“When beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes” (Calpurnia, Julius Caesar’s wife, begging her husband not to venture out on the “ides of March” (See Julius Caesar, 11, ii, 30-31, by William Shakespeare).
The above quotation best explains the passage of His Royal Majesty, Dr. A.Y.E. Dirisu, JP, OON, the Okuokpellagbe of Okpella, who recently joined his ancestors.
This amiable royal father was born to Mr. Omosotomhe Dirisu Azamoh of Utayokhe-Imiegiele, Okpella. He grew up as an adventurous young man, both among his mates and his immediate community. He soon displayed profound leadership qualities, even as a youth.
He attended Saint Bonaventure Primary School, Imiegiele-Okpella, Etsako East LGA, Edo State. Thereafter, he proceeded to the then Etsako District Council (EDC) School, Okugbe-Okpella, where he obtained the prestigious First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC).
Pursuant to the quest for professionalism at the time, His Royal Majesty enrolled for a three-year course in Printing Technology at the famous Adeleye Printing Institute, Akure, where he obtained a certificate in printing. In spite of these educational qualifications, the Okuokpellagbe still had an unquenchable thirst for further education, which is why, as a private candidate, he successfully studied and passed five subjects with very good grades in the GCE Ordinary Level at one sitting.
Oba Dirisu had taught briefly as a teacher in his alma mater, St. Bonaventure, Okpella, between 1956 and 1957, before his printing course in Akure.
The monarch later joined the civil service of the defunct Western Region, where he served as a recorder at the School of Agriculture, Akure, from 1961. Following the creation of the Mid-Western Region on August 10, 1963, he humbly transferred his services from the Western Region to the new region, wherein he was subsequently appointed as recorder/stores assistant in the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources headquarters, Benin City (1963-66).
Ascension to the throne
Following the death of his father, HRH, Oba Obinogbe, Oba Dirisu was recalled home to assume the royal throne of Okpella, which had thus become vacant. He was accorded official recognition by the government of the then Mid-Western State, under Brigadier- General Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia (rtd), as the traditional ruler and prescribed authority of Okpella. He took the symbolic and unique title of “Okuokpellagbe” (which literally means “the symbol of Okpella unity”).
Under the Okuokpellagbe, Okpella is today reputed to be the industrial nerve-centre of Edo State due mainly to its rich mineral endowments and Dirisu’s sterling leadership qualities. This explains why a large number of companies/factories are engaged in diverse mineral exploitation in the kingdom.
In his bid to ensure Okpella’s total development, Dirisu fought from all directions to provide electricity in the kingdom. Happily, the kingdom is today connected to the national grid. This has greatly contributed to the industrial growth of Okpella kingdom.
In the field of education, this quintessence of a gentleman has equally excelled. There existed only one secondary school in the kingdom before his enthronement. Today, however, there are five government secondary schools in Okpella, in addition to about 13 primary schools and many private schools at different levels. His dream for the establishment of a tertiary institution in Okpella, which he pursued with vigour and resilience before his demise would still be realised in future. He desired it, worked towards it.
Service, honours, awards
Oba Dirisu served as the vice president-general of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (N.S.C.I.A) 1987 to 1995. He was also chairman, Hospital Management Board, University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Calabar, Cross River State. This rare gem of a man, among others, had also been appointed as a member of the Africa Traditional Rulers and Eminent Personalities Forum; chairman, MAMSER Implementation Committee in defunct Etsako LGA; chairman, 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Appeal Fund Launching Committee, Etsako chapter; chairman, Bendel State Development Appeal Fund Launching Committee, Etsako chapter; member, National Universities Commission; member, steering committee of the movement for the creation of Edo State (1981 – 83); vice chairman, Edo State Council of Traditional Council (1995/96); chairman, Etsako East Local Government Traditional Council 1995/96, 2000/21; member, National Rulers and Eminent Persons Forum of Nigeria, etc.
In recognition of his commitment to the upliftment of humanity, he was severally conferred with patronship of several social clubs and philanthropic organisations: Etsako Club ’81, Lagos; Etsako Professional Women’s Association, Edo/Delta State; Etsako Club, Sapele; Esan Unity Club of Nigeria; Etsako Students Union of University of Benin and Obafemi Awolowo University; Okpella Oghele Women Association, Benin City; Elegance Circle of Nigeria, Auchi; Okpella Students Union, etc.
His great works are noticed by faraway City University of Los Angeles, which awarded him a Honorary Doctorate Degree in 1989. Back home, Oba Dirisu was conferred with the prestigious award of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) by the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, GCFR.
He was awarded Justice of Peace (JP) in 1986 in recognition of his love for peace both within his domain and other neighbours. He had made personal sacrifices to engender peace for all.
His interests, among others, included exchange of royal visits, writing, reading, current national and international affairs and sports. He was a widely travelled traditional father (locally and internationally). Oba Dirisu was deeply religious, quoting the holy Quran with the ease with which a hot knife cuts through butter.
His Royal Majesty was happily married and blessed with children.
Let us celebrate, not mourn
In life, Oba Dirisu was loved by all; revered as an iconic monarch, respected for the conviction of his beliefs and his giant strides towards the overall development of his Okpella kingdom. He served as a rallying point for the traditional institution. As one of the oldest traditional rulers in Nigeria, Dirisu redefined royalty as an instrument, not for self-preservation or aggrandisement, but for serving God and humanity. Sartorial, brilliant, intelligent, elegant, infectiously gregarious and full of humanity, the Okuokpellagbe had honoured me with the traditional title of Oduevho of Okpella (pillar of the community) in December 1992. In that capacity, I worked closely with him, quietly from behind the scenes, in rendering advice and communal service, both on legal and traditional matters. He was like a father to me. I join millions of people across the world to celebrate (not mourn) this royal prodigy for leaving his indelible mark in the sands of time. His era was golden and luminous, marked by peace, tranquility, unity and development of his people. I condole with the Dirisu dynasty, the Okpella people, the Afemais, the traditional institution in Edo State and the people and government of Edo State, on the peaceful passage of this traditional titan. May Allah grant him alijanah firdausi in His bosom, amin.