Meet Awujale of Ijebu, Oba Sikiru Adetona, Nigeria’s longest serving first class king
When the 24-year-old Ijebu Prince, Sikiru Adetona left the shores of Nigeria to the United Kingdom for further studies in 1958, the topmost on his mind must have been to become of the few chartered accountants in the Western Region and indeed Nigeria, in the mold of the legendary Akintola Williams.
Indeed, he had started his journey to being a finance professional after spending a year in the Audit Department of the then Western Region before his departure abroad for further studies.
Born May 10, 1934, Adetona had attended many primary schools in Ijebu Ode and Ijebu Igbo – where his mother hailed from – before having his secondary education at Olu-Iwa (now Adeola Odutọla) College, Ijebu-Ode from 1951 to 1956.
Like they say, every prince is a potential king, the searchlight of prominence fell on the young Sikiru Adetona after the then Awujale, Ọba Daniel Adesanya, Gbelegbuwa II, joined his ancestors in 1959. At just 25, the young prince never thought of ever becoming king at that time, owing to the fact that his own father and many more senior uncles were still alive.
“The news 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 Adenaiya,” Oba Adetona told The Guardian.
His father however put his name forward, as the representative of the Anikinaiya ruling house, beginning the journey which has lasted for over six decades.
On October 26, 1959, the kingmakers of Ijebu kingdom met and unanimously picked the young prince as the next Awujale, culminating in the official confirmation and the return home of the aspiring accountant.
Adetona’s nomination was officially announced on the radio and in the gazette on January 4, 1960 paving way for his coronation and ascension to the throne on April 2, 1960 after the presentation of the staff of office by Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, Premier of the Western Region.
He thereafter became a minster without portfolio in the Western Region government alongside Hon. Oba Isaac Babalola Akinyele, the Olubadan of Ibadan; Hon. Oba Tewogboye II, the Osemawe of Ondo; Hon. Oba S. O Abimbola, the Oluwo of Iwo; Hon. Oba Obiaka A. Gbennoba, the Obi of Agbor; and His Highness, Hon. Erejuwa II, the Olu of Warri.
His reign was not devoid of intrigues as it was in the Nigerian political landscape then, falling out with the Chief Obafemi Awolowo-led Action Group and giving his support to Akintola, who was Awolowo’s former lieutenant. All these culminated in the monarch’s suspension by the then Ogun State Governor, Olabisi Onabanjo on November 23, 1981 for insubordination after he travelled out of the country without the governor’s approval. Onabanjo then set up a Justice Sogbetan Commission of Enquiry to probe the Awujale’s defiance, nonchalance, audacity and indiscretion.
The panel of enquiry recommended Adetona’s deposition as Awujale of Ijebu in 1982, which was approved by the Ogun State Executive Council.
Luck however smiled on Adetona again, as the military struck on December 31, 1983, with Major General Muhammadu Buhari as head of state, while Onabanjo was removed as governor and Odogbolu-born Brigadier Oladipupo Diya was appointed military governor of the state. Diya’s appointment coincided with the ruling of the Ogun State High Court which upturned the panel of enquiry’s decision and ruled that Adetona be returned to office. With the new government not appealing the court ruling, Adetona returned to the stool which he has remained on till date.
The 63 years on the throne for Adetona has seen him blend tradition with modernity, bringing glamour, prosperity, class and elegance to the Awujale stool. Indeed, Elerunwon of Erunwon Ijebu, Oba Johnson Adebayo Okubena, in his eulogy of the Awujale, described him as “a quitenessential monarch, moderniser and excellent leader”.
To his credit, the historic Ojude Oba festival, which was hitherto a gathering of not many people has now become a noteworthy celebration, attracting dignitaries from within and beyond the country annually.