Ooni’s Death: Shock In Ile Ife As Chiefs, Palace Mourn
The news of the death of Oba Okunade Sijuwade Okunade, Oni of Ife was received with shocks and disbelief after the confirmation of the death by Palace Chief late yesterday in the ancient town of Ile Ife.
The ailing monarch had passed on on Tuesday in London having suffered complications in heath for some days before he was flown to London for medical attention.
It was reliably ggathered that the chiefs are schedule to meet with palace officials to deliberate on the funeral rites for the traditional ruler highly revered in Yorubaland, South West Nigeria.
The late Oba died at 85 years and seven months.
He was born on January 1, 1930 and ascended the throne in December 1980 as the 50th ruler of the ancient town of Ile Ife, popularly referred to as the cradle and source of the Yoruba race.
The traditional ruler was crowned king on December 6, 1980 in a colourful ceremony attended by prominent traditional rulers the Emir of Kano, Oba of Benin, Amayanabo of Opobo and the Olu of Warri as well as the representatives of the Queen of England.
Sijuwade was born to the Ogboru ruling house and was a grandson of the Ooni Sijuwade Adelekan Olubuse I.
The late Oba studied at the Abeokuta Grammar School and Oduduwa College in Ile-Ife.
He worked for three years in his father’s business and later did a two-year stint with the Nigerian Tribune, before attending the Northampton College in the United Kingdom to study Business Management.
At the young age of 30, he became a manager in Leventis, a Greek-Nigerian conglomerate.
In 1963, he became the 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. This later became the nucleus of his widespread business empire.
He also invested in real estate in his home town of Ile-Ife and by the time Sijuwade was crowned Ooni in 1980, he had become a wealthy man, whose fame and connection was global.
When Sijuwade became the Ooni, he inherited an ongoing dispute over supremacy between the obas of Yorubaland.
In 1967 the crisis had been resolved when the late Yoruba sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was chosen as the leader of the Yoruba.
In 1976, the Governor of Oyo State, General David Jemibewon, had decreed that the Ooni of Ife would be the permanent chairman of the State Council of Obas and Chiefs.
Other Obas led by the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, said the position should rotate.
The dispute calmed down when Osun State was carved out of Oyo State in August 1991, but still persisted and in January 2009, Sijuwade was quoted as saying that Oba Adeyemi was ruling a dead empire (the Oyo Empire, which collapsed in 1793).
Adeyemi responded by citing “absurdities” in Sijuwade’s statements and saying the Ooni “is not in tune with his own history”.
In February 2009, Sijuwade helped mediate in a dispute over land ownership between the communities of Ife and Modakeke, resolved in part through the elevation of the Ogunsua of Modakeke as an Oba.
The late monarch would however not be forgotten, for his somewhat controversial roles he played during the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election presumed to have been won by late business mogul and politician, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola.