The Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, yesterday died at the age of 85 in a London hospital after a brief illness.
Although there was no official confirmation from the traditional ruler’s palace yesterday, THISDAY gathered that the news on the death of the Oba, whose official title was His Imperial Majesty, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, was communicated to the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola yesterday.
According to sources, “The state governor, Rauf Aregbesola, has just been briefed on the development that the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, is dead.”
Officially, Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuwade was born on January 1, 1930. He became the 50th traditional ruler or Ooni of Ife at the age of 50 in 1980, taking the regnal name Olubuse II.
According to Wikipedia, the late Ooni was crowned on December 6, 1980 in a ceremony attended by his close friend and business partner, the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero; the Oba of Benin, Omo n'Oba n'Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa I; the Amayanabo of Opobo; and Olu of Warri, as well as by representatives of the Queen of England.
Born in Ile-Ife to the Ogbooru ruling house, Sijuwade was the grandson of the Ooni Sijuwade Adelekan Olubuse I. He studied at Abeokuta Grammar School and Oduduwa College in Ile-Ife.
He worked for three years in his father’s business, then for two years with the Nigerian Tribune, before attending Northampton College in the United Kingdom to study business management.
By the age of 30, he was a manager in Leventis, a Greek-Nigerian conglomerate. In 1963, he became Sales Director of the state-owned National Motors in Lagos. After spotting a business opportunity during a 1964 visit to the Soviet Union, he formed a company to distribute Soviet-built vehicles and equipment in Nigeria, which became the nucleus of a widespread business empire.
He also invested in real estate in his hometown of Ile Ife. By the time Sijuwade was crowned Ooni in 1980 he had become a wealthy man.
Sijuwade was a Christian. In November 2009, he attended the annual general meeting of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria accompanied by 17 other traditional rulers.
He declared that he was a full member of the church, and said all the monarchs who accompanied him would now become members. At his birthday celebration two months later, the Primate of the Anglican Communion described Sijuwade as “a humble monarch, who has the fear of God at heart”.
As the Ooni of Ife or Ile Ife, the late Oba Sijuwade presided over what is believed to be the cradle of Yorubaland. Accordingly, the Oòni of Ife claims direct descent from Oduduwa, the mythical son of Olodumare – the supreme God – and is counted first among the Yoruba kings.
He is traditionally considered the 401st spirit (Orisha), the only one that speaks. In fact, the royal dynasty of Ife traces its origin back to the founding of the city more than 2,000 years ago.
Following the formation of the Yoruba Orisha Congress in 1986, the Ooni acquired an international status, the like of which the holders of his title had not held since the city’s colonisation by the British.
The late Oba left behind his wives, his first son Prince Tokunbo Sijuwade, and several other children.