What was your relationship with Oba Okunade Sijuwade like?
I worked with Oba Okunade Sijuwade for 35 good years as an Emese. I spent 14 out of those years as his traditional ADC (Saarun). I was always with him. We travelled and toured many countries together.
How would you describe his life?
He did many things to enhance the sustainability of Nigeria. We had gone together to see some of the nation’s past leaders. I recall when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected as president. During his first term, the Yoruba states did not vote for him. The votes of the northerners brought him to power. During that first tenure, knowing Chief Obasanjo for what he is, a highly detribalised person, he made sure there was no undue advantage to any of the ethnic nationalities. He treated everybody as a Nigerian, and this did not go down well with some people in the north.
So, when it was time for the second term campaign, Ghali Na’abba was so critical of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and Baba Ooni Okunade had to step in. He met with his friend, Emir Ado Bayero, and asked him to join him at the Defence House, Abuja. The late Ooni Sijuade then phoned the then Senate President, David Mark that Emir Ado Bayero and himself were coming to meet him in his house. The Senate President quickly declined, and instead promised to come down. At the meeting, the late Ooni explained all what had been happening within the political space, especially the crisis between the legislature and the presidency as it affected his son, Chief Obasanjo. Having told him all these, Baba then called the Ghali Na’abba, and also told him he was coming to visit him, the same way he told the Senate President. He too came down with the majority leader of the House of Representatives.
Baba Okunade poured out his mind on the troubles and challenges given to Chief Obasanjo, over his second term ambition. Na’abba initially, politely. refused to support Chief Obasanjo over this in view of the fact that the same man had been ungrateful to the northerners despite the unflinching support he enjoyed from them.
“He won’t come for second term, Sir,” Ghali replied. Ooni, then sat well and pointed to Emir Ado Bayero and said to Na’abba that ‘this is your royal father, tell us what exactly is the matter and let’s reconcile the two of you.’ Na’aba still insisted that Chief Obasanjo would not come back. But Baba Okunade called his bluff and said a thousand of him would not stop Obasanjo. Surprisingly, Na’abba was removed before the second term of Obasanjo.
Can you remember any memorable moment you had with him?
There was a period when the Lagos/Ibadan expressway was in a bad state, not motorable at all. Cases of motor accidents claiming lives were high, then, and because of the sensitivity of the road being the only major road that links western states to many of the cities, Oba Okunade thought about this, and one day, he called President Goodluck Jonathan (Jonathan was the president then) and requested to see him in Lagos. Before the meeting, Oba Sijuwade gathered some traditional rulers from the western states to join him for the meeting with President Jonathan. Many of the traditional rulers did not honour this invitation but the late Ooni was not discouraged. He assembled some very prominent Yoruba sons and daughters and they held the meeting with President Jonathan at Marina Government House. Oba Okunade appealed to him that the meeting was all about the state of Lagos/Ibadan expressway. Jonathan promised to fix the road and within five to six months repair works commenced on the said road.
Oba Okunade was considered larger than life by many. How would you describe his reign?
Oba Okunade Sijuade meant well for Ile- Ife, Yoruba and the country as a whole, but enemies within were already on ground when he was being coronated. He was welcomed by a communal crisis: Ife/Modakeke war. In fact, Ooni spent virtually all his wealth on this crisis, though he knew those behind the crisis. That was the major factor that hindered Oba Sijuade’s developmental projects greatly, and same crisis came up about three to five times consecutively.
What do you think Late Okunade Sijuwade will be remembered for?
He will be remembered for promoting/protecting the cultural heritage of Yorubaland. He succeeded in putting Ile-Ife and Yorubaland on the front burner as a force to reckon with.
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