission which is like a family has it joy restored.