Ooni Sijuwade advanced Awo’s legacies —Awolowo Dosumu

•As OAU celebrates late monarch at colloquium

THE multi-dimentional virtues of the late revered Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, were extolled on Friday by various speakers at a colloquium organised by the Institute of Cultural Studies of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife.

Ooni Sijuwade’s humanism, religious tolerance, commitment to peace, doggedness in the pursuit of true federalism, philanthropy and other virtues were celebrated by an array of 15 speakers who presented papers.

Among the speakers at the event was Ambassador Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, who spoke on ‘Oba Sijuwade’s Commitment to the Legacy of Obafemi Awolowo’.

According to her, the late monarch played a significant role in moving the legacy of the sage forward, and was relentless in pushing for the advancement of Chief Awolowo’s quest for true federalism.

She spoke glowingly of the late monarch’s contribution to Yoruba unity and alluded to his “many acts of kindness,” expressing the hope that both old and young Nigerians would continue to uphold the values that both Awolowo and Ooni Sijuwade stood for.

“Kabiyesi was well-placed to move Chief Awolọwọ’s legacy forward in this regard because he enjoyed the distinct advantage of avoiding disparaging labels such as ‘tribalist’ or ‘Yoruba irredentist’. In any case, such labels could never have stuck, for many reasons. His activities in this regard simply confirmed the Yoruba dictum, ‘ilé l’a ti ίk’ẹṣọ r’òde’.

“For example, he was well-known, even before he ascended the throne, for his cosmopolitan outlook and, therefore, his formidable network of friends across all geopolitical zones in Nigeria. He not only maintained and deepened such friendships throughout his reign, he continued to expand his already impressive circle of friends.

“Furthermore, the Yoruba Unity Forum, an umbrella body for all sociocultural organisations within the Yoruba nation, was one of the significant initiatives championed by Mama H. I. D. Awolọwọ, Oba Ṣijuwade, Bishop Bọlanle Gbonigi and other notable leaders.” (See full text of her speech on pages 28 & 29).

In his opening address, the acting vice chancellor of the university, Professor Anthony Elujoba, challenged all stakeholders in the Obafemi Awolowo University project to contribute to make the much trumpeted greatness of the university a reality.

But more than anything else, Elujoba said that the celebration of Ooni Sijuwade’s anniversary was as auspicious as it was instructive.

While describing the late Ooni Sijuwade as a great achiever and his reign “highly impactful,” Elujoba said, “Let it (his memory being celebrated) be a lesson to those of us that were handpicked by destiny to lead – especially traditional rulers.”

He urged them to know that the position they occupy – which is an exalted one – will end “at an appointed time.”

He thanked the Sijuwade family for the honour to be allowed to host the colloquium in Sijuwade’s honour “free of charge”.

The Dean, Faculty of Arts, OAU, Professor Gbemisola Adeoti, in his address noted that traditional rulers have an irreplaceable role in helping to tackle Nigeria’s security challenges, since, according to him, they are closer to the people than politicians.

He also lamented the tragedy of the Yoruba language that is dying, and challenged the traditional rulers to take the lead in what he called the traditional language renaissance.

In fact, he argued that anyone to be crowned king in Yoruba land should be someone who is not only proficient in the use of the language, but who is comfortable with its everyday use and is ready to promote it.

He also extolled the virtues of the late Ooni, whose life he said was “well-lived, and worth living,” as he promoted peace and the Yoruba culture.”

Other speakers at the event include Senator Femi Okurounmu, who spoke on the ‘Role of Oba Sijuwade in Promoting Yoruba Unity’.

Senator Okurounmu said there was the need for Yoruba leaders to downplay personal interest collective agenda of the race in order to achieve greatness.

According to Okurounmu, “Collectively, when it comes to protecting and advancing the interest of the race, we rank poorly. This, in my view, is because of too much individualism and too little sense of corporate responsibility to the race. We loathe yielding leadership to others, in the collective interest of all.”

He described Oba Sijuwade as “a colossus among the Nigerian traditional rulers of his generation, even more so among obas in Yorubaland, where the impact of his illustrious reign will reverberate for generations”.

Okurounmu, however, used the occasion to condemn the constant battle for supremacy among Yoruba obas, a development he described as totally unnecessary.

Ambassador Segun Bamgbetan spoke on ‘Oba Sijuwade’s Impact on Tourism’; Professor Muiz Opeloye spoke on ‘Oba Sijuwade as a Christian and Promoter of Religious Peace and Harmony,’ while Professor Yemi Akinyemi spoke on the ‘Political Aspect of His Imperial Majesty, Oba Okunade Sijuwade’.

One of the speakers, Professor of History, Siyan Oyeweso, lamented the fact that Ife, in spite of its undeniable centrality to the Yoruba history, has not produced enough experts in the legal profession.

According to him, there are currently not more than five lawyers from Ife who have attained the status of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

He also challenged Ife to produce books on its history, just as he challenged the Obafemi Awolowo University to immortalise the late Ooni with an academic monument.

The reigning Ooni, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja I, in his brief remarks called for a minute silence in honour of his predecessor, who, according to him, lived an impactful life worthy of emulation.

Eminent personalities at the event included former governor of Ogun State, Chief Gbenga Daniel; the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi (Ojaja 11), Professor Gabriel Olawoyin, the chairman of Ife Development Board (IDB)  Professor Muib Opeloye, the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, the Alayemore of Ido-Osun, Oba Adedapo Aderemi, the co-chairman of ANN Plc, Dr Awolowo Dosumu, the acting vice chancellor of OAU, Professor Anthony Adebolu Elujoba, Senator Femi Okurounmu and a host of others.