Governor Hope Uzodimma has urged the 1000 successful pilgrims from Imo State heading for Jordan and Israel for Pilgrimage to be good ambassadors of the State and to have it at the back of their minds that Imo State should be the ultimate beneficiary of the trip.
The Governor said this on Friday when he flagged- off the ceremony for the first batch of 300 pilgrims who departed the same day to the Holy Lands.
The Governor said that even though the trip affords the pilgrims the opportunity to pray for themselves and their families, they should make it a point of duty to pray fervently for Imo State.
He said he made a vow to God on assumption of office to support Evangelism and Christian activities, because “without God nothing works,” and thanked God for the privilege to send the number of Pilgrims to the Holy land of Israel from Imo State.
“It is a big privilege and an opportunity to visit the Holy land. I wish I could send the whole state to the Holy land,” he said and reminded the contingents that they are going there “on representative capacity.”
Thus, he charged them to be of good conduct and see themselves as Imo ambassadors to Israel.
He pleaded with all of them to come back as a team the way they departed “in order not to spoil the chances of others becoming pilgrims or tarnish the image of Imo State and Nigeria in general.”
The Governor said: “Please, be of good behaviour, please encourage the government by being of good behaviour by coming back with your shoulders high.”
He had earlier thanked and congratulated the pilgrims for making the list of 1,000 contingents going on the pilgrimage.
Governor Uzodimma said that while in Israel they should dedicate themselves to thank God for what he did in Imo State in the areas of security in the last two years when it seems everything had gone bad.
His words: “We have relative peace in Imo today,” and enjoined them to use the opportunity to ask God to complete what he has started.
Governor Uzodimma even went spiritual, reminding the pilgrims that “the beginning of every good thing is always rough. However, the bad times are over.”
He enjoined the Pilgrims to pray for Imo State, to pray for President Muhammadu Buhari whom he said assisted the State in her trying times by responding to security appeals as well as providing the resources for infrastructure.
He also asked the pilgrims to pray for the President-Elect, Senator Ahmed Tinubu, saying that “the future has a lot for Nigeria.”
Also, the Governor asked the pilgrims to pray and ask God to forgive any of our people who must have offended Him out of ignorance by way of embarking on wanton killings and destructions in Imo State.
Finally, he assured the pilgrims that their welfare in form of transport, feeding, accommodation, and other sundry demands had been taken care of and asked them not to be afraid.
He then prayed: “As you are going to the Holy Land so shall you come back as Holy People.”
The Executive Secretary Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission, Rev. Dr. Yakubu Pam thanked the Governor for his magnanimity and said that in his two years and nine months in office “this is the first time a State is sponsoring 1,000 people to the holy land at a time hence Imo is now number one and has overtaken all other States of the Federation,” noting that they will soon invite and appreciate the Governor and the State for this feat.
The Executive Secretary said it is because of the history being made by the Governor that all functionaries from NCPC collapsed in Owerri for the flag off of the 2023 pilgrimage for the 36 States and FCT.
Pam said he is happy the Governor has made history and that “the Governor has come out like a lion with a lion heart.” He said the governor gave Imo State a surprise package.
He also appreciated President Buhari for granting the Christians in Nigeria the privilege of going on pilgrimage.
The Secretary to the State Government, Cosmos Iwu in his remarks on behalf of Imo State Government thanked the Governor for making the State proud. He recalled that this is the first of its kind since the creation of Imo State in 1976 despite the scarce resources and challenges faced by the State in the past three years.
He thanked the Governor for the opportunity and asked the pilgrims to reciprocate it by ensuring no body absconds. He further prayed that the pilgrims depart in peace and come back in peace and enjoined the pilgrims to “pray for those giving the State sleepless night.”
The Commissioner for Public Orientation and Religious Affairs, Anthony Okonkwo also thanked the Governor for the approval to embark on the journey and informed that the Governor’s bedrock is God and prayer.
He said the pilgrims should note that “the function is to go out and pray for the Governor, Imo State and Nigeria as a whole.”
The Chairman, Imo Pilgrims Welfare Board, Rev. Fr. Dr. Gilbert Alaribe in the same vein called for prayers for the Governor Uzodimma, the Imo State Government and Nigeria in general and informed that “since 2014 till date the sponsorship of 1,000 pilgrims by Governor Hope Uzodimma is the highest not only in Imo State but in Nigeria as a whole.”
An elder statesman, Nwaneri who is also one of the 1,000 pilgrims in a brief remark said “the most outstanding decision of Senator Hope Uzodimma as the Governor of Imo State in the past three years is the decision to invest in the pilgrimage movement.”
He then thanked the Governor and called for prayers for him and his family, Imo State, Government and the people.