His title: Awujale of Ijebuland, commands so much respect that it is often whispered in awe, reverence and admiration. Many of his subjects also refer to him as “Ogbagba A gba te wole”, which literarily means the hammer that drives conspiracy out of town.
The 75-year-old traditional ruler seems ageless and full of energy on his birthday recently as he majestically danced to traditional music.
The monarch’s story began 49 years ago, when the relatively young man of 26, a student of accountancy, was called upon to lead Ijebuland.
Reluctantly, and after much pressure from traditional emissaries and childhood friends, he accepted the crown, thus becoming about the youngest Oba in the more than 600-year-old history of Ijebuland.
For the Ijebus, the Awujale is different from all other rulers in Yorubaland and beyond because his image and stool are believed to have an uncommon mystique woven round them.
As the paramount ruler of Ijebuland, there are 133 lesser Obas (kings) and Baales (village heads) that bow to the Awujale, who is also the Chairman, Ogun State Council of Obas and Chiefs.
Analysts say that the Awujale remains so highly revered because he is also a flag bearer of Islam, the predominant religion of his subjects.
A first time visitor to the multi-million Naira Awujale Palace Complex in Ijebu-Ode will marvel at the opulence, reverence and tradition surrounding the Oba.
A timid visitor can easily get scared by the thunderous blaring of horns and beating of drums of different sizes. Praise singers with their talking drums and acrobatic displays, seem to be on duty at the palace round the clock.
After 49 years on the throne, analysts say that the Oba, has remained so influential because he is highly educated, outspoken, controversial, philanthropic, benevolent and unpredictable.
The London-trained accountant is also seen as one of the big actors in Nigeria’s business circle. He is stupendously rich.
The Awujale says: “Though I mounted the throne at a tender age, I knew everything under heaven is possible with anyone that has made God his pillar. I may not have prepared for it, but when it came, I applied aplomb and dazzling self assurance”.
He says he often combines hard work and unruffled determination to achieve success.
“I never at any time regretted being an Oba. More than I had projected, the position has actually given me the best opportunity to serve my people to the fullest”.
He says he has deployed personal resources and used his array of connections to bring development to Ijebuland.
One area in which he is famed to have achieved much is education. From a few primary and secondary schools in 1960, Ijebuland currently has more than a hundred primary and secondary schools.
It is also host to six universities, three polytechnics as well as a College of Education.
But the Awujale appears not fulfilled as the project topmost in his mind remains in the works. This is the quest for Ijebu State.
“The next most important thing in my lifetime is to see my decades’ call for the creation of Ijebu state come to fruition. I, along with other men and women of like minds, have been championing this cause for almost 30 years now.
“God has been kind to me by elongating both my years of sojourn on earth and my tenure as Oba of my people. I know He listens to my prayers and will definitely grant this special request during my time,” says the Awujale.
The agitation for the creation of Ijebu State featured prominently when the people gathered to mark their leader’s 75th birthday and Adetona’s 49th Coronation anniversary recently.
Left to the Awujale, the two events would have been low-keyed as he prefers to defer any elaborate party to next year when he would mark 50 years on the throne.
But as it turned out, his subjects had a different agenda as they organised an elaborate ceremony that attracted Nigerians from all walks of life.
At the occasion, the ruler, who had earlier received prayers from the Chief Imam of the palace mosque, Alhaji Babangida Ismail, and Christian Clerics, also prayed for his subjects.
He was full of gratitude to God for his 49 years of peaceful reign and thankful to his people for their support. He urged them to continue to maintain the current tempo of harmonious relationship for the sustainability of peace and unity in Ijebuland.
The Awujale attended Baptist School and Adeola Odutola College, both in Ijebu-Ode, before leaving for London where he studied accountancy.
The Awujale, in his early years, worked with the then Audit Department of the Western Region in Ibadan. Between 1960 and 1962, the monarch was Minister without portfolio and member of the executive Council of the Western Region Government.
He was also a Commissioner and member of the executive council of the defunct Western Region between June and December, 1962, during the emergency rule of Chief Koyejo Majekodunmi as Administrator.
An epitome of the business sense attributed to be abundant in an average Ijebu man, the Awujale is chairman of several companies in Nigeria and abroad.
The Oba is currently the Chancellor, Federal University of Science and Technology, Yola and Crescent University, Abeokuta.
But, an incident that the Oba and his people will not forget in a hurry was his suspension from office between 1979 and 1984, by the then Ogun State Governor, the Late Chief Olabisi Onabanjo.
Reports say that the Awujale was suspended over alleged disloyalty to the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) — Onabanjo’s political party.
Though the Ijebus still feel bad over that incident, they say that they are happy that it had since been put behind them. Like the Awujale said during his 75th birthday anniversary, that incident is in the past.
In his many public speeches, the Awujale always reminds his subjects to be tolerant of one another’s views and religion. For a people that are present everywhere in Nigeria and beyond, harmonious existence is second nature.
It is hoped that the Awujale will see many more years, realise more of his visions for Ijebuland, while the people continue to rally round their leaders to further attain their collective dreams. (NANFeatures)