I do appreciate the immense pain that the unfortunate death of the Late Oba OkunadeSijuwade has caused his Oloris, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and the entire people of the Kingdom of Ife in particular and Osun State in general, who must be grieving at the demise of the Oba. Oba Sijuwade was, undoubtedly, a very eminent citizen and his death will be felt not only by his people but indeed, the entire nation. We can, nevertheless, be consoled from knowing that Oba Sijuwade has gone to rest in the bosom of his Maker and left behind him a good name and worthy legacy. Indeed, ‘Erin wo’.
We have been inspired, over the years, by Oba Sijuwade’s most impressive career as a tested manager of men and resources, a proprietor of repute, and an industrialist of distinction. From the Tribune Group where he had his early experience in the private sector through the Leventis family and therefrom into private entrepreneurship, he truly distinguished himself as a businessman of note.
His attainments, over the years, surely culminated in his unanimous nomination and coronation as the OoniOlubuse II of Ile-Ife since November 1980. In this capacity, he functioned as Chancellor of the University of Uyo in AkwaIbom State in 1988. It is a measure of his selfless and qualitative service to our dear country that he was honoured with the revered national award of the Commander of the Federal Republic, CFR, by former President AlhajiShehuShagari in 1983.
The late Oba Sijuwade was a patriotic and highly respected traditional ruler who had immeasurable love for his people and great faith in a united Nigeria. I remember his firmness in support of Government at all levels when I was President of Nigeria. His staunch support was appreciated and would always be remembered for it. He, accordingly, stood out as a voice of honesty and forthrightness in national affairs. He was at the same time a fervent promoter of mutual tolerance and understanding not only among the diverse people who lived in his domain but also across the country. The toga of acrimony, thuggery and violence which stigmatized the politics and the people of Ife and Modakeke for many years was permanently brought to an end by him with the support of his royal colleagues. Today, there can be no gainsaying that his nearly four-decade reign was marked by unprecedented peace-making and lasting peace and prosperity in Ife and Modadeke.
The late Oba followed the tradition of his great predecessors. He was a great traditional leader, urbane and respected by his subjects. His influence transcended the Kingdom of Ife and, indeed, Osun State. He stood shoulder-to-shoulder with traditional rulers across Nigeria and beyond the shore of Nigeria and was very well respected among his counterparts from the South, North and East. He was a unifying force not just in Ife but in the whole of the South Western zone and beyond.
Oba Sijuwade’s journey to meet his ancestors means an irreplaceable loss to his family, his people, Osun State and, indeed, Nigeria. For those of us who knew Oba Sijuwade closely for many years, the good times we shared, the successes we achieved together and the lessons we learned are as consoling as the legacy he left behind. Only about ten days ago he invited me to Ife to share with him his views and feelings on some national and community issues. It was like a parting shot.
Oba Sijuwade may no longer be with us but his legacy endures. He had a vision for his Kingdom and pursued it with every resource available to him. We must not let that vision for the greatness of Ife and the entire Yorubaland depart with him.
As we bid farewell to this great Nigerian, let us rededicate ourselves to the values he cherished and lived by such as love of the country and community as well as the readiness to help the less fortunate at all times.
On behalf of my family and on my own behalf, I extend heartfelt condolences on the final transition of AlaiyeluwaOkunadeSijuwade and pray that the Almighty God grant you all the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss.
May the soul of the dear departed rest in perfect peace.
Olusegun Obasanjo is a former president and contributed from Abeokuta