By Nosa Omorodion
On August 12, 2020, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the APC Candidate for the 2020 Edo State Governorship Election, was honoured by the Otaru of Auchi, HRH Aliru Momoh Ikelebe III. By extension, it was an honour from the Afenmai people for an illustrious son of Edo State. As a mark of the relevance attached to the honour bestowed on Ize-Iyamu, they identified him with the name title: Itsemakhona, which in Afenmai language means: THIS IS OUR OWN.
Seeking to derive undue political capital from the honour bestowed on Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, his opponents in the PDP have been spinning all kinds of misleading yarn about its significance and the ceremony surrounding the conferment. They have been trying hard to deliberately disparage Ize-Iyamu for the generous gesture of accepting to be honoured outside of the church environment because he is a Pastor. The motive behind the desperate attempts to paint Ize-Iyamu as desperate and compromising his faith is to incite the huge population of Christians in Edo State against him. They have sustained their propaganda around the question of why a Pastor would submit himself to a tradition they perceive as involving Muslim attire and rites. While we can see the propaganda couched in mischief, there is no doubt some of their audiences may be swayed due to ignorance about facts.
Meanwhile, let me say that Ize-Iyamu’s present vilification in the hands of his political adversaries reminds me of the experience of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the hands of the Jews when he went to dine with Matthew and his friends ( Matt. 9: 9 – 11), and Zacchaeus (Like 19: 1 – 9), whom the Jews considered sinners because they were tax collectors. However, a very enlightening commentary I came across about the incident, and which I wholeheartedly agree with, says that: “the fact that Jesus ate with “sinners” shows that he looked beyond culture to people’s heart”. I align this to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, an ordained Pastor’s, accepting a grand honour from the Otaru of Auchi and his chiefs, despite their Muslim background. In doing this, Ize-Iyamu obviously looked beyond the culture of religious discrimination in a bid to foster mutual understanding.
However, it is important to state categorically that the honour bestowed on Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is neither a traditional chieftaincy nor a religious title. We could say that it approximates to the honour of receiving beads from the Oba of Benin. The rites surrounding the reception are purely ceremonial with any spiritual or religious attachments. At any rate, it is uncharitable to suggest that the ceremony engaged in by the Otaru, a devout Muslim, is fetish.
The praise chants to Allah, captured in the video being maliciously circulated on social media, has nothing to do with Muslim rites. It is simply a reflection of the religious background of the hosts. Similarly, the turban placed on the head of Ize-Iyamu bears no relationship to his subscription to the Muslim faith, which he nonetheless respects. The attire is a manifestation of the adopted mode of dressing for such an honour.
A bit of history would perhaps help in understanding the adoption of religious attires in our palaces as we see in the Otaru of Auchi’s Palace.
For instance, not many people realize that the common traditional attire of the Oba of Benin and his chiefs is an adoption of the Catholic Priest’s cassock. This reality is lost to many people because the Palace of the Oba did not in a cultural manner convert to Catholicism, unlike the Otaru that has become synonymous with the leadership of the Islamic faith in Edo State. However, the fact remains that the traditional regalia worn in the Palace of the Oba of Benin is of Christian origin and was copied by Oba Esigie when he went to Portugal to study in the 16th Century. Wearing a cassock in the Oba Palace does not automatically translate to conversion to becoming a Catholic priest. It is simply an adopted mode of dressing. In the same vein, that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu wore a turban, adopted by the Otaru of Auchi’s palace as a distinguishing attire does not make him a Muslim convert.
Nevertheless, it is remarkable for Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to have looked beyond culture to associate with our predominantly Muslims brothers in Edo North. Critically considered, he could be said to have passed a test of trust without compromising his faith. His gesture portrays him as having followed in the footsteps of Jesus – dining with those of different religious persuasions for whom he has prepared himself to serve. Given Ize-Iyamu’s commitment to the Church as an ordained pastor, he has shown that his Government will be for all – Muslims, Christians and others.
There is no doubt in Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a Pauline sagacity borne of divine direction as displayed in Athens where he declared the oneness of humanity even while we pursue the worship of God by different understandings. In the court of the Otaru of Auchi, it was in the essence of decorum and humility to behave as tradition demands and in performance of the undying maxim which states that: “when in Rome, behave like a Roman”.
In all of this, it is pertinent to note that the conduct of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu has revealed to us the sign of the man Edo needs to lead us – a man for all in spite of his uniqueness. It is a sign of a man prepared and willing to unite us in our shared experiences and our diversity. Under him for sure, Edo State would be bound for a renaissance, a reformation and a great revolution as envisioned in his SIMPLE Agenda, which promises Security and Social Welfare; Infrastructure Development and Urban Renewal; Manpower Development and Training; Public-Private Partnership; Leadership by Example and Employment Creation and Social Empowerment.