The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, on Sunday declared the National Coordinator of the Oodua People’s Congress, Gani Adams, as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland.
The position was held last by the late MKO Abiola, who died in the detention camp of the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, in 1998 for refusing to trade his presidential mandate for freedom.
In June this year, there was an indication that Adams could be named the new Generalismo of Yorubaland by the monarch but the OPC leader refused to confirm nor deny the rumour.
But Alaafin, who confirmed the declaration to one of our correspondents in a chat on Sunday night, said that a letter of appointment had been issued to Adams during his (monarch’s) 79th birthday celebration.
“Yes, I have confirmed Otunba Gani Adams as the next Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland. He emerged out of the five aspirants that I considered for the position but I will hold a press conference where he will be formally announced. It is after this announcement that the traditional rites for his installation will start,” he said.
When asked how the lot fell on Adams, the first-class monarch said this would be disclosed during his press conference scheduled for this week.
Mr. Segun Akanni, who is the Personal Assistant to Adams, also confirmed the appointment on Sunday evening.
He quoted Adams as saying he was honoured to be chosen for such an exalted position in Yorubaland.
Reacting to the appointment, the founder of the OPC, Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, on Sunday, congratulated Adams.
Fasehun told one of our correspondents in a telephone interview that the Alaafin of Oyo had the right to bestow the title on anyone.
Fasehun, who had a running battle with Adams for several years before their feud was finally resolved, urged the new Aare Ona Kakanfo to behave true to his title.
He said, “It is an Oyo title. The Alaafin has the right to give anybody. The Alaafin can give anybody, whether young or old, altruistic or otherwise. I congratulate him (Adams) and I hope he will behave true to his title.”
Another Yoruba elder statesman, Senator Femi Okurounmu, however, said Adams was too young for the title.
Okurounmu, who represented the Ogun-Central Senatorial District between 1999 and 2003 in the Senate, said although Adams had done a lot for the Yoruba nation, he still had a long way to go.
The former lawmaker said most men who were bestowed with the title hardly ended well.
He, however, wished Adams the best.
Okurounmu said, “My honest opinion is that as a young man, that title is not befitting for him. I think that title is more befitting for an older person; an older person who has accomplished more for Yorubaland.
“As much as I like the young man and his activities for Yorubaland, I think he is a bit too ambitious and too much in a hurry and frankly, I would have wished the title would have been given to someone with a history of achievement and accomplishment for Yorubaland.
“That title doesn’t have a very good history. In Yorubaland, people with that title have not always ended very well and I think that is perhaps why people are always running from it.
“There is a saying that where angels fear to tread, fools rush in. So, it is a title many fail to take and I don’t know why he was keen to have it but I wish him the best of luck. I know he wanted it and I wish him the best.”
But Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, congratulated Adams, who he described as a true Yoruba son.
Adebanjo dismissed claims that people with the title do not end well, adding that it was time for the Yoruba nation to be united and support Adams.
He said, “He should bring the Yoruba nation together. The people of Yorubaland need to be united now more than ever. People who are not on our level of civilisation should not be allowed to dominate us.”
Historians said in the days of yore, the Aare Ona Kakanfo was the highest war title bestowed on someone considered to be brave and loyal to the Alaafin and the Yoruba cause.
The late Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba I.B. Akinyemi, in his book titled, Iwe Itan Ibadan, the holder of the title bearer served as the Field Marshall and Commander of the military arm of the Oyo Empire.
According to him, the title symbolises the power of the Oyo Empire, adding that the holder of the title must not be defeated in war. It is a taboo for an Aare Ona Kakanfo to return from battle defeated. He either wins the battle or dies in the battlefield.
But now, when wars are no longer there to be fought, the title has become ceremonial.
The last (14th) holder of the title, Abiola and the holder before him, the late Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, were both politicians. They both died in circumstances that could be likened to the title they held.
According to the respected Yoruba historian, the late Rev. Samuel Johnson, in one of his works, the Aare Ona Kakanfo at inauguration must completely have his head shaved and must undergo some strenuous rituals to test his agility and ability to withstand torture.
He stated that the title was said to have been created between 16th and 17th centuries by Alaafin Ajagbo, who was said to have reigned in Oyo-Ile, the then headquarters of the Oyo Nation.
The first Aare Ona Kakanfo was Kokorogangan from Iwoye Ketu. Among those that have been Aare Ona Kakanfo 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.