What I miss in Oba Sijuwade —Apetumodu
His emergence as a traditional ruler was unusual. He lost the race in becoming a monarch in 1971 and won it 21 years later. In this interview, the Apetumodu of Ipetumodu, Oba James Adegoke speaks to TUNDE BUSARI about his career as a teacher, a football referee among other issues.
Your town is prominent among the Origbo meje towns in Osun State. How was the name coined?
Ipetumode was derived from one who killed an antelope for sacrificial purposes for Odu. The history behind it was that Akolako, our progenitor, a hunter, annually visited Ile-Ife where he killed an antelope.
Can you name other Origbo towns?
They are Edunabon, Moro,Yakooyo,Asipa, Akinlalu and Isope. Trouble broke out in those days that forced the people of Isope out of their settlement. They were settled here in Ipetumodu. They are known as Ogunlende (war escapees). They settled at the place where we have the Federal Government Girls College today.
Aside the Federal Government Girls College, your town is also blessed with Oduduwa University, doesn’t this give you an advantage over other Origbo towns?
We are all self-independent. Perhaps you asked this because Ipetumodu is the local government headquarters.
You were very close to the late Ooni, Oba Okunade Sijuwade. You must be missing him. What exactly were you doing together which you are missing today?
I should not start to count what I miss. It is natural that when a close associate travels, you must miss the person. And when the journey is of no return, then missing the person becomes irreparable. Let me say, it is difficult to forget him. He was the father of the Yoruba at home and in the Diaspora. He was kind, open hearted, approachable and accommodating.
How did you become the Apatumodu?
It may interest you to know that I became the Apetumodu at my second attempt. In 1970/71, the stool was vacant and I stepped forward. But because of one or more reasons, I was not picked. I was then a school teacher, I returned to my work and even upgraded myself by attending the University of Lagos where I bagged my Grade I certificate in Yoruba. I was a Yoruba teacher who did all I could to ensure my students passed very well. It is on record that my students passed 100 per cent.
When did the second opportunity come?
Between 1985 and 1992, there was an interregnum in the town. There was no Apetumodu. The town was then under the supervision of the chiefs. Then as God would have it, my ruling house, Fagbemokun, presented a candidate and I was picked and installed on April 11, 1992. The late Senator Isiaka Adeleke was the then Governor of Osun State. After my installation, I went into Ilofi where I spent three months. On August 15, 1992, Governor Adeleke came and gave me my staff of office amidst a large crowd of people.
Your ascension to the throne followed a unique pattern. What can you attribute to it?
I must say that it was God’s work. I want to use a Biblical statement which says, ‘We cannot receive anything on this earth unless it is given to us from above’. That is the summary of the whole thing. And it has been my approach to the throne. I am a Christian and a devout Christian for that matter. I was born into a family who attended Christ Apostolic Church and there is no need for me to compromise that.
As a Yoruba teacher with a good track record, are you satisfied with the state that the Yoruba Language currently occupies?
I am not happy the way the language is treated. I don’t wish that what happened to Latin happens to Yoruba. I am a member of Egbe Akomolede and we are working with the state government on the need to promote the language and develop it. We are working on the recommendation that all subjects be taught in Yoruba Language. It will achieve a lot for our development. Science subjects and Mathematics are not as difficult but language is the problem. I personally experimented with it when a Ghanaian Maths teacher felt frustrated about the poor performance of his students. One day I followed him to the class and interpreted for him. The students shocked him with far better performance in the test they had all failed in the previous attempts.
I learnt you were a referee. How did you go into a vocation regarded as thankless?
Let me rather say it was a deliberate decision I made when I saw an uncle, Mr Bankole refereeing a match in this town. I was then a teacher in Ipetumodu. I watched him and got interested in it. Apart from that, I observed myself and realized I had what it required, especially physical fitness and discipline to be a good referee. This particular reason fired me up and sooner than later I started to referee matches.
You started just like that without formal training?
That was what happened. In those days there were matches being played here and other neighbouring towns among schools and clubs. I started refereeing and was getting positive response. Honestly, there is no obstacle determination cannot break.
Can I say you started officiating as a quack referee?
You don’t need to use that word because I was not doing it to make money. I was doing it to express my passion for physical activities. And being a school teacher, physical activities are an important part of the school curriculum. So, I was doing it for fun until I was formally trained by Mr Adejumo when I returned to school at St Andrew’s College in Oyo where I studied for my Grade II. Mr Adejumo taught me basic rules and other things I needed to know. I can say Mr Adejumo gave me my first training after which I became popular.
How did you build the career from there?
After I had my Grade II certificate, I became a teacher at Ikoyi. It was there I started to train others who showed interest in refereeing. Later I became the chairman of Irewole Local Government Referees Association. I was later recognised by the Oyo State Sports Council in Ibadan after which they started to invite me for matches. I realised that they assigned me tough matches. I can remember a match between the then IICC and Water Corporation. It was a tough one, which I handled to the best of my ability.
What happened after the match because the two teams, I was told, were bitterest rivals?
A referee can make or mar a match no matter how important the match is. But throughout my career, I tried as much as I could to ensure hitch-free matches. The match ended well and boosted my profile. I think it was one of the reasons I rose to the position of chairman of the state association. It was so interesting that they allowed me to serve six terms. Have you heard of such? It was a term of two years, allowing for second term. But members decided that ‘Prince you will be our chairman until they call you back home to become the Apetumodu’. And believe you me, that was how it happened. I also served as the vice-chairman of the Nigerian Referees Association (NRA).