By Demola Akinyemi
Sweet memories of the late Ooni, Oba Okunade Adele Sijuwade, Olubushe 11, resonated, penultimate week, in the ancient city of Ile-Ife where he reigned for thirty five years as people from all walks of life gathered in St Paul Anglican Church, Ayegbaju, Ile-Ife to celebrate his one year of demise.
Sijuwade died in the United Kingdom on July 28, 2015 where he had gone for routine medical check-up.
The incumbent Ooni, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja the 2nd, who was installed last year, and his wife, led other traditional rulers to the occasion and prominently featured in the programme.
Also, the first child of the late monarch, Prince Adetokunbo Sijuwade, led his siblings, in colourful attires, to the occasion while friends, family members and well-wishers of the Sijuwades celebrated with beautiful Ankara on which the late monarch photograph was imprinted.
Even on a week day, the expansive church was filled to capacity as a former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (retd), Lt General Oladipo Diya (retd), wife of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Titi, and Osun State deputy governor, Chief Mrs Grace Titilayo Laoye-Tomori, who represented her boss, Governor Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, graced the occasion.
Also present were a former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and his counterpart from Oyo State, Otunba Adebayo Alao Akala, the Balogun of Ife, Chief Bisi Omidiora, the Obasewa of Ife, Chief Agboola Odeyemi, the Aro of Ife, Chief Alex Duduyemi, Senator Babajide Omoworare, Chief Adekunle Ojora and his wife, Senator Bamigbetan Baju, Hon. Bashir Awotorebo, Chief Fatai Akinbade, Hon. Sikiru Ayedun among other dignitaries.
At the Thursday program, which commenced about 11 am, a former Bishop of Ife Anglican Diocese, Reverend Oluranti Odubogun, in his ministration, extolled the virtues of the late monarch who, he stressed, devoted his life to the service of God and also loved Ile Ife until his last breathe.
Odubogun, quoting 11 Corinthians 5 verse 20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors of Christ, God making his appeal through us, we implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God, “ urged the congregation to reconcile with God the way the late monarch did before his demise and also celebrate him.
The cleric said Oba Sijuwade was famous, selfless and passionate and that these virtues largely reflected on his community, Osun State and the nation at large.
He commended the children for sustaining the virtues left by their late father, noting that the lives and times of the late Ooni are worthy of emulation by all and sundry. .
The church program ended at about 1.45 pm, followed by prayer at the burial site of the late monarch, right inside the palace.
The program for the one year remembrance of the late Ooni continued the next day, Friday, with a lecture, titled, “The life and times of Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse 11, the 50th Ooni of Ife,” at Oduduwa Hall, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. It was organised by the Institute of Cultural Studies of the university.
Representatives of the various socio cultural groups, traditional rulers and some members of the family of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo were present to honour the late monarch .
The acting Vice Chancellorof OAU, Professor Anthony Elujoba, urged Prince Adetokunbo Sijuwade to cooperate with the incumbent Ooni “to drive the ship of Ile-Ife to good harbour.”
He harped that within the six months he will be the helmsman in the university, he would resuscitate the town and gown relationship and make it even stronger than ever before”
Elujoba, who lamented that there was nothing great about the university again, called for support from all and sundry to make it great again.
Acting Director of the institute which organised the lecture, Dr Jare Oladosu, while speaking on the role of traditional rulers in ensuring the survival of our culture, described language and former western education, among others, as key areas traditional rulers must be conversant with in order to ensure the survival of our culture.
Oladosu noted that the contributions of Oba Okunade Sijuwade, who he described as “quintessential bridge builder,” were outstanding as he actively promoted interfaith and inter-ethnic harmony.
“He was the undisputed captain in the promotion of the commercial growth and development of Ife Kingdom. Oba Okunade Sijuwade was a great prince who became a great king”, he said.
The Dean, Faculty of Arts, Professor Gbemisola Adeoti, in his address, recalled various interventions of the late king to promote Yoruba culture.
Making reference to a ceremony inside the same Oduduwa Hall, three years ago when the late monarch declared opened the 13th Orisa World Congress, Adeoti said that, at the end of the congress that witnessed participation from different parts of the world, his majesty hosted an elaborate dinner in the palace, complete with sumptuous hospitality, colouful ambience and royal magnificence.
“From this and other events that I encountered Oba Sijuwade, it is quite clear that his horizon of culture transcended the precinct of Yoruba, to embrace the whole of humanity. He was able to build bridges across primordial barriers, thus drawing associates, friends and admirers from white and black, Africa and Europe, rich and poor, men and women”, he said.
“Though Oba Sijuwade has moved to a higher realm where he now communes with his ancestors, today’s colloquium is in no way an occasion for mourning. If there is any need for sobriety at all, it is to allow us, from royalty to ordinary man on the street, to reflect on his legacies and how we can build upon the solid foundation of cooperation, tolerance, unity, love and determination which he left behind, to make our society a happier space than what it is now. That is the ultimate challenge before us this morning and for a very long time to come.
“There is no doubt that within the short period of 35 years that he reigned, he contributed a great deal to the development of Ile-Ife. He also strengthened the bond between the Yoruba at home and in diaspora, through his constant visit to America, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Brazil, Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana and other places where descendants of Oduduwa inhabit on earth. He considerably enhanced the profile and prestige of the royal stool of the source among African monarch in the cotemporary era.”
Dosumu also gave a
colourful testimony about the legendary times of the late monarch.
The grand finale of the anniversary took place the next day, Saturday, with the naming of the College of Environmental Design and Management of Oduduwa University, Ipetumodu, Ile Ife after the late monarch.
The President and founder of the university, Chief(Dr)Raymond Adedoyin, the Maye of Ife, who also contested the stool of the Ooni with the incumbent monarch, seized the occasion to clarify that all was now well between him and Oba Ogunwusi,who was also in attendance.
His words, “I contested for the Ooni stool. I am from the woman side, while he (Ogunwusi) is from the man side; so he’s eminently qualified to be the Ooni of ife. He has been going round to ensure absolute peace in Ife Kingdom. He is a man of peace. Oba Adeyeye told me that he wants to make Ile-ife like Jerusalem”.
Responding, Oba Ogunwusi, who later performed the unveiling ceremony, vowed that he would stop at nothing to make peace with all stakeholders to make Ife greater to the admiration of all. Though Oba Okunade Adele Sijuwade has joined his ancestors, the sweet memories of his life and times will linger for a very long time to come!