In Yorubaland, kings don’t die; they simply pass on to join their ancestors. Their departure is always made public after certain traditional rites have been performed. That is why there has been much controversy over whether or not Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse 11, had truly died, days after social and traditional media announced his demise. TUNDE OYEKOLA, who has been following the development, visited the ancient Ile-Ife town at the weekend, and gives an update on the issue…
Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse 11 reportedly died in a London Hospital after a brief illness at about 6 pm that Tuesday. His reported death exhibited a conflict between tradition and modern technology. Since the death of Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, Olubuse II was reported and subsequent dismissal of such by the Royal Traditional Council of Ife led by Lowa of Ife, Oba Joseph Ijaodola, Ile Oodua, as Ooni Palace is called, has been receiving numerous visitors, mostly newsmen. Oba Sijuade, who ascended the throne, succeeding former governor of defunct Western Region, Oba Adesoji Aderemi, in 1980, was probably one Nigerian whose death has been announced many times over. He had repeatedly read his obituary and consequent upon this, any time the news of Oba Sijuade’s demise graces the newspapers; it is often disregarded. As stated by the Secretary, Royal Traditional Council of Ife, High Chief Odesola, Ooni Sijuade was first declared dead in 1984 and in year 2000, the story of his death also made rounds among residents of Ife and Modakeke. Also, in year 2004, the rumour mill was agog again about the ill- health of Oba Sijuade and his reported death, only for the monarch, like the proverbial cat with nine lives, to bounce back stronger.
Ile-Ife at the weekend…
Moving round the ancient town of Ife on Friday, many residents were seen in groups discussing about what they read about the monarch in the newspapers and its implications, should the news be true. During the visit to the town, an unusual heavy security presence was also noticed at the entry, within and exit points in the ancient city. Since the news of his death broke, questions have been asked about the whereabouts of the royal father by some of his subjects if the news of his death is not true. Many of the residents, mostly artisans and commercial motorcyclists, were seen at entrance of Ooni Palace, they were, however, not allowed into the premises by policemen and palace guards on duty. The agitated crowd were later addressed by the Chairman, Ife Development Board (IDB) Prof. Muib Opeloye, who assured them that Oba Sijuade was in sound state of health, urging them to go about their lawful daily activities without apprehension.
Rites of passage…
As synonymous with many Yoruba towns, breaking news of the death of a traditional ruler must be done in compliance with the demands of traditions of the land. Traditionally, the passage of the Ooni, who is referred to as the second in command to the deities, should not be announced until the
various levels of rites of passage had been completed. According to a source who is versed in tradition, one of the rites of passage for the Ooni is an announcement by the Lowa who would announce the passage with the beating of traditional gong at Enu Owa square located at the frontage of the Palace. After the announcement, all markets would be closed while all forms of
ceremonies and merry-making would be suspended in the town for a number of days.
According to tradition, the process of breaking the news of the passage of an Ooni to the public would start from an eldest Prince who would inform Ife Traditional Council, which would in turn pass the information to the state council of traditional rulers that would subsequently inform the governor of the state officially after which the rites of passage would commence.
The source, who did not give details of the rites of passage, said that traditional drummers would come to the palace and beat special drums for some days. After that some elders and old women would gather at the palace and sing dirges for some days. The source disclosed that after this, the throne would remain vacant for the period of mourning before the ruling houses would present names of contestants for the stool.
4 Ruling Houses…
There are four Ruling houses in Ile-Ife: Lafogido, Giesi, Osikola and Ogboru where Oba Sijuwade hailed from. In the case of Ooni, though all those contacted at the palace of the monarch declined comments on any issue that had to do with him, an Ife High Chief, who preferred anonymity, said only the appearance of a chief called Isogun at the palace, (Ile Oodua) could confirm the death of Ooni. According to him, Isogun comes to the palace only once and his visit must be at the death of Ooni to announce the passage of the monarch. He said in 1979, when Oba Adesoji Aderemi passed on, then governor of Oyo State, Chief Bola Ige, in a hurry broke the news of his death on the floor of Oyo State House of Assembly, a development which drew the ire of Ife Traditional Council.
He added that whenever Isogun appears at Ooni’s palace, no one can take anything out of the premises again and the necessary traditional rites must be initiated in line with the dictates of the customs and traditions of the Ife town. The question on the minds of many Ife indigenes at the moment is-will the dreaded Isogun appear at Ile-Oodua any moment from now?
The Royal, Oba Okunade Sijuwade
Oba Okunade Sijuwade was born on January 1st, 1930 to a great royal family in the Ogboru House, Ilare, Ile-Ife to late Omo Oba Adereti Sijuwade and Yeyelori, Emilia Ifasesin Sijuwade. He started his education at Igbein School, Abeokuta, an institution owned by the CMS Mission.
During the period, he and his brothers stayed with Chief G.A.Adedayo, a secretary to the Egba council who was a friend to their father. He attended Abeokuta Grammar School under the well known educationist, the Reverend I.O.Ransomekuti and Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife for his secondary education. He worked briefly as a journalist with the Nigerian Tribune first as a reporter and later as a sales executive before he travelled to the United Kingdom to undertake a course of training in Business Management while he also undergone an Advanced Business Management training program with the Leventis group in Manchester in UK. He was appointed a sales manager of Leventis Motors in Western Nigeria with its headquarters in Ibadan. By 1960, with the Nigerian independence, he became an adviser to the Leventis group.
In 1964, he undertook an extensive international tour to look at the possibilities of acquiring better product for National Motors and one of the places visited was Soviet Union whose cars he believed would sell well in Nigeria because they were relatively cheap and appeared durable.
When his advice to persuade the Management of General Motors to include the Russian Vehicles in their import failed, he pulled out from the company and with partnership of three of his friends, he formed WAATECO which became the sole distributor of Soviet made vehicles, Tractors and Engineering Equipment. He also formed more than fifty other companies in partnership with
other Nigerians and other Nationals and Expatriates. He later moved the headquarters of his companies to the United Kingdom. Oba Sijuwade also invested in real Housing Estate and constructed one in his hometown, Ile-Ife and a first class Motel for VIP visitors: Motel Royal.
As a businessman, he maintained a diverse social, political, ethnic and ideological group of friends in Nigeria and abroad. He enjoys travelling and has visited most countries of the world.
He relaxes by swimming, riding horse, playing table tennis and having intellectual discussions with small groups. He ascended the throne as the 50th Ooni of Ife, the “Holy City of the Yoruba” to borrow Leo Frobenius/ apt description of Ife on Saturday, 6th December,1980. He maintains the prime position of “Arole Oduduwa,” the keeper of the seal of Yoruba