One of the most priceless eras in Yoruba history and particularly in the modern evolution of Ile-Ife was the emergence of the ascendancy of the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II. His death, exactly a year ago, signaled a most disturbing realisation, one passage too many.
While alive, he shifted the boundaries of royalty. A success in all ramification, the late monarch was a blend of grace and grandeur. A monarch par excellence, he combined industry and humanism. He loved peace, he worked for it, he enthroned it. His subjects both within and beyond recognised in him a monarch worth revering. He lived in a class of his own, yet he was accessible by his subjects. While the world mourned his passage, his legacies still speak.
Immediately after his exit, Nigerians realised the country had lost a revered royal father. After the news was officially released by the Osun State government, several dignitaries began sharing their opinion on the late monarch.
In the Federal Government’s reaction, President Muhammadu Buhari, through a release made available by his media aides, said the country had lost a great personality who had given his best in his service to his people and the country at large.
At an interdenominational service held in the monarch’s honour, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo described Ooni Sijuwade as an epitome of humility and honesty, while admitting that the monarch did so much to uphold the high traditions and cultures of Yoruba people.
“All over the world where Yoruba culture is celebrated, the Ooni was very recognised,” Professor Osinbajo said, while extolling the late monarch’s love for his people
“The achievements of Ooni Sijuwade are worth celebrating, and he will live on with the legacy he enshrined in Yoruba history,” the vice president said.
The Osun State governor, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, also at the service, had lauded Ooni Sijuwade for a life well-lived, particularly by being good role model to other traditional rulers in the country.
A politician of repute, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, in his tribute, had described the late Ooni as someone who loved his people, as well as someone who loved peace.
“On several occasions, the Ooni had intervened in issues that could have resulted in violence across the country, and he succeeded in bringing warring parties together.
“He was also friends with other traditional rulers across the country, particularly the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, and they used their positions to advise government on pro-people policies.
“We all know that the Ooni was very rich before he became king; he, however, used his wealth to develop his kingdom, while also working hard to unite Yoruba sons and daughters all over the world.
“It is no doubt that Yorubaland has lost a great king, who contributed immensely to the development of the race,” Chief Babatope had said.
The late Ooni’s press secretary, Chief Funmilola Olorunisola, had penned an emotional tribute for his boss, and which was published in several newspapers in the country.
In his tribute, Chief Olorunisola described the Ooni as a father, and not as a boss, who cared about his staff’s welfare.
Chief Olorunsola said on several occasions, the late monarch would ask about the welfare and personal lives of his staff, not minding the position they held in the palace.
“The Ooni would do something that would make an individual happy; he could ask after his driver’s wife who had just given birth, or another staff whose child had been sick. In his royalty, he cared for everybody close to him, and that alone endeared him to everybody; he was like a father to everybody,” Chief Olorunisola said.
While influential people in the society had many positive things to say about the late Ooni, the common people in Ile-Ife, who knew who he was on individual levels, had far greater things to say about their monarch.
A cultural enthusiast, Chief Taye Omideyi, explained that apart from being the traditional ruler, the late Ooni loved culture so much and he used it to empower his people.
“Whenever we were preparing for any cultural festival in Ile-Ife, particularly the Olojo festival, the Ooni always made such a big festival.
“As someone who was well educated, he knew the importance of tourism to the development of Ile-Ife, and he did everything in his power to promote cultural activities in Ile-Ife.
“On several occasions, he invited foreign tourists to come to Ile-Ife to witness our festivals, and through that, many people gained financially, as cab drivers would transport tourists around the town, while the hotels would be fully booked, and the tourists would also buy creative materials,” Chief Omideyi said.
While corroborating Omideyi’s submission, another cultural enthusiast, Nurudeen Adeosun, would not want the Ooni’s achievements to be limited to Ile-Ife alone.
“He was the symbol of the Yoruba race, and he acted as such everywhere he went all over the world; wherever he was in the world, he always used the opportunity to promote the Yoruba culture.
“Through him, many people all over the world were able to know about the Yoruba culture because the late Ooni travelled far and wide,” Adeosun said.
For Chief Samson Eluwole, a Nollywood actor and Ile-Ife chief, the late Ooni contributed immensely to the projection of Yoruba culture.
“There was even a time when artistes visited him, and he charged us to be using our films to projecting the Yoruba cultural values and traditions. This admonition even resulted in a number of movies centred on Yoruba culture, and such was the influence of Ooni Sijuwade,” Chief Eluwole said.
Those who had benefited on personal levels were not left out in the eulogies, as Debora Oluranti, a 54-year-old woman who had been performing cultural dances with her group for the Ooni during festivals said the group was always expecting the coming of cultural festivities in Ile-Ife.
“Anytime we performed for the late Ooni, we always went home with huge cash that would sustain us for several months.
“As the Ooni, he might decide not to give us anything because we were his subjects, but he was somebody who gave a lot. Any group that performed for the Ooni always went home with huge cash.
“That was why several cultural groups struggled to perform for the Ooni during cultural festivals, particularly during the Olojo festival.
“Apart from that, the Ooni also assisted people a lot; people went to him for personal issues, and he never looked down on anybody. He attended to everybody.
“People went to him for personal problems, but he was not someone who broadcasted what he was doing for his people,” Madam Oluranti said.
Having heard this humane side of the late king, a political scientist, Dr Israel Oyelade, also revealed that the Ooni was also a democrat who wanted democracy to thrive in the country.
“Around 1984, the Ooni and his friend, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, had travelled out of the country, but by the time they returned, the military government at that time threatened to punish them, saying they went to organise a coup outside the country.
“In the end, the truth came out, but the Ooni, in his lifetime, was someone who wanted the people to exercise their democratic rights which were not possible under the military. He was, however, not someone who would organise the seizure of government through undemocratic means, and everybody knew the military government of that time was only being unnecessarily apprehensive about the influence of both royal fathers among their people,” Dr Oyelade said.
Now, it’s one year since the transition of this revered royal father, Ooni Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse 11, his good works will, however, continue to live after him.