Nineteen years after the 14th Aare OnaKakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief MKO Abiola passed away, a new holder of the title is in the making. TUNDE BUSARI reports
AN important feature of the Yoruba system of government in the age of the defunct Oyo Empire was the position of the Aare Ona Kakanfo. While the Alaafin reigned as the political head of the empire working together with the Bashorun-led Oyo Mesi, (kingmakers), the Aare OnaKakanfo was the generalismo, the army general.
He was a warrior whose life depended on prosecuting wars of expansion for the Alaafin and returning home alive in victory or dead in loss.
The AlaafinAjagbo, who reigned between the 16th and 17th centuries, is reputed to have institutionalized the Aare OnaKakanfo as the supreme military commander of his army, effectively controlling 70 commands.
Aare OnaKakanfo was the supreme commander of the army. The first holder of the title in Yoruba history was Kokorogangan of IwoyeKetu followed in succession byOyatope of Iwoye, Oyabi of Ajase, Adeta of Jabata and Oku of Jabata.
Other Aare OnaKakanfo included Afonja of Ilorin, Toyeye of Ogbomoso, Edun of Gbogun, Amepo of Abemo, Kurunmi of Ijaye, OjoAburumaku of Ogbomoso, Latosisa of Ibadan, LadokeAkintola of Ogbomoso and MKO Abiola of Abeokuta.
The demand of the office made it an obligation for a new holder to pass through some spiritual fortifications. According to the History of Yoruba by Reverend Samuel Johnson, on the installation of Aare OnaKakanfo, the holder must have his head clean shoven in addition to other rites he must perform.
Johnson wrote: “And 201 incisions are made on his occiput, with 201 different lancets and specially prepared ingredients from 201 viols are rubbed into the cuts, one for each. This is supposed to render him fearless and courageous. They are always shaved, but the hair on the inoculated part is allowed to grow long, and when plaited, forms a tuft or a sort of pigtail.”
It is no longer news that the National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) and Chief Promoter of Olokun Festival Foundation, (OFF) OtunbaGani Adams is the 15th Aare OnaKakanfo succeeding the late business mogul cum politician, Chief MKO Abiola.
Already a letter to that effect, signed by the Alaafin of Oyo, His Imperial Majesty, Oba LamidiOlayiwolaAdeyemi III, is in the possession of Adams.
Aare OnaKakanfoThe letter, which was reportedly given to Adams at the Alaafin’s 79th birthday ceremony in his palace on Sunday, put an end to months of speculations and suspense on the successor of the late Abiola, who died on June 8, 1998 in Abuja detention during his struggle to claim the June 12, 1993 Presidential elections which he won.
Asked on the long vacancy of the post after the death of Abiola, the Alaafin of Oyo, in an interview published in Nigerian Tribune of November 29, 2016, had challenged the media and the public to scout for the right Yoruba man to fill the vacant position just as he enumerated the virtues he saw in the late Abiola that informed his choice.
It was gathered that Oba Adeyemi’s choice of Abiola did not go unchallenged in the court with Aare AfeBabalola ferociously engaging the Alaafin’s opponent in legal firework until the court ruled in his favour less than 24 hours to the installation held in January 14, 1988.
Oba Adeyemi said: “The time we appointed Abiola was an opportuned time when Abiola was using his wealth to better humanity. He was funding universities and giving scholarships to students. What he did cut across Yoruba land to the extent that people saw him as higher than a president. It is a good thing that he came from Yoruba land.
“He was a gift to Yoruba land and humanity. His football team, Abiola Babes, was better funded even than the national team. Players were given houses and cars. His other investments also gave better life to workers.”
“Does it mean we are not in a haste to have his successor?,” this reporter asked Oba Adeyemi. He replied: “You are a journalist, a man of the world. Give us a list of five people that can be appointed. It is not my duty alone to find people; it is your own duty too to come up with names.”
While awaiting the official announcement from the palace of the Alaafin, the development has dominated the airspace with friends and associates of the 47-year old Adams, congratulating one another in a natural show of solidarity to Adams.
They reckon that no other living Yoruba man deserves the title more than the Arigidi-Akoko-born Adams on account of his antecedent as a fighter for Yoruba cause since the emergence of the OoduaPeoples Congress (OPC) as a means to defend Yoruba interest following the annulment of the June 12 elections won by the immediate past Aare OnaKakanfo, Abiola.
They also believe that Adams has been a rallying point for the Yorubas in the diaspora with his Oodua Progressive Union (OPU) with membership presence in about 50 countries.
