The death of His Imperial Majesty, the Arole of Oodua, and the Ooni of Ife, Alayeluwa, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II, came as a rude shock to all and sundry. He died in the early hours of Tuesday, July 28 after a protracted illness for which he was flown abroad for medical attention. The Ooni died at the prestigious Saint Mary Hospital, London at the age of 85.His passage has no doubt robbed the Yorubas, within and in the Diaspora, as well as the nation of one of the most glamorous, humane, humble and forthright traditional rulers.
He was born on January 1, 1930 to Prince Adereti Sijuwade and Yeyelori Emilia Ifasesin Sijuwade of the Ogboru ruling house, Ilare, Ile-Ife. His grandfather was Ooni Sijuwade Adelekan Olubuse I, the 46th Ooni, who was said to be the first Ooni to travel out of his domain.
He had his elementary education at Igbein Primary School in Abeokuta, from where he proceeded to the Abeokuta Grammar School. He however, left the school for Oduduwa College, lle Ife, where he eventually completed his secondary education.
The late monarch worked briefly for about two years with the Nigerian Tribune, based in Ibadan, first as a reporter and later as a sales executive. But the urge for more education, prompted him to travel abroad to acquire it. In the United Kingdom, he was trained in Business Management, and also trained in Northampton and later with the Leventis Group. He also attended the Advanced Business Management training programmes in a number of companies in Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Scotland, West Germany and Israel. And when he eventually returned, he was employed as Sales Manager by Leventis Motors in Ibadan, and by 1960 became an Adviser to the Group.
However, in1963 the Western Region Government requested the Leventis Group to loan him to the region for five years to support it in its industrialisation programme. He was appointed Sales Director of National Motors, Lagos. Again, by dint of hard work, he was soon promoted and headed the company’s management team and eventually turned the fortunes of the company around.
So, the experience he gained from the then Soviet Union and particularly from his tours of Western and Eastern Europe in 1964 brought him frontally with other business opportunities. He joined forces with three of his friends to set up a new company that would benefit itself of the opportunities he had identified. That was the beginning of WATTECO Motors. It was also the start of Sijuwade’s journey to abundant wealth. There was no doubt that he had found his path to financial success.
The company soon grew to become the sole distributor of Russian-made vehicles, tractors and engineering equipment in the country.
Oba Sijuwade was a stupendously wealthy monarch. With vast investments in oil and gas, real estate and infrastructure development, he was not only at the commanding height of the values, culture and tradition of the Yorubas, but also a major player in the nation’s economy. He was no doubt in a class of his own, having been a successful international businessman before becoming the Arole Oduduwa, and he successfully marries tradition with modernity, and thus setting the pace for other Obas on how to be an outstanding traditional ruler in this modern era.
Undoubtedly, as a powerful monarch with vast resources, many, even beyond the Yoruba nation, revered the Ooni. He was regarded as the epitome of royalty, the Oba who understood his power and deployed this for the good of his people. His regal lifestyle, sartorial taste and majestic gait had made everyone believe that he was born for the throne. No wonder then that Ife kingmakers were unanimous in their choice for him to be the 50th Ooni of Ife, when he was just 50 years old.
Unarguably mercurial and flamboyant, Oba Sijuwade did everything to uplift the Yoruba tradition the world over. It is on record that during his life time, he showcased and left the traces of Yoruba tradition anywhere he visited across the globe. We also recall that he started his reign taking Nigeria and, particularly Ile-Ife by storm. Following his choice as the Ooni-elect, Oba Sijuwade entered Ile-Ife on September 20, 1980 from Lagos with breathtaking panache. He rode into town in a Winnebago Caravan with red-brown curtains, tinted glasses and exquisite furniture. And on Saturday December 6, 1980, the journey climaxed with his installation as the Arole Oodua, and very significantly, the 50th Ooni of Ife on his 50th year on earth.
The late Ooni, no doubt left an enviable track-record which will be difficult to equal in this era, particularly, his fatherly role in ensuring that long lasting peace reigned not only in his domain but in the entire Yoruba land, and Nigeria at large. And despite his fame and honour, the late Ooni was humble, and was known for his conviviality, camaraderie, sense of judgment and magnificence around the world. Aside this, he was reputed for his openness, non-partisan posture and frankness in dealing with issues and his subjects.
We join the civilised world in sending condolence to his family, the Ife people, the government and people of Osun State and particularly to all Nigerians and Yorubas in the disapora. We are certain that his successor will not only build on the foundation of peace and tranquility laid by the late Ooni, but emulate his sterling qualities that had endeared him to all. This we believe will be the best tribute to pay the late Ooni of Ife and the Arole Oodua, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II. We pray that God will grant his gentle soul rest. (Amen).

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