Monday, November 24, 2008

You push-i me, I push-i you

NOT since my primary school days have I seen anything as interesting as the ' push me- I push you' story coming from the hallowed ground of Okelerin Baptist Church, Ogbomoso the other day. You know what I am talking about, don't you?. It is about the reported feud between Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello and Governor Gbenga Daniel, two chieftains of the greatest party in Black Africa, which allegedly spilt across the border to the neighbouring Oyo State, at the wedding of Governor Alao-Akala's daughter. And what is ' my own' there? I will tell you my own - I was born and raised as a Baptist and if things untoward are happening in the Baptist Church, I have a religious , if not a human right , to speak up.

It is true that in the motor park, everyone has a fundamental right to slap each other and an equally fundamental human right to reply in kind . However, when it happens right in the presence of our Lord-in the Church, it becomes an abomination. Dotun Oyelade, Governor Akala's spokesman, was right when he described the whole incident as a skirmish or a storm in the tea-cup. As I listen to the explanations on both sides of the aisle, it just reminds me of my primary school days when we report to our headmistress 'excuse'(pronounced esikisi) ma, he pushed me and I also pushed him'.

Now, now, this feud must not be allowed to degenerate to such a state when the PDP would be forced to recall the UN ambassador for peace and Chairman of BOT, General Obasanjo from the DR Congo, back to his command in Ogun State. Since I am also aligned to the two parties concerned by way of familiarity, I especially wish to sue for peace in Ogun state lest people like Prof. Tam David West (of the Niger Delta ) get on the bandwagon and resort to name calling , reminding us of our ' Wild, Wild West' days which ironically also started from the Ogbomoso end of the South-West..

For Senator Iyabo-Obasanjo Bello in particular, I plead that even without the chieftaincy title, she must stick to the Iyaniwura credo as that was the platform on which we voted her in as Senator. I also request her to remember that this is a particularly sensitive and bitter-sweet time for the family - what with mummy's book being serialised, daddy's involvement in delicate talks with rebel leader, Laurent Kunda. Dakun (please) Ashabi, this is not the time for any more fighting. I am not even concerned about the deliberate insinuations which may come from untutored minds about a Senator fighting a governor. Afterall, every parliament and every political institution has its own character. There is the Italian parliament (with its clowning Prime Minister Berlusconi) - famous for its fisticuffs and regular dissolution at the drop of a hat. And there is the Turkish parliament which resolves difficult debates on the floor of the parliament in their own robust way, sometimes with tie-pulling, wrestling, boxing, takweando or all of the above with turbans flying in the air.

Even some MPs of our mother state - the British parliament, in spite of their veneer of decorum, have their own ways of tendering to urgent affairs of the heart whenever the parliament is in recess. The American Senate has its own scandals of the occasional Senator hawking his stuff in public toilets or supplementing his income with a fistful of dollars. And there is our own house of representatives (don't even go there !- with their car scandals and furniture allowance ) since dubbed a house of 'representa-thieves' by enemies who do not wish our nascent democracy well.

No one is pretending that politicians are saints since some of them reached their present position with a little help from miscreants, area boys and god-fathers. So what is wrong with a few pushing and shoving in parliament? What seems to be wrong and offensive to us within our Baptist circles, is the desecration or attempted desecration of our church and all it stands for. This incident, like many others, has discouraged many of us from attending the Church on Sunday even as we look for more potent excuses not to attend. As I recall in my young days, even when I laugh in the church, one look from my aunt is enough to tell me to comport myself and if my aunt so much as says 'Delani , ninu sosi' ? (in the church ?) one would immediately freeze and stop all the hanky-panky.

There are some things you just cannot do in the church as the church is a hallowed ground. Fighting is not allowed and ringing cell-phones (we did not have cell phones in my time) is definitely a no-no but look at what we have now. Young and old, the choir and the ministers who ought to comport themselves with decorum, are doing the Michael Jackson break dance in the Church and the thanksgiving has simply turned into a carnival party with every body waving in the air as if the Messiah is here already. Even if Senator Iyabo Obasanjo did not touch Governor Daniel's person on the date in question, one may wont to believe she did, with the finger-pointing, hand waving and excited dance which represents today's offertory at thanksgiving services in churches.

I even recall with much anxiety (for the health of the fourth republic) when one of our famous female technocrats (now a Minister elect) was captured on BBC dancing to the altar, struggling fowl in hand , at a thanksgiving service. Such is the stuff of thanksgiving in churches these days! Whatever be the case, one would like to keep a deliberate balance on the matter at hand so as not to preempt the PDP party elders on party disciplinary matters. For Baptists like me, the important question is why take political differences to the Church?. Whatever happened to the Christian spirit and the credo of loving one's neighbour as oneself and forgiving our enemies as we forgive those that trespass against us? What if Ralph Osakwe, the hapless SSS man in Governor Daniel's train, had not taken the Christian line of turning the other cheek, when Senator Iyabo gave him a dirty slap on the chest or was it the face?. What if Senator Iyabo had not struck back when her hand was allegedly being twisted by Osakwe? Imagine the pain suffered by the distinguished Senator in the presence of our Lord !

If both of them did not promptly act in self-defence , the tendency would have been that the perpetrator would be tempted to do it at least 70 times 70 times more hoping to earn forgiveness on the 4900th occasion. Although our Lord admonished us to be patient, Osakwe would have been beaten to a pulp if he was thumped on the chest 4900 times by the ebullient Senator while Senator Iyabo Obasanjo would have been a hand-free Senator on account of the arm-twisting allegedly meted on her by Osakwe. We are all human beings and we do not often have the patience to suffer in silence. My own declared judgement on the case is tempered by the recognition of my own human frailty. I will therefore surmise that both combatants were perfectly entitled to exercise their human right but not in Church. My aunt's admonition comes to mind again ninu sosi ? (in the Church ?) Definitely not!

Even outside the Okelerin Baptist Church, the act of gross disrespect to the lord, if not insubordination, nearly became infectious, I am told. Matters were allegedly compounded by the bride and groom refusing to dance to King Sunny Ade, who was hired at great expense by a serving governor and the father of the groom, preferring the hip-hop music of 9Nice. What is this country becoming - a bride rejecting her father's favourite musician ? No wonder many of us in the Diaspora find it hard to come back or adjust to home conditions. Had all these happened in the Oyo State House of Assembly, it would have been perfectly in character, which is probably why Dotun Oyelade regarded the incident as a minor skirmish.

But for these to happen in the presence of the good Lord in a Baptist Church, calls for strong ecumenical intervention. Meanwhile, I suggest that the PDP allows matters to rest and it should not intervene or interfere in this disagreement which many believe is an internal affair of the Ogun State branch of the PDP. The PDP should take it in its stride and let sleeping dogs lie. Afterall, it could well be that this is a silent contest for a replacement godfather for the party at a time the Afenifere is equally shopping for a replacement leader for the Yorubas. On the other hand, when the late Orlando Owoh sang his song on ogogoro or tombo (you push me, I push you, tombo), he never knew how close he was to describing the intoxication of power and its many guises.