Rare gems: Ooni Aderemi and Sijuwade

Oba-Okunade-SijuadeIT is a historical fact that Ile-Ife is the cradle of the Yorubas. In the life of the ancient city of Ile-Ife, two eminent and distinguished personalities dominated the landscape of the Yoruba nation for an uninterrupted period of 85 years.

Titus Martins Adesoji Tadenianwo Aderemi (November 15, 1889 – July 7, 1980) was a quintessential Yoruba monarch. He was the Ooni of Ife in 1930 and was on the throne for an uninterrupted period of 50 years until his death in July 1980. He was a member of the Oshinkola ruling house of Ife. He succeeded Ooni Ademiluyi Ajagun who died on June 24, 1930. He was the first literate Ooni.

Ooni Okunade Sijuwade, born on January 1, 1930 to the great Royal family of the Ogbooru ruling house, ascended the throne of the Ooni of Ile-Ife on December 6, 1980 and was on the throne of this great Royal institution for an uninterrupted period of 35 years until his demise on July 28, 2015. These two great monarchs were destined for the Royal Stool of Ile Ife right from birth.

Oba Titus Martins Adesoji Tadenianwo Aderemi was born on November 15, 1889 to the family of Osundeyi Gbadebo and Adekunbi Itiola, his 19th and last wife and a native of Ipetumodu. Prince Osundeyi named this baby Tadeniawo Ayinla Aderemi, who took his first footsteps at seven months and started walking.

Aderemi started schooling in January 1900 at the St. Phillips School, Iyekere, Ile-Ife. He left school in 1906, became a pupil teacher in 1907 and registered with an overseas correspondent school, for private tuition. He joined the Nigerian Railway Corporation in 1909 in the construction section and worked in various other departments.

Adesoji Aderemi came into instant success when he started a Motor Transport business as well as a trade in produce buying and general merchandise. After a brief tutelage with John Holt of Nigeria, he became an agent for UAC and later a Factor for John Holt Ventures, Mc lever and OL Geyser, Adesoji bought his first car in 1920. He was charged with impersonation and flamboyant display of wealth at the Upper Palace Court of the Ooni, fined 25 pounds, which was returned to him by the Ife local council on his ascension to the throne in 1930.

Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuwade II, was born on January 1, 1930 to Prince Adereti Olubuse and grandson of Oba Adelekan Sijuwade Olubuse I, who was the first Ooni ever, to travel out of his domain. Prince Okunade Sijuwade (as he was then called) started his Elementary education at Igbehin School, Abeokuta, owned by the C.M.S Mission and proceeded to Abeokuta Grammar School under the tutelage of the famous Reverend Ransome-Kuti between 1944 and 1947. Sijuwade’s father, Prince Adereti Sijuwade was a wealthy Cocoa Merchant, who had a thriving business in Iju, Alagbado and Abeokuta axis of the present day Ogun State. Okunade completed his secondary education at the famous Oduduwa College. He will be remembered by many of his classmates as a particularly diligent student, mature for his age and also as someone who had unlike many of his colleagues at school, been familiar with the cosmopolitan life in Lagos at that time – the then centre of good life in Nigeria.

He joined his father’s business for about three years and thereafter had a two-year stint at the Tribune Newspapers in Ibadan. He proceeded to the Northampton Polytechnic, United Kingdom, from where he joined the Leventis Group in Manchester in 1957. He also had advanced business management programmes in the companies in Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Scotland, West Germany and Israel. He returned to Nigeria to launch a career in business, an endeavour marked by outstanding success.

Oba Adesoji Aderemi upon ascension to the throne in 1930, began immediately his modernist policies for the growth and development of Ife Land and the Yoruba Nation. He founded Oduduwa College in 1933 and in 1935, aided the installation of the Ife Water Works. In 1948 he inaugurated the Egbe-Omo Oduduwa and the same year he visited England and served as a delegate at the African Conference in London. In 1953, he was appointed Minister without Portfolio in the Nigerian House of Representatives and in 1954 was appointed the President of the Western Region House of Chiefs. He climaxed this, by becoming the first African Governor of the Western Region in July 1960, succeeding the former British Colonial Governor, Olola Sir John Rankine. He was in office till December 1962.

Oba Adesoji Aderemi used his position of influence to advocate that the proposed University of Western Region be sited at Ile-Ife in 1962, in recognition of the ancestral status of Ile-Ife as the religious and cultural matrix of the Yorubas. The University started from the current Ibadan North Campus of the present Ibadan Polytechnic and finally moved to Ile-Ife in 1967, which was, to Aderemi, the fulfillment of a long cherished dream.

Adesoji built the popular Glass House at Iremo Road Ile-Ife, as his own family compound, which his family of several wives and over 60 children relocated to, upon his passage from the royal stool of the Ooni of Ife in July 1980. Oba Adesoji Aderemi as a progressive and radical traditionalist was described by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo as “the very embodiment of royalty and devotion.”

The lives of Adesoji and Okunade were destined and glued together for the advancement of the course of the Yorubas for an uninterrupted period of 85 years. The greatest lessons of their lives were that success, without a worthy successor is unsuccessful.

Adesoji and Okunade were proselytizers of the Yoruba tradition, history, cultures, mores and norms. A worthy successor would only enrich the stool of Oduduwa and ensure further perpetuation of its entrenched values. It is a clearer call to the Ife King Makers to allow a process that would bring a worthy successor to the throne of Oduduwa.

• Kehinde is a lawyer in Ibadan; and former member, House of Representatives, Abuja, 1999-2003.

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