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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Tongues Wag Over Ooni’s Death: “He’s Hale & Hearty-Palace Chiefs, It’s A Taboo To Disclose-Kinsmen"


Palace Chiefs have come out to deny the rumoured death of the Oonirinsa of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse 11 even though kinsmen in Ife have also disclosed the need to refute the story if at all it is true, “it is a taboo, especially in Ile Ife being the cradle of the Yorubaland for the public to hear the news of the King’s death first, before some traditional rites, a top Chief disclosed.
Speaking further on it, the source told us, “anytime any Ooni dies, announcement must not be made until some traditional rites are fulfilled which include cutting of all trees in the palace’.
But in the Lowa Adimula of Ifeland, Joseph Ijaodola, who is next in rank to Ooni, at a press conference today in Ile-Ife said the death of Oba Okunade is a mere rumour.
Ijadola said Ooni spoke with his high chiefs early this morning from London.
He said the royal father will be attending his son’s wedding in Lagos this Saturday.
One of his sons is marrying the daughter of Mrs. Remi Olowu.
The secretary, Royal Traditional Council of Ife, the Ladin of Ife, High Chief Adetoye Odewole, said the Ooni is in constant touch with his chiefs and that they spoke with him this morning.
"As I speak with you, chiefs have not heard anything like that. This is not the first time such rumour will come up about our royal father.
"They did it in 1984, 2004 and now. Those behind the death story are enemies of Ife. Oba Sijuade remains in sound health."
Also, president of the Ife Development Board, Prof. Muibi Opeloyeru, stated that there was no truth in the reported death.
"Ife as a town with rich tradition has its way of managing its affairs and there is no way such a thing will happen that traditional chiefs in the land will not be adequately be briefed.
“I can confirm to you that the Oba will be in Lagos this Saturday to attend the wedding of his son," Opeloyeru said.
Meanwhile, following media reports of the passing on of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, sympathisers on Wednesday morning trooped to his palace to confirm the development.
The sympathisers began arriving at the palace as early as 6.3a.m. to ascertain the veracity of the report from palace chiefs, who declined to speak.
They were, however, turned back at the entrance of the palace by palace guards, while the gate was shut.
Many sympathisers, however, gathered in groups a few metres from the palace gate discussing the development in low tones.
When the Private Secretary to the Ooni, Mr Saka Awojoodu, was approached to react to the development, he simply said: "I have nothing to disclose.’’
Mr Bisi Oduyemi, one of those who was at the palace, said he came to find out whether the news of the monarch’s passing on was true.
"I am here to find out whether the story of the Ooni’s death was true.
"I heard the news on radio during the newspaper review this morning but I am here to confirm this from the palace chiefs and unfortunately, they are not forthcoming,’’ Oduyemi said .
Another resident, Mrs Idayat Akinrolu, said she abandoned her house chores to find out the authenticity of the story from the palace.
Meanwhile, the state government and the Osun Council of Traditional Rulers have yet to react to the development.
The Man Sijuade
Oba Sijuwade was born on January 1, 1930 to a great royal family in the Ogboru house, Ilare, Ile-Ife. He was the grandson of Oba Sijuwade Adelekan Olubuse I.
The deceased had his elementary education at Igbein School, Abeokuta and proceeded to Abeokuta Grammar School for post-primary education under the well-known educationist, Rev. I. O. Ransome Kuti who was the principal of the school.
Early in life, Prince Okunade Sijuwade was conscious of his royal birth, and his carriage, even in school, was of one who was destined to wear the crown.
Once, at Abeokuta Grammar school, Reverend Kuti wanted to flog the young Sijuwade for some misdemeanour. As the principal raised his whip, the young prince dared the famous disciplinarian to hit a ‘king’.
This did not of course stop Reverend Kuti from meting out what he considered appropriate punishment to the erring young man who was nonetheless satisfied that he has made his point. He left Abeokuta Grammar school after five years and got transferred to Oduduwa College in Ile-Ife to complete his studies under the Reverend S. A. Adeyefa.
After leaving Oduduwa College, the young prince joined his father’s business for about three years after which the elder Sijuwade, convinced that his son had acquired sufficient on-the-job training, decided he should proceed for a course of study overseas. Before he left however, the young man on his own volition decided he needed to have journalistic training.
He joined The Nigerian Tribune where he spent two years, first as a reporter and later as a sales executive. Thereafter, he proceeded to the United Kingdom in the early 50s to undertake a course of training in Business Management.
