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Awujale S. K. Adetona At 88: A Salute to Longevity and Sagacity

By Dr. Fassy Adetokunboh Yusuf

ACHIEVING the grand old age of eighty-eight years at a time when the life expectancy at birth in Nigeria is put at sixty-one years, and in particular spending sixty-two years out of these on the throne as a foremost monarch are both a rare gift from the Almighty Creator, the Omnipresent and Most Compassionate. The Japanese culture, for want of a better expression or analogy, says that 88th birthday or ‘Beiju’ is known “as the long life celebration.” In Ijebu mythology, there are seven barometers or attributes for measuring ones existence. These are longevity, relevance, success, family or royal value, affluence, spirituality, and above all, character.

These attributes or barometers key into the existence of the 58th monarch of Ijebu nation, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, who clocks 88 years old on Tuesday, May 10 (2022), and was 62 years on the throne of his forefathers as the Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland on April 2, 2022. Contextualising the quintessential monarch who has bestridden the nation’s traditional institution like a colossus with unequalled sagacity, objectivity, clarity of purpose, zeal, and undying love for his people, for truth, for the management of resources, and for so many other positive acts is herculean.

Awujale Sikiru Kayode Adetona, Ogbagba II, from the Anikinaiya Ruling House has broken every known record and incredibly, he is still marching on in the service of his people as the custodian of their culture and tradition. He is no doubt the longest reigning first-class monarch in Nigeria and has been a major actor in the socio-cultural, political and developmental history since the country’s independence, having ascended the throne of his forefathers six months before the country’s independence.

With his six decades and two years on the throne, Oba Adetona has seen the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of the Nigerian polity. No wonder, he bestrides the traditional institution like a colossus. A sagacious, courageous, charismatic, dependable and reliable traditional ruler, a statesman and an incorruptible monarch, Awujale Adetona is known to always damn every demagogue. Indeed, he is providentially always on the side of history and has weathered many storms that would have consumed lesser mortals.

Young Prince Sikiru Kayode Adetona who personifies the attributes of Ijebu that also include fierce and sturdy independence, candour, objectivity, sincerity, entrepreneurial spirit, reliability, and resoluteness was born on Thursday, May 10, 1934. He variously attended Baptist School, Ereko, Ijebu Ode; Ogbere United Primary School, Ijebu Igbo; and Ansar-Ud-Deen School, Ijebu Ode between 1943 and 1950. For his secondary education, he was at Olu-Iwa (now Adeola Odutola) College, Ijebu Ode from 1951 to 1956. Between 1957 and 1958 he took up appointment with the then Audit Department of the Western Region, Ibadan. The charming prince resigned his appointment in 1958, to study Accountancy in the United Kingdom. He left Nigeria by sea through Port Harcourt in late December 1958.

By a letter, dated January 4, 1960 referenced CB. 4 1/333, the Permanent Secretary in the defunct Western Region Ministry of Local Government conveyed to the Local Government Adviser in Ijebu Ode, approval of the Western Region Governor in-Council, the appointment of Prince Sikiru Kayode Adetona as the Awujale of Ijebuland with effect from that date (January 4, 1960). It was, indeed, a new dawn in the annals of Ijebu. He thus returned to Nigeria to occupy the throne of his forefathers. After introduction to his people at a gathering in Itoro Square, Ijebu Ode, he proceeded to Odo for the traditional seclusion and other rites for three months.

On April 2, 1960 he was formally crowned as the Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland at Itoro, Ijebu Ode before a mammoth crowd never before witnessed in Ijebuland. Those in attendance included the late Premier of Western Region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola (who presented Oba Adetona with the Staff of Office); the first Premier of the region and Leader of Opposition in the House of Representatives, Chief Obafemi Awolowo; Chief Timothy Adeola Odutola (who was the Regent before the emergence of Oba Adetona); Chief Okunowo (Bobasuwa of Ijebu); Samuel Olatunbosun Sonibare (later the first Asiwaju of Ijebu).

On Tuesday, April 5, 1960 newly crowned Oba Adetona, took his seat as a member of the defunct Western Region House of Chiefs, after a formal introduction. As young as he was, he was proposed as the Chairman of the house, but the position later went to the Oni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi. And, as if confirming the aphorism that a golden fish had no hiding place, the new Awujale was appointed by the Western Region Government as a Minister and Member of the Region’s Executive Council. This position he occupied until the outbreak of the Western Region’s political crisis in 1962. With the declaration of a State of Emergency in the Western Region by the then Federal Government led by the late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the late Senator (Dr.) Moses Majekodunmi who was appointed in May 1962, the Administrator of the region found the services of the young Awujale indispensable. He was thus made a Commissioner during the Emergency period.

Since ascension to the throne, Oba Adetona has succeeded in raising the status and reckoning of his Ijebu people. He is known and perceived as one of the country’s greatest monarchs, dead or alive. A philosopher and social scientist, his fame and popularity extend beyond the shores of Nigeria. Awujale Adetona is loyally and devotedly committed to the Nigerian State having built bridges across Rivers Niger and Benue. He admonishes his people to be thoroughbred wherever they find themselves and to ensure that the ‘Omoluabi’ (the honourable) virtue is never compromised. No wonder Ijebu people have not only comported themselves wherever they are but it is on record that no inter or intra ethnic clash worthy of note has been recorded in Ijebuland since he ascended the throne (in 1960).

He was in the forefront of finding a national solution to the political logjam of 1993 to 1999. Oba Adetona consulted widely and hosted several fora. He was never a sell-out. He brokered peace and concord in 1998 and 1999, and the current major actors in the nation’s main political parties will readily attest to this disclosure. Oba Adetona, to paraphrase Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819 to 1881), is one leader “whom the lust of office does not kill.’’ He is a leader “who the spoils of office cannot buy.” He is also a monarch who “possesses opinions and a will.’’ Awujale Adetona is a king “who has honour, who will not lie”. Indeed, he is a legend that has always “stood before a demagogue and damned his treacherous flatteries without winking.”

Oba Adetona is a monarch among monarchs that successive administrations in Ogun State and, indeed, Nigeria hold in high esteem as a manifestation of his incorruptibility, transparency, objectivity and sagacity. He has immeasurably succeeded in bringing about religious harmony among his people to the extent that religion does not dichotomise the Ijebu as Christians live in harmony with Muslims.

Oba Adetona’s purity and righteous deeds are accounting for his success in this world and would surely account for his securing al-Jannah (paradise) in the Hereafter. With his spirituality, one is left in no doubt that Oba Adetona will reign for many more years as God guarantees longevity and good health for leaders who fear Him and thread His path.

This spectacular monarch has used his sagacity and creative ingenuity to bring the Ijebu traditional institution in tandem with civilisation. As a monarch, Oba Adetona has personal warmth and integrity. He has a positive attitude and high energy level with incredible memory of history, events, culture, etc.

The revival of the Ijebu Age Grade system (known as Regberegbe, in local parlance), the building of the gigantic palace and the Ojude Oba pavilion, the novel and unique Ijebu Development Board on Poverty Reduction, the unsurpassable Awujale Adetona Professorial Chair in Good Governance at Olabisi Onabanjo University, the granting of coronets to many communities in Ijebuland are some of the everlasting accomplishments of Oba Adetona.

To preserve history, Oba Adetona published on the occasion of his fiftieth year as Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland and to coincide with his seventy-six birthday his autobiography with the title ‘Awujale: The autobiography of Alaiyeluwa Oba S. K. Adetona, Ogbagba II.’ The seventeen-chapter book with seven appendices tells it all. It is a master piece and a must read for anybody interested in the history of ‘the Ijebu of Yoruba nation’ and monarchy in Nigeria.

No doubt, ‘history is replete with examples of those who lead by examples, with wisdom, courage and love, guided by, reflection and empathy, using their minds to accomplish what their hearts know to be true (Kirkland, J. C.). The disposition of Oba S. K. Adetona is akin to the statement of a management guru (Emerson, R. A.) to the effect that ‘to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.’ To paraphrase Bennett, R. T., Oba Adetona believes in himself and in the past, was able to stretch himself beyond his limits. He was, and is still capable of accomplishing more than he knew and knows.

The Ijebu Development Board on Poverty Reduction (IDBPR) under the watch of Oba Adetona has impacted greatly on the economy of Ijebu nation and has been celebrated as a significant success, receiving commendations from the State Government and President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other agencies of government, and within the international community. International recognitions include from the Independent Technical Advisory Committee of the Municipality of Dubai, and United Nations Habitat. It is now a model Poverty Reduction programme in the country.
Even though he is advancing in age, he continues to play host to critical stakeholders in the country’s social, political and economic sectors. Specifically, he had lately received in audience the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo; Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; the late Alafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III; Oni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi; Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun; and many other notable politicians and academics.
His multi-billion naira endowment of a Professorial Chair at the Olabisi Onabanjo University is the best thing that has happened to the university considering the gargantuan edifices constructed and being constructed to ensure the institutionalisation of good governance in the country. He also mobilised some Ijebu citizens to construct a befitting Vice Chancellor’s lodge with all the complements for Olabisi Onabanjo University. The endowment has taken a front leap with Oba Adetona engineering the construction of many buildings and facilities as the university commences the running of post graduate programmes in Corporate Governance. So far, a Director, Deputy Director and other complement of staff have been appointed.
The Tai-Solarin College of Education (TASCE) in Omu-Ijebu has been renamed Oba Adetona College of Education, Science and Technology in appreciation of Awujale Adetona’s immeasurable contributions to the development of Ijebuland and education in general.
He is undisputedly the originator of modern Ijebu nation. He has been an advocate of excellent values, religious tolerance, peaceful coexistence and dialogue among his people and has used his aura, exposure, and creativity to rebrand the socio-economic and political life of the Ijebu including using the age grade system known as Regberegbe as a major instrument of social cohesion and mobilisation. Indeed, it is a salute to longevity and sagacity as Oba Adetona clocks 88 years old, sixty-two of these as the Awujale and Paramount ruler of Ijebuland.

*Dr. Fassy Adetokunboh Yusuf, Ogun State former Commissioner for Information, Sports and Culture, a lawyer and Bobagbimo of Ijebu, can be reached at: drcfassyaoyusuf@gmail.com

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