The Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, has died at the age of 85.
Oba Sijuwade, one of the country’s most revered royal fathers and custodian of Yoruba culture, died in a London hospital yesterday after a brief illness.
Although, there has been no official statement concerning his death, the online free encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, surmised that he was dead.
“Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuwade, or Sijuade (born 1 January 1930 – died 28 July, 2015)”, Wikipedia posted on its site late yesterday.
Enquiries at the palace met with stiff resistance as insiders said the death of a traditional ruler cannot be announced until certain rites were performed.
Highly placed Osun State government officials were also reluctant to confirm the demise of the royal father. However, there was noticeable apprehension and a mournful mood in the state.
Oba Sijuwade mounted the throne of the ancient city, regarded as the source of Yoruba race, on December 6, 1980, at the age of 50 as Ile-Ife’s 50th Ooni, in a ceremony attended by other first-class royalties including the Emir of Kano, Oba of Benin, Amayanabo of Opobo and Olu of Warri, as well as by representatives of the Queen of England. He reigned for over 34 years.
Oba Sijuwade’s eventful reign marked a remarkable turning point in the nation’s history. During the monarch’s long reign, Nigeria experienced a great deal of turmoil with military coups and unrest, which often pulled the monarch out of his palace to mediate.
He had recently returned home from London, where he had been receiving treatment, to host former President Goodluck Jonathan along with other Yoruba obas during the last electioneering process.
Oba Sijuwade was born on January 1, 1930. He took the regal name, Olubuse II, on his ascension to the throne. He hailed from a great royal family in the Ogboru House, Ilare, Ile-Ife. His predecessor from the royal house, Sijuwade Adelekan Olubuse I, was the first Ooni to venture out of his domain. At the invitation of the colonial governor, he visited Lagos in 1903 to give his ruling on whether the Oba Elepe of Epe was entitled to wear a crown which was earlier refused by Oba Akarigbo of Remo.
Sijuwade attended elementary education at Igbein, Abeokuta, and had his secondary education at the Abeokuta Grammar School and Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife in Osun State.
On leaving Oduduwa College, he joined his father’s business for about three years, after which he worked with Chief Obafemi Awolowo at The Nigerian Tribune as a reporter and later as a sales executive.
Sijuwade also studied Business Management at the Northampton Polytechnic in United Kingdom in the early fifties. He also participated in advanced business management training programmes with companies in Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Scotland, West Germany and Israel.
Urbane, relaxed and self-confident, Oba Sijuwade was a successful businessman and invested in real estate, construction, hospitality and he enjoyed travelling, swimming, horse-riding, table-tennis and having intellectual discussions with small groups.
For visiting Israel at a time Nigeria had no diplomatic ties with the country, the Oba was temporarily suspended and restricted under a military rule. The royal father bore the adversity with dignity and composure in keeping with age-long Yoruba tradition and dictates of his exalted office.