The revered Oba died in St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, London at about 7.30 p.m. last night.
Both palace sources and close associates of the leading Yoruba Oba said he was rushed to London on Friday before he passed on last night.
Oba Sijuwade ascended the throne in 1980 at the age of 50.
Sijuwade was born on January 1, 1930 in Ile-Ife to the Ogboru ruling house, grandson of the Ooni Sijuwade Adelekan Olubuse I.
He studied at Abeokuta Grammar School and Oduduwa College in Ile-Ife and worked for three years in his father’s business, then for two years with the Nigerian Tribune, before attending Northampton College in the United Kingdom to study business management.
By the age of 30 he was a manager in Leventis, a Greek-Nigerian conglomerate. In 1963 he became Sales Director of the state-owned National Motor in Lagos. After spotting a business opportunity during a 1964 visit to the Soviet Union, he formed a company to distribute Soviet-built vehicles and equipment in Nigeria, which became the nucleus of a widespread business empire.
He also invested in real estate in his home town of Ile-Ife. By the time Sijuwade was crowned Ooni in 1980 he had become a wealthy man.
Sijuwade is a Christian. In November 2009 he attended the annual general meeting of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria accompanied by 17 other traditional rulers. He declared that he a was full member of the church, and said all the monarchs, who accompanied him would now become members. At his birthday celebration two months later, the Primate of the Anglican Communion described Sijuwade as “a humble monarch, who has the fear of God at heart.”
When Sijuwade became Ooni of Ife in December 1980 he inherited an ongoing dispute over supremacy between the obas of Yorubaland. In 1967 a crisis had been resolved when Chief Obafemi Awolowo was chosen as the leader of the Yoruba. In 1976 the Governor of Oyo State, General David Jemibewon, had decreed that the Ooni of Ife would be the permanent chairman of the State Council of Obas and Chiefs. Other Obas led by the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi said the position should rotate. The dispute calmed down when Osun State was carved out of Oyo State in August 1991.
In January 2009 Sijuwade was quoted as saying that Oba Adeyemi was ruling a dead empire (the Oyo Empire, which collapsed in 1793). Adeyemi responded by citing “absurdities” in Sijuwade’s statements and saying the Ooni “is not in tune with his own history”. Adeyemi, Permanent Chairman of the Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs, was conspicuously absent from a meeting of Yoruba leaders in April 2010.
Towards the end of 2009 a more local dispute between the Ooni, the Awujale of Ijebuland and the Alake of Egbaland was finally resolved. Sijuwade traced the dispute back to a falling out between Obafemi Awolowoand Ladoke Akintola during the Nigerian First Republic, which had led to a division between the traditional rulers. He noted that the traditional rulers were an important unifying force in the country during the illness of President Umaru Yar’Adua.
In February 2009, Sijuwade helped mediate in a dispute over land ownership between the communities of Ife and Modakeke, resolved in part through the elevationof the Ogunsua of Modakeke as an Oba. The new Oba, Francis Adedoyin, would be under the headship of Sijuwade. Oba Okunade Sijuwade died on July 28th, 2015, after a brief illness at the ripe age of 85 years