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THE ROLE MODELS SERIES ….. AWUJALE OF IJEBULAND, OBA SIKIRU KAYODE ADETONA @ 86 ……… A BOLD ROYAL FATHER

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This account will surely interest young ones struggling to rule or govern at various levels in Nigeria. It promotes empathy. We have had cases of early nationalists who were appointed Federal Ministers at age circa 30. What does it take for a 26 year old to rule a cosmopolitan community of highly endowed subjects with influence and affluence? Solomonic wisdom? This example shows that with a level head good vision and mission, success could come, even most unexpectedly.

 Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona was born 10th May 1934 and became the Awujale of the Ijebu Kingdom, a traditional state in Nigeria at 26. He was installed as the king in 1960, making him one of the longest-reigning monarchs in Nigeria. His father was Prince Rufai Adetona, and mother, Alhaja Ajibabi Adetona (née Onashile). As king, he represents the Anikilaya ruling family. Young Prince Adetona, variously attended Baptist School, Ereko, Ijebu Ode; Ogbere United Primary School, Oke Agbo, Ijebu Igbo; and Ansar-Ud-Deen School, Ijebu Ode between 1943 and 1950. For his secondary education, he attended Olu-Iwa (now Adeola Odutola) College, Ijebu Ode from 1951 to 1956. Between 1957 and 1958 he took up an appointment with the then Audit Department of the Western Region, Ibadan. The prince resigned his appointment in 1958 to pursue further studies in accountancy in the United Kingdom, which was the colonial ruler of Nigeria at the time.

His ascension to the throne appears divine. Young Sikiru Adetona, 25 years old was studying in the United Kingdom when the vacancy to the stool of Awujale of Ijebuland occurred. In his autobiography, Oba Adetona disclosed that ‘’he had just arrived in London and was trying to settle down to pursue a course in Accountancy, when the news of the passage of the reigning Awujale, Oba Gbelegbuwa II, got to him.  Becoming the Awujale of Ijebuland was never on his agenda, because his father and some of his uncles were still alive then. “Dramatically, faith entrusted the throne unto him.’’  He continues: ‘’The news, as I said, meant little to me, even though I knew it was the turn of my ruling house to present the next candidate. My father, as far as I knew then, was an obvious candidate and could therefore assume succession. Even if, for some reasons, he was not chosen, there was still his brother, Pa Adenaya.’’

ASCENSION TO THE THRONE: The royal father later reasoned that his father excused himself from vying for the coveted position on account of his low level of education; but preferred that his son -Sikiru was installed. Without consulting with him, Sikiru’s father nominated him as a candidate for the stool. In all, six candidates were presented to kingmakers. Back home in Nigeria, events that pulled Sikiru Adetona out as the choice of kingmakers unfolded in rapid succession. By a letter dated January 4, 1960, referenced CB. 4 1/333, the Permanent Secretary in the Western Region Ministry of Local Government conveyed to the Local Government Adviser in Ijebu Ode approval of the Western Region Governor in Council, the appointment of Prince Sikiru Kayode Adetona as king, and his confirmation as the new Awujale of Ijebuland with effect from that date (January 4, 1960). It became the lot of Ijebu notables like the late Ogbeni-Oja, Chief (Dr.) Timothy Adeola Odutola, Bobasuwa I, Chief Emmanuel Okusanya Okunowo (MBE, KFNM); and Asiwaju, Chief Samuel Olatubosun Shonibare to arrange for the home-coming of the King-elect.

On January 18, 1960, the Head of the Ijebu-Ode Regency Council, the Ogbeni-Oja, Chief Timothy Adeola Odutola formally presented the new traditional ruler to the whole world. This presentation, which was a novelty, signalled the commencement of the installation ceremonies of the king-elect. It was indeed, a new dawn in the annals of Ijebu people. The king-elect thereafter proceeded to undergo the traditional seclusion at the Odo for three months. Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, who had earlier been nominated along with five others by the kingmakers was unanimously selected by the kingmakers in conformity with Section 11 of the Chiefs Law of 1957 applicable in Western Region. The then Governor signed the Instrument of Office approving Prince Sikiru Kayode Adetona as Awujale of Ijebuland. The formal coronation took place on Saturday, April 2, 1960. On Tuesday, April 5, 1960, newly crowned Oba Adetona, took his seat as a member of the Western Region House of Chiefs, after a formal introduction.

