By Isaac Asabor
Freedom of speech, they say, is a funny thing. When it benefits us, we stalwartly protect it. When it benefits someone who holds opposing views, it suddenly becomes less attractive.
In an election year, as presently been witnessed in Edo State, volatile topics like religion, ethnicism, party among other sentiments are all framed as expressions of liberty, or rather freedom of speech. It is therefore not surprising that freedom has ever being a big deal.
As Nigerians, particularly as Edolites, in this context, we enjoy enviable freedom of speech to the extent that some politicians and supporters call people whatever names they prefer all in the name of electioneering campaign. As Christians, we walk in spiritual freedom. From time to time, situations arise that seem to put our political liberty at odds with our spiritual convictions.
However, when it comes to voting, followers of Jesus Christ must weigh the moral responsibility of their choice against the political implications. At this juncture, it is expedient to say that because of the candidacy of the gubernatorial flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the upcoming election in Edo State come September 19, 2020 that not few people are asking this writer, by virtue of the interest he has shown in the candidacy of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, if it is apt for Christians in the State to massively support and vote for Ize-Iyamu.
I must confess that before the question was, for the umpteenth time, put to me, that they’ve already being in the social media space hauling over the coals on him to the extent that some called him “Fake Pastor”.
I must confess that my answer has been in the affirmative each time the question is put to me whether he is truly a pastor. In my responses to them, I had always called them bluff. One of the reasons that compelled me to always call them bluff is that I believe Ize-Iyamu is truly a man of God as I have the understanding of what it takes to traverse the road to Damascus like Apostle Paul; being a Christian myself, even if I am not a Pastor. I have a staunch trust that he has what it takes to put God first in the scheme of governance if by the grace of God he wins, come September 19. The reason for the trust I have reposed in him is that his tenure will no doubt make Edolites rejoice. This is because the word of God in the book of Proverbs chapter 29 verse 2 says “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn”.
To most of his calumniators whose collective business has become to run him down since he disclosed his gubernatorial ambition ahead of the September 19 election, “Ize-Iyamu is not a pastor”. However, for most born again Christians who had traversed the road to Damascus like Apostle Paul, they are on a better ecclesiastic foundation to understand that it is always tortuous to become a “Born again” Christian, not to talk of becoming a pastor. Without any scintilla of hyperbole, Ize-Iyamu had at various media parleys explained how he became a born again Christian, and to a large extent, a pastor.
In one of the media parleys he had, he said, “My real road to Damascus actually started in 1995 because I got married in ‘94, I had my first child in 1995, I was going out with my friend, as I was about leaving my house in the Government Reserved Area (GRA), I had this urge to pray. It wasn’t because I was a serious Christian; I leant very early in life to pray, pray before I eat, pray before I sleep and pray before I travel. I knew that there was a God who protects and we should pray to him when you do certain things. I was not really a church person, and you cannot as at that time address me as a Christian, I was very socially, but when I was set for the journey, I told myself why don’t I wait till I get to the toll gate before we pray. So by the time we got to the toll gate at Oluku, myself and my friend where so engross in a discussion I just paid the fare and forget to pray.
“We drove off; I think after Ijebu- Ode on the way to Shagamu, that was where I noticed that the car was no longer obeying my commands. It appeared as if I had lost control. I told my friend look at this car, it is trying to go to the other side. The steering became something else, and before we jumped over to the other side of the road, I just heard “you did not pray”. The next thing was total black out and I woke up later in a dark room, a very dark room. I only heard people talking but was not seeing them. I knew there was a serious problem. I started wondering whether I was dead or what; I was hearing voices but very low. All of a sudden I remembered that word “you did not pray”. I was really between death and life.
“After some time, I regained consciousness and I heard them saying he will be okay, what a terrible accident, it was then I realized that I had an accident. But I was not seeing them. I started to ask whether I was blind. Had the accident made me blind? I tried to talk to them. I asked the people who they were but they could not say anything to me but gradually I started seeing shapes. The darkness started giving way. All of a sudden, I could see dimly. The people also noticed that my eyes were opened and they all started to say ha! He is alive! They started to thank God that I’m alive. But I could not move my body. From a private hospital; they carried me to Igbobi Orthopedic Hospital. At Igbobi Hospital I was there for six weeks. It was at Igbobi hospital I realized that I couldn’t walk; everything I do was on the bed. I became very careful not to eat too much because I didn’t want to go through the humiliation of being hated by those nurses but I went through hell. I ask them what could be done. They said well they have to do operation and see if they could bring my hips back to its position but that the chances were 50/50; that I may have to be in a wheel chair, that the most important thing is that I’m alive and that so many people have had accidents that made them totally paralyzed, and some died in the process. So I began to pray to God and said God I never believed too much in you before, I realized that I ought to have prayed before I travel, but I didn’t pray, the last word I heard was that you didn’t pray”.
Without any iota of exaggeration, the foregoing testimony is enough for anyone to be convinced about his calling as a pastor irrespective of the unprintable words been circulated about him.
Be that as it may, to those who are bent on pulling him down all in the name of campaign electioneering, it is enough in this context to leave them with the biblical admonition in Matthew chapter 7 verse 1 to 5 that say: 1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Still in the same nexus, it is expedient to say at this juncture that the scripture as exemplified in 2 Kings 2:23-24 is enough to make Ize-Iyamu’s calumniators exercise some modicum of wisdom in their somewhat unrestrained campaign of calumny against the APC gubernatorial aspirant, and reason that God is capable of putting them to shame if they refuse to exercise moral and ecclesiastic restraint in their unwarranted criticism against him all in the name of politicking.
The reason for the foregoing admonition cannot be farfetched as the scripture has it that Elisha cursed 42 innocent children who were jeering at him. They were innocent children, who surrounded Elisha mocking and probably threatening him. More importantly, they demonstrated their unbelieving and blasphemous hearts in the way they treated the anointed prophet of God. Therefore, Elisha acted under the influence of the Spirit to speak a curse against these men and their wicked ways. To my view, in this context, whoever is faulting Ize-Iyamu’s pastoral calling should beware before he or she gets more than what is bargained for all in the name of politicking. Enough is enough!