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The Legendary Awujale: Oba Sikiru Adetona at 87

By Dr. (Chief) Fassy Adetokunboh Yusuf

IT can only be providential that a young prince studying Accountancy in England would be recalled home at the age of twenty-five years to occupy the stool of his forefathers as the Awujale and Paramount Ruler of the Ijebu nation, when he was oblivious of what was going on in Ijebuland. Such was the lot of charming Prince Sikiru Kayode Adetona from the Anikinaiya Ruling House.

Apparently, the then incumbent Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Daniel Robertson Adesanya, Gbelegbuwa II, the 57th Awujale had gone to join his ancestors few months after Prince Adetona arrived England in January 1959. His father, Omo-Oba Rufai Adetona, and uncle, Adenaiya Adetona were the two eminently qualified to ascend the throne. However, his father, Omo-Oba Rufai Adetona for some divine inclination put forward the name of the charming prince as the candidate from the Anikinaiya Ruling House to the consternation of all. And, out of the six candidates nominated by the family at its meeting on September 7, 1959, Prince Sikiru Kayode Adetona was unanimously chosen by the Kingmakers (Afobaje) at their meeting on October 26, 1959 as the Awujale-elect.

The letter from the then Western Region Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Ibadan announcing his appointment as Awujale of Ijebuland was dated January 4, 1960. He was publicly presented at Itoro, Ijebu Ode on January 14, 1960 to all and sundry, albeit the Oba-elect felt the public presentation was not necessary.

After three months of undergoing the traditional process at Odo (temporary abode in a carved out hut outside the town), he was deemed fit and proper for coronation. Ijebuland went agog on April 2, 1960 at the presentation of the staff and instrument of office to Oba Sikru Kayode Adetona as the 58th Awujale of Ijebuland. The Mogusu placed the crown on his head.

The Premier of Western Region, the late Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola presented the staff and instrument of office in the presence of notables including the immediate past Premier of Western Region and Leader of Opposition at the Federal level, the late sage Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, GCFR, SAN.; baron of Nigerian business community, Chief Timothy Adeola Odutola; Estate magnate, Chief Samuel Olatunbosun Sonibare; Textile magnate, Chief Okunowo; among others in a crowd never before witnessed in Ijebu Ode. Thus commenced a new era in Ijebuland.

Never in the near 1,000 years of Ijebu Kingdom year did any king reign for sixty years. However, Awujale Sikiru Kayode Adetona, Ogbagba II, Paramount ruler of Ijebuland of the Anikinaiya Ruling House has broken every known record having ascended the throne on April 2, 1960 thus, incredibly clocking near seventy (70) years as the monarch of Ijebu nation- a no mean feat, and still marching on in the service of his people as the custodian of their culture and tradition, and the quintessential monarch of unequalled status and stature.

There were fifty-seven Awujale (Awujale Ademolu Fesogbade ascended the throne twice!) before him starting from Awujale Olu-Iwa to his immediate predecessor on the throne, Awujale Daniel Adesanya, Gbelegbuwa II, who reigned from 1933 to 1959. And, by the declaration made under Section 4(2) of the defunct Western Region Chiefs Law of 1957 of the Customary Law, which was approved on August 25, 1959 and registered on September 1, 1959 regulating the selection of the Awujale of Ijebuland Chieftaincy. The four Ruling Houses in Ijebu Ode are Gbelegbuwa, Anikinaiya, Fusengbuwa and Fidipote. He is no doubt the longest reigning first-class monarch in Nigeria and has been a major actor in the socio-cultural and developmental history of Nigeria since the countrys independence.

With his nearly seven decades 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.

In his seminal book, The Ijebu of Yorubaland (1850-1950): Politics, Economy, and Society, the late Emeritus Professor Emmanuel Ayankanmi Ayandele (1992), an eminent professor of history, gave ‘a remarkable account of an equally remarkable and uniquely adaptable people’. In a generous but factual assertion, the author in the Preface, inter alia, stated that ‘in any computation of human excellence and ability to make the best of any situation, the Ijebu stand extremely high in Africa in general and in Nigeria in particular. … Internally, in the bewildering power politics of Yorubaland … held their own in a spectacular fashion, the Ijebu kingdom being the only survivor of the large-scale cataclysmic eruptions that shattered other Yoruba States in the nineteenth century’.

Ayandele further disclosed that perhaps the best ‘illustration of the genius of the Ijebu for survival and timely adaptability was their going the polar opposite by recognising and appropriating in the nick of time, the dynamics of social and economic process offered by westernism, their erstwhile bugbear which they had strenuously resisted to the point that the British maxims and seven pounders had to speak to them’. The Lagos Times of May 9, 1890 was right when it wrote that ‘Ijebu is about the only province now in what is commonly described as the Yoruba country that has not lost its original seat from the vicissitudes of inter-tribal warfare, which has sorely affected the land’.

