Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, An Epitome of Transformation—By Hon Rotimi Mikail Makinde
For a fact, the centrality of the traditional institutions at its apex, the Obaship is of profound importance in the entire Yorubaland not just in Ife. The Yorubas revere the institutions and its mixture of tradition as well as democratic checks and balances, which is an interesting mix that is commendable and worthy of emulation.
Retrospectively, precisely in the First Republic, in the crucial transition from colonial society to flag independence, the institutions were immersed, in the head long drive towards modernization. Unlike in the Northern Region, indirect rule was not used in the Western part of the country. Some of the Obas clearly stood firm.
For example, the first Governor of the Western Region, the then Ooni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi; the then Alake of Egbaland, the Olowo of Owo, all played commendable roles at a critical juncture. Their contributions are still remembered with gratitude and quite rightly too.
Those were some of the legacies of these great traditional rulers who manned the affairs of Yoruba race gloriously.
However, and to my amazement the new Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, has been seen to be matching his words with action. This he has been doing since his coronation on December 7, 2015 where he told the world during the epic event that he would pursue peace with all he can and ensure that peace, which had eluded the House of Oduduwa, is restored.
While validating this strong will, he shocked not a few people when he appeared at the Modakeke Day, popularly known as Akoraye Day, last Saturday of 2015, in Modakeke, the neighbouring community with which Ile-Ife has been engaged in perennial war of attrition over the years. The whole world saluted him for bringing panache to traditional matters and damning the consequence.
Hardly had the comments on his visit to Modakeke fizzled out that he showed up at the 45th anniversary of the coronation of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III. The last time such a thing happened was in 1937, when Yoruba monarchs gathered in the ancient town. No one thought that could happen again following the altercation that took place between the Alaafin and the immediate past Ooni, Oba Okunade Sijuwade (of blessed memory), who joined his ancestors in July last year.
To many, that had foreclosed any slight possibility of Oyo Empire reuniting with the source of the Yoruba race. But the unassuming Ooni Ogunwusi, is cleverly making mincemeat of many man-made encumbrances that had limited interactions between the throne of Oduduwa and his children across the continent.
Just as his name, Enitan (man of history) portends, Ooni Ogunwusi made another history when he visited the paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona. This historic occasion also evoked nostalgia as it did in 1941. The meeting was equally aimed at promoting unity among Yoruba monarchs. I was deeply impressed when he called for a replication of the kind of unity and cooperation that existed among traditional rulers in Yorubaland up till 1941.
The uniqueness of Oba Ogunwusi did not end there, this cerebral monarch has the call to serve, he has listening ears, he appears to have teachers within the ‘Irunmoles’ ; judging from the manner at which he talks about history as it was, back then. Impressively, the Police Area Commander of the great city attest to the fact that upon his ascending the throne, crime rates have reduced drastically, no more molestation within the city by teeming jobless and restive youths, they are now mostly in farms or at various developmental project centres that are springing up in the ancient city, this includes Ooni’s resort centre along Ibadan road and about-to-be-opened Oodua FM also in Ife.
Consequently, the widows are not left out, thousands of women who lost their husbands and children to the inglorious war in Ife and its environs now troop in daily to Ooni’s magnificent Palace, which is now significantly at par with Queen’s Buckingham Palace in London, the see-through Palace has now become a tourist centre.
Within shortest period of time, Oba Ogunwusi facilitated mining license and insisting that Ife sits comfortably on treasures that can create wealth for Nigeria apart from agriculture and crude oil. The manner at which he encourages his subject to go into farming is essentially unprecedented in the history of Ife. Virtually all tourist centres in Ile-Ife wear new look presently with high yields of economic values. I make bold to say Ile-Ife of today is now an investment hub. Permit me to conclude by saying this quintessential leader still needs our support and prayers because the best in him is yet to be seen in Africa. Kaabiyesi o, ki ade pe lori, ki bata pe lese, kase pe lenu, ki irukere di okini.
*****Hon Rotimi Makinde wrote from Ile-Ife, Osun State. He represented Ife Federal Constituency at the National Assembly from 2011-2015 and was Deputy Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Human Rights.