During a recent interview, when asked why the Yoruba nation is yet to get another Aare Ona Kakanfo nineteen years after the demise of Basorun MKO Abiola, the last holder of the prestigious title, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi has this to say “There is no problem but time has changed. 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”.
However, On Sunday, April 30, Otunba Gani Adams, National Coordinator, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) and Convener, Oodua Progressive Union (OPU), was hosting thousands of dignitaries on his birthday in Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos. At the event, Aare Ayandotun Oyelakin, who represented the Alaafin , Oba Lamidi Adeyemi , informed the guests that the revered monarch might be considering conferring the exalted title of Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland on Adams, who is also the 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 royal father. Some also wondered whether he has what it takes to act as the war general of the Yoruba nation.
History of the title
In Yorubaland, the Aare Ona Kakanfo is the highest military title. In times past, the Kakanfo was the Field Marshal 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.
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 201incisions 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.
Adams In Prime Position
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 Alaafin, informed the guests that God had already perfected the conferment of the Aare Ona Kakanfo title on Adams.
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.