Nigeria’s president announced on Wednesday the death of a traditional monarch influential in the south of the country.
Oba Okunade Sijuwade — a royal among the Yoruba people known as the Ooni of Ife, Olubuse II — was 85.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s office did not give the cause or date of death but local media reports citing family said he was in frail condition and died at a private hospital in London at the end of July.
Buhari mourned “the revered traditional ruler who will be long remembered and celebrated for his worthy service, over more than three decades”, his spokesman Femi Adesina said in a statement.
Ife — also known as Ile-Ife — is an ancient Yoruba city in southwestern Nigeria’s Osun State, 218 kilometres (135 miles) northeast of Lagos.
The Ooni, or king, of Ife claims direct descent from Oduduwa, a god in the Yoruba pantheon, and is counted as the most important among the tribe’s monarchs.
Adesina hailed Sijuwade’s “invaluable contributions to the sustenance of the cultural heritage of his people within and outside Nigeria”.
The statement described the monarch as a “leading businessman, administrator and inspirational traditional ruler”.
Sijuwade was considered one of the most important and influential traditional monarchs in the country, whose advice had been sought regularly by various governments since his ascension to the throne in 1980.
All the Yoruba in southwestern Nigeria trace their origin to his lineage and the king often acted as spokesman for his people in the region.
Adetokunbo Sijuwade, the king’s son, told a news conference in the capital Abuja his father would be repatriated on Thursday and buried the following morning.