Since the announcement of the National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoplesâ€™ Congress, Otunba Gani Adams, as the new Aare Ona Kakanfo, a few days ago, divergent views have been expressed about his suitability or otherwise for the exalted seat of the Yoruba Generalissimo. But depending on which side of the divide you are, the generality of opinions is that Adams truly deserves the highest Yoruba Warrior title conferred on him by His Imperial Majesty and custodian of the title, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, writes Ademola Babalola
Those close to the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, know he is one monarch with unmatched intellectual prowess, who is well versed in the Yoruba ancestral lineage and modern education, often to the consternation and utter disbelief of many. Each time the occasion demands, he holds his audience spellbound as he recalls events in centuries past with precision. He combines earthly knowledge with heavenly wisdom to mesmerize his friends and enemies alike. Alaafin is one king you cannot but love for his historical sagacity, unfathomable mien and generosity, often to a fault! And Yorubaâ€™s history and progenitors are kind to him as his words are laws and no one queries his stand on issues affecting the Yoruba race.
Reports say prior to Gani Adams announcement, coming 19 years after M.K.O. Abiolaâ€™s death, two prominent Yoruba elders in the mould of a former President and erstwhile Governor of the most Cosmopolitan city in the Yoruba land (Lagos), Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and Senator Bola Tinubu respectively, had been variously consulted by the Alaafin but declined the offer for reasons best known to them. Unlike Adams, both wield enormous political power in and outside of Yoruba land and their suitability for the post might not have generated the kind of heat that attended Adamâ€™s choice.
However, history is replete with how Alaafin appointed the previous Aare Ona Kakanfo as Yorubaâ€™s field marshal and supreme warrior, who usually protects the territorial integrity of the ancient Oyo and Yoruba land. Could the duo of Obasanjo and Tinubu be weary of what would befall them should anyone of them accept the offer? Back in the days, the singsong was â€œAare, Olorun ma je n je Aare Ona Kakanfoâ€, meaning, God forbid I am made the Yoruba Generalissimo.
The illustration is so apt, because of the way and manner past occupants of the stool died, albeit in a rather shocking, unimaginable, controversial and gruesome manner. The past Aare Ona Kakanfos of Yoruba land were warriors, who fought and died for the Yoruba cause. They were war leaders as their exploits were felt in all Yoruba territories at a time in the past, extending to as far as Togo, Benin Republic and Ghana.
Prior to the introduction of the title, history says there was the need to fortify the ancient, pre-colonial army of the old Oyo Empire, which at one time could boast of over 100,000 horsemen. So, the Kakanfo was the Field Marshall and Supreme Generalissimo of the then dreaded military of the Oyo Empire.
And because of the enormous powers he wielded as the Supreme Commander of the native Army, the Kakanfo conquered several wars but never lived in the capital with the Alaafin. Immediately after the installation of Aare Ona Kakanfo, he dares not see eye to eye with the Alaafin again. They were like parallel lines that should never meet. The relationship is a mystery that historians are yet to unravel till date.
In the modern era, the title has become largely ceremonial especially if the experiences under the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola and Chief Ladoke Akintola were anything to go by.
With the world now a closely knit global village, the selection nowadays seems to have been informed by other considerations. And chief of which is the acceptability of the leader among a large section of people of the South-west and such a leader being accepted as worthy Yoruba leadership by other nationalities in Nigeria.
The past holders of the title included Kokoro igangan of Iwoye-Ketu, Oyatope of Iwoye, Oyabi of Ajase, Adeta of Jabata, Oku of Jabata, Afonja lâ€™aiya lâ€™oko of ilorin, Toyeje of Ogbomoso, Edun of Gbogan, Amepo of Abemo, Kurumi of Ijaye, Ojo Aburumaku of Ogbomoso (son of Toyeje), Latoosa of Ibadan, Ladoke Akintola (the premier of western region during the first republic) and MKO Abiola, who earned the title in 1988.
History also shows that this highest war title in Yoruba land, which was created between 16th and 17th centuries by the Alaafin Ajagbo, who reigned in Oyo-Ile, the then headquarters of the Oyo Empire, is bestowed on someone considered to be brave and loyal to the Alaafin and the Yoruba cause. The holder of the title served as the Field Marshall and Commander of the military arm of the Oyo Empire. It symbolised the power of the Oyo Empire and it is only the Alaafin, who has the right to bestow such title on any deserving Yoruba son.
Obviously, the holder of the title must not be defeated in war. He is expected to either win the battle or die on the battlefield. And considering the circumstances that led to the death of the last (14th) holder of the title, Abiola and the holder before him, Akintola, who both died in circumstances that could be likened to the very essence of the title they held, one could say the general belief on the effect of the title is more real than surreal.
As the end of the holders of the title could be scary, a newly appointed Aare Ona Kakanfo, Adams, said he opted to accept the chieftaincy title to further promote the interest of Yoruba race.
From a relatively unknown background, Adams who had been hounded into prisons many times under President Olusegun Obasanjoâ€™s administration is believed to have outlived some of his exuberant excesses to become a renowned freedom fighter. Adamsâ€™ case represents that of grass to grace.
The Man, Gani Adams
His sojourn in life started on April 30, 1970 at Arigidi-Akoko, in the present Akoko North-West Local Government Area of Ondo State, Nigeria. He attended many primary schools due to the nature of his fatherâ€™s job. His educational exploits started at the Army Childrenâ€™s School, Oturkpo, Benue State, where he got as far as primary three (3) before his father was transferred to Lagos, where he completed his primary school education at the Municipal Primary School, Surulere, Lagos, in 1980.
