By John Mayaki
Divisive agents loyal to the Obaseki-led People’s Democratic Party in Edo State have sought to fabricate a most odious and polarizing narrative, to wit that the recent honorary Itsemakohna title, meaning ‘this is our own’ conferred on Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu by the Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Aliru Momoh, Ikelebe III, is a slap on Christians and an attempt to introduce RUGA to Edo State.
This irresponsible and criminally childish narrative must be discountenanced as either the ignorant narrative of elements who know nothing about the cultural diversity in Edo State, or the tommyrot of artless mischief-makers.
To set the record straight, the following are important to note. Auchi, which is in the northern part of Edo state, popularly called the Afemai or Afenmai region is a predominantly Muslim area under the traditional leadership of the Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Aliru Momoh, Ikelebe III.
This fact has been respected by the people of Edo for a long time, and the state has been able to live in harmony despite these religious differences due to this mutual respect.
The conferment of the Itsemakohna title on Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, as explained by the candidate himself, was a mark of honor indicative of his level of acceptance in all parts of Edo State. His personal religion and position as a Pastor are not unknown to the Otaru who, indeed, refers and regards him as a Christian and ordained man of God.
The symbolic turbaning is not a religious ceremony, but a cultural one to show clearly that the people of Auchi no longer want Governor Obaseki and have embraced the APC candidate. There are many reasons for the rejection of the embattled Governor, part of which includes his flagrant disrespect for tradition and well-known divisive tendencies, a fact which he and his party have now corroborated with the evil insinuations they introduced to the event, seeking to stoke religious tension in Edo State. The governor’s disrespect for tradition was apparent when he visited the palace of the Oba of Benin without the customary kolanut he should have carried and met a cold reception.
His opponent, Pastor Ize-Iyamu, a more urbane and culturally conscious man, carried the kolanut on his visit and was met by a full regiment of powerful Benin chiefs who greeted him affectionately. Edo has been able to steer clear of the religious tension that the rejected PDP is trying to engender because other Governors and administrators before the sad emergence of Godwin Obaseki understood the plurality of the State like most Nigerian societies, and pursued peace and unity, not actively stoke tension with poor propaganda on the account of mindless politics.
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu does not discriminate against people because of their religious beliefs. The faith he professes and teaches, as exemplified and instructed by Jesus Christ in the New Testament, kicks against divisive actions and preaches peaceful harmony.
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s honorary title by the Otaru, an Islamic traditional ruler, is a powerful attestation to his ability to preside over the affairs of the state and its diverse people with the maturity, sensitivity, and fairness required to achieve social harmony and development.
On the contrary, by seeking to add mischievous interpretations to the event, the PDP and its new leader, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, continue to burnish their reputation as an irresponsible party unfit for leadership at any level, not much as Governor of a diverse state where everyone must be treated with respect, irrespective of leaning and religious beliefs.
Perhaps the PDP, hardened publicans by their own confessions, need to dine at the table of the hospitable Pastor. He treats all men with equal respect.
Mr. John Mayaki is Chairman, Edo State APC Media Campaign Council.