His Royal Imperial, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, (Olubuse11), the Ooni of Ife and one of the most referred traditional rulers in Nigeria has joined his ancestors. He passed on Tuesday afternoon following what a source described as a brief indisposition. He was aged 85.
Though not much is being revealed about details of the traditional rulers spiritual and body transition to the other World, sources from Ife town, the acclaimed cradle of Yoruba creation and natural capital of Yoruba Kingdom reported uneasy calms as the news of the exit dominated public discussions with claims that he died in a London Hospital.
A reliable source inside Osun State Government House in Osogbo confirmed that the news of Oba Sijuade exit had been confirmed having been reported to state Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
It was confirmed that Governor Aregbesola was briefed on the Ooni family position while official announcement decisions were being planned by State of Osun Government House.
Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuade was born 1 January 1930. He became the 50th traditional ruler of Ife town in 1980, taking the Royal appellate of Olubuse II.
Oba Sijuade was crowned on December 6 December 1980 in a celebration that remains in the memory of many due to the influential nature of the then Okunade Sijusde, frontline philanthropist and international business tycoon. He was ready to make a difference to Yoruba Race, carrying the old charisma of his predecessors among them Oba Aderemi. Ife Kingdom in Yoruba land and as a foremost and most referred Nigerian first class traditional ruler.
Many top Traditional institutions across Nigeria attended the coronation in a whole week unprecedented traditional rites observation and the King attracting the topmost personalities within the nation’s social circle. Prior to his coronation. Oba Sijuade was an active socialite with international business influences and in many big cities of the World including United Kingdom.
Among those who attended his coronation ceremony were passed Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, Oba of Benin, Amayanabo of Opobo and Olu of Warri, as well as by representatives of the Queen of England.
Sijuwade was born on 1 January 1930 in Ile-Ife to the Ogboru ruling house and was the grandson of the Ooni Sijuwade Adelekan Olubuse I.
He studied at Abeokuta Grammar School and Oduduwa College in Ile-Ife. He worked for three years in his father’s business, then for two years with the Nigerian Tribune, before attending Northampton College in the United Kingdom to study business management.
By the age of 30 he was a manager in Leventis, a Greek-Nigerian conglomerate. In 1963 he became Sales Director of the state-owned National Motor in Lagos. After spotting a business opportunity during a 1964 visit to the Soviet Union, he formed a company to distribute Soviet-built vehicles and equipment in Nigeria, which became the nucleus of a widespread business empire. He also invested in real estate in his home town of Ile Ife. By the time Sijuwade was crowned Ooni in 1980 he had become a wealthy man.
Sijuwade was a practicing Christian and was known to have associated with different Christian denominations in Nigeria and across the World during his usual traditional homage visit to other Yoruba communities spread across the World.
In November 2009 he attended the annual general meeting of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria accompanied by 17 other traditional rulers. He declared that he a was full member of the church, and said all the monarchs who accompanied him would become members. At his birthday celebration two months later, the Primate of the Anglican Communion described Sijuwade as “a humble monarch, who had the fear of God at heart”.
HIS EXTENDED PROFILE: In 1963, the government of Western Nigeria , now getting increasingly involved in a lot of industrial activities in the country approached the Leventis Group to release the prince for five years to help in re-organisation of some of their companies. The request was reluctantly granted after month of hard negotiation by the then Chairman of the Leventis Group, Chief A. G. Leventis who considered the young Prince Sijuwade as an asset to their organization. The Leventis Group made the Western Nigeria Government promise to let the prince return to his organization at the end of assignment.
Prince Sijuwade’s first assignment with the government was as Sales Director of National Motor in Lagos. He subsequently headed the management of the company with numerous Nigerian and expatriate staff under him .
In 1964 , he undertook an extensive international tour to look into the possibilities of acquiring better products for National Motors. One of the places he visited was the Soviet Union whose cars he believed would sell well in Nigeria, because they were relatively cheap and appeared durable.
When he returned to Nigeria and reported to his employers, they were not as enthusiastic about the business proposal, because the government was not at this time well disposed to trade with the Russians. Rather than feel disappointed Prince Sijuwade, smart businessman that he was, immediately saw a business opportunity and seized it.
He formed a company along with three friends; the company, WAATECO, was to become in a few years the sole distributor of soviet-made vehicles, tractors and engineering equipment in Nigeria with at least fifty Russians on its staff and a dozen branches all over Nigeria.
This small beginning marked the start of trade with the Soviet Union in Nigeria, and for Prince Sijuwade the birth of a business empire that was to include at least fifty companies.
