Ijebuland is blessed with men who are fabulously wealthy, powerful and imbued with influence and élan. Among them, there is one very illustrious title they are very proud of and is a most discussed subject in Ijebuland and by extension, Yorubaland now: that is Ogbeni Oja.
Over the years, the Awujale and Paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona had evolved and established an orderly and traditional system of succession among his class of High Chiefs. But the Ogbeni Oja is the highest title – not hereditary – a free-born Ijebu can aspire to. The holder represents the commercial interests of the entire Ijebu nation. It is a position that puts the title holder as de facto next in rank only to the Awujale.
In recent history, the two men who previously held the title were accomplished men of immense means. The first Ogbeni Oja was late Chief Adeola Odutola, an Ijebu icon who in his lifetime was easily one of the most successful industrialists in Yorubaland. When he died in 1995, the Awujale installed Chief Bayo Kuku, a highly successful lawyer and businessman who many wanted to associate with as the next Ogbeni Oja. Chief Kuku, a man of means and pillar of prosperity, who was educated in the United Kingdom and United States of America, was heart-warming and simple. He enjoyed a close relationship with Awujale before a misunderstanding strained their friendship. When Kuku died in 2015, the seat became vacant. And since then, a search had begun to fill the vacuum.
Come April 2, 2020, Oba Adetona will clock 60 on the throne as the paramount ruler of Ijebuland. As he prepares for the coronation anniversary, the respected monarch has decided to install a new Ogbeni Oja —leader of commerce— of Ijebuland during the April celebration.
With the eventual installation of gaming mogul, Chief Kessington Adebutu as the Odole Oodua last October, the search for the next Ogbeni Oja has been narrowed to three other prominent Ijebu sons and billionaires—Dr. Mike Adenuga Jnr., Chief Sulaiman Adebola Adegunwa and Dr. Obafoluke Otudeko.
Spotlight learnt that the revered Awujale has been in a very tight dilemma as he decides who among these three qualified illustrious sons of Ijebuland should be conferred with the kingdom’s most coveted chieftaincy title. Aside resounding successes in their respective fields and regarded as formidable men within the Nigeria business community, the three wealthy men are also very close to Awujale.
Adenuga, the second richest man in Africa and founder of Globacom is top on the list of the contenders. Presently, Adenuga is a member of the Awujale’s council of Otunbas and he is also a member of his royal court. Adenuga, who is a first cousin of the Ijebu paramount king, holds the title of Otunba Apesin of Ijebuland.
Also contending for the venerated title is Adegunwa, an accomplished businessman and former chairman of Sterling Bank Plc. Adegunwa, whose BIGI brand is creating a disruption in the FMCG sector of Nigeria manufacturing space, shares a chummy relationship with the Awujale. He is from Ososa town. Oba Otudeko, the billionaire founder of Honeywell Group, towers high on the list of those being considered for the title. He is also a close associate of the Awujale.
However, Oba Adetona, on whose shoulder, rests the onus of installing the next Ogbeni Oja, is reported to have indicated his willingness to choose the most suitable out of those successful business magnates being considered before the commemoration of his 60th coronation anniversary in April.