AS MEMBER WESTERN REGION HOUSE OF CHIEFS  & MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO – 1960: The first black person to become the Governor of the Western Region was His Excellency, Sir Adesoji Aderemi.  He was not elected but appointed and so his duty was non-executive but ceremonial.  The Premier, S. L. Akintola was an honourable member representing Ogbomoso South East Constituency.  He was Head of Government.  All the substantive Ministers too were members of the Western House of Assembly, duly elected by their Constituency members. This was quite unlike the Presidential System, which Nigeria is presently operating, which has all the Ministers or Commissioners drawn by the President or Executive Governor from outside the Legislature.  All the Ministers of State for different Ministries too were chosen from Membership of the Western Region House of Assembly. Then emerged

The Minister without Portfolio – The Honourable Oba S. K. Adetona, Ogbagba  II, Awujale of Ijebuland, MHC — Member House of Chiefs — (Extract from the Part To Play; an autobiography of S.T. Adelegan)

  • The Minister without Portfolio – The Honourable Oba I. B. Akinyele, the  Olubadan of Ibadan, MHC
  • The Minister without Portfolio – The Honourable Oba Tewogboye II, Osemawe  of Ondo, MHC
  • The Minister without Portfolio –  The Honourable Oba S. O. Abimbola, the  Oluwo of Iwo, MHC
  • The Minister without Portfolio –  The Honourable Obi Obika A. Gbenoba, Obi of  Agbor, MHC
  • The Minister without Portfolio – His Highness the Honourable Erejuwa II, Olu of  Warri, MHC
  • As a prince, Sikiru Kayode Adetona was charismatic and mixed easily with his peers.  He was nominated to become the president of the Western Region House of Chiefs, a position that would have catapulted him to the seat of Ceremonial Governor of Western Region on Nigeria in 1960.  However, a much older and traditionally more senior Oba, late Sir Adesoji Aderemi, Ooni of Ife was subsequently elected the President. (contributions from Wikipedia)

THE YORUBA POSITION ON THE 1995 CONSTITUTIONAL CONFERENCE WAS ADOPTED IN IJEBU-ODE: Oba Sikiru Adetona’s boldness and love for defending and championing the cause of his people will occupy a whole chapter when the history of Nigerian politics and traditional rulers is written. During the NADECO storm of the 1990s that clearly showed ominous signs, Oba Adetona stood on the side of the people. Chief Adekunle Ajasin, one of Chief Obafemi’s Awolowo’s strongest supporters was at the head of Afenifere, a Yoruba socio-cultural association with strong bargaining powers. He also headed NADECO. The Yoruba position was adopted at the palace of the Awujale of Ijebu-Ode, Oba Sikiru Adetona who also played a remarkable role in his support for pro-democracy movements. Thirteen prominent people led by Professor Adebayo Adedeji, one-time Under Secretary General of the United-Nations and head of the Economic Commission for Africa signed the adopted Yoruba position that was forwarded to the 1995 National Constitutional Conference. Chief Bayo Akinnola was the Secretary to the committee.

WISDOM & THE COUP PLOT: One of the tactics and propaganda utilized by the Gen Sani Abacha regime was to invite notables to Aso Rock to brief them on the incident with a view to making them comment and condemn the act, and to justify the treatment meted out to Gen. Oladipo Diya and his subordinates who were arrested. How did he handle the situation? According to him, ‘’What transpired that led to Abacha taking over and later the arrest of (Oladipo) Diya is known to all of us. When the obas were invited to Aso Rock, I was not there on that occasion. What happened was that I think it was (Sam) Ewang who gave me a message from Abacha to come over to Abuja. And I could not go for some days; it was almost a week before I could go. When I was going, I took along some prominent Ijebu people. I was made to attend a meeting where all the military administrators were in attendance. Abdulsalami was the one who presided over the meeting. We were briefed about what happened after which we were showed some video clips. After seeing the video clips, they wanted me to make a comment.

PRAYERS: I looked at all of them and I said they should go and pray and talk to God that He should guide them and show them the right way to go. And I told them that they should think twice before taking any action. Later, I saw Abacha and he briefed me about what happened, how, according to him, Diya was planning a coup to oust him. It was a surprise to me that Diya could be part of a coup attempt. He also spoke to me about Adisa, who he said was close to him, and how on three occasions he invited him to talk to him, believing that he would brief him about what was being planned. He said he was surprised that Adisa never opened up to him. Of course, after what he said, he expected me to make a comment. Then I also advised him to think twice about the matter. I said it would be wrong of him to expect me to say that he should kill Diya. I pleaded with him that he should tread cautiously. That is how we ended it.’’