• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
businessday logo


Journey into royalty: 12 things you didn’t know about the Ọọni of Ifẹ

Royal African Young Leadership Forum is one of my greatest legacies on the throne – Ooni of Ife

Kings are born, not made. While anyone can aspire to be a president, a king’s path is predestined.

For Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi CFR, the 51st and current Ooni of Ife, becoming a king was a destiny fulfilled, not a position achieved through aspiration. As the traditional ruler of the Yoruba kingdom of Ile-Ife, he ascended to the throne in 2015, following the passing of Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the 50th Ooni of Ife.

“It was foretold even before I was born, so my upbringing was closely guarded,” Oba Ogunwusi shared in an interview with BD Weekender. “In youth, we often make mistakes and face challenges, but in every negative situation, God has turned it into positivity for me.”

Here are some lesser-known facts about Oba Adeyeye, the Ooni of Ife:

Project 50-50

Oba Adeyeye, approaching his 50th birthday in October 2024, aims to celebrate it with 50 iconic projects across various sectors. From health and education to fashion and entertainment, these initiatives, including an advanced health facility, are designed to profoundly impact society.

“Turning 50 is more than just a milestone; it’s about celebrating the impactful work we’ve done,” Oba Adeyeye remarked. “Few knew of my efforts before I became Ooni of Ife, but in the nine years since, God has enabled me to establish numerous significant projects worldwide. I want to showcase these to prove that you can be on a throne and still make a substantial impact.”

Highlighting the breadth of his initiatives, he added, “My projects have touched various strata, crossing different races, ethnicities, and even religious beliefs. I hope that by showcasing them, people will gain a better understanding of who I am.”

King Ogunwusi doesn’t feel 50

Although Ọọni Adeyeye will turn 50 in four months, he doesn’t feel his age. When asked about it, he said, “Well, no, I don’t. To me, age is just a number. Traditionally, I shouldn’t celebrate my birthday on the throne but rather celebrate my days on the throne as a father to all, both young and old.

“But due to my advocacy for youth, I do. “I use these moments to inspire the youth, to show them that they can achieve great things,” he added.

Champion of African Fashion

In addition to his role as a traditional ruler, Oba Adeyeye has significantly contributed to the global promotion of African fashion. For over a decade, he has been a key sponsor of African Fashion Week in London and Nigeria, advocating for the global recognition of Nigerian-made fashion.

The 2024 edition of African Fashion Week is themed “Traditional Fabrics and Royal Regalia.” The Ọọni highlighted the importance of the event, noting, “It’s a strong brand driven by passion and dedication, particularly by my queen, Olori Aderonke, who has been instrumental in the success of this initiative.”

The secret and significance of his white attire

Oba Ogunwusi is renowned for his distinctive white attire, symbolising purity, spirituality, clarity, and cleanliness. “It’s the call of the throne that makes me dress like this. But for me, it’s also a strong connection to my spiritual essence,” he said.

Adding his personal touch, he incorporates Nigerian-made materials into his outfits, with aso-oke fabrics sourced from Iseyin and Ilorin to coral beads crafted in Ife, Benin, Ekiti, and Ibadan.

Why the King does not wear wristwatches 

Interestingly, the Ọọni does not wear wristwatches. In a world where time is meticulously tracked, the Ọọni has chosen a different path.

“I don’t wear wristwatches because time belongs to God. Every second counts for me, so there’s no need to watch time,” he shared. This unique perspective shows his deep spiritual connection and the timeless nature of his role.

The simplicity he misses

Despite his royal duties, Oba Ogunwusi misses the simplicity of casual attire. “I miss dressing simply – jeans and sneakers. But upholding the spirituality of the Yoruba people is paramount,” he said, reflecting on the sacrifices made for his position.

Commitment to Nigerian-made products and crafting his shoes

The Ọọni is a strong advocate for wearing locally-made clothing. “Every day, I ensure what I wear proudly represents Nigeria. If we all did this, the demand for foreign currency would decrease,” he stated. This philosophy extends beyond fashion; it is part of a broader initiative to boost the Nigerian economy and promote African Fashion Week globally.

Remarkably, Oba Ogunwusi is also a skilled cobbler. “I learned shoemaking when I was younger and still design and make my shoes today,” he revealed. His passion for creating extends to choosing materials and intricate design work, showcasing his dedication to craftsmanship.

Ojaja University: A dream realised

Beyond his royal duties, Oba Adeyeye has fulfilled his dream of owning and establishing Ojaja University in Eyenkorin Ilorin, Kwara State. Formerly known as Crown-Hill University, this institution emphasises character, learning, and entrepreneurship, aiming to equip students with practical skills for real-world challenges.

“We must focus on problem-solving and practical solutions in our education system,” he said, celebrating the university’s accreditation by the National Universities Commission (NUC).

Philanthropy and empowerment

Deeply committed to philanthropy, Oba Adeyeye has invested significantly in empowering women and youth. His support for initiatives like the Adire Oduduwa Textile Hub, valued at N540 million, exemplifies his dedication to creating sustainable livelihoods through skills development and entrepreneurship.

“The textile hub is a testament to our commitment to empowering our people,” Oba Adeyeye affirmed. “It’s a project close to my heart, nurtured alongside my queen, and aimed at transforming lives across the continent.”

The hub also welcomes National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members to complete their service while receiving training, accommodation, and stipends. This initiative aims to revive local fabric production and create sustainable livelihoods.

The mission to blend traditions with modernity:

Ọọni Adeyeye’s frequent presence at social events is part of his mission to blend tradition with modernity.

Addressing comparisons with his predecessor, he noted, “During my predecessor’s time, there was no social media. Ooni Sijuwade was a socialite, even more than me, but there were no platforms to capture his interactions. Nowadays, every action is documented. For me, blending tradition with modernity is essential for progress. If you ignore modernity, you miss out on opportunities for youth development.”

A Historian at Heart: The Yoruba Calendar

King Adeyeye, well-versed in history, explained the Yoruba calendar. “In the last 500 to 600 years, there was nothing like the January to December calendar. For us, the new year starts after the festival of IFA because we use the moon and nature to count our year.”

He detailed, “Every 25 to 28 days, there’s a full moon. We have 13 full moons in a year, and that’s our year. The new year starts around May or June, preparing us for harvest in September and October.”

Explaining the Igbo-Yoruba connection

King Adeyeye also highlighted the strong bond between the Yoruba and Igbo people. “There is a strong linkage between the Yorubas and the Igbos,” he said. “In my palace, there’s a house called Ile Igbo. For us, ‘Igbo’ means a new dawn. The Kolanut, significant to the Igbos, only grows in Yorubaland. This connection points to our shared history.”

He emphasised the importance of understanding and celebrating these historical ties. “Let’s research things of nature that connect us, like the Kolanut. It has a spiritual undertone and only grows in Yorubaland. Knowing our history better will help us understand how we spread across the world.”

King Adeyeye advocated for a strong infrastructure to support cultural and historical education. “Once we have a connecting infrastructure, we can enhance our heritage and attract people to learn about our history and culture,” he stated.

He encouraged media platforms to spread this knowledge. “There are more things that connect us than divide us. Let’s focus on these connections to build a better understanding among our people.”