By Jonathan Ugbal
Cross River’s governor Benedict Ayade says the introduction of a skills acquisition program by the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) in its youth Pilgrimage tour is laudable just as he made a case for a holy land in Nigeria.
According to Ayade who says he has seen the agricultural system in place in Israel having been there on pilgrimage, lauded the commission for introducing a “fantastic” idea and promising that “Cross River State will key into the fantastic agricultural partnership to ensure our youths also benefit”.
He made this known when he played host to a delegation of the commission led by the Executive Secretary, John Kennedy Okpara when they paid a courtesy visit to his office in Calabar.
Ayade said the state was excited about the visit pledging “Cross River State as a government and as a people will participate in the lottery organized by the commission to support it in raising enough funds to sponsor pilgrims for the pilgrimage”.
He also made a case for a holy land in Africa, especially Nigeria based on the thinking that there is a specific location God hears people the most which seems to drive the pilgrimage value upwards.
“Speaking as a governor who must understand the spirituality and spiritual well being of my people, but also understanding from the background of my own thrust, I just sometimes wonder if there shall come a time when God will grant us a holy land in Africa, I really want to ask whether one day there shall come a time when there shall be a holy land in Nigeria.
“These questions, as simple as they sound, they go deep into the philosophy, the heritage of the black man. In as much as we continue to sustain our believe in God that, I strongly feel as a Christian that my reckoning with God is very useful and that God judges me by my conscience, my heart and my deeds by this salvation which comes from him.
“I do strongly believe that in as much as pilgrimage remains a rich heritage in our culture, it is time to also ask ourselves a question whether we shall also carry ourselves to that level of spiritual upliftment where our nation as a whole can have a dedicated area that can be our own holy land where we can go for atonement of sins, where we can go to look up to God for blessings.
“I believe strongly that Kennedy you are a trailblazer, a pathfinder, you hold the singular opportunity in life to reconstruct that thinking that a specific place is located where God hears us most. I believe that if such a location exists, God must have provided for every generation, every race in their own zone.
“I say it not from the singular economic perspective (but) from the issue of value and dignity of the black man and the black nation’s. It is a thing I have battled with and I thought I should bring it for public discourse.” he says.
Earlier Okpara in his remarks said his team is on a sensitization tour with Cross River ending the South South zone tour where they explained the activities and program of the commission to state governments.
Describing Ayade’s feat in bringing the President into the state for a ground breaking ceremony as “amazing” he added “the people of Cross River State will experience God’s favor as you (Ayade) pilot the affairs of the state” before reeling out the commission’s program which includes four pilgrimage tours (Easter, Youth, Family and October) with a special one day package tagged “a day with Jesus” for Nigerians in Israel with the Speaker of the House of Representatives to lead about nine governor’s on this year’s edition.
On the skills acquisition program Kennedy maintained that “we take over a thousand youths to the state of Israel, after the pilgrimage we expose them to a program we have with the ministry of Agriculture in Israel which we call skill acquisition in agriculture. These young men are trained so that when they get back to Nigeria, they will deploy themselves and employ other people in agriculture”.
Okpara explained that pilgrimage is “a tool for moral and spiritual transformation” adding that “we believe that people should go on pilgrimage and have a divine encounter, and when they have a divine encounter, they come back as state agents, they come back to help the governments and help themselves, in this way we are able to build a solid foundation for our nation”.
He also presented a bible and several other materials including the approved package for the 2015 Christian pilgrimage.
In attendance was the Deputy Governor, Professor Ivara Esu, the emeritus Archbishop of Calabar Catholic Metropolitan Archdiocese as well as other top government functionaries.
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