By Abdul Jelil Adebayo
There is no doubt that there is a great transformation going on in the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission, NCPC. And the man destiny is using for the positive changes is the amiable and unassuming Executive Secretary of the Commission, Rev Dr Yakubu Pam.
He was a guest of President Bola TInubu at the State House, Abuja last Friday. And as it is being said often, it is not every day you see the king, neither is it every opportunity you shake hands with the President.
But out of many departments of government, Rev Pam had the singular privilege of meeting with and shaking the hands of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the presidential Villa, Aso Rock.
If you wash your hands very well, certainly you will dine with the elders, and the works of Pam has enabled him to have the golden handshake and a presidential nod from Villa confirming that he is doing a good job at NCPC.
The visit enabled Pam a golden opportunity to brief Mr. President on the activities and mandate of the only apex Christian faith-based Agency of government in Nigeria.
President TInubu while welcoming him to the Villa, acknowledged the good works Rev Pam had been doing in NCPC, especially his efforts at repositioning the Commission by making Christian pilgrimage more spiritual and developmental.
The president therefore urged him to be focused at all times, while pledging his support for him and the Commission.
Earlier Rev. Pam had intimated Mr. President of the Commission’s pilgrimage activities and programmes in Israel, Rome, Jordan and Greece.
The Executive Secretary also informed the President of the preparedness of the Commission to complete the 2023 Easter pilgrimage exercise to Israel and Jordan which was temporarily put on hold due to operational reasons.
According to him, about 1,000 intending pilgrims were on ground for the commencement of the Easter pilgrimage exercise which would kick start on the 18th of this month with the airlift of intending pilgrims from Lagos State, and would be followed by those from Bayelsa, Imo, FCT as well as self-sponsored pilgrims.
He cashed in on the opportunity of the visit to affirm the efficacy of using pilgrimage as a tool for national prayer retreat in the holy land.
He explained to Mr. President the pivotal role the Commission played during the last general elections in which the pilgrims interceded for the country in the holy land for a hitch free general election.
Rev Pam averred that the Commission in addition to its statutory mandate of supervising, coordinating, licensing and regulating Christian pilgrimage activities in Nigeria, it is also using its platform to engender peace across the country, considering the fact that without peace there would be no meaningful development anywhere in the world.
The Executive Secretary used the opportunity of the visit to congratulate President Bola TInubu for his successful inauguration as the 16th President of Nigeria.
He equally lauded Mr. President for the support and cooperation the Commission has enjoyed over the years. He solicited for more cooperation of the Federal Government in creating the enabling environment for pilgrimage activities to thrive in Nigeria because according to him, ;prayer is what has been keeping Nigeria together.
With the pat on the back and the assurance of Mr. President to assist the Commission in ensuring a peaceful voyage to the Holy land, the government has also agreed to assist the commission to offset its shortfall in the earlier monies paid by the intending pilgrims considering the current exchange rates.
The third substantive Executive Secretary of the NCPC indeed has not disappointed his principal by upholding the vision of the NCPC established by an Act of parliament in 2007, which is to be an organization providing excellent services and administration to Nigerian Christians who perform pilgrimage to Holy sites around the world.
It would be recalled that on assumption of office, Rev. Pam hit the ground running with unveiling the blueprint of his administration and articulated them in his six-point agenda. Chief among them is to fight and eradicate corruption, strategic engagement with the stakeholders, relationship building, reorientation of the mindset of people, creation of a Peace Desk in the Commission, amongst others.
He has been able to rekindle hope and trust in the Commission and this has engendered stakeholders’ respect and confidence in the Commission.
He has ensured that staff have been embarking on annual staff training and retreat unhindered, allowances of staff are paid as at when due and promotion of staff has been regular under his leadership
It is to his credit that for the first time since the establishment of the Commission, the production of NCPC maiden in-flight entertainment video was carried out and produced as approved by the Executive Secretary.
It will be recalled that efforts made before now to produce an in-flight entertainment video had never been possible. The In-flight entertainment helps to entertain pilgrims while on board and remove boredom.
Against all odds, Rev. Pam successfully introduced Jordan as a pilgrimage destination option; he was able to venture into a new pilgrimage destination the kingdom of Jordan for the first time in the history of Christian pilgrimage which was a child of necessity due to the prolonged closure of the Israel borders against international travels.
Therefore, one of the greatest achievements of Rev. Yakubu Pam in the last three years is his unflinching commitment to ensuring the Commission participates in pilgrimage despite the challenges of lack of operational funds.
He came up with the idea of producing the NCPC first screening manual. The Commission for the first time in its history was able to produce a screening manual which will serve as a guide for staff on screening exercise.
It is worthy of note that for the first time in twelve years, zero abscondment of pilgrims in Jordan as well as zero mortality and zero morbidity have been recorded. What a feat!
Abdul is an Abuja based media consultant at firstname.lastname@example.org