In ancient Yoruba history the title of Aare Ona Kakanfo was originally a title given to the generalissimo, a war general in the days of the old Oyo Empire.
An Aare Ona Kakanfo could lead battles, fight wars, mobilise and train “soldiers” and conquer the enemies amongst other responsibilities. However in the modern era, an Aare Ona Kakanfo’s function is mostly leadership although still much powerful and revered.
The announcement and subsequent installation of the National Coordinator of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo, was eagerly anticipated and well deserved because of his contributions to the oneness, peaceful coexistence, promotion of Yoruba cultural values through his Olokun Festival Foundation, which he has used in the promotion and showcasing of Yoruba culture and the tourism potentials of Yoruba towns and states.
The conferment of the title of Aare Ona Kakanfo on Otunba Gani Adams which was held at the Durbar Stadium in Oyo, was attended by a large crowd of eminent personalities, being the first of its kind in recent memory, while cultural troupes from Osun and Oyo added glamour to the event.
While the event was a time of celebration, dancing and general merriment, on the side brisk businesses were going on as sellers of bottled and pure water, ice cream and the like seized the opportunity to make quick business and attend to people who were eager to quench their taste under the scorching sun, this is just as another kind of brisk business was also going on by the side.
Area boys were also on hand and before the event ended they had disposed several people of their valuables including phones, wallets, Ipads and money, the presence of heavily armed security personnel could not prevent the street urchins from having a field day.
The colourful event had an array of prominent dignitaries from across the country gracing it, among whom were: the governor of Oyo State, Senator Isiaka Ajimobi, Alafin of Oyo, Oba lamidi Adeyemi, Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, Ibokun of Ijesha land, Adekunle Ademolaran, former governor of Oyo State, Christopher Alao-Akala, former governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, former Governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel uduanghan, Hon Agboola Ajayi representing the Ondo State governor, Alhaji Kabiru Olatunji representing Senator Rabiu Kwakwanso.
Others include Speaker of Ogun State House of Assembly, Adekunle Suraj who represented Ogun State governor, Yinka Odumakin, Dayo Adeneye, Moshood Olalekan Adeoti, representing Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola, Ayo Adebanjo, Comrade Eric Oluwole, Toye Arulogun, commissioner for information, culture and tourism Oyo State, Professor Soji Adejumo, Coordinator Yoruba Patriotic Movement, commissioner for information Lagos State, Mr Kehinde Bamigbetan who represented Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, Chief Niyi Akintola, (SAN), Zaki of Arigidi-Akoko, Oba Yisa Olanipekun, Olofa of Ofa, Oba Mufutau Mohammed Oloyede Gbadamosi, Elese of Igbaja, Oba Ahmed Awuni Arepo, the Olubaka of Okaland, Oba Yusuf Adebori Adeleye, Guru Maharaji among others. However, the Ooni of Ife was conspicuously missing at the event.
In his welcome speech at the event, the chairman installation committee, Bishop Ayo Ladigbolu said the duties of a modern day Aare Ona Kakanfo had evolved, stressing that the duties were more of leadership and peace building.
“The modern day Kakanfo does not need bows and arrows, guns and daggers, but he requires courage, boldness, bravery, focused application of native intelligence to international issues and then brilliance and adaptability to response to the myriad of challenges facing our nation and our world today.
He requires the agility of the youth and the stamina of a long distance runner, as well as the wisdom of Solomon to all things to all people, both on season and out of season.
“While it is true that times have changed, but human beings and their basic needs and aspirations remain basically the same. No wonder there for that the mystique of the office of Aare Ona Kakanfo and his installation rites does not need to be preserved.
“The Aare does not need all the immunisation of the 17th century to perform the task in these frightened and most challenging days. But apart from the visible and tangible paraphernalia of office, he was being given the cultural, traditional, customary and tools essential for good performance in the field of service,” he said.
In a statement by Oba Adeyemi titled “the making of new Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land”. The monarach said that he had endured great pressure since the demise of the former holder, late Chief MKO Abiola to install another Aare.
He said it took him time to look for another war hero known in Yoruba as Akinkanju, adding that after years of searching and consulting it was a great pleasure today to announce that we have finally zeroed our dragnet on a distinguished son of Oduduwa a Yoruba in whom there is no guile .
“He is equipped by God with the vitality of a youth and the agility a long distance runner, unblemished, patriotic and with wisdom of Solomon.
His antecedent in the promotion of Yoruba culture are unquestionable and has clear vision of where the nation should be in its cultural reawakening, both at home and overseas.
In his acceptance speech, the new Aare Ona Kakanfo, thanked the Alafin of Oyo for finding him worthy for the exalted position, he stressed that he would strive to use his position for the unity of the Yoruba race both within and outside the country and also promote the cultural values of Yoruba.
The Aare Ona Kakanfo called for unity among the Yoruba race, promising to use his position to advance the region educationally, while charging the Federal Government to repair the major roads in the region and also improve the rail transportation system.
“There cannot be a more humbling occasion for me as the one we are in today, against the backdrop of the size of the office the Iku Baba Yeye, His Imperial Majesty, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi III, has bestowed on me and the larger than life image of my predecessors, my installation as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo is a challenge that has made all past challenges seem like a child’s play.
“Though I am just stepping into the office, past occupants of the seat, especially the 13th and 14th occupants – Aare Samuel Ladoke Akintola and Aare Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola – brought so much power and glamour to the office that it is obvious I have a lot of work to do. As astute businessmen and politicians of note, they raised the profile of the office.