His training was essentially in Northampton and with the Leventis Group in Manchester in 1957. He also participated in advanced business management training programmes with companies in Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Scotland, West Germany and Israel.
Armed with the immense experience he acquired in these places he returned to Nigeria a few years later to launch a career in business.
Shortly after he returned to Nigeria, he was appointed the Sales Manager of Leventis Motors in Western Nigeria with its headquarters in Ibadan. By 1960, with Nigerian Independence, he became an adviser to the Leventis Group.
In 1963, the government of Western Nigeria, now getting increasingly involved in a lot of industrial activities in the country approached the Leventis Group to release the prince for five years to help in re-organisation of some of their companies. The request was reluctantly granted after month of hard negotiation by the then Chairman of the Leventis Group, Chief A. G. Leventis, who considered the young Prince Sijuwade as an asset to their organisation.
Prince Sijuwade’s first assignment with the government was as Sales Director of National Motor in Lagos. He subsequently headed the management of the company with numerous Nigerian and expatriate staff under him.
In 1964, he undertook an extensive international tour to look into the possibilities of acquiring better products for National Motors. One of the places he visited was the Soviet Union whose cars he believed would sell well in Nigeria, because they were relatively cheap and appeared durable.
When he returned to Nigeria and reported to his employers, they were not as enthusiastic about the business proposal, because the government was not at this time well-disposed to trade with the Russians. Rather than feel disappointed Prince Sijuwade, smart businessman that he was, immediately saw a business opportunity and seized it.
He formed a company along with three friends; the company, WAATECO, was to become in a few years the sole distributor of soviet-made vehicles, tractors and engineering equipment in Nigeria with at least 50 Russians in its service and a dozen branches all over Nigeria.
This small beginning marked the start of trade with the Soviet Union in Nigeria, and for Prince Sijuwade the birth of a business empire that was to include at least 50 companies.
Two years after WAATECO was set up, Prince Sijuwade offered the Soviet Union 40 per cent equity participation in the company. Of course, the Russians did not hesitate since the company was doing well. Business with the Russians was to grow hundred folds in the next decade and a half.
It is a credit to his acumen in business that while trade with the Russians expanded, his business contacts in the capitalist West continued to grow and develop. He was being seasoned in the tough world of business.
While he was setting up his own company he continued his efforts to help re-organise the government-owned National Motors and by 1965 the company began showing a profit. The political turmoil in the country following the coup of January 1966 and the counter-coup of July the same year brought his good friend (Rtd) Major General Robert Adebayo (then Colonel) to office as Governor of the Western Region.
Sensitive to the possibility of having a disagreement with his friend over a public issue he decided that it was best to resign his appointment as an employee of the Government of Western Nigeria. He subsequently left the service of the government and went fully into business on his own. With this resolve, he now explored with fresh zeal his many contacts within Nigeria and on the international scene and revitalised business possibilities which time had not allowed him to exploit while working with the government.
Within 10 years, his activities stretched far and wide, and to keep in touch with the various commercial capitals of the world he moved the headquarters of his operations to the United Kingdom in 1973. Now he was truly where he wanted to be in the business world.
With his business now firmly established internationally he decided to establish a stronger footing in his hometown, Ile-Ife. He embarked on two major projects in the town which turned out to be a wise decision both from a business angle and as a means of enhancing his image in his community.
A modern housing estate which he built in one of the quieter and newer parts of the town was to provide housing for senior staff of the University of Ife, and help relieve the university’s acute staff housing shortage. It was for Prince Sijuwade not only a business investment but a contribution to the development of the university and his home town.
It was the same thinking that inspired his decision to build a first class motel for VIP visitors to Ife, the Motel Royal. This also turned to be a far-sighted decision because at his coronation a few years later, when the town played host to thousands of guests, the accommodation problem was not nearly as chaotic as it might have been.
As a businessman, Prince Sijuwade maintained a diverse social, political, ethnic and ideological group of friends in Nigeria and abroad. He genuinely enjoys playing host and is equally at home in small groups as in large gatherings. He enjoys traveling and has visited most countries of the world.
He ascended the throne as Ooni of Ile-Ife in December 6, 1980. Since he ascended the throne, Oba Sijuwade has been a worthy ambassador-at-large Nigeria and a symbol of pride for the Yoruba.

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