By Kunle Akogun
Shorn of the dry pre-evening weather that brought with it a little heat that was not too inclement, the sunny Ife horizon that Sunday afternoon made an unmistakable statement to first-time visitors that something big was about to happen in the precincts of the hallowed palace of the ancient town, better known as ‘The Source’. Welcome to the grand reception hosted for one of the pre-eminent sons of the soil, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Wahab Olasupo Egbewole, SAN, by the Ooniriisa Arole Oodua, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, the Ooni of Ife.
As early as 3.00p.m, hordes of people had started streaming into the expansive palace grounds where modestly decorated seats had already been ornately arranged in cyclical ambience. Visitors were ushered into the square by Palace drummers and singers, who either rendered general songs or personal praises of guests depending on their level of familiarity with the new entrants. With occasional tips of few wads of Naira here and there by appreciative guests, the drummers/singers move to the next entrant in mechanical precision. There is ‘no time to waste time’ with any guest, as the popular lingo goes.
Tagged ‘Ife Icon Reception’, the event drew the crème de la crème of the society from within Ife town and beyond.
At exactly 6.36p.m., the atmosphere of the arena changed with the grand entry of the Royal Host, the Ooniriisa, Oba Ogunwusi, in company with three of his royal consorts. Resplendent in their royal white regalia, the presence of the royal personages threw the Square into a frenzy of ululation with shouts of “Kaaaabiyeesi” renting the air in mechanical sonority.
Acknowledging the cheery obeisance, the traditional ruler went round the high table, greeting everybody one after the other in a mode that was devoid of the aura of pomposity that some in his shoes are wont to display! What an uncommon display of humility in authority!
After the rendition of the National Anthem and Ife Anthem, signalling the formal commencement of the event, the Chief Imam of Ife, Alhaji AbdulSemiu AbdulHamid, in his opening prayer, broached the purpose of the event, which he said was to honour a great son of the soil, who has brought so much honour to the ancient city with his national and international attainments.
Other dignitaries, including the President of Ife Development Board, Comrade Lawrence Awowoyin, Prof. Abiola Sanni, SAN, of the University of Lagos; and Mallam Olaolu Ali, SAN, took turns to pay glowing tributes to the honoree.
In his tribute, Mallam Ali rejoiced with Prof. Egbewole on his being celebrated by the entirety of Ife people. He also congratulated the Ooni of Ife for having such an icon as Egbewole among his subjects.
While congratulating the entire Ife Kingdom for the gift of Prof. Egbewole, the legal luminary, however, urged them to support the UNILORIN Vice Chancellor to succeed rather than bombarding him with too many requests for contracts, job placements and the likes.
In his speech, the visibly elated Ooni Ogunwusi described Prof. Egbewole as a personal pride to him and the ancient city, saying it is a thing of joy for Ile-Ife to have been blessed with such an intellectual giant.
The prominent royal father pointed out that the position of Vice Chancellor is not the end of appointments for Prof. Egbewole, saying that he foresaw ministerial, ambassadorial and other top-notch appointments for him after his tenure at the University of Ilorin.
The revered traditional ruler said that the emergence of Prof. Egbewole as the 11th Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin was an act of God and the product of merit as exemplified by his rich academic and administrative antecedents.
Oba Ogunwusi, who prayed fervently for Prof. Egbewole’s success in his assignment as Vice Chancellor, urged all Ife indigenes to give their best in the training of their children to ensure that the town continues to produce more of Egbewole’s type.
Short of formally conferring an Ife title on the erudite Professor of Jurisprudence and International Law, the Ooni proclaimed Prof. Egbewole the ‘Osupa of Ile-Ife’, which literally means “the Shining Light”.
In his response, Prof. Egbewole, who was in company of his wife, Alhaja Muibat Egbewole, expressed gratitude to Almighty Allah for guiding and ordering his every step in life. He also thanked the Ooni, whom he called “the People’s King” and the entire people of Ife kingdom for organising the reception in his honour and his friends for finding time to grace the occasion.
Describing the Ooni as “a king that covets the development of his domain and its indigenes, Prof. Egbewole promised to uphold the great legacy of integrity, industry and service, for which Ile-Ife is known over the years, in the discharge of his duties.
The Vice Chancellor then prayed for long life and more prosperity for the Arole Oodua.
To Ife indigenes, Prof. Egbewole had an admonition: “Let’s make today a turning point for Ile-Ife, and the only way to make today a reference point is to make sure that we pursue an agenda that will make us have more professors and SANs and other coveted professionals in Ile-Ife”.
The University of Ilorin delegation comprised the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), Prof. Abayomi Omotesho; the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Management Services), Prof. Sulyman Funsho Ambali; the Bursar, Mr Hakeem O. Sonde; and the University Librarian, Dr Kamaldeen Tunde Omopupa. Others were Council Members, Prof. AbdulRasheed Adeoye, Prof. A. A. Fawole, Prof. Ologe, Dr Rasheed Odunola, and Mr Mosur Alfanla.
Also on the UNILORIN delegation were a former Director of Advancement Centre, who is the current Vice Chancellor of the CrownHill University, Eiyenkorin, Ilorin, Prof. Jelil Ojuade; a former Dean of the Faculty of Communication and Information Sciences, Prof. Rasheed G. Jimoh; a former Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Prof. Salami; a former Chairman of the University’s Chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Usman A. Raheem; a former Sub Dean of the Student Affairs Unit, Dr Alex Akanmu; the Director of Works, Engr Rahman K. Amoo; the Director of Corporate Affairs, Mr Kunle Akogun; the Faculty Officer of the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, Mr Ibrahim; and the Principal Protocol Officer to the Vice Chancellor, Mr Oluwasegun Alabi.
Also in attendance were legal luminaries, Mallam Yusuf Olaolu Ali, SAN; Mr K. K. Eleja, SAN; the Proprietor of Iqra College, Dr Aliu Badmus; a Lagos-based legal practitioner, Mr Y. K. O. Kareem; prominent Ife traditional chiefs, religious leaders, judicial officers, prominent academics, family members, friends and well wishers of Prof. Egbewole.
Major highlights of the occasion included Ewi (traditional poem rendition in praise of Prof. Egbewole featuring a sonorous panegyric tracing his rich genealogy of ebullient generation of great achievers. There was also a special performance by traditional cultural dancers and the launch of the Ife Trust Fund by the Ooni, who donated the initial N10 million for the take-off of the Fund. And, of course, as expected of occasions like that, there was a surfeit of an assortment of sumptuous culinary delight.
*Akogun is the Director, Corporate Affairs, University of Ilorin