Oba Sikiru Adetona who personifies the attributes of Ijebu that include fierce and sturdy independence, candour, sagacity, 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; 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 pursue further studies in Accountancy in the United Kingdom. He left Nigeria by sea from Port Harcourt in late December 1958 and arrived England in January 1959.

By a letter, dated January 4, 1960 referenced CB. 4 1/333, the Permanent Secretary in the defunctj 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).

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. 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 Dr. Majekodunmi who was appointed the Administrator of the region found the services of the young Awujale indispensable. He was thus made a Commissioner during the Emergency period.

Since 1960, 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. No wonder that the Ijebu people have not only comported themselves wherever they are but it is on record that no inter or intra ethnic clash 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 nations main political parties will readily attest to this disclosure. The incorruptibility of Oba Adetona is unsurpassable as spoils of office cannot corrupt the monarch. He is just, transparent, and equitable. Oba Adetona loathes indecency and eschews corruption like the plague. He has been known to chastise corrupt leaders and quite often to publicly denounce them. Woe betides any Ijebu person who gets his hands soiled while occupying a public office because such an Ijebu has no home to return to. His long and enviable reign has not made Oba Adetona to decay nor decompose.

During the Abacha era, he was amongst the few leaders that stood to be counted on the side of history on many occasions including the issue of the phantom coup involving the then Chief of General Staff, Lt. General Donaldson Oladipo Diya and many other senior officers. Time has indeed vindicated him. Oba Adetona, to paraphrase Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819 to 1881), is one leader whom the lust of office does not kill. A leader whom the spoils of office cannot buy. A monarch who possesses opinions and a will. A king who has honour, who will not lie. A legend that has always stood before a demagogue and damned his treacherous flatteries without winking.

He 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. The traditionalists are equally not isolated. The common saying in Ijebu is that religion cannot divide us. The Holy Quran confirms this, to wit: to you, your religion, and to me, my religion.

Albeit Oba Adetona, is the President of the United Muslim Council (an umbrella Islamic organisation for Muslims), he attends Christian functions, and he is quite versed in the Holy Bible. The Ijebu Christian Community holds the New Year Prayer Session in the Awujale Palace. Many of his high-ranking Otunba and Chiefs are Christians. The Palace is an admixture of Christians, Muslims, and traditionalists.

Oba Adetona’s purity and righteous deeds are accounting for his success in this world and would surely account for his securing al-Janah (paradise) in the Hereafter. Given 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. The old and fetish practices have been jettisoned in Ijebuland, thus making the institution to be attractive to successful technocrats, professionals, and business moguls of royal lineage. As a monarch, Oba Adetona has personal warmth and integrity. He has positive attitude and high energy level. The Ijebu monarch has enormous sense of humour, and he is a walking Wikipedia on Ijebu and Nigerian history.

The revival of the Ijebu Age Grade system (known as Regberegbe, in local parlance), the building of the gigantic palace and the Ojude Oba mini-stadium, the novel and unique Ijebu Development Board on Poverty Reduction, the unsurpassable multi-billion naira Awujale Adetona’s Professorial Chair in Good Governance at Olabisi Onabanjo University, the granting of coronets to many communities in Ijebuland are some of the everlasting legacies Oba Adetona is bequeathing.

His unparalleled Endowment 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. Already, the Endowment is also working with the university management for the commencement of post graduate studies in Good/Corporate Governance. The occupant of the Professorial Chair has been delivering annual lectures on diverse topics of national importance. The aim of the Chair is to enhance the image of the University in the area of Governance. The objectives are to: Initiate and execute research that have the capacity of proffering solutions to contemporary challenges and issues of governance at the local and global levels; Promote scholarship, rigorous research activities and opportunities for collaboration with scholars and Institutions committed to issues of governance; and Serve as springboard for attracting quality staff and students to the Department of Political Science through research output.

Albeit one issue agitating the mind of this quintessential monarch is the injustice being meted to his people with the denial of a State of their own. Out of the old provinces, it is unfathomable that it is only Ijebu Province that is being denied a State of their own. The lopping of Ijebu Province with Egba Province to produce Ogun State is unjust, cruel, insensitive, subjugator, repressive, vanquisher, and anachronistic. The necessity of creating an Ijebu State out of the present Ogun State is the only logical thing to do, if the Ijebu are to have a sense of belonging in the Nigerian project. His subjects are unanimous with him in his quest. Indeed, for justice, fair play, and equity to reign in the land, the Ijebu deserve a State of theirs. Surely, at Gods own appointed time, Ijebuland would become a State and then, we can shout, Hallelujah.

To preserve history, Oba Adetona published on the occasion of his Golden anniversary 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. 

On behalf of the good people and friends of Ijebu nation, this is a unique opportunity to salute the living legend, the great and amiable monarch as he soldiers on the throne of his forefathers and marks his eighty-seventh birthday on May 10, 2021. May his reign continue to be peaceful, progressive, and beneficial to Ijebuland and indeed, our dear nation.

Dr. (Chief) Fassy Adetokunboh Yusuf, former Ogun State Commissioner for Information and Culture, is the Baagbimo of Ijebu

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