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The Secret of His Success (Oni of Ife)

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Nigerian Community
Written by Demola Abimboye
Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II,  the Ooni of Ife, last week, clocked 80 years and used the occasion to reflect on...........

Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II,  the Ooni of Ife, last week, clocked 80 years and used the occasion to reflect on his life before and after he assumed the throne of his forefathers For millions of descendants of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba, January 1, 2010 was remarkable. On that day, Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, the 50th Ooni of Ife who ascended the throne at the age of 50, clocked 80. And the foremost traditional ruler celebrated his becoming an octogenarian in grand style, befitting his fame and legendary might that have spread all over the world wherever the Yoruba are found.To mark this milestone, between January 1 and 2, 2010, the Ooni hosted and conferred chieftaincy titles on many prominent Nigerians including Babangida Aliyu, governor of Niger State, who bagged the title Agbayewa of ‘The Source,’ as Ife is often referred to, and the current first lady of Benin Republic. He capped these with a thanksgiving service in the palace.The historic birthday provided the revered monarch an opportunity to pray for the repose of Maryam, wife of former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, who died on Sunday, December 27, after a protracted battle with ovarian cancer. He asked God to give the widower the fortitude to bear the loss.Next, the royal father prayed for quick recovery of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who had been hospitalised in Saudi Arabia since November 30. According to him, nobody should wish the other person dead as such fate may befall the evil thinker much earlier. Thereafter, the octogenarian rededicated himself to Nigeria’s progress as he did in 1980 when he became king. That year, he had told a tumultuous crowd which included thousands of foreigners: “With this declaration, I rededicate my life to the service of lfe, the Federal Republic of Nigeria and of all Yoruba speaking people all over the world. This torch is handed on to me by a hand that I know. I shall hold it high in service to the people. I shall not let it fall. Its light shall not fail.” As part of the new drive, Sijuwade said he is committed to state creation even though it is not a “do or die affair.” In this case, the monarch is pushing for the creation of Oduduwa State out of present Osun. He said the quest was not borne out of a desire to carve out a mini empire for some individuals as being speculated but to attract more resources and bring development closer to the people. He said all members of the state council of traditional rulers support the current move and selected Oladele Olasore, the Aloko of Iloko Ijesa, as chairman and spokesperson for the project. “We are all a happy people in Osun State, so if the current move succeeds or otherwise, we remain happy and united in Osun State,” he said.Currently, not fewer than three Ife sons have indicated interest in succeeding the incumbent governor in 2011. The Oba said all the aspirants in the state are his children and so would not discriminate as to who gets it. “The most important thing is to pray for the success of anyone who will take Osun to greater heights irrespective of where he comes from,” he said, adding: “as the spiritual father, I believe in who God chooses, whether from Ife or Ilesa, does not matter.”Also, he promised to upgrade more chiefs to kings in his domain. Earlier in the year, the chief of Modakeke was uplifted at a colourful ceremony presided over by Oyinlola. But the paramount ruler is mindful of who become kings. “They must be people of means so that they would not inconvenience their subjects on how to sustain them on the throne,” he said, adding: “the plan is to install those who would contribute to the development of the towns without waiting for the state or federal governments.”  He said all the areas of disagreement among Yoruba obas would soon be ironed out permanently. The Ooni is due to visit Sikiru Adetona, Ogbagba II, the Awujale of Ijebuland in order to foster greater unity in Yorubaland. “The Alake of Egba was with me earlier in the week when I conferred the title Asiwaju, leader, on one of my subjects. If you come to the palace on January 1 and 2, you would see thousands of traditional rulers not just from Yorubaland or Nigeria but even from beyond who would come to celebrate with me.”He said the new drive is to ensure that the Yoruba who number 246 million and scattered all over Benin, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Argentina, Trinidad and Tobago, close ranks so as to enable the people take their rightful place in their respective countries and in the world. As part of this rededication to Yoruba progress, the monarch said plans have reached advanced stages to really promote studies in Yoruba culture, tradition, language and religion so that the heritage would not go into extinction. He enjoined the youths to co-operate with the leaders in this endeavour. He called for hard work among the descendants of Oduduwa in order to succeed. Citing his case, he revealed that for decades, he slept for four hours, 33 minutes daily between 2 a.m and 6.30 a.m.  “This enabled me to speak with my business contacts or friends in the West who would be rising from sleep at 2 a.m or those in Yokohama, Japan, who would be going to bed at 6.30 a.m.”The 50th Ooni attributed his success in life before he became king or after to hard work, diligence and moderation in all things including food.The great traditional ruler was born on January 1, 1930, to the Ogboru ruling house, Ilare, Ile-Ife. The last Ooni the house presented before him was Sijuwade Adelekan Olubuse I, the first Ooni to venture out of his domain to Lagos when the colonial governor invited him in 1903 to rule on whether the Elepe of Epe was entitled to wear a crown. He had earlier been refused that right by the Akarigbo of Remo. Adelekan fathered Adereti, the father of Sijuwade Olubuse II. His mother was the late Yeyelori Emilia Ifasesin.Sijuwade had his elementary education at Igbein School, Abeokuta, owned by the Church Missionary Society, CMS, and proceeded to Abeokuta Grammar School, under Rev IO Ransome Kuti, the famous educationist. After five years, he moved to Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife to complete his studies under the Reverend SA. Adeyefa. The young school leaver worked in his father’s business for about three years before he joined The Nigerian Tribune. He spent two years, first as a reporter and later as a sales executive. Thereafter, he travelled to the United Kingdom in the early fifties for a course in Business Management.He was with the Leventis Group in Manchester in 1957 and participated in advanced business management training programmes with companies in Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Scotland, West Germany and Israel. He, thereafter, returned to Nigeria and was appointed the Sales Manager of Leventis Motors in Western Nigeria with its headquarters in Ibadan.    Because of its involvement in industrial activities, the government of Western Region approached the Leventis Group in 1963 to release Okunade for five years to help in reorganising some of its companies. However, AG. Leventis, the then chairman of the Group, got the government to promise to release him to his organisation at the end of the assignment. Sijuwade’s first assignment was as Sales Director of National Motors in Lagos. He subsequently headed the company. In 1964, he travelled abroad in search of better products for the company. He visited the Soviet Union whose cars he believed would sell in Nigeria because they were relatively cheap and appeared more durable. But his employers were not well disposed to trading with the Russians. The smart businessman immediately saw a business opportunity and seized it. He formed WAATECO along with three friends. The company became the sole distributor of  Soviet-made vehicles, tractors and engineering equipment in Nigeria. It had a dozen branches with about 50 Russians as members of staff. This marked the beginning of trade with the Soviet Union in Nigeria, and for Sijuwade the birth of a business empire that later included at least 50 companies. Two years after setting up WAATECO, the prince offered the Soviet Union 40 percent equity participation in the company. Even as his private business grew, he ensured the success of the government-owned National Motors. In 1965, it started to make profit. But when his friend Adeyinka Adebayo became governor of the region after the counter-coup of July 1966, Sijuwade resigned his appointment as an employee of the Government of Western Nigeria and went fully into private business. He began to explore fully his contacts across the commercial capitals of the world. In 1973, he moved the headquarters of his operations to the United Kingdom. Back to his roots, Sijuwade built a modern housing estate in the town to provide housing for senior staff of the University of Ife. He also built Motel Royal, a first class resort. Urbane, relaxed and self-confident, he maintains to date a diverse social, political, ethnic and ideological group of friends in Nigeria and abroad. He enjoys travelling and has visited most countries of the world. His hobbies include swimming, horse riding and table tennis. Since he ascended the throne, Oba Sjuwade has been a symbol of pride for his kinsmen and a worthy ambassador of the “Holy City of the Yoruba,” as Leo Frobenius, a German Ethnologist, described Ile Ife.Last week, after a journalist prayed for long life for the Arole Oduduwa, the keeper of Yoruba seal, to live up to 120 years to provide more dynamic leadership to his people, the ever witty monarch retorted: “ I have seen it all. My wish, at the appropriate time, is to be able to tell my ancestors who handed me the baton how well I have left the descendants of Oduduwa. And I am confident I have not disappointed them.”

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Godwin Ibe

Medical Doctor (GP), IT professional, Web Designer, CELTA Certified Teacher of English, Economist and International Trade Marketer.

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