For the first time in history, the Ooni of Ife-Ojaja II pioneered a forum that identified the vital few champions in different sectors. Present were prominent leaders, amongst whom were the United Arab Emirate Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Fahad Al-Taffaq; and the Minister for Youth and Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare; who presented an award of excellence to Sijibomi Ogundele, Funke Adesiyan, Eyitope Kola Oyeneyin, Seyi Awolowo and many other young Nigerian Entrepreneurs, at the Royal African Young Leadership Forum, held in the prestigious Oduduwa hall of the great Obafemi Awolowo University, where the dazzling greatness of the students of Ife was on full display.
Recounting his experience, Mr. Ogundele, the CEO of Sujimoto Group stated that “it was a great honor to have received this call to duty and recognition from the most distinguish frontline traditional ruler in Africa – His Imperial Majesty, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi. This award of excellence is a continuous reminder that he who works hard will stand before Kings because I strongly believe that there is no nobility in poverty and it doesn’t matter whether you are from Ikorodu or Ikoyi, immediately you substitute recklessness for diligence, your true potential becomes a reality”.
According to Mr. Ogundele, “the Ooni’s palace brought back many beautiful memories of my childhood. I was born into a family just 10 km from this palace, around the famous mountains of ‘Eremo’. I can still recall the great stories my father told me of the exploits of the Ooni’s, the worldwide impact, rich and dynamic culture of Ile-Ife, whose influence has been the pillar of the Yoruba nation, dating back to 1400 A.D.
“38 years later, here I am standing in the same room with great leaders and in the presence of my most revered King, His Imperial Majesty, Alayeluwa Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Babatunde Ogunwusi Ojaja II, 51st Ooni of Ife”.
In describing the palace, Mr. Ogundele remarked that two things caught his attention; first was the level of detailing that went into the historic and artistic rendition of all the past Ooni’s’, dating from the 1st Ooni – Oduduwa, to the 51st Ooni – the Ojaja II; The second was how the present Ooni was able to export his entrepreneurship spirit from the corporate world into his majestic position, renovating and transforming a 1937 palace, without breaking one brick, into a Ritz Carlton experience.
Speaking about his award, Mr. Ogundele remarked that “This, to me, is not just an award. This is a symbol of responsibility-to uphold the Omoluabi spirit — the spirit of integrity, the spirit of perseverance, and the spirit of nobility.”
“As I sat in a room filled with more than 1000 students and over 99 awardees from fashion, entertainment, technology, manufacturing, business, and other industries, I realized that the Nigerian youth have not even utilized up to 10% of their potential, our true asset is not in crude oil but in the potential of young vibrant people of our nation”.
Mr. Ogundele also added that “From Dubai to Singapore to Shanghai and to Silicon Valley, true leaders are those who seize opportunities and drive change to impact their nation. The Indians and the Lebanese that you see here today didn’t come here to count the bridges, they came to find opportunities in our nation”.
“Nigeria is the only country, where an Indian man could come here as a storekeeper and later become a manufacturer; or a Lebanese as a project manager and later become a contractor. The Nigerian youth must pull the bull by the horn, and take advantage of the opportunities around us.”
According to the Ooni, “we are setting up a movement, a block-chain of young Entrepreneurs that has never been done before because we see an intrinsic value in you guys. We shall set up a forum for all of you to meet world leaders starting from Accra, Ghana.
“During our visit to Ghana, the Vice President of Ghana, Mahamudu Bawumia, encouraged everyone to be the true light of Africa and never to forget the bond that binds every African together.
The awardees who were given first-class treatment, from Ile-Ife to Accra, also enjoyed the company and wisdom of prominent Yoruba royalties such as the Aseyin of Iseyin, Olugbon of Orile-Igbon, Deji of Akure, Olofa of Ofa, The King of Igbara-oke to mention a few.
The award ceremony which was put together by Dr. Ayobami Oyedare, the CEO of the Global Outreach of the Ooni of Ife; is the biggest and most authentic celebration of young under 40 entrepreneurs, recognizes Rt. Hon. Debo Ogundoyin, Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly; Seyi Olofinjana – Ex-Super Eagles Star, HRH Prince Godswill Edward, SA to the Governor of Cross River; Mr. Bello Bala Shagari; Hon. Yusuf Adebisi, the youngest member of Oyo state House of Assembly; Dr. Fola David, Artist, Medical Doctor; Ambassador Sowemimo Abiodun, Chairman & CEO Infometriq Network; Hon. (Bar.) Chima Obieze, Chairman, House Committee on Works, Infrastructure, Housing, Enugu State House of Assembly; Hon. Seun Fakorede: Honourable Commissioner, Youths and Sports, Oyo State; Habeeb Okunola; Ibidapo Fashina; Kenny Blaq, Ajebo, MC lively, Woli Arole and a host of others.
Mr. Ogundele also singled out Oloye Asabi, the cultural ambassador to HRM, praising the incredible entrepreneur who made sure that from Ile-Ife to Accra, the awardees had a smooth and exciting experience.
Speaking about his Accra experience, Mr. Ogundele stated that amongst those he met in Ghana, Ahmed Vanderpuije, Ghanaian Billionaire Entrepreneur who made the most impression on him. He was also inspired by the Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, Olufemi Michael Abikoye, a 60-year old, whose knowledge of technology was “as sharp as that of Mark Zukerberg”. The commissioner encouraged the awardees to employ diligence as the foundation of their success.
The awardees were full of praises for the Alayeluwa, Ooni Adeyeye Ogunwusi Ojaja II, for the platform and opportunity he has given to young enterprising Nigerians to blossom, beyond the shores of the country. Not only has the Ooni shown other leaders what it means to support young and promising Nigerians, but he has also successfully bridged the divide between the present leaders and future entrepreneurs.
According to Ogundele, “The future of Nigeria is dependent on the opportunities we give our youth. The Ooni has set a precedent for us all to follow. I am happy for the opportunity to be part of a block-chain of young Entrepreneurs, making a difference. I left the events humbled and overzealous to do more; inspired to be an agent of change in my industry”.