It started as a rumour, with many dismissing the mere insinuation with a wave of the hand. But it is one rumour that has refused to evaporate. And now, many Nigerians across the South West have made the issue a major point of public discourse, especially since it appears there might be some truth behind the ‘rumour,’
On Sunday, April 30, Otunba Gani Adams, National Coordinator, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) and Founder/Convener, Oodua Progressive Union (OPU), was hosting thousands of dignitaries on his birthday at Batten Hall, an events centre in Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos. At the event, Aare Ayandotun Oyelakin, who represented the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi (Iku Baba Yeye), had informed the guests that the revered monarch might be considering conferring the exalted title of Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland on the OPC leader and Chief Promoter, Olokun Festival Foundation.
The announcement generated a muffled debate at the venue, with some wondering whether Gani Adams should accept such a title if he was offered by the eminent royal father.
In Yorubaland, the Aare Ona Kakanfo is the highest military title. In times past, the Kakanfo was the Field Marshall and Supreme Generalissimo of the dreaded military of the Oyo Empire. In the modern era, the title has become largely ceremonial. The 13th and 14th holders Aare Ona Kakanfos– late Premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola and Chief MKO Abiola – were politicians.
And recently, at the Annual Festival of Wealth (Odun Aje) held by the Olokun Festival Foundation in Agege, Lagos, Bashorun of Oyo, Chief Ayoade Olawuyi, who represented the Allafin, informed the guests that God had already perfected the conferment of the Aare Ona Kakanfo title on the OPU founder and culture promoter. The Bashorun of Oyo, the traditional prime minister of Oyo, Leader of the Oyomesi and next in command to the Alaafin, urged people at the event not to exercise doubts on the proposed conferment, noting that Otunba Gani Adams had displayed an indescribable passion for fighting the cause of the Yoruba race over the past two decades.
While pouring encomiums on Adams, Chief Olawuyi noted that God had been promoting the OPC leader as a result of his commitment to the progress of the Yoruba nation. He urged all members of the OPC to be focused and loyal to the organisation, asserting that anyone involved in treachery would never go far in life.
Since the late Aare Ona Kakanfo passed on in 1998, no one has been bestowed with the prestigious office. But now, some prominent personalities in the South West are standing behind Adams, insisting that the OPU founder possesses all the qualities that the Aare Ona Kakanfo should have.
A prominent Yoruba monarch and Owa Ajero of Ijero Kingdom in Ekiti State, Oba Joseph Adebayo Adewole asserted that Otunba Gani Adams merited the Aare Ona Kakanfo title.
He told the reporter that the OPC leader had been consistent and dogged in his fight for the interest of the Yoruba race.
“Otunba Gani Adams is most deserving of this great honour, because as leader of the OPC, he has been a dogged fighter in defence of the Yoruba race and he has remained highly committed and consistent for many years now.
“Secondly, with his OPU, Gani Adams has been championing the unity of Yorubas worldwide, preaching the message of the supremacy of Yoruba language and culture.
Thirdly, he has been promoting and sponsoring many traditional festivals throughout the length and breadth of Yoruba land. And, it is remarkable that he has been doing all these with his own personal resources.
“He is young, energetic, highly intelligent, articulate, humble, level-headed, and well connected to be able to use the position and office of the Aare Onakakanfo to enhance and promote the cause of the Yorubas worldwide,” the monarch said.
He also poured encomiums on the Alaafin who he described as a repository of wisdom, experience and knowledge in Yoruba history, folklore, culture and tradition.
Zaki of Arigidi-Akoko in Ondo State, Oba Yisa Olanipekun is one monarch that is fully convinced that Otunba Gani Adams totally deserves the Kakanfo title. He said when he first heard from the grapevine that Adams was being considered for the position, he had no doubts that the OPC leader was totally worthy of the title.
“For what he has been doing for the Yoruba race, he totally deserves it. This is man that has been fighting for the Yoruba race for over two decades now. He has suffered a lot of personal deprivations as a result of his struggles for our race. He has been arrested by the police and detained in police cells. He has been detained in prison cells, all because of his passion for the race. This is a man that has never committed any crime.
“Otunba Gani Adams has also been promoting the Yoruba culture all over the world. Look at the number of festivals that the Olokun Festival Foundation promotes across Yorubaland, from state to state every year. Then he founded the Oodua Pogressive Union (OPU) for the Yoruba people in the Diaspora. Right now, OPU is in 78 countries of the world. And he has been doing all this with his own money, without government sponsorship. No other Yoruba man has done this. And it has been paying off. In some European countries now, there are schools where the Yoruba language is being taught.
He’s passionately committed to the cause of the Yoruba race. We will be delighted if he’s installed as Kakanfo by Iku Baba Yeye.”
History informs that the Aare Ona Kakanfo title was created by Alaafin Ajagbo who reigned in Oyo-Ile, then headquarters of the Yoruba Nation, sometimes between the 16th and 17th centuries. Alaafin Ajagbo was the one that built a sophisticated military system that often ensured victory for his troops in their military expeditions. He created 70 command offices (Esos) in the formation – 16 in the upper division and 54 in the lower division. Aare Ona Kakanfo was the supreme commander of the army. The first Kakanfo was Kokorogangan of Iwoye Ketu. Those that have held the title after him are Oyatope of Iwoye, Oyabi of Ajase, Adeta of Jabata, Oku of Jabata, Afonja of ilorin, Toyeye of Ogbomoso, Edun of Gbogun, Amepo of Abemo, Kurunmi of Ijaye, Ojo Aburumaku of Ogbomoso, Latosisa of Ibadan, Ladoke Akintola of Ogbomoso and MKO Abiola of Abeokuta.
In ancient times, the Aare Ona Kakanfo title was a position that symbolised the might of Oyo Empire. The generalissimo of the Yoruba army must never be defeated in battle. He either won the war or he died fighting. The Kakanfo must never be defeated. And because of the enormous powers he wielded as the Supreme Commander of the Army, the Kakanfo never lived in the capital with the Alaafin.
In the olden days, becoming the Kakanfo never came easy. Foremost Yoruba historian, Rev Samuel Johnson wrote that in the past, the Kakanfo, at his inauguration, must completely shave his head. “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.
Written by Tope Adeboboye.