REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE THANKSGIVING SERVICE HELD IN HONOUR OF LATE ALAYELUWA OBA (DR.) OLADUNNI OYEWUNMI, AJAGUNGBADE II, SOUN OF OGBOMOSO IN OYO STATE ON THE 23rd OF JANUARY, 2022 AT THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH IN OGBOMOSO
It is a very special privilege for me to join the family of our dear departed monarch, the illustrious citizens of this great town, and the Government and people of Oyo State, to thank God Almighty for the blessed memory of the legendary king.
Today, we celebrate the life and times of a much loved and respected monarch, an astute statesman, and a great leader among Yoruba Obas, Alayeluwa Oba (Dr.) Oladunni Oyewumi, Ajagungbade III, who departed this world on Monday, December 13, 2021, at the ripe old age of 95 years.
I know that no matter how long our loved ones live, we all still want them around for longer especially when they have been so consequential and have made such a significant impact in our lives! But these things are for God to order, with the assurance that God loves him even more, the best we can do now is pray that his transition shall herald a time of more abundant grace and goodness in Ogbomosho, and in Nigeria as a whole. I, therefore, join the whole town in saying, “eyin baba a dara o!”
On behalf of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, and the entire Government and people of Nigeria, I express my deepest condolences to His Excellency, the Governor of Oyo State, Engineer Seyi Makinde, the Gbagun Ruling House of Ogbomoso, the wives and children of Soun Ajagungbade III, the entire Royal Family, as well as all the people of Ogbomoso.
The late Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi, had an exceptionally long, peaceful, and progressive reign, for which we must just continue to give thanks to God Almighty. Having ascended the throne on the 24th of October, 1973, he has delivered four decades and eight years of exceptional and transformational leadership, leaving behind the indelible marks of peace and prosperity.
Without a doubt, the Oba’s passing has created a big vacuum among the league of traditional rulers in Nigeria. And this is not just because of his age and almost half a century on the throne. It is because he was not just there, he made remarkable contributions to Ogbomosho and to Nigeria, for which the Nation honoured him twice, first as Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) and then as Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR).
His time certainly brought commendable development to this great and ancient town of Yorubaland, so we can say confidently that the Scriptures are fulfilled today – “Didun ni iranti olododo.”
It is worthy of note that upon his ascension to the throne of his forefathers, His Royal Majesty, Soun Ajagungbade III became the first Soun of Ogbomoso land to wear the beaded crown. This introduced a new historical perspective into the Obaship system, which he went on to amply justify. But the event also went far beyond mere symbolism, by his illustrious and noble reign, Ajagungbade III has established and affirmed the place of Ogbomoso among the great cities of Nigeria, and proved over and again that the honour was so well deserved.
At a gathering such as this, we must recall those attributes that stood out in the life of this great man. By his own account, one of them is contentment. Speaking during the celebration of his 90th birthday anniversary, he attributed his longevity on the throne, and on the earth, to the Almighty God and an attitude of contentment. According to him – “I am contented. I don’t rush to own or have the whole world.” What a testimony to a peaceful life well spent!
But we must also note that while contented with outcomes, he was never one to sit idly doing nothing. He always made his plans diligently and meticulously. Then with remarkable diligence, he always made all the efforts necessary to see them to fruition. Thus, Ajagungbade III didn’t just live through his 95 years of sojourn on earth, his entire existence, both private and public, encapsulates a noble life of transparent leadership and service.
He was a thoroughbred leader who dedicated himself to the people of Ogbomoso, for both their social and human capital development.
Clearly, Oba Oyewunmi Ajagungbade III loved his people and loved Ogbomoso. The progress of his domain meant everything to him. Indeed, he was once reported as saying “the progress of Ogbomoso is my motto.”
When he ascended the throne of his fathers in 1973, there were only three (3) schools in Ogbomoso. Indeed, he himself did not have it all smooth sailing with education. He had to terminate his schooling after the passing of his father, moving along to the business of trading, but he nonetheless valued education greatly. He cultivated a passion for extramural education, especially in English, when he was in Jos. He himself mastered the English Language by self-effort, after joining extramural classes.
By the time he returned to Ogbomoso, he had become a passionate advocate for good education, noticing that many of the young people were missing out and moving out of the town because the schools around were just too few. He went after this educational goal, so much so that after his 40 years on the throne, the town could count at least 150 secondary schools.
We also heard the testimony of Governor Makinde, that the one thing the late Soun asked of him was for LAUTECH to be taken over by the Oyo State government. His desire was not for money but that the people of this town and State would be educated.
It is no wonder then that when the idea of a university of technology was being discussed, he lobbied extensively and enthusiastically to clinch it for Ogbomoso, including on a visit to the then head of State, alongside the immediate past Ooni of Ife.
There are so many examples of his efforts to develop Ogbomoso. To take just one example, in 1973 when he became the Oba, electricity supply was limited and epileptic, but with his conscious and collaborative effort, the then National Electricity Power Authority (NEPA) opened a station in Ogbomoso. Similarly, we learnt that when he ascended the throne, there were no law courts in town. He again worked assiduously to ensure the establishment of law courts and an Area Police Command in Ogbomoso.
Another lesson we should learn from the life of this great monarch is that hard work and honesty pays. As we all know, Oba Ajagungbade III was an astute businessman. He ventured into different trading activities including Aso-Oke and other merchandise trading, later becoming an agent for big international conglomerates and interacting with many European business concerns, especially during his time in Jos.
He soon acquired a reputation as an honest trader, and he did so well that the European community soon came to know of his business acumen. Before long, he became “the wealthiest African in Jos.”
While he lived in the North, he won the respect of all including the Sardauna of Sokoto who nicknamed him Ciroma!
His success in the North despite his Yoruba origins strengthened his belief in the huge benefits of unity in diversity and he practised his brotherhood of all regardless of race or faith faithfully all his life.
My first formal interaction with him was in his role as Chairman of one of the foremost centres for local and international training in law and commerce, the Centre for law and business, founded by his son, my brother and friend Prince Dapo Oyewunmi. I along with Professor Oyelowo Oyewo SAN, current Attorney General of Oyo State were privileged to serve on the board. His stature, wisdom, and maturity were important in laying the solid foundation that the organisation now enjoys both locally and internationally.
We thank God that he lived what he preached as a traditional ruler. He gave his people free access to his wealth and wisdom. It was indeed 48 years of wide-open doors of progress and development for the people of Ogbomosho.
This perhaps explains why many refer to him as “man of the masses.” He will be sorely missed, not only by the royal family and his immediate household, but also by the people of Ogbomoso, Oyo State, the entire nation, and by all who hold dear our common bond as a people.
True to his name, the Ajagungbade III has lived and has conquered for his people. He conquered illiteracy, and underdevelopment, he loved the people, he served his community, and remains a source of inspiration to all, including many who had served this country in the highest offices, who regularly sought his counsel. He was father to all and he held his place with dignity, neutrality and selfless commitment. While he would be missed, let us all be comforted by the good memories he left for us all.
Eyin Kabiyesi a dara o. Eyin won a tule Lara a toko lara. Gbogbo wa la maa gbehin awon arugbo wa!
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity
Office of the Vice President