Lessons From Adamawa State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board

Governor Muhammadu Jibrillah Bindow of Adamawa State
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By Nelson Tiddawa
The role of leadership in any organisation, is to harness resources for the perpetual realisation as well as fulfillment of the aims and objectives of the organization. Adamawa state Christian pilgrims welfare board, like its contemporaries in the country is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring smooth conduct of pilgrimage for intending pilgrims from Adamawa state. Way above that, is to make Christian pilgrimage beneficial to the state particularly with the recent huge resources government commits into the exercise.
In Christianity, Pilgrimage is neither mandatory nor part of what can be referred to as doctrine of the church. I lack the authority to delve into the debates as to whether or not pilgrimage has anything to add to ones spirituality particularly if one considers how stakeholders in the field always grapple with the topic each time it comes under spotlight. If my Sunday school and Sunday sermons knowledge is anything to go by, one is tempted to reason that since faith which is the pivot around which Christianity revolves, comes ( even) by hearing, whereby blessed are those who do not wait to see before they believe, pilgrimage can be said to be mere tourism unless something is done to give the exercise a touch of spiritual significance.
Until recently, pilgrimage used to be a prerogative of the Christian clergy and leaders of the Christian faith community. It served the good purpose of exposing, basically, christian leadership cadre, to the cultural setting of the birthplace of Jesus and by extension, the earthly birthplace of Christianity. When these leaders saw and developed firsthand knowledge of Israel, and the living proofs of physical reality that indeed Christ came in human form and lived among men with flesh and blood, it helped boost their ability to interpreted the synoptic gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John with near perfect precision. It helped the Pilgrims who were mainly church leaders, to also understand the context of bible traditions and enabled the development of the indigenization of the gospel among local congregations back at home.
In those years of pristine conduct of Christian pilgrimage, churches, individuals and other Christian interest groups sponsored their pastors and religious leaders to Israel for pilgrimage. It was common to see Church members, particularly women groups known as zumuntan mata, in their accustomed fanfare in motorcades, in or out of departure or arrival points to bid farewell or to welcome their pilgrims who also doubled as their leaders. Their was life and glamour attached to being a pilgrim. The JP title used to carry with it a lot of responsibility and piety. It was hard to find a JP with such a debouched life which the teachings of Christ frowns at.
The abuse of Christian pilgrimage can be traced and more recently to the government policy of sponsoring pilgrimage which it does to both Christian and Muslim pilgrimage. I have never supported the use of public funds to promote religion of any kind, Christianity or Islam. I believe strongly that government has no business in religion except to regulate the practice of religion, especially the major religions of Islam and Christianity. I am of the opinion that government through both the Christian and Muslim pilgrim welfare commissions at the national level as well as the boards at the state level should be doing more of facilitating smooth conduct of pilgrimage than sole sponsorship. Total reliance on government for everything, including the fulfilment of religious aspirations or obligation is a wasteful way of running our country especially now that we are broke as a nation. It also breeds the rot where pilgrimage is now a reward for loyalty to the politician who now decides who becomes JP or Alhaji.
Sadly, government is the highest sponsor of pilgrimage and the present day stigma attached to being a pilgrim from Nigeria during pilgrimage is the unfortunate consequence of sponsoring on pilgrimage, people who should ordinarily have nothing to do with pilgrimage. The benefit of the exercise has since shifted by this government sponsorship,from spiritual rewarding exercise to merely qualifying for basic traveling allowance (BTA). Little wonder that premium is placed on BTA by pilgrims rather than the essence of the pilgrimage exercise.
It is sad that the success or otherwise of Christian pilgrimage, is now evaluated , and erroneously by the pilgrims themselves, solely on BTA.
The resort to use of pilgrimage to settle loyalists and political party supporters by government and its officials, is the reason why drug peddling, abscondment of pilgrims, unholy practices during pilgrimage and many other challenges now characterise our pilgrimages, both Christian and Muslim.
How can we reverse the trend?
