- House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara said Oba Sijuwade is a monumental loss to the nation.
- Former Osun State Governor Isiaka Adeleke described him as an epitome of intellectual kingship.
- Oba Okunade Sijuwade was ‘King of Africa’. -Ndigbo
Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (UK), Dr Dalhatu Tafida, yesterday visited the London home of Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the Ooni of Ife, to commiserate with his family on the passing on of the foremost monarch.
Tafida said he visited the family, including Oba Sijuwade’s son Adetokunbo, and spent about one hour with them. The envoy condoled with the family on behalf of the Federal Government and told them they could ask for consular support —should the need arise. At Oba Sijuwade’s home were his wives, children and an unnamed traditional ruler from Osun State, according to a source present during Tafida’s visit.
Efforts to reach Adetokunbo, who stays in Banyan House in the upscale neighbourhood in Lensbury Avenue of Southwest London, were not successful last night. Calls to his phones were answered, but he kept saying: “I will call you back.”
Condolences from prominent Nigerians were pouring in yesterday, though some were cautious.
House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara expressed shock over the passage of Oba Sijuwade. He described his passing as a monumental loss to the nation. Dogara, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan, said: “I join our countrymen and women to mourn the demise of the Oni who was a father to all. Nigeria has lost one of its most respected and revered tradituonal rulers.
“The late monarch has lived a fulfilled life worthy of emulation. I pray God to give his family and the Ife Kingdom, the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
“I use this medium to also commiserate with the government and people of Osun State over the death of the revered monarch.”
Former Osun State Governor Isiaka Adeleke described the late Ooni of Ife as an epitome of intellectual kingship. In a message issued on his behalf by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Olumide Lawal, Senator Adeleke said the late Oba Sijuwade represented a rare class of traditional rulers, who gave monarchy a touch of panache, glamour and graceful candour.
The Asiwaju of Edeland recalled his interactions with the late Ooni of Ife during his tenure as the first governor of Osun State between 1992 and 1993. He described him as a royal eagle in all its ramifications, who has “flown home” in a blaze of glory. He prayed to God to grant him eternal rest and those he left behind the fortitude to bear the loss.
Adeleke urged the people of Ile-Ife and Osun to roll out the drums and give the foremost monarch first class burial.
Ndigbo Cultural Society of Nigeria (NCSN) mourned with “our Yoruba brothers and sisters over the sudden pass of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade”. In a statement by its President Chief Udoka Udeogaranya, the group said: ”Oba Okunade Sijuwade was one of the few top class traditional rulers on the continent of Africa, whose fame and riches is known and recognised throughout the four corners of the world and truly, he was ‘King of Africa’.
“Oba Okunade Sijuwade was an Oba of Obas in the Yoruba nation and while other traditional rulers sought to visit Mr. President, Presidents sought to visit Oba Okunade Sijuwade and he would always put the needs of the Yoruba nation first and foremost.
“We urge the sons and daughters of Odua to put aside all their differences and come together and ensure that Oba Sijuwade received a befitting burial and chart a united course for the betterment of the Yoruba nation.
“We condole with the Yoruba nation over this irreplaceable loss and that the Almighty God will grant them the fortitude to bear the pains.”
The media reported widely the foremost monarch’s passing on at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, London on Tuesday. But contrary to that report, the hospital said the Oba was not its patient.
Officials of St Mary’s hospital said the Ooni who was registered as King Sijuwade on their record was last admitted in July 2014. Two administrative staff of the hospital, who work at the reception and the accident and emergency departments, said the king had not been admitted at all this year to the hospital. And so they would not have an up to date information regarding his well being.
Crowds besieged the palace in Enuwa, Ile-Ife yesterday. As early as 9am, hundreds of people had gathered at “Ile Oodua” the sprawling palace of the monarch. Relations of the monarch and reporters were allowed into the palace and received by members of the Royal Traditional Council, but many indigenes and residents were denied entry by the guards.
The chiefs said the Ooni “is alive and in good state of health”. The Royal Traditional Council, comprising all traditional chiefs and title holders in Ile-Ife, maintained that Oba Sijuwade was hale and hearty.
Speaking with reporters at the House of Chiefs within the palace, the Lowa of Ife, Oba Joseph Ijaodola, advised people to disregard the report in the media that the monarch had died in a London hospital of an undisclosed illness.
The Secretary of the Council of Ife, the Ladin of Ife, High Chief Adetoye Odewole, also said the Ooni spoke to the chiefs on telephone few hours earlier. He said: “As I am speaking to you now we, his chiefs, have not heard anything like that. This is not the first time such rumour will be carried about our father. They did it in 1984, also in 2004 and now these people are coming up with another rumour. Oba Sijuwade is in sound state of health.”
The Chairman, Ife Development Board, Prof. Muheeb Opeloye, was attending to visitors. He advised youths at the palace gate not to panic because the Ooni was alive. When the Private Secretary to the Ooni, Mr. Saka Awojoodu, was approached by a correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) 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.
The state government and the Osun Council of Traditional Rulers have yet to react to the development because they were waiting for official announcement by the palace chiefs. A source at the palace, who preferred not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, confirmed that the monarch was dead.
According to him, it was normal for the chiefs to deny Ooni’s death because certain traditional rites had not yet been carried out before the news of the monarch’s death was received by the public.
For instance, he said parts of all the trees in the palace must have been cut as a sign of a bad omen to authenticate the news. He also said once a particular traditional chief enters the palace his appearance would be a harbinger of the death of the Ooni after which, he said, none of the traditional property would be allowed to be taken out of the palace.