You must have heard about the man on a business trip who sent a message to the wife back home describing the fun he was having – and concluding: “Darling, I wish you were her.” He meant to say: “I wish you were here.”
Adams Oshiomhole, governor of Edo state, committed a similar slip on Friday when he issued a statement paying tribute to the departed Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba Erediauwa.
“Edo people will miss our ICONOCLASTIC royal father of the great Benin Kingdom. Nigerians and Nigeria will miss this great exemplar of a Royal Father, an Oba of distinction and integrity,” he wrote.
Iyemwen! Iconoclastic? What’s that?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, iconoclastic means “a person who criticizes or opposes beliefs and practices that are widely accepted”.
Osaikue ye emwindan! God forbid!
You can accuse the Oba of Benin of anything – you can even say that he passed on a year before it was allowed to be officially reported – but you can never accuse him of being “iconoclastic”.
The Oba was the embodiment of cultural beliefs and practices. In fact, the Bini Kingdom is one of the few in Africa where the advent of Christianity and Islam has not obliterated long-held beliefs, traditions and practices.
So what did Oshiomhole mean to say? According to Peter Okhiria, his chief press secretary, the governor wanted to say “iconic”.
Let’s consult the Merriam-Webster dictionary again. Icon means “widely known and acknowledged especially for distinctive excellence”.
Osaruese! Thank God! That is more like it.
BELOW IS OKHIRIA’S STATEMENT
Our attention has been drawn to the use of a word which many believe denotes a totally different meaning from the word we could have used in a tribute of Governor Adams Oshiomhole to the Oba of Benin.
While we inadvertently used the word “iconoclastic” instead of “iconic”, the outrage it has generated is totally misplaced, especially when the context of the usage: “Edo people will miss our iconoclastic royal father of the great Benin Kingdom. Nigerians and Nigeria will miss this great exemplar of a Royal Father, an Oba of distinction and integrity”could not have been negative.
In the context above, iconoclastic would mean ‘unusual’, ‘uncommon’ royal father who lived a life of distinction different from other royal fathers. For a condolence message that was laced with so many encomiums, ascribing negativity to it was not our intention or motive.
Words generally in the English language convey different meanings; denotation and connotation; depending on the context of usage. Without dragging this further, we accept that the use of the word in question may have offended the sensibilities of some people and wish to replace the word with “iconic”.
The Comrade Governor holds the Omo n’Oba in very high esteem and would not use any word to denigrate his name and image. The error is regretted.
For the records, the paragraph now reads “Edo people will miss our iconic royal father of the great Benin Kingdom. Nigerians and Nigeria will miss this great exemplar of a Royal Father, an Oba of distinction and integrity”.
We appeal to our people to let the matter rest as we are still mourning our Oba who just transited from mortality to immortality.