Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is the South South Vice-Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and former Secretary to the Edo State Government during the tenure of Governor Lucky Igbinedion. Just yesterday, he was honoured with Doctorate Degree (Honoris Causa) by the Benson Idahosa University.
The award was in recognition of his contribution to good governance and education. In this interview with Saturday Vanguard’s SIMON EBEGBULEM, Ize-Iyamu who also served as the Director General of the Oshiomhole Governorship Campaign Organization, disclosed why he opted to be a Pastor despite the fact that he hails from a strong traditional background owing to the fact that his father was one of the respected Chiefs in Benin Kingdom.
He spoke on his life, politics and native Edo state.
How do you feel bagging this award Sir
Just some months ago, I celebrated my 50th birthday, so I am glad. I respect the late Arch Bishop Benson Idahosa.
I am quite happy that the legacy he left behind is still strong. For the university to be honoring me is actually an inspiration, it is some thing that will spur me on to do more and also be mindful that whatever we do, we must understand that people are watching us. It came as a surprise but it was a pleasant one.
You were brought up from a traditional background, your father was a Bini Chief , so how come you became a Pastor?
Yes it is true I come from a strong traditional background. My father and all my ancestors were renowned Chiefs in Benin Kingdom. But my father too was quite liberal. His traditional office did not stop him from giving his children western education and allowing them to pursue their own course in life first, I grew as a Catholic. St Joseph was quite near my family house.
It was traditional for us to go there on Sundays and worship but it was strictly spiritual. I went through the university only remembering God whenever I wanted to sleep and I always asked God not to kill me .
I’d wake up in the morning and say God thank you that I am alive. It was nothing more than that . On New year’s eve, I’d stroll to the church, we’d shout happy New Year and go to the nearest beer parlour. That was my life. I was not a strong Christian at all. But I actually believed in the efficacies prayers.
I think what really changed my life, was in 1995. I got married in December 1994 and by 1995, my first child was few months old. I was driving with a friend to Lagos. At the gate of my house, I had this urge to pray but I told my self that I would pray when we get to Oloku toll gate. So I postponed it and by the time we got to the toll gate, my friend and I were joking and laughing that we forgot to pray. And then we drove on.
At Ijebu Ode near Shagamu, I was driving and my friend sat by me. All of a sudden, I noticed that the car was going out of control and I didn’t know what was happening. Before I knew it, the car somersaulted and just before I blanked out, something hit me and that was you did not pray.
The accident happened about 3pm and I did not regain consciousness until about 12 midnight. Infact, my leaving that place was an act of God because I was stuck in the car. I could not come out, sympathisers tried without succeeding to force me. And in the midst of it all, somebody came with an axe to cut my leg. But luckily my friend was there begging that they should still try and drag me out rather than cutting my leg.
They were able to drag me out but my hip was dislocated, which means I could not sit or stand. I had to lie down. I was carried to one hospital before they took me to Igbobi hospital.
It was there I realized that I just escaped death by by the whiskers. And I was not happy with the thoughts that was going through my mind: a drunkard, a womanizer. The doctors were not sure whether I could walk again. I said God if I could walk again, I would change and come closer to you.
And I requested for a Bible and I began to read the scriptures. On the day they decided to carry me to the theatre, the doctors have actually confessed that the chances of succeeding in that operation was 50-50, I might or might not walk again. We went to the theatre and when they put me on the bed, I felt a sharp pain and I shouted.
The consultant came and they looked at the x-ray that showed that my hip was out of position, and then the Consultant said before they will perform the operation, let them do another x-ray just to know how it was.
They did it and I saw them confused and arguing among themselves. After that, the man came to me and said, look we don’t know what happened but your hips have gone back again. He said maybe when I shouted, the hip just went back and that they didn’t need to perform any operation again.
That was when I knew that God has answered my prayers. I said well, if God answered my prayers, I must keep to the bargain and that was how I actually gave my life to God. When I announced it to people, they thought I was joking. They thought the trauma of the accident had affected me.
After a week or two, I would go back to my old life. But to the glory of God, from that time till now, I have been consistent. I joined the Redeem Christian Church of God, I became a member, from there to a worker. From being a worker, I became a Minister and later a parish Pastor.
From there, I became an Area Pastor and then, a zonal Pastor. To the glory of God today, I am a district Pastor and I am incharge of zones. That was what led me to God. If you have not had a personal encounter with God, you’d tend to take him for granted but when you went through the type of experience I went through, you’d know that God is very real.
How have you been able to manage politics as a Christian which is regarded as dirty?
The truth of it is that for a long time, there have been quite some wrong teachings among us Christians. In the past, there was this wrong teaching about poverty, that rich men cannot make heaven only poor people will. So a lot of Christians will shun good jobs and say no, if I take that job, I will not make heaven.
But later, they realized that there was no scriptural basis at all for such belief. When Jesus talked about how hard it will be for a rich man to make heaven, he was just referring to those who carry riches above the things of God, not that rich men cannot make heaven. Rich men can make heaven if they use their wealth in a manner that will please God. Infact, your riches can actually guarantee you heaven if it is well used. So, that was one wrong teaching then. It is the same thing with politics.
You say, ah, no, Christians should not be involved in politics but it is through politics that leaders emerge. Are you saying Christians should not be leaders and yet politics and the actions of the leaders affect our daily lives, then what are we talking about. It is true that in Nigeria, politics is seen to be very dirty.
It is so because we have allowed the wrong people to be in it. When you have bad people in politics, the system will be bad. So basically, because good and decent people do not participate in politics, that is why we are facing what we are facing.
In United States, it is not the same.They see politics as something very honorable and its the
same in England. The only way things can change is if decent people come in.
Yes! politics here is dirty because we allowed it to be so. But I tell people that today, I see politics as a mission field, a place that is in darkness, a place that God is not known. And God is sending people there to go and make a difference.
I tell people that I was in government for eight years and I can afford to play opposition politics. Today, I am not afraid of being arrested by the EFCC because through-out my time in government, I was conscious of the fact that I am a Christain and I cannot let God down.
So no matter what you say, you cannot say oh look at what Ize-Iyamu did. The best you can say is that he was in government, yes I was in government. But again, I have also told people that if I had not been in government, that so many people would not have gotten their pensions, so many people would not have gotten employment. So I became a voice for those who could not have had access to government.