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Tribute: Ooni Sijuwade (1930-2015) an icon by all standards

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50th Ooni of Ife: Oba Okunade Sijuwade (1930-2015)
50th Ooni of Ife: Oba Okunade Sijuwade (1930-2015)

BY ADEMOLA SADIPE

The death or rather the passing onto another world (because Ooni never dies) of Oba Okunade Sijuwade came to me as a shock. At the ripe age of 85 years, we cannot say Kabiyesi died prematurely.

It is shocking news to me because less than three months ago, I met him in Lagos when he requested to see me in Ife as soon as possible. But I never made the trip before his demise.

My first contact with Kabiyesi was in the early 1970s when I was a young officer at the then Barclays Bank DCO in Lagos before he attained the throne of his forefathers. Since then, I remained very close to him.

He was in a class of his own. As a prince, he was highly revered by everyone including our European managers at Barclays Bank. He oozed royalty even before his coronation as the Ooni in 1980, which means ‘Atobatele’. He had the wealth, personality, aura and connection before attaining the throne as Ooni in Ile-Ife.

He was like a father to me. When I informed my biological father one day that I was coming from Ile–Ife where I had lunch with the Ooni of Ife, my father was terribly afraid. He told me that ordinary mortals like me could not be so close to the ‘deity’ Alayeluwa, Oonisa, Ooni Ile-Ife, Olubuse II.

My father then warned me never to go close to the palace again. Later I related the discussion with Kabiyesi. To assuage my father’s fear, Kabiyesi sent a note personally signed by him, to my father that he should not entertain any fear about me coming to the palace. As he put it, “Demola is my son.”

In 1987 when Colonel Olurin (his rank then) was the Governor of the old Oyo State, the government wanted to build a mass transport depot at Dugbe Market in Ibadan and a parcel of land belonging to my then employers, the Nigerian-Arab Bank was compulsorily acquired.

The Bank wanted to build its head office in Ibadan on the land. I told my Managing Director then, Alhaji S.O. Sule (now His Royal Majesty, Oba of Odonselu, near Ijebu Ode) that I could assist in getting the land restored to the bank.

He could not believe that was possible and he reluctantly asked me to go ahead. I contacted Kabiyesi, who in turn pleaded with Governor Olurin to release the land to the bank. My MD was amazed and this he told Kabiyesi when the management of the bank, including me, visited Kabiyesi in Ile-Ife to thank him. I was even more elated when Kabiyesi said to the MD that “Demola is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”

One of the many significant things Kabiyesi did for me was his royal intervention when a London-based financial institution wanted to get a “judgement debt” attaching all the assets of Oyo State for huge indebtedness of the Oyo State Government to the company.

I obtained the permission of Governor Oresanya, as the State Commissioner for Finance, to inform Ooni about the dilemma. When permission was granted and Kabiyesi was informed, he arranged for the executives of the financial institution in London to come to Ibadan for negotiation. After about three days of deliberations, the company agreed to our terms and conditions to liquidate the indebtedness of the State, to the admiration of Governor Oresanya.

The Ooni and his friend, Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero (of blessed memory) brought Soleh Boneh (an Israeli Company) to Nigeria. It is on record that Kabiyesi was instrumental to the construction of the Ibadan/Ile-Ife road, which was eventually dualised by the company.

Kabiyesi was not happy when Gov. Oresanya made himself the chairman of Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs, when there was a rift for supremacy between Alaafin of Oyo and Ooni. The difference however was amicably settled before Gov. Oresanya was posted out of Oyo State.

I wish to commiserate with the wives of Kabiyesi; Olori Morin, Ladun, Odun and Linda and all the children, especially Tokunbo, and indeed the entire Yoruba race all over the world for the fall of the ‘Giant Elephant’.

I pray for the Kingmakers of Ile-Ife that God will give them wisdom to give us another Ooni who will continue to lead the Yoruba Race. Adieu, Kabiyesi. May your soul rest in perfect peace. Amen.

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Ademola Sadipe, Esq
ADEMOLA SADIPE, ESQ

Chief Ademola Sadipe, JP, is a former Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning in both Oyo and Osun States, and former Member, Council of Legal Education. He practices law in Lagos.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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