Awujale at 86: Reign of Integrity

Oba Sikiru Adetona, Awujale of Ijebuland

By Tunde Oladunjoye

“Character is the most powerful force a leader can possess because it protects his life, his leadership and his legacy – it manifests who he is and shapes who he will become”(Myles Munroe, The Power of Character in Leadership).

The reign of Kabiyesi Alaiyeluwa, Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Adetona, CFR, Ogbagba II, the Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland is not only exciting and admirable, but also unequalled in terms of fame, poise, sagacity and grace in the annals of traditional rulership institution in Nigeria.

For he alone, as a point of fact, has the rare distinction till date of being the only monarch in Nigeria who has not only reigned, but also has the rare honour and privilege to dine and wine along with 15 Nigerian Presidents, 23 State Governors, about 40 Council Chairmen in his own primary domain of Ijebu-Ode, three Ooni of Ile-Ife, two Alaafin of Oyo, four Alake of Egbaland, two Akarigbo of Remoland and eleven Olubadan of Ibadanland.

Two important factors would seem to be at play in the chequered life of the venerated monarch – excellent personal character and divine grace.  These positive factors have helped in no small measure to shape the ever glowing life of Kabiyesi to the joy and admiration of all his subjects, relations, friends, business associates and acquaintances, at home and abroad.

So great is his people’s veneration for him that today, Kabiyesi Alaiyeluwa, Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Kayode Adetona is largely seen and regarded by all and sundry as the very epitome of celebration at every edition of the now famous annual Ojude Oba festival and of which, happily, he is also the moving spirit.

It is gratifying to note that it is also rare fortune of Kabiyesi, Oba Adetona to witness and celebrate the annual festival often with pomps for upward of 59 years without break.  Apparently, the longest by any Awujale till date, since the beginning of the famous annual festival about 150 years ago.

Oba Adetona who ascended the exalted throne of his forebears as the 58th Awujale in recorded history, on Saturday, 4 January, 1960, has all the positive attributes of a good leader at any time and in any clime.

Thus, the beloved monarch is richly endowed with divine grace and wisdom, competence, character, courage, loyalty and confidence, all of which are indispensable to good rulership.  His competence, in this regard, derives from his vast knowledge, experience and ability to keep the Ijebu Nation whole and healthy over the decades, even in the face of adversities.  Remarkable also, is his ability to speak truth to power no matter whose ox is gored.

All humans, Ijebu people not being exception, tend to trust people with proven character, somebody who stands for something – a value, an ideal, a cause, a mission.  Oba Adetona is one such monarch with exemplary character; hence, he enjoys the love and support of his subjects and associates all the time.

A close corollary to character is courage.  Courage is the ability to stand for the right thing even in the face of adversity.  Oba Adetona has demonstrated appreciable courage in many grave circumstances in the course of Nigeria’s chequered national history, such that pitched him stoutly, even at the risk of his personal life, against various powers-that-be, and thus becoming the conscience of the nation in the process.

Since leadership is all about trust, loyalty is another key factor in earning public trust.  Usually, according to some great thinkers, loyalty is a signpost that points either three ways: up, down, and/or sideways.  The monarch, he is ever steadfast and unalloyed in his loyalty as he keeps faith, as a matter of natural duty, with all his subjects and even mere acquaintances on all issues connecting him with them.

Oba Adetona exudes confidence at all times and in every given situation with the conviction that confidence is after all, an issue of certainty and resolve to accomplish a set goal or fight a worthy cause.

Kabiyesi Adetona’s proven competence, character, loyalty, confidence, selflessness, sacrifice and empathy over the decades, perhaps explain why many of his subjects and admirers are often too eager to describe him as a living legend, more appropriately, a living “Orisha Ijebu” (god of the Ijebu people).

Indeed, Oba Adetona is a spectacular monarch to whom the Almighty God has extended much munificence in terms of longevity, good health, affluence and wide political influence across the country and even beyond.

Such is his great clout and versatility today that having come a long way in the Nigerian public arena since 1960, Oba Adetona could easily pass as the ‘Walkingpedia’ of Nigeria’s political history.

A lucky monarch indeed, Oba Adetona has the rare distinction of being the only monarch, who has not only reigned, but also dined and wined along with virtually all the 15 Presidents that have ruled Nigeria till date, that is to say, from Rt. Hon. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, General J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, Generals Yakubu Gowon, Muritala Ramat Muhammed, and Olusegun Obasanjo as military Head of State and later as elected President on two terms of four years each, Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari, General Muhammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Chief Ernest Adegunle Shonekan, Generals Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar, Chief Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo, Alhaji Umaru Musa-Yar’Adua, Dr. Goodluck Azikiwe Ebele Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari, who is on his fifth year as Civilian President of Nigeria, having been elected for the second term in 2019.

Similary, the stylish monarch reigned, in his native Western Region (now defunct) and much later in Ogun State with no fewer than 23 State Governors from Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola (who installed him as Awujale in 1960), Sir (Oba) Adesoji Aderemi, Sir Joseph Odeleye Fadahunsi, Lt. Col. Francis Adekunle Fajuyi, Colonel Robert Adeyinka Adebayo, Brigadier Oluwole Rotimi, Navy Captain Akin Aduwo, Colonel David Medaiyese Jemibewon, Colonel Seidu Balogun, Brigadier Harris Eghagha, Chief Olabisi Onabanjo, Navy Captain Mohammad Alabi Lawal, Colonel Donaldson Oladipo Diya, Colonel Raji Rasaki, Col. Oladayo Popoola, Navy Captain Oladehinde Joseph, Colonel Daniel Akintomide, Wing Commander Sam Ewang, Navy Captain Kayode Olofinmoyin, Chief Olusegun Osoba, Otunba Justus Olugbenga Daniel two terms of eight years as governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun two terms of eight years as governor and now, Prince Dapo Abiodun.

Chairmen of Ijebu-Ode Local Government deserve equal mention here too as no fewer than 40 of them were lucky to drink from Oba Adetona’s vast fountain of wisdom from 1960 till date.  Among such lucky men were Chief Emmanuel Okunowo, Chief Victor Olabisi Onabanjo, Giwa Bisi Rodipe (thrice), Alhaji M. A. Sule, Alhaji Olalekan Adebanjo (twice), Alhaji Mojeed Adetoyese Alatishe – (now the Gbegande of Ososa), Giwa Muftau Oseni, Alhaji Raheem Sarumi, Hon. Rasaq Dada, Barrister Abdul Rafiu Baruwa, Architect Gbolade Oduwole and now, Otunba Olugbenga Olugbile.

As Kabiyesi clocks  86 years on earth today, May 10, we wish him prolonged life in good health in the continuous selfless service of the Ijebu people in particular and humanity in general.

Tunde Oladunjoye, a journalist and politician, is the publicity secretary of APC in Ogun State