Rev. Yakubu Pam, the executive secretary of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC), who assumed office on July 7, this year, had a session with journalists recently. He spoke on his vision for the Commission and other sundry issues. ADOYI M. ABA was there.
How has it been so far?
Very good, I have been very busy. Of course, this is a new place that I have found myself now with so many challenges. So, first and foremost I have to adapt to working with new hands so that we will work as team players.
Secondly, I have to strategise to see how I will be able to sell my vision to them. And some of them have already learnt what I am trying to do from my body language and how they will be able to key into it. So far, I think everything is catching up fast.
What is your agenda for the Commission?
My main agenda for the Commission is that we should have a place where nobody will be seen or mentioning issue of corruption, because today in our country the issue of corruption is everywhere. And I feel that NCPC as a religious organisation even though a parastatal under government, we are purely dealing with religious people who want to have their time with God in the Holy Land and pray and be alone. If things like corruption are found here it will discourage them and also give us a bad image.
So, the first thing on my mind is that anything that has to do with corruption should be eliminated completely so that this Commission will live to its name and enjoy the entire character of Christ for which we are known. That is the first I have in mind which is what we call improving the image of the place. Everybody should be seen here as a Christ-like person who should obey the word of God and do what God says.
Secondly, I want to make this place to be like a family so that the staff would relate well with one another in such a way that competition that usually destroys the image of persons would not be allowed. We should know our respective places in the office. Everybody should know his jurisdiction. There should be limits. There should be respect in those offices. In terms of that we should be accountable to avoid unnecessary rivalries among staff. This is the kind of attitude I want to entrench in order for staff to get genuine promotion. Those are things that usually destroy an organisation. Living as a family is our second agenda.
Thirdly, we are linked with the issue of travelling abroad. Our image there for some time now has not been good. So, we want to improve our image. Our image there has been that some people go there and abscond. And as they do that they give us a bad image. Some people want to go there for the purpose of absconding and doing other terrible things. So, we have to fight against that. This is why we want to join hands with professionals to screen those that will go on pilgrimage. We want different agencies like the police, DSS and others to join hands with us so that we can detect those that may have other ideas about the pilgrimage.
You’ve talked about corruption. Sometimes corruption thrives where there are loopholes in the Act establishing a particular agency; how do you intend to check this at NCPC?
I have gone through the Act that established the Commission and that is why each time I talk I say my main or first priority is to make sure that we establish this place built on what the Act is saying, and to not to operate outside of the Act. That is the main objective of government in establishing the Commission.
Secondly, we’ve critically looked at the Act; that was what I discussed with the management staff this morning. The Act is very clear, one person here is the accounting officer and every other person comes to help so that the office of that person will succeed.
So, I reminded them I have the power, and that anyone of them that does not do well will be fired. No one should operate outside the office of the executive secretary. Whoever is here is here to help the office of the ES. So, if the ES is the type that dances for money, he creates loopholes, but I have sounded it very clear that I have not come here to look for money. I came here to make sure that the Commission becomes an institution where the government can pick staff from to other places where corruption exists to help stem it. Government will say we have seen that your people are transparent because you have trained them very well, so let them go to other commissions to purge the place of corruption so that things will go well in that place. So the Act is very clear, there are no two ways about it. We will all build up this place so that we will all succeed.
Is it safe now for Nigerians to go to the Holy Land, and if it not, when are we looking at?
Right now it is not safe, but we hope that before December, things will get better. So, if before December things get better, we are ready as every process is on ground. We plan to screen those that will embark on the journey. We hope and pray that things get better. In case things do not go the way we have envisaged, hopefully, in the first quarter of next year we would definitely move. Everything is on ground now for the exercise.
What strategies has the Commission put in place to reduce possible discriminations against Nigerians?
First and foremost, like I said earlier, I will ensure that we improve the image of our people. Sometimes they look down on us because of our behaviours outside the country. So, if we elevate our image to that of integrity, we will have that respect.
Secondly, we will also have to do a lot of public relations. Most times we want to behave the same way we behave at home. When you are in a foreign land you should try to behave well. Don’t behave big out there. The first time I went to America, that was a long time ago, being a pastor, I stayed in man’s his house who is also a pastor. One day he said he was going to the store to bring carry cartons of perfume to the car, and he said I should stay back at home. But I said I would not. So, I put on my shorts like he did and said let’s go, but he said you are a pastor and I said pastor for what? Then he came back and said you are quite different from the others. According to him, some pastors will say as a Bishop I won’t do this kind of work. No, be humble! I think we have to talk to our people to encourage them to be humble, because humility pays a lot.
So, relationship matters; for Israel, we are trying to see how we will relate with the ambassador, he is yet to visit us. We will start by first visiting him. We should raise our level of relationships. They too are experiencing crises – the Israelis and the Palestinians. So, the world is calling for peace. We have to let them know that peace is our agenda. As far as they want peace there, we also want peace here and we can work together on the side of peace. I think that will produce something good.
From what you seen in the Commission, do you have any fears?
Well, I have only one fear. And the fear is within, not outside. If within we have corrupt staff, we have people who, despite all I am putting on ground to see that this place becomes transparent, to make this place an institution of integrity, want to sabotage it, then there will be nothing like peace. I have two sides of me, one is for peace, good relationship, and the other is for fighting and when I fight I have good reasons for fighting. And I have never failed whenever I’m caused to fight. That is the only fear I have, not from the outside, but right here at the Commission. I have continued to say that I’ve not come here for money and I am not interested in money anyway. What is due for staff I will make sure they have it; nobody should strive to enrich himself/herself fraudulently. I detest gossips!
What do you want Nigerians to remember you for at the end of your tenure?
I want Nigerians to remember me as a man who loves relationships. That is my big word – leadership is all about relationships. When we relate well with one another, there will be no issues of tribalism; there will be no issues of nepotism; there will be no issues of religion. Beyond that we will strengthen nationhood, we will strengthen unity. That is what I want Nigerians to remember me for.