Arole Oodua, King Okunade Sijuwade…A Tribute By Tola Adeniyi

Posted by News Express | 25 August 2015 | 5,360 times

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Obas, the symbol of royalty in Yoruba land do not die. When their time comes to join their ancestors, they simply move upstairs into the penthouse. And as they say in Yoruba language, Oba pa’poda! Transfiguration. Metamorphosis.

While on the throne, Obas are regarded as second in command to the Gods, and their cognomen includes fearsome ‘Iku Baba Yeye’; one with power of death over fathers and mothers! The being above beings that is empowered by divine rights to decree death over all and any of his subjects!

But the vast lands occupied by the millions of the Yoruba race spread over West Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas trace their roots to Ile-Ife, the place believed by the race as the cradle of mankind and their own beginning. Ife Woda’ye, that is Ife of Creation and Ife Ooye, which is Ife that survived the deluge are now both entwined in the ancient city where the obelisk of Oranmiyan looks upwards to the sky.

Ile-Ife is therefore not just a town like another town, not a city like another city. It is a most sacred land where the 401 Gods of the Yoruba reside. It is the home of Oduduwa, the legendary ancestor of the Yoruba race. It was the city that housed Prophet Orunmila Agbonniregun, Archangel Obatala, and the Yoruba famed God of war, Ogun, Oshinmole Orisa, oni’le kangun-kangun Orun!

All the Kings that came after the reign of Oduduwa were/are regarded as the anointed successor of Oduduwa and the Spiritual and Temporal head of all Yoruba Kingdoms. The Oonirisa of Ile-Ife is therefore primus inter pares. The hierarchical order established by the Yoruba kings has its beginning at Ile-Ife, and it is from there that the concept of an Oba receiving the prostration of another Oba came from.

It is against this backdrop that the then Prince Okunade Sijuwade ascended the throne of his forefathers. His grandfather Olubuse the First was a very prominent and powerful King. Okunade Sijuwade mounted the throne with a rich pedigree trailing his ascendancy. Cosmopolitan, fashionable, wealthy with international connections, urbane, articulate and fluent, Prince Sijuwade was every inch a King before he was crowned.

Since he began another phase of his journey in the Continuum about three weeks ago a lot has been said and written of Oba Sijuwade. Many commentators reminded us of his many trips to all the countries where members of the Yoruba race have spread to. They spoke of Cuba where Oba Sijuwade was referred to as the King of Africa. The story was told of how the arrival of King Sijuwade at Havana was greeted with a very heavy downpour. Cuba was said to have experienced their worst draught in history and the moment Ooni landed from his aircraft, kissed the land with his forehead, the heavens opened up. It was celebration galore, and there and then the locals ascribed great spiritual powers to the revered Monarch.

Similar stories were told of his journeys to Brazil and Argentina and the huge enthusiasm with which the Yoruba whose great great grandparents were carted to those distant lands received his royal presence..

Robust in frame, elegant in carriage and debonair in poise King Okunade Sijuwade carried himself with so much self confidence and inimitable dignity. He had a special aura of distinction around his person. He was one King whose presence could not be ignored or could pass unnoticed.

What probably stood Ooni Olubuse apart from several of his contemporaries was his outstanding hospitality. As soon as you were ushered to his royal presence, palace bottlers were on hand to serve you the coldest Champagne as first choice, or any other drink preferred. Oba Okunade received his guests with a disarming smile and prayers. Within seconds guests found themselves much at home despite the awesomeness of the prevailing atmosphere.

King Sijuwade added colour, panache and respectability to the Monarchy. Any visitor to the Royal Court of Ile-Ife would wish to be king! Okunade transformed the ancient Palace and endowed the hallowed place with ultra-modern gadgets that made the abode of Oduduwa the envy of several other Kings from other places.

He invested his huge wealth in upgrading and refurbishing the palace to reflect his international stature and distinct taste.

One other feature of Oba Okunade was his excellent human and public relations. A former journalist and public relations practitioner, Oba Okunade knew and appreciated the power and presence of the media in governance, leadership and management. It was in furtherance of this awareness that he created a Public Affairs Department charged with Public Relations, Media and Publicity within a year of ascending the throne and assigned one of the most outstanding personalities in the Media Chief Olorunfunmilola Olorunnisola to head the outfit. And for decades he assigned one of his British staff to man his Secretariat.

Oba Okunade Sijuwade ran his government in the most modern way while of course retaining all the traditional elements in accordance with the cultural norms of the Kingdom. And to douse tension and acrimony in his Kingdom, he approved the creation of coronet Obas in areas where the people had expressed desire to have their own rulers.

A Born-Again Christian, Oba Okunade gave the greatest regard to all the traditional observances. As he participated in Christian rituals in the Church he did also carry out the rituals dictated by his ancestors. As far as he was concerned Caesar and God must be given what rightly belonged to each of the two.

Those who merely saw King Sijuwade from afar might not know that Oba Okunade was a personification of humility. He was such a humble human being that used the third person plural reserved for elders and seniors to address everybody including those as young as his biological children. He used ‘eyin’ plural you instead of ‘iwo’ when addressing anybody. Soft spoken and methodical, Oba Sijuwade chose his words carefully and wisely.

Very protective of his race Oba Sijuwade was always eager to intervene in matters that concerned his subjects from any part of Yoruba Kingdoms. When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was jailed by General Abacha, General David Medayese Jemibewon and I visited Oba Sijuwade twice in London to use his vast influence to secure Obasanjo’s release. He put a call there and then to the British Prime Minister pleading Obasanjo’s cause. He also sought King Ado Bayero’s intervention.

Some people did not approve what they perceived as his handling of the Abacha-Diya saga, but whatever view any one might hold, no one could accuse the Ooni of cowardice or self-centeredness.

My wife, a Princess of Ife, the Yeyesorun of the Kingdom [installed 1989], and my humble self the Jaagun Oodua Adimula ll [installed 1990] shall miss the fatherly friendship and kindness the highly cherished King extended to us.

Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse ll is not dead. We commend his continuous journey to the protection and favour of Adiitu Olodumare.

•Chief Tola Adeniyi (shown in photo) is former Managing Director of Daily Times of Nigeria. Akogun Tola Adeniyi holds the traditional title of Jagun Oodua Adimula ll of Ile-Ife. He can be reached via

Source: News Express

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