My ultimate dream is to have Ijebu State created for my people-Awujale

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Adeola Balogun

No doubt, the Awujale of Ijebu, Oba Sikiru Adetona, ranks among the longest serving monarchs across the land, having been on the throne of his forebears for half a century. The young Adetona was put forward by his late father when it was the turn of the Ogbagba ruling house to ascend the vacant stool vacated by Oba Adesanya Gbelegbuwa, who reigned between 1933 and 1959.

The young prince had to cut short his sojourn abroad when tradition beckoned that he should ascend the throne of his forefathers. He had attended various schools, including 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 was at Olu-Iwa (now Adeola Odutola) College, Ijebu Ode from 1951 to 1956. Between 1957 and 1958 he took up appointment with the then Audit Department of the Western Region, Ibadan. The charming prince resigned his appointment in 1958 to pursue further studies in Accountancy in the United Kingdom.

Because of the dramatic turn of events, on January 4, 1960, his candidature was endorsed and he officially became the Awujale on April 2 same year. To become a king over the vast land at the tender age of 26 was no joke. But the revered monarch told Saturday Punch that God had always been there for him.

“It has been well with us, even though we had some tough periods, as it is normal. But generally, God has been very wonderful, because here we are, 50 years after, united and well. We can point to a lot of progress that we have made in the last 50 years. The size of the town in particular has grown enormously. Fifty years ago, apart from Ijebu Ode Grammar, Schhool, Olu Iwa and probably another one, we didn’t have many secondary schools. But now, the number has grown tremendously. We have many hospitals, more roads and one is proud to be associated with the steady progress we have made,” he said.

During his reign, the annual Ojude Oba festival has become a very unique feature where the sons and daughters of Ijebuland pay homage to their monarch in a carnival-like atmosphere. The colourful ceremony, which normally comes up three day after the Ileya festival, is an avenue for the people to turn out in their best to honour the king according to their age grades. The monarch was glad to tell Saturday Punch that Ojude Oba festival has put Ijebu on the world map and made it famous.

He said, “Ojude Oba has put the Ijebu on the world map. There is no doubt about that. This is the time in the year that every Ijebu, home and abroad, loves to come home. It has made us more united than anything else. Even other people are copying it from us, but that is okay. The fact remains that the Ijebu own Ojude Oba. You can see that they are successful and colourful people, and that makes me to be proud as their leader.

Just opposite the expansive palace, the construction of a mini stadium is in progress, and the monarch explained that it was necessary to create more space for the yearly Ojude Oba and other similar festivals around the palace. According to the monarch, the massive building is solely a communal effort without any help from government quarters.

“It is part of the extension of the palace. It is being sponsored by my people. It is not done by the local, state or federal government. Our people are contributing voluntarily to develop the place, where we hope to hold all our activities, the Ojude Oba in particular. It is a mini stadium. We will have restaurants, royal arcade, museum, shopping complex and a lot of amenities there,” he said.

The monarch’s reign has been hailed as one of the most peaceful, and observers say he achieved this because of his large heartedness, allowing the traditional rulers of smaller towns in Ijebuland to advance to the positions of obas in their own communities, even though they all recognise him as their leader. When our correspondent visited the monarch’s palace penultimate Friday, Ijebu obas were seen holding one meeting or the other and felicitating with their leader.

With the modest achievement of the 76-year-old monarch, if you expected him to relax, you would be very wrong, because there is still one dream the highly revered king still prays to achieve, which is the creation of Ijebu State.

Lately, there have been agitations from Ijebu people to have a separate state created for them. In fact, the Oba was at the head of a delegation to Abuja where they made their feelings known. In a chat with the monarch, he vowed to pursue the creation of a state for his people.

“We have all it takes to have a state for the Ijebu, so that we will have all the avenues and opportunities to develop faster and better. The Ijebu are many, and for ages, Ijebu Ode has remained the capital of Ijebuland. There is no dispute about that,” he said.

The Awujale, notwithstanding his age, still remains an imposing figure with healthy looks. He told Saturday Punch that he had always done things in moderation. According to him, he used to play tennis and squash, but because he is advanced in age, he had to slow down. But he expressed gratitude to God for sparing his life to witness his 50th year on the throne.


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