Two years after WAATECO was set up, Prince Sijuwade offered the Soviet Union 40 per cent equity participation in the company. Of course, the Russians did not hesitate since the company was doing well. Business with the Russians was to grow many hundred folds in the next decade and a half.
It is a credit to his acumen in business that while trade with the Russians expanded, his business contacts in the capitalist West continued to grow and develop. He was being seasoned in the tough world of business.
While he was setting up his own company he continued his efforts to help re-organise the government-owned National Motors and by 1965 the company began showing a profit. The political turmoil in the country following the coup of January 1966 and the counter-coup of July the same year brought his good friend (Rtd) Major General Robert Adebayo (then Colonel) to office as Governor of the Western Region.
Sensitive to the possibility of having a disagreement with his fiend over a public issue he decided that it was best to resign his appointment as an employee of the Government of Western Nigeria. He subsequently left the service of the government and went fully into business on his own. With this resolve, he now explored with fresh zeal his many contacts within Nigeria and on the international scene and revitalized business possibilities which time had not allowed him to exploit while working with the government.
Within ten years his activities stretched far and wide, and to keep in touch with the various commercial capitals of the world he moved the headquarters of his operations to the United Kingdom n 1973. Now he was truly where he wanted to be in the business world; the world was, as it were, his oyster.
With his business now firmly established internationally he decided to establish a stronger footing in his home tow, Ile-Ife. He embarked on two major projects in the town which turned out to be a wise decision both from a business angle and as a means of enhancing his image in his community.
A modern housing estate which he built in one of the quieter and newer parts of the town was to provide housing for senior staff of the University of Ife, and help relieve the University’s acute staff housing shortage. It was for prince Sijuwade not only a business investment but a contribution to the development of the University and his home town.
It was the same thinking that inspired his decision to build a first class motel for V.I.P. visitors to Ife, the Motel Royal. This also turned to be a far-sighted decision because at his coronation a few years later, when the town played host to thousands of guests, the accommodation problem was not nearly as chaotic as it might have been.
Urban, relaxed and self confident, Prince Sijuwade had a wealth of experience from which to draw and was at home in boardrooms both in Nigeria and in leading capitals al the world. He had a large international circle of friends, contacts and business associates. It was often dispassionate, well informed and judicious, precisely the qualities required of a traditional ruler in a pluralistic society like ours.
As a businessman, Prince Sijuwade maintained a diverse social, political, ethnic and ideological group of friends in Nigeria and abroad. He genuinely enjoys playing host and is equally at home in small groups as in large gatherings. He enjoys traveling and has visited most countries of the world.
He relaxes by swimming, horse-riding, table-tennis and having intellectual discussions with small groups.
The career of Oba Sijuwade can be divided conveniently into two parts: the first was as a dashing young Prince and the other began in 1980, when he ascended the throne of the “ Holy City of the Yoruba” to borrow Leo Frobenius’ apt description of Ife.
These two segments of one active and productive life are not separate or apart, indeed one fertilized the other. His training and experience as a prince today serve well in the great task of reigning In a society that is being increasingly modernized; at the same time, he maintains the prime position of Arole oduduwa, the Keeper of the seal of Yoruba.
Since he ascended the throne, Oba Sjuwade has been a worthy ambassador-at-large Nigeria and a symbol of pride for the Yoruba.
But the life of great men is not immune from the vagaries of mortal existence. There have been various experiences in the life of Oba Sijuwade that have been trying. Although he has borne them with great courage they have no doubt made an indelible mark in his life.
A major force in the life of Oba Sijuwade was the beloved Yeyeluwa of Ife, Olori Oyetunde Sijuwade- a remarkable woman, always cheerful ad hospitale. She was for many years of blissful relationship provided a stable, enviable matrimonial haven. Thus when she answered the celestial call in August 1986 it was a major blow.
His Imperial Majesty bore adversity with dignity and composure in keeping with agelong Yoruba tradition that the Oba never mourns. He was in fact the one who consoled and pacified mourners. May her soul rest in perfect peace.
ORIKI OF OLUBUSE
Olubuse Eri Ogun
Okun mo losun kun molata
Oribiti Apelunda Solukue
Abanise mase banise mo
Osun mo sile sunmo eni
Igi meta ona ilare
Bi idi baba odi obadi
Ki ire baba ore obare
Bi ologun sese ba dari so o/ o daso
Oni ilare nfobi kan
Oloriburuku nfoju di
Nle o, Olodo Tunbumbi
Ogborun lokun, ajiwunmi bi omo
Oke ilare ko jugun, aje lo ngbeni gun
Omo Ogboru keke fo isa Olori
Omo Ladejokun, Ojire loni o.