“There is no doubt from the reactions that followed my pronouncement by the Alaafin of Oyo as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo that the power and prestige of the office has not waned since it was created centuries ago by Alaafin Ajagbo in fact, the epoch-making event of today is symbolic as 2018 marks the 558th anniversary of the installation of the first Aare Ona Kakanfo – Kokoro Gangan of Iwoye.
“It is of interest to note that the military, political, traditional and cultural symbolism of the title to the Yoruba Empire, about 600 years ago, is still of strategic importance in the 21st Century.
“This attribute reveals the uniqueness of the Yoruba race and shows that so much is still expected of the occupant of the post, despite the fact that physical and armed wars are no longer the order of the day, in fact, despite the fact that I am an holder of 52 traditional titles, none has drawn as much comments and commendation by way of letters and visits.
“The import of the office still stands: protection of the interests of Yoruba race, both within the country and everywhere else people of the race exist.
“While it is estimated that there are 60 million Yoruba within Nigeria and about 200 million others scattered all over the world, as a starting point, the preservation of the culture of the race will occupy my attention.
“Pitiably, as a race, we are gradually losing our culture. In fact, from my travels around the world, it has become obvious that people of other races are taking more interest in our culture than we the owners of the culture, with Americans, Europeans and Asians now earning Degrees in the study of our culture, beliefs and what they have come to term Doctrine. We need to preserve our culture to fully realise the potential of the Yoruba.
“Though with an activist background, it is now clear that I have to do more as a bridge builder with this new responsibility.
In as much as the focus of my struggle has changed over the years from the heady days of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) to the spread of our culture through the formation of the Oodua Progressive Union (OPU), which is now in 79 countries, the Olokun Festival Foundation, Gani Adams Foundation and many others, this new responsibility, despite my age, has unwittingly forced the stature of a statesman on me.
“I promise to live up to that calling. In this regard, I will work with our traditional rulers, grassroots leaders and have good rapport with all stakeholders, no matter the differences of the past, for the unity, progress and advancement of Yorubaland and Nigeria.
“The office of the Aare Ona Kakanfo will project the Yoruba culture and tradition by promoting and sustaining our identity globally. The office will equally ensure unity of all Yoruba sons and daughters all over the world.
“Also of strategic importance to me is research and documentary to sustain the ideals of our founding fathers. To ensure the continuation of the leadership role the Yoruba is known for educationally, I will give scholarships to our sons and daughters because education is light and power.
“Also, I will collaborate with security agencies and stakeholders to ensure that Yorubaland is effectively secured through our various organisations.
“I want to assure this August gathering that given the fact that the Oodua Progressives Union (OPU), which I am also the Convener, is now established in 79 countries, I will use this Union and other pan-Yoruba groups abroad to invite our sons and daughters with exceptional abilities, who have distinguished themselves in various fields, to come home and help in our quest to ensuring that our country takes its rightful place in the comity of nations.
“At this juncture, let me express my profound gratitude to all our revered traditional rulers who have been working tirelessly to unite our race. It is a long list that it will not be possible to mention all.
“But let me use the following to pay tribute to our traditional rulers: the Alaafin of Oyo, Iku Baba Yeye, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III who has deemed it fit to honour me with this prestigious title, the Ooni of Ife, Oonirisa Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II; Chairmen of Council of Obas and Chiefs and all traditional rulers in Yorubaland, and not forgetting my root, the Zaki of Arigidi-Akoko, Oba Yisa Olanipekun, and all traditional rulers in Akokoland; all the Obas who bestowed me with 52 titles, which invariably laid the foundation for my emergence as the Aare.
“The journey has started from here. And my first appeal goes to Yoruba sons and daughters who are outside the shores of the country, not to forget that there is no place like home.
This was what informed the formation of the Oodua Progressives Union (OPU), Gani Adams Foundation and Olokun Festival Foundation. Please, see Yorubaland as the place to be. Don’t give the race a bad name. Come home to invest.
“As the 15th Aare Ona Kakanafo, I consider myself lucky that there is no war at hand confronting the Yoruba race now. In other words, we are living in peace time. However, I am not pleased with the level of Yoruba unity today and I am very concerned. Therefore, my greatest priority is the unity of the Yoruba race at home and in the Diaspora.
“I will, therefore, spare no effort in ensuring the unity of Yoruba race within the contemporary Nigeria body polity.
“To take the journey further, I will, after this installation, launch the Aare Ona Kakanfo Foundation. This will further promote the culture of the people and document the history of the Aare Ona Kakanfo title.
“Since we are now in the era of Information Technology, we will be unveiling historical documents obtained from the Iku Baba Yeye on the Aare Ona Kakanfo title to a website.
“2018 makes it the 30th year that the last holder of the title, Aare M.K.O. Abiola, stood before you for his installation. He died on July 7, 1998 and the post was vacant for almost 20 years.
“Same happened when the 13th holder of the title, Aare S.L. Akintola, died on January 15, 1966. It took more than 22 years before his successor took over. Why? There is the myth that holders of the title will always die a violent death. But, this is not so because many holders of the title lived to be more than 100 years.
“So, apart from setting aside the myth and projecting the image of the office, documenting the Aare Ona Kakanfo title will also let people know that a child born of humble beginning like me can make it,” he said.
The modern day Kakanfo does not need bows and arrows, guns and daggers, but he requires courage, boldness, bravery, focused application of native intelligence to international issues and then brilliance and adaptability to response to the myriad of challenges facing our nation and our world today. He requires the agility of the youth and the stamina of a long distance runner, as well as the wisdom of Solomon to all things to all people, both on season and out of season.
Iniobong Iwok, Reporting