Besides, they said the culture rejuvenation embarked upon by the Adams’ Olokun Festival Foundation has resurrected many forgotten Yoruba cultural festivals and indeed added more values to the existing ones such as the annual OsunOsogbo festival held in every August of each year in the past 400 years.
The news of Adams’ likely emergence broke some months back with the social media hosting different shades of commentaries and judgments over his choice. As the debate rages, however, there was no word from the palace of the Alaafin authenticating or denouncing the news.
It was learnt that the traditional ruler was deliberately silent over it with a view to testing the popularity or otherwise of Adams in the eye of the general public given the fact that the monarch is also a social media follower. Aside this, the need to make wide consultations with his trusted allies was also said to have held Oba Alaafin back from going public with his decision.
“Whoever knows Baba very well should know that he is not a king anybody can push around. He does things in his own way and in his own time too. This Aare OnaKakanfo issue is not different from the way he does his things.
“He took his time very well before he decided to give Gani Adams the letter. But the letter is not the final. There is a process to be followed. But I can say it that Gani Adams seems to be destined to clinch the title as the first person from Akoko to be so bestowed,” a source said.
Even though the title is more ceremonial now due to the contemporary governance, that the late Premier of the defunct Western Region, Samuel LadokeAkintola and MKO Abiola accepted it in the post-independence Yorubaland makes it relevant as a symbol of bravery in face of danger.
Akintola was said to have vehemently resisted the forces of the soldiers that stormed his residence in the early hour of January 15, 1966. He paid the supreme sacrifice in the end but not without demonstrating that an Aare OnaKakanfo must not die a coward. Reports have it that he also killed some soldiers during exchange of fire.
Similarly, Abiola was given an opportunity to surrender the popular votes the electorate cast for him on June 12, 1993 polls, the elections which was annulled by the former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida.
Abiola, however, fought on and insisted on the mandate; he, thus, endured series of discomfort to which he was subjected in detention until he died under a controversial circumstance one month after the late General Abacha who detained him had also died.
The scary trend notwithstanding, Adams seems to have made up his mind in stepping into the shoe if he would be considered. While he had not been seen in any public function making his declaration for the title, Adams is, however, undeterred by the fate of Akintola and Abiola.
Having held many traditional titles from different Yoruba towns over the years, he believes that dying for one’s race is a sacrifice for a man of courage, saying he is not afraid of death. In an informal chat with this reporter in his Omole Phase II residence some months ago, Adams waved off the issue on Aare OnaKakanfo but insisted that Yoruba race is worth dying for because it is a race blessed with the best culture in the world.
“I am a strong believer in anything Yoruba as you can also attest to. I believe in our culture and sustenance of it. But on the issue of Aare OnaKakanfo, when I am deemed fit to be given by our Baba the Ikubabayeye, I don’t think it is wise for me to turn it down. Baba is a highly respected traditional whom all of us hold in high esteem. So if the title comes, it is a welcome development,” he said.
Indication that Adams was closing in on the title could be seen in his regular attendance of events at the Alaafin’s palace. Although Adams would also be seen in the palaces of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi and other traditional rulers including the Akran of Badagry, he is always seated at the left side of the Alaafin and accorded treatment reserved for the royalty.
A university don, Professor SiyanOyeweso, said the Aare OnaKakanfo title is not meant for the half-hearted; a lilly-livered who retreats when the heat turns on him. The Professor of History said Gani Adams is eminently qualified to step into the shoe having been found worthy by the Alaafin himself.
“The position is meant for any Yoruba of courage, of strong character who can defend Yoruba course at any time. Gani Adams deserves it because of his track record as a defender of Yoruba people. The position is more than honourary, it is a serious one for a serious Yoruba man who can stick out his neck in defence of the race. I think finding him worthy for the position is good news. I am wishing him well,” he said.
The Secretary General of the Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, YinkaOdumakin is also excited by the Aare OnaKakanfo title on Adams. He said Adams deserves to be congratulated having paid his dues as a frontline Yoruba son who never wavered in his faith and promotion of Yoruba cause.
“I congratulate OtunbaGani Adams on the title coming from the Ikubabayeye. It is a well-deserved honoure bestowed on the right person. Through his past efforts, Adams has shown that he has what it takes to be a successor of the late MKO Abiola.
“He has shown strength and lots of courage against adversity. This is the attributes an Aare OnaKakanfo must have and all of which and more he has. We are wishing him longevity of years to hold the title,” he said.
The development has opened a new chapter in the history of the Aare OnaKakanfo with observes watching whether or not Adams’ choice would also suffer challenge like that of Abiola until the court ruled in his favour hours before installation.
Source: NIGERIAN TRIBUNE