By Celestine Toruka
Just recently, on 14th September, 2023 to be precise, Rev. Yakubu Pam, the third Substantive Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission, NCPC, who is also the Chairman of the Christian Association Of Nigeria, CAN 19 Northern States and FCT as well as the founder and Chairman of the Southern Kaduna Peace Joint Committee, SKPJC, visited Fadan Kamantan, in Zango Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State on a Peace building mission over the attack on St. Raphael Catholic Church by bandits.
It would be recalled that on the 7th September, 2023, the congenial and serene atmosphere of Fadan Kamantan changed within a space of 1 hour between 8:30pm to 9:30pm when suspected bandits and kidnappers stormed St. Raphael Parish, Kafanchan Catholic Diocese and engaged in unbated gun shot at the Parish House.
The Seminarian, late Na’aman Stephen who had completed his Apostolic work with the Church and was set to leave the next day before the incident occurred, but was sadly killed in cold blood while taking refuge in the rest room.
In desperation and disappointment, the suspected bandits set the residence of the Parish Priest ablaze since they were unable to kidnap him and the Assistant Parish Priest.
In spite of this, the Parish Priest and his Assistant by God’s mercy were able to come out of the inferno without being burnt.
It is instructive to state that prior to the Peace building mission of the Executive Secretary of NCPC, Rev. Yakubu Pam on 14th September, a fact-finding team of the Southern Kaduna Peace Joint Committee with his directives already visited the affected Church with a view to unravelling the real situation of things in the Parish.
The Committee under the leadership of Rev. Pam, aside visiting the scene of the tragic incident, also visited the paramount ruler of the Community, the leadership of the Muslim Community as well as the youth leaders.
The 10 Man Peace Committee which comprised both Muslims and Christians formally submitted their report to the Chairman of SKPJC, Rev. Pam on 7th September, 2023. It was the findings of the Committee that necessitated the visit of the NCPC helmsman coupled with the approval of Mr President..
It is important therefore to affirm that the SKPJC as a body was formed at the Throne Room, Kafanchan in 2021 with the sole mandate of engendering peaceful co-existence among diverse ethnic nationalities in the 11 local Government Areas that make up the Southern part of the State, otherwise known as Zone 3.
Rev. Yakubu Pam over the years has been seriously involved in peace building initiatives in various communities across the country. As a global peace Ambassador, his name is now synonymous with peace building.
It is not surprising therefore, that even the immediate past President of Nigeria, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari ,directed him to continue in his peace building role while serving as the No1 Christian Pilgrim Officer of the Federation. To this end, he created a Peace Desk in the Commission shortly on assumption of office in 2020.
Since then, he has been engaged in Peace building programmes across the country. He Mediated in the Southern Kaduna crisis with the convocation of a three day Peace Summit in Kafanchan in 2021 which helped to de-escalate the crisis then. He also intervened in the Tiv Versus Jukun crisis North Central Nigeria, the pockets of crisis in Plateau State as well as some of the strategic peace meetings held with Christian leaders in Lagos, Enugu, South-East Nigeria and South-South in 2021.
In the same vein, President Bola Tinubu has also given the NCPC boss the approval to continue to carry out his peace building mission across the country which gave him the mandate to visit Fadan Kamantan.
During his visit to St. Raphael Catholic Church, the NCPC boss in an emotion laden voice said it was only by a miracle that the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Okolo was alive and standing with the members of the peace team.
He expressed shock at the devastating state of things at the burnt residence of the Parish Priest where everything was completely burnt to ashes, including all the personal belongings of Rev. Fr. Okolo. Consequently, he called on the Federal and State Governments to step up action on the security of the Fadan Kamantan Community and Nigeria as a whole. He equally tasked the people to cooperate with one another so that the security challenges facing their community and the country would be decimated.
He further called on well meaning Nigerians and the government to come to the aid of St. Raphael Catholic Church so that a new parish residence would be built for the Priest.
Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Okolo, the Parish Priest of St. Raphael Catholic Church, said he was psychologically traumatized with his experience on the night of 7th September, 2023.
He was short of words to explain how he managed to come out of the inferno, but for God’s mercy and miracle, he said . He regretted the loss of his Seminarian who was not lucky enough to escape the dastardly act of the bandits.
He called on the Kaduna state government to help beef up security presence within the vicinity and environs of the Church.
Rev. Pam also visited the palace of the paramount ruler of Fadan Kamantan, HRM, Adamu Alkali whom he described as the ‘Chief Mourner.’
He informed his royal host that the government of Kaduna State was pleased with the pivotal role his 10 man peace committee has been playing in Southern Kaduna.
Rev. Pam admonished the youth of the community to shun anything that would breach peace in the area and should not resort to take laws into their hands on account of what has happened.
The founder and Chairman of SKPJC and his team also visited the Muslim leadership at the Fadan Kamantan Mosque, where he appreciated them for their show of love and solidarity which they demonstrated on 7th September at St. Raphael Catholic Church. He urged them to continue to educate their members on the importance of inter-faith harmony among their followers.
The question crying out for answers is, what is the way out of these security quagmire that has befallen us as a people?. How did we get to this point where one can hardly differentiate who is a bandit, a kidnapper or a suspected terrorist? Is only time will tell.
This is a clarion call for all Nigerians to rise to the occasion by detecting and exposing every suspicious movement in our neighborhood. The issue of security cannot be left in the hands of the government alone, we must support the government and the security agencies to hit a big nail on the coffin of insecurity in Nigeria.
What happened at St. Raphael Catholic Church on 7th September, was a sorry and gory tale situation. Anyone who visited the scene of the incident will certainly betray his emotion because of the gravity of what happened and the act of wickedness and callousness of the perpetrators of such heinous crime against humanity and the Church.
Fundamentally, the statement by Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Okolo which was corroborated by Rev. Pam that the incident at St. Raphael Catholic Church had no religious coloration as the attackers were bandits and kidnappers, this should not be taken with a pinch of salt so that no one should attribute any religious undertune to the incident.
Importantly , we need the likes of leaders of Rev. Pam’s personality to continue to mediate in the murky waters of peace building in Nigeria, because the work of peace building is onerous, demanding and tasking, it has no finishing line. The fact remains that without peace, there can never be any meaningful development in our nation.
What Rev Pam needs is the support of the government both at the Federal and State level and well meaning Nigerians to galvanize support for his peace mediatory role across the length and breathe of the country.
He has the capacity, resourcefulness, zeal, humanity and reach to effectively navigate through the waters of peace building across troubled communities in the country. He is no doubt tested, proven and result oriented.
Rev Pam deserves all the support he needs from Nigerians to enable him and his team genuinely unite, reconcile, and de- escalate tensions and crisis amongst troubled communities.
His approach to peace building is practical engagement which is more of a calling than mere assignment, hence his intervening efforts so far have yielded positive dividends over the years.
President Bola TInubu should be commended for approving his peace building initiatives across the country.
Indeed, it is a truism that our people deserve to sleep with their two eyes closed and should be able to breathe fresh air, especially with the ‘Renewed Hope ‘ mantra of President Bola Tinubu led administration.