Not too long ago, the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) was in the news for the wrong reason. The immediate past substantive Executive Secretary was unceremoniously eased out of office for alleged inappropriate behaviour. Recently, another substantive Executive Secretary (ES) was appointed in his place in the person of Reverend Yakubu Pam, a man who has been very active in Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) circles. Ordinarily, he ought to be seen as a square peg on a square hole.
But the reality is that CAN and a government agency like NCPC are two different institutions. One is strictly religious, the other is also religious with an undisguised political undertone encumbered by underlying minefield. Rev Pam is not pretending not to know this. Picking his way in the minefield and coming out unscathed is one of the tasks he has set for himself and for which we wish him well. He has a credible image which he guards jealously and he intends to implant that positive image on the commission. He is aware of past mistakes in the commission. He owes himself and the Christian community in Nigeria a duty to correct the identified errors in its management so as to bring it in sync with national development.
In the opinion of this newspaper, he is expected to rebrand the image of the commission to reflect its estimation as an agency of government set apart to propagate the high values associated with Christianity. What this entails, we dare say, is that the commission, on his watch, is going to be scrutinised even more minutely. To that extent, therefore, the ES has no choice but to run it in such a transparent manner that will reflect the wholesome perception of it as an association of members of the body of Christ.
In doing this, we admonish the Executive Secretary to remove all acts and tendencies that can lure the commission and its staff into attitudes unbecoming of such an organisation that loom large in the people’s expectation. Within the limits of available resources, this newspaper is compelled to suggest that he makes staff welfare one of his priorities. It should be paramount so as to eliminate any inclination to behaviour that will bring disrepute to the commission. In saying this, we are also aware that certain people can still be lured into malfeasance regardless of efforts to meet their needs. However, the point we are putting across is that the Executive Secretary should satisfy his conscience that he did his best to eliminate the possibility of any member of staff succumbing to circumstances that lead to avoidable misbehaviour.
Before now and to most people, pilgrimage to the holy land is seen as a jamboree of sorts. Some see it as a tourism event. That should not be. We encourage the new helmsman at the commission to enrich pilgrims’ activities in the holy land in such a way as to ensure that proper planning is made before embarking on a pilgrimage. Pilgrimage travels must be filled with positive gains to demonstrate the essence of nationhood and peace building. The outcome of the exercise must be ingrained in the life of the pilgrims themselves who in turn will apply it to the challenges the country is facing with the intention of seeking divine intervention in the life of the nation and the people as a whole.
Unfortunately and regrettably, some pilgrims also use what is meant to be a religious activity as an opportunity to escape from the country in search of what has become an elusive greener pasture. The new Executive Secretary must find a way to check this thinking among pilgrims who, in trying to achieve this goal, lie with the name of God. What can be done in this regard, in our view, is for the commission to ensure proper screening of anyone aspiring to visit the Holy Land, impound their passport on arrival and let the security agencies be part of monitoring the pilgrims to make sure that they play by the rules. Furthermore, we believe that it is also part of the commission’s job to educate intending pilgrims properly about the benefits of a sincere pilgrimage in which the love of God is at the centre of it all.
It is pertinent to emphasise that the commission by its very complex nature as a religious cum political agency of government is one place that those seeking for patronages of whatever description should stay away from. It is one place that no one should expect to recoup political investment. It has the eye of not just the government on it but also the Christian community that it was set up to serve. The commission is like a goldfish with no hiding place.
The Executive Secretary must be aware that serving God and Man is a very delicate business which requires the grace of God for him to be able to carry out without blemish. He needs all the support he can muster in this effort at meeting the expectations of a very critical audience.