Tribute To The Ooni Of Ife

Ooni-Of-Ife-300x239Recently, Nigeria lost one of her foremost traditional rulers, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, the 50th Ooni of Ife who joined his ancestors on July 28,2015.

The late Sijuwade who was grandson of late Ooni Sijuwade Adelekan Olubuse I, was born on January 1, 1930 in Ile-Ife, Osun State. He attended Abeokuta Grammar School and Oduduwa College in Ile-Ife. On leaving college, he had a three-year stint in his father’s company, before working as a journalist with the Nigerian Tribune newspaper for two years. He later went to the United Kingdom to study Business Management at the Northampton College. On return home, the late Ooni joined the Leventis Group as a manager. In 1963, he left to become a Sales Director with National Motors in Lagos.
It was during a visit to the then Soviet Union in 1964 that the young and enterprising Sijuwade spotted a business opportunity. Armed with immense experience, he launched a business career that later spawned conglomerates in car retailing and real estate in his hometown of Ile Ife. It stands to his credit that the modern housing estate he built in Ile-Ife, provides housing for senior staff of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), thereby helping to relieve acute housing shortage for the institution. For Sijuwade, it was not only a business investment but also his contribution to the development of the University town. As a businessman, Prince Sijuwade maintained a diverse social, political, ethnic and ideological group of friends at home and abroad.

Before ascending the throne as Ooni in 1980, he was a renowned philanthropist. Fittingly, he brought this attribute to bear all through his 35-year reign. In his lifetime, Oba Sijuwade was a rallying point and bridge builder between traditional and other religious institutions in the country. Even at that, he also had several encounters with controversies that pitted him against some fellow traditional rulers including the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi; the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona and even the Ogunsua of Modakeke.
For example, in January 2009 Sijuwade was quoted as saying that the Alaafin of Oyo was ruling over a dead empire (the Oyo Empire, which collapsed in 1793). Oba Adeyemi’s riposte was that the Ooni “was not in tune with his own history.” There is a general belief that one reason Osun State was created out of the old Oyo State was to resolve the battle for supremacy between Alaafin and Ooni. This was because both monarchs were very powerful at the time, and their conflict was causing division amongst Yoruba Obas. In spite of that, the late Oba Sijuwade was a consummate peacemaker.
Observers credited him with bringing peace between Ife and Modakeke communities at the height of the internecine crisis over land ownership in 2009. The late Ooni helped mediate the dispute, leading to the elevation of the Ogunsua of Modakeke as an Oba. Also, in August 2010, he mediated in the ownership dispute between Oyo and Osun states over the Ladoke Akintola University, at a meeting attended by then Osun Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, former Governor of Oyo State, which resulted in an action plan.
His mediatory role is among the enduring legacies for which the late Sijuwade will for long be remembered. In his tribute, President Muhammadu Buhari said the late Oba Sijuwade would be remembered for his “worthy service and invaluable contributions” to the sustenance of the cultural heritage of his people. He had lived a very fulfilled life, and has left worthy legacies for his successors to build upon.”
It is befitting that Oba Sijuwade who died at the age of 85 years, would not only be remembered for his immense contributions to Ile-Ife but also to the entire country and humanity.