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NCPC boss educates journalists on peace, pilgrimage •Says “media must speak against inciting statements from eminent Nigerians”
The Federal Government is inadvertently setting a hush revolution in the public sector by its act of ensuring the appointment of competent, seasoned and proactive men and women in core parastatals and sensitive public positions in the country.
One good thing about this is that, President Goodluck Jonathan does not allow primordial sentiments to rule his sense of judgment when it comes to appointing worthy men and women of integrity and honour to man sensitive posts.
And if you look at some of these parastatals, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, (NTDC) under Chief Olusegun Runsewe, News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) under Dame Oluremi Oyo, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) under Chief Osita Chidoka, and the Nigerian Christian Pilgrimage Commission (NCPC) under Mr. John Kennedy Opara, among others, one will see that these men and women have not been found wanting.
They are offering their best and doing so with all their God-given talents, ability and driven the charter of their post with patriotic zeal.
Of a particular mentioning is the Executive Secretary of the NCPC, Mr. Opara, the young man who has been telling the world that the age of Methuselah has nothing to do with the wisdom of Solomon when it comes to doing that which is expected of one in a post of responsibility and trust.
The dynamic, innovative and proactive programmes and events which he has injected into the commission within the short space of time have showcased him not only as one of the beautiful ones, but assets to peace and religious harmony in this country.
His level headedness, humility, vibrancy and high spirit of tolerance and understanding endeared him so well that the Nigerian Muslim Pilgrimage Commission which did not only harbour the NCPC for years, but handed over to him the bigger portion of the building before he, utilising his power of resourcefulness in building and occupying a befitting edifice for the NCPC.
The peace element in him, his administrative ability to achieve zero abscondment and mortality rate during pilgrimage exercises and his emphasis on spiritual purgation of pilgrims in the Holy land and demonstration of this has made him a right guest speaker of the Guild of Tourism Journalists in Nigeria’s maiden seminar.
The seminar which was held at the Ekiti Syndicate Room, Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja had as chairman, Mr. A Adenugba, the Managing Director, Lagos Airport Hotel who was represented by Mr. A Salawu, one of his directors while the guest speakers were also in attendance, Mrs. Adefemi Taire, Federal Commissioner, South-West, Rev Robinson Oritsuwa, Federal Commissioner, South-South with top other NCPC management staff.
The President, Guild of Tourism Journalists in Nigeria, Mr. Wale Ojo–Lanre in his welcome remark, said that the import of peace in a given society could not be relegated into the background as peace is the key to development.
“Conflict is anathema to development and progress. No society can grow when conflicts and crises rule. Any given milieu where peace is on leave cannot move forward. The pockets of religious tiffs and conflicts in Nigeria though not out of control, but preventable had it been we have emphasised the import of one to be at peace with himself, family, community and utilise various structures and platforms like our pilgrim commissions, social associations, clubs, football matches and social network to preach the gospel according to peace. We see pilgrimage as not only an avenue to attain spirituality, but a potent tool to inculcate peaceful thinking in the people. This is why the Guild of Tourism Journalists in Nigeria invited Mr John Kennedy Opara, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission to educate us and highlight on “Pilgrimage: A tool for National Peace Building.”
Taking up the gauntlet, Mr. Opara, commended GTJ in Nigeria for organising the seminar at this point in time when every Nigerian should embrace peace and show love to each other.
“I commend GTJ for this noble and thoughtful act at this time in point when we need not only to emphasis the import of peace, but to purge ourselves of all anti-peace vices and thinking. We at the commission appreciate this more for the fact that it is the media which is so essential to spreading the gospel according to peace which deemed it fit to organise such a noble seminar.”
Mr. Opara, revealed that “The media is not only essential in the nation’s attainment of being peaceful, orderly and friendly, but a strong partner which must be groomed, tended and well laundered at respecting and recognising the various diversities in the society in their mode of reportage.”
He pointed out that defective communication, confused thoughts, winded opinion laced with sentiments of political and religious bias not well horned and synthesised are capable of throwing a nation into unimaginable conflicts and crises.
“And this is where the media is needed as a platform which should be capable of distilling and sieving inflammatory statements, articles and opinions from getting to the public in its raw form as posted by the individual. This is why I am happy for what your group has been doing – showcasing itself as the agent of peace and development journalism,” Opara said.
He remarked that “when a nation is entangled in the cobweb of conflicts, crises and confusion, the consequences and aftermaths are shared by all with no respect to professional calling, status, state of origin, social or religious affiliations. This is why the need for peaceful co – existence is an imperative to all.”
Mr. Opara regretted that the media has been a major recipient of the consequences of crises and conflicts in the country “It is lamentable and regrettable that whenever there is any crisis or conflict in the country, the media is always at the receiving end. This is not supposed to be so because there should not be such conflicts had it been we embrace peace and love each other.”
