Friday, 10 May 2024 04:36

Orisa-Ijebu at 90 - Tola Adeniyi

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Alayeluwa Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, Ogbagba Agbotewole ll, the Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland is not an ordinary man. He is not an ordinary mortal. And he has refused, like Prince of Aragon in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, to ‘choose what many men desire and be ranked with barbarous multitudes!’ 

Right from that blessed day on April 2, 1960, the six-footer 26-year old newly crowned Oba made it clear in non-verbal communication, to the kingmakers, all of them his father’s age, that he would like to be ruled by his mind rather than by public applause. He would accord maximum respect as an Omoluwabi to their counsel and guidance but would never be tele-guided to take actions against truth, equity, justice and most importantly his conscience and God’s injunctions.

I remember that day in late March 1960 when students from all the 19 colleges in Ijebuland at that time were selected and led by their principals to Ipebi where the youngish King, proud son of Pa Rufai Adetona Adeleke and Madam Ajibabi Adetona [nee Onashile] was being prepared for crowning. It was to showcase the rites and rituals apropos the making of a king in Yoruba land. I was in that select-few from Ago-Iwoye Secondary School, the best secondary school in the world. We saw the tantalizingly handsome man whose face lightened the room like the full moon.

Right from that day when the crown was placed on his annointed head, the transformation from being a graduate of Olu-Iwa College Ijebu-Ode and final year undergraduate Accountancy student of a prestigious university in the UK had begun. The new Awujale had his vision of what he wanted to be, the kind of Oba he wanted to be, and the genuineness and sincerity of purpose he wished to show his subjects. He knew the new direction he was going to lead his people and had all his plans pencilled down in his heart.

What must have been paramount in his mind was continued economic prosperity of his people. The Ijebu had always been known for their business acumen and commercial wizardry. The word Ijebu was synonymous with Money. And it has forever remained so. He aspired to build on the economic glory of his people. As an accountant he knew how to place the figures. 

His second priority was to bring all the citizens of all the towns and villages of Ijebuland together and imbibe the broom philosophy in them. ‘Work together as a team, and you will never fail or falter’ that was his mantra and he worked assiduously to translate the wish into action and positive reality. 

His third priority was ethical reorientation. It is perhaps this third leg of his vision and mission that eventually brought out the uniqueness of his character and the rock on which his consequential crowning as Orisa was built. ‘No matter what; your word must remain your bond’ is one of the cardinals of Oba Sikiru Adetona’s guiding principles. 

Leaders of men usually emerge during troubled times. In critical situations when crucial decisions are needed to be made and full-proof strategic actions were to follow such are the moments the men of valour, men of courage, men of integrity and men of wisdom emerge like a meteor. It has been such moments in Nigeria’s chequered history that brought Adetona to national consciousness and national reckon and distinguished relevance.

Adetona became widely known for his forthrightness, his courage under fire, and his inimitable boldness, fearlessness and outspokenness. True to the name of his Ruling House, Anikinaiya/Anikilaya. He never gave a damn! And till date, he says it as it is. Adetona doesn’t associate colour grey with colour black. To him, grey is grey and black is black. No ‘amulumala’ as the Yoruba would say.

It is Alayeluwa Adetona’s unalloyed principle that a man must know when to say ‘NO’. All successful people in life, men and women, have been those individuals who have mastered the art of saying NO when No it should be. ‘Yes’ men and ‘Yes’ women never go far in life. Whoever chooses to live all his or her life pleasing others, not wanting to offend, will never be happy with themselves in the long run and even those being pleased will consider the yes-man a fool. That is the way of the world. Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi, the philosopher musician and song-writer says so. ‘Ko s’ogbon to le da, ko si’wa t’o le hu’ however much you strive you cannot please everybody.

Posterity will write Adetona’s name in gold whenever the matter of late General Oladipupo Diya’s unmitigated humiliation by General Sani Abacha is mentioned. When at that critical junction when valour and courage was needed after Abacha had shown clips of Diya’s humiliation to the assemblage of Nigerian Kings, when all the kings lost their voices, the irrepressible Adetona looked straight into Abacha’s goggled face and said ‘We have seen the clip [hen-hen? And so what?] Remember Diya is my son. Ijebu son.’

All Nigeria’s political leaders, from across the country, besieged the Awujale palace when they needed a strong voice, a dependable voice, a trusted voice to lead them out of the woods preparatory to ending military stranglehold on Nigeria’s political space..and life. Awujale’s role in restoring democracy to Nigeria in 1998/1999 was monumental. Those who knew, knew.

Awujale instituted several economic programmes and projects for his Ijebu country under the intellectual direction of the likes of Adebayo Adedeji, Victor Oyenuga and Akin Mabogunje to mention a few. And those projects thrived and the Ijebu at all levels benefitted hugely.

In 1985 and in fulfilment of his vision and mission of uniting all the towns and villages of Ijebuland, he appointed and installed traditional/honourary chiefs, 25 in all, from all corners and crannies of Ijebuland, including Ikorodu and Epe, to mark his 25th year on the throne. I consider myself lucky and privileged to be among the 25 as Akogun1 of Ijebuland.

Adetona galvanized the entire Ijebu citizenry through revitalisation and reinvigoration of the Age Grades system known as Regberegbe, got a mini Stadium built through communal efforts, and turned the age-long annual  Ojude-Oba festival into a nonpareil Cultural activity and Tourism carnival, easily the best in Nigeria and most-talked-about-cultural event globally.

During Adetona’s long and eventful reign, Ijebuland has enjoyed phenomenal growth in all spheres of human endeavour, exemplified by many educational institutions including the largest number of universities per population in Nigeria. 

The King himself, dynamic, authoritative and magisterial has proved to be the real Kabio’osi Alase Ekeji Orisa, the unquestionable, second to the gods. 

To us in Ijebuland, we have elevated His Royal Majesty to the pantheon of gods.

He is ORISA-IJEBU and we all hail him as he majestically joins the prestigious Nonagenarian Club today May 10, 2024.

** Tola Adeniyi, Akogun l of Ijebuland and Jagun Oodua Adimula ll of Ile-Ife.

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