Adams proceeded to Ansar-Ud-deen Secondary School, Randle Avenue, Surulere, Lagos, for his secondary education before picking an interior decoration job at an Italian Construction Company, Visinoni Stabilini, Apapa, Lagos, from where he voluntarily resigned after some urge to establish his own Interior decoration business, Gadson Interior. But sequel to the bastardisation of the socio-political and economic life of Nigeria, occasioned by the military fascist rule of that time, Adams became an active Pro-Democracy Activist in 1992.
He pitched his tent with the Campaign for Democracy (CD), in the struggle to end military rule in Nigeria and install participatory democratic governance. A young Adams had a big and daunting responsibility thrust on his shoulders, when he became the Public Relations Officer (PRO), of Mushin Local Government Chapter of CLO in 1993 and Member of Oodua Youth Movement, OYM, a pro-Yoruba self-determination group. He was a foundation member of the Oodua Peoplesâ€™ Congress (OPC), when it was formed in 1994. And like the huge elephant that cannot pass unnoticed, he was the overwhelming choice for the position of the first Deputy National Coordinator and now the National Coordinator of the group.
Adams presents an interesting character with his crusade of selfless commitment to protecting Yoruba interest, not minding whatever happens to him in the course of the struggle. With his dedication to the wellbeing of the Yoruba race, it is obvious that he has consciously acted his script into history book. And in spite of the vicissitude, Adams is optimistic with great hopes and unwavering determination that Nigeria cannot survive as one entity unless the union is decentralised and the federating units granted autonomy status.
Thirsty for self-improvement in the present challenging times, Adams returned to school to bag a Diploma in Tourism Management from the International Aviation School, Tema, Ghana in 2003. Not done, he went further to obtain another Diploma in International Relation and Strategic Studies from the Lagos State University (LASU) and capped it with a Bachelorâ€™s Degree in Political Science from same Lagos State University (LASU). He is a firm believer in the fact that culture can be used as a vehicle for national integration and a platform for the realisation of the elusive peace and love in the society.
As a strong believer in the attributes of the Yoruba cultural heritage, his organisation, the Olokun Festival Foundation, today remains the only Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Yoruba culture and tradition. The Olokun Festival Foundation sponsors and participates in the following festivals across Yoruba land: Eledumare Festival Ijora, Lagos; Ajagunmale Festival Lekki, Lagos; Osun Osogbo, Osogbo; Olokun festival, Badagry, Lagos; Oya festival, Kwara State; Oke Ibadan festival, Oyo State; Oodua festival, Ile-ife; Grandmothersâ€™ festival, Epe, Lagos; Olumo festival, Abeokuta, Ogun State; Ifa festival, Lagos; Aje festival, Agege, Lagos; Obatala festival, Oyo State; Oranmiyan festival, Oyo State; Okota festival, Ondo State; Oro festival, Iseyin, Oyo State; Ogun Festival, Ikorodu, Lagos and Elegbara Festival, Shasa, Lagos, amongst others.
He has carried his cultural crusade across continents, Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, North America, South America, including Brazil, Ghana, Ethiopia, Namibia, South Africa, India, Britain, France, Holland, Germany, Belgium and many others through Oodua Progressive Union (OPU), a Yoruba Socio-Cultural group in the Diaspora. In 2011, he made landmark feats in major countries across Europe, Asia, Africa North America and South America, where he launched chapters of the OPU. Today, the OPU has registered its presence in 78 countries, where it has been launched, with more countries eager to join. It can be said that OPU is the largest Yoruba socio-cultural association in the Diaspora
It is to his credit that a Yoruba socio-cultural organisation has good representation in the United Kingdom, UK, Germany, Holland, France and many other countries spread across the globe. In furtherance of his efforts to ensure that the less-privileged in the society are lifted out of the dungeon of poverty, he founded the Oodua Economic Empowerment Initiative and the Gani Adams Foundation, designed to empower the poor by giving them economic freedom.
As a firm believer that peace is crucial to development, Adams participated at the National Peace Forum (NPF), in the interest of peace and unity among Nigerians, and was subsequently appointed a Peace Envoy. Beside the NPF honour, he was also awarded the Ambassador for peace by the Universal Peace Federation and International Federation for World Peace. As a result of his selflessness, dedication and forthrightness to the human race, Adams was nominated to represent the Yoruba race at the National Conference organised by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2014.
In recognition of his well-placed understanding of national and global security matters, he was made a member of the National Security Committee in the National Conference and Vice Chairman of the National Security Management, Sub Committee on National Security. It is also on record that he was in the thick of the battle to ensure that the military returned to the barracks to guarantee the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999. This can be said to be one of his major achievements in life. For his belief and commitments to the struggle, he has visited and resided in several detentions in the Nigerian prisons and police cells. But at each occasion, he has come out stronger and more resolute.
In recognition of his contributions to the development of Yoruba land, Adams has been honoured with many chieftaincy titles across Yoruba towns, only to be sealed with the Aare Ona Kakanfo title. In total, Adams has to his honour about 232 local and international awards.
The same Alaafin that installed Chief MKO Abiola is the same Alaafin that has settled for Adams, after a difference of almost thirty years. It is worthy of mention that in spite of the wide acceptance that greeted even the choice of Abiola, it was still contested by the late Amuda Olorunosebi, the Ashipa of Oyo, in the Oyo State High Court by his legal Counsel, Chief M.L. Lagunju.
It was the brilliant defence of the legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola, in the presence of Justice Aderemi of the Oyo State High on behalf of the defendant, The Alaafin of Oyo, that later earned him the prestigious title of the â€˜Aare Bamofin of Oyo Kingdomâ€™. The suit was struck out for lack of substance. Alaafin was vindicated in the verdict of Justice Aderemi. Chief MKO Abiola was installed as the 14th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland on Saturday, 14th of January, 1988.