He emphasised: “I also commend the desire of the association for peace to reign in the country as related to your professional specialisation which is tourism. We all know that no tourist would like to venture into a country embroiled in crises, turmoil or neither would a shrewd businessman, like to invest his fortune in a country being constantly pillaged by conflicts. This is an act of professional patriotism which is the hallmark of development journalism.”
Mr Opara pointed out that “The Guild has also done well by identifying some of the platforms which are credible conveyors of the peace message to all and sundry such as the pilgrims commissions,FRSC, NIREC, NURTW, religious bodies, football Associations and other social and professional groups”
He thanked the media and charged it to “Take the full advantage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) act to bring to the doorsteps of Nigerians, balanced news by finding a suitable meeting point between preventing harm caused by speech and protecting individual expression.”
Mr. Opara charged the media to “If democracy is to work properly, the media must rise above primordial sentiments, thoughts and affiliations, reject, condemn and speak against inciting statements capable of heating the polity.”
He pointed out “The media is a tool and signpost for democracy. In any modern society, effective and democratic media are essential and indispensable ingredient for peace and democracy. The need for free access to unbiased information is a key to peace building. But the media can be used for propaganda purposes, to incite hatred and spread rumours and therefore artificially create tension. The media must always have the Biblical injunction of ‘Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the sons of God’ (Mathew 5:9). It is mandatory on you as media practitioners to maximise to its full potentials, this powerful weapon at your disposal as an instrument to champion peace and national transformation.”
Mr Opara first of all made it clear that going to pilgrimage is not a jamboree, but an act ordained by God almighty in the Bible
‘It is instructive to emphasise at this juncture that contrary to the misconception from some quarters that pilgrimage is a sort of jamboree. This is not correct as this act is clearly spelt out in Psalm 122 verse 6 “that those who love Israel I will secure “Also in Zechariah 8 verse 22 ‘many people and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord Almighty, and pray for his blessing. Others could be found in Zechariah 14: 16 – 17.”
Mr Opara also revealed that one of the major reasons why the Holy Books made it a must for one to go on pilgrimage is the need for spiritual rebirth and moral transformation which if attained is expected to rub off on the pilgrim, his family, the society at large.
“This is why on our own part, at NCPC and indeed the states Christian Pilgrim Welfare Boards, we are driving pilgrimage as a tool for moral transformation and spiritual rebirth. It is our belief that as individuals go on pilgrimage and encounters God, the pilgrim will in a ripple effect positively influence the lives of his or her family, the society and the nation at large.”
He revealed that “NCPC is already working out modalities of setting up a monitoring index mechanism of pilgrims with a view to assessing their behavioural life style. Pilgrimage is not the same as tourism in several ways. It is a spiritual journey to which the pilgrim tends to benefit tremendously. It is a journey to holy, sacred places to usher the pilgrims into the presence of God.”
Mr Opara pointed out that “pilgrims embark on this journey with joyful hearts in anticipation and expectation of encountering God and be transformed, renewed and restored. Pilgrims are conscious of the fact that the society expects a lot from their conducts and behaviours after participating in the exercise and the success of this spiritual journey will depend upon the pilgrims’ openness, faith, flexibility and love.”
He remarked that’s a good pilgrim would not involve in any act that would be antithetical to the injunctions and laws in the holy books. And I have not read any of the holy books which preach violence and discord. Rather all books emphasise on the need to live in peace, show love and care for neighbours.”
Mr Opara exposed some benefits of Pilgrimage among which “are individual transformation which culminates into societal and national transformation. This can impact greatly in the area of peace and security. Pilgrimage helps ones closeness to God. The closer one is to God, the better he loves God and understands his principles, this makes the individual to fear God and respect the sanctity of human life. The greatest commandment given to man by God is to ‘love your neighbour which includes even your enemies .This we expect a pilgrim to imbibe, exhibit and practise.”
He pointed out that any pilgrim who has gone on pilgrimage with the mind to pray would surely be transformed spiritually, adding that peace is sacrosanct and synonymous with godliness, hence a worthy pilgrim would be a peace ambassador.”
Mr. Opara said that the onus of ensuring that peace and harmony reign in this country rest largely too on the ability of the media to recognise that the pen is mightier than the sword urging the practitioners to always be cautious in the way they structure sensitive religious information for the public to read.
“As you embrace this, we also at the NCPC, shall continue to stress the adherence to God’s commandments and injunctions which compel all pilgrims to seek peace, live in peace, preach peace and seek the peace of the nation. If we can all embrace this and others, we are jointly building peace in Nigeria and by extension the world in general. Good day, the God of peace will be with us. Thank you very much for this opportunity.”
As Mr Opara took his seat after his scintillating and enlightening paper which he delivered with accurate clarity, made the media men rose to their feet and gave him a wide applause.Share