Consciously or unconsciously, the Christian pilgrims welfare board in Adamawa state is making good and remarkable effort towards repositioning Christian pilgrimage in Adamawa state. The board appears to be gradually taking the sponsorship of pilgrimage away from the government and placing it back into private hands where it belongs. The board through its “Touch a heart” initiative will go a long way in reawakening the long lost responsibility towards Christian pilgrimage . With the economic recession biting harder, it is not hard to discern that possible government economic recovery plans might soon demand for government withdrawal from sponsoring pilgrimage or a possible reduction in the number of persons that can be accommodated on the exercise. Therefore, the Touch a Heart initiative is timely and comparable to that of the biblical sons of Issachar who had the understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do.
Another related wisdom is the agricultural component which the board introduced into the pilgrimage exercise. There is no need emphasising the fact that if indeed pilgrimage confers spiritual leadership responsibility on the JP, then teaching them the Israeli model of agriculture will help them to not only return home to teach others, but to also practice it as a way of ensuring food sufficiency, job creation and stimulating economic growth and recovery. However, there is need for a possible partnership with the private sector to provide soft loans to these pilgrims who are trained, as a way of ensuring that knowledge learnt is not allowed to waste due to the difficult process of obtaining loans in the country.
The board can seek for possible partnership to set up demonstration farms as well as research centres to fully domesticate those learnt skills. Perhaps, this could turn out to be one way of achieving the success that Malaysia achieved with Nigerian palm kernel seeds. Who can tell?
It is not clear yet, to me, as to whether the news being circulated on social media about the board planning to have sachet water business to be called “Jerusalem water” is true or not. But I sincerely pray it is true. If it is true, then I see a future for the board without total dependence on government to provide it with everything, including tissue paper. It is not difficult to understand that lack of an alternative income stream for the board is the reason why maintaining the board, its few vehicles, particularly the official vehicle of the Executive Secretary was hitherto a herculean task. It is commendable that the board now has a borehole. I hope it is in line with the vision for the sachet water project. It not, it is easy to predict that high cost of diesel to operate the borehole under the conditions of epileptic power supply will frustrate whatever good intentions the borehole was conceived to serve.
One can go on and on to enumerate recent developments in the board, but one must stop.
Evidently, Christian pilgrims welfare board in Adamawa state today, is well positioned and delivering on its mandate of facilitating Christian pilgrimage and producing pilgrims that are imbued with the potentials to boost and harness agricultural potentials of the state. Christians in the state must now key into the development plan of the board and ensure that Christian pilgrimage in Adamawa state is restored to its long lost glory.
Certainly, Governor Umaru Jibrilla Bindow of Adamawa state has made a good decision by appointing Bishop Lucius Jinga Mayo, to serve Adamawa state as executive secretary of the Christian pilgrims welfare board. The Bishop has shown capacity to represent the social change agenda of the governor , by the way and manner he has brought ingenuity and innovation in Christian pilgrimage in the state as well as in the administration of the board.
One related development in the appraisal of Bishop Licious Jinga Mayo’s effort in replicating the change agenda of Governor Umaru Jibrilla Bindow, is in the construction project embarked upon for an ultra modern complex to serve as office accommodation for the board. This is one project that must not be allowed to stop.
History will be kind to Governor Umaru Jibrilla Bindow for his good heart towards the development of Adamawa state, without sentiments.
History will remember Governor Jibrilla as the architect and engineer of an “infrastructed” Adamawa state. It now behoves on appointees of the Governor like Bishop Jinga Mayo, to replicate the governor’s initiative, courage, tenacity and dexterity towards development of Adamawa in their various duty posts. So far, Bishop Jinga Mayo has performed creditably well, despite few shortcomings. He has created a template in the administration of Christian pilgrimage that is worthy of emulation by boards across the country. What Governor Umaru Jibrilla and Bishop Jinga Mayo and every other public servant needs from the good and peace loving people of Adamawa state, is our continuous support.
Adamawa state is on a sure path to development and all hands must be on deck.
Tiddawa wrote in from Yola.

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