On Sunday, October 15, 2017, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Atanda Adeyemi pronounced Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Gani Abiodun Ige Adams the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland during his 79th birthday in his palace in Oyo.
The declaration has since been generating mixed reactions from different parts of Yorubaland. But the Arigidi Akoko, Ondo born human rights activist, on Tuesday, October 17, 2017, cleared the air on how he became the most favoured candidate for the title when he had a chat with a couple of media houses, including ENCOMIUM Weekly. He also spoke on few other issues.
We congratulate you on your appointment as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo by His Royal Majesty, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi.
Thank you so much.
How do you feel being the Aare Ona Kakanfo designate?
I feel honoured and humbled. I give glory to God Almighty, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient.
First, let me douse the pressure about the issue of my appointment as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland. It’s true we received the letter from His Royal Majesty, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi confirming me as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland. Since a lot of media organizations have been calling me to confirm if the appointment is true or not. That’s why I deemed it fit that I should talk to some of you journalists so as to clear the air on the issue. I sincerely appreciate the strong support and co-operation I have been enjoying from you all, all this while. If not, the Alaafin who has the prerogative to approve the title in conjunction with the Oyo Mesi, couldn’t have done what he did.
How did it all begin? Have you been expecting the letter?
I think we have been in the process since February this year. And normally, late Chief Gani Fawehinmi of blessed memory has been addressing me as the Generalissimo – Aare Ona Kakanfo since 1998. Although, whenever he said that, I would just prostrate to him and say thank you, sir. I never took him seriously because of some negative impression about the title.
To me, there’s no title without both the negative and positive sides. A lot of people, especially Yoruba leaders have been saying I will be Aare Ona Kakanfo but I couldn’t take them seriously as well until January this year when we went for Oodua Progressive Union World Congress.
After the dinner party, one of my friends came to me and said, “Otunba, what would you do if Alaafin gives you the title of Aare Ona Kakanfo?” I said, “Ogbeni, I don’t need that. I have had over 50 chieftaincy titles by then.”
How now sat me down and advised I should not be thinking about negative side (death issue) people have been tagging with the title, that death is a product from God. If God doesn’t want me to die at a younger period of this position, God knows how to do it.
He also told me that every human step is always moving between life and death. He said, for instance, driving from Lagos to Oyo alone is a risk, let alone myself that have travelled by air to about 50 something countries, at times eight hours and more. He said the position will avail me the opportunities to promote Yoruba culture the more. I only told him I would think about it.
I left Oyo and I came to Lagos. I consulted my wife first, she objected to it swiftly. She said no. It took me about one week to convince her. That was around the beginning of February this year. By March, I started seeking the opinions of people, consulting physically and spiritually. I consulted my Yoruba leaders, including Chief Ayo Adesanya, Chief Olu Falae and anytime we’re in the Yoruba leaders forum, I always let them know I wanted to contest for Aare Ona Kakanfo title. And most of them always gave me their blessings. And on my birthday, that was April 30, this year, a royal ambassador for Alaafin of Oyo who came as one of the representatives of Iku Baba Yeye now told the musician performing that day to start praising me as Aare Ona Kakanfo. I wouldn’t just believe my ears when I was hearing the musician praising me as Aare Ona Kakanfo. I just thought of it and decided to consider what the first adviser told me that being an Aare Ona Kakanfo is going to be a very useful tool for the promotion of Yoruba culture and identity.
I now agreed to go and meet Kabiyesi. And Kabiyesi, Alaafin, Ikun Baba Yeye is one of the most intelligent obas not only in Nigeria but in Africa as a whole. When I met him, I told him I was interested in the title of Aare Ona Kakanfo. He now laughed and said he was told they have started praising you with the title. And he said, ‘Are you aware it’s not a child’s play?” I said I know. I also let him know I am 47. And most of the people that had bagged the titled were not up to 50 including late Chief MKO Abiola who got the title in 1988. Even Chief S. L. Akintola who was conferred Aare Ona Kakanfo in 1964 was also not up to 50 and others.
In the history of the title, they always shopped for a courageous young blood that can face external aggressors. It’s not about the age but charisma, determination, loyalty to the Iku Baba Yeye and focus and interest of the entire Yoruba race. Those are the important factors.
The loyalty to Alaafin is very important as Aare Ona Kakanfo because, in the structure of Oyo empire, Alaafin is the commander-in-chief while Aare Ona Kakanfo is the Chief of Defence and military leader. The Ogbonila stand as the judiciary while the Oyo Mesi is the legislative arm. So, one way or the other, we had our own democracy before the colonial masters came.
The Oyo has been in existence before the 14th century. Even the Ile Ife as the cradle of Yoruba, there’s a structural command of Oodua, the progenitor of Yoruba race onward to Ooni. And I told kabiyesi I am ready. He asked whether I am prepared, I told him yes. He said okay.
The following day, he called and asked me to send my biography to him. And I sent it via email which the palace press secretary printed for him. Kabiyesi was surprised when he read through my profile. He said he didn’t know I had done that much, especially the issue of Oodua Progressive Union. He said knowing the structure of an organization in the diaspora in 78 countries is not an easy task even in Yorubaland, 77 countries haven’t put themselves together on the issue of unity. For me to have a kind of courage and wisdom, it deserves a big kudos. With that, I am giving you the title but not yet confirmed. He said he would consult other obas, and some political stakeholder and different sections of Yoruba before I can give my approval.
That was around June. In July, we’re still waiting to hear from him because I didn’t want to call him so that it won’t be as if I was desperate. Aare Ona Kakanfo is a title for selfless service for the Yorubaland. It’s not a position that entitles you to salary or wage from any government. You can only assume the position as a freedom fighter or as a philanthropist.
For instance, MKO Abiola attained it in1988 as a philanthropist, Akintola got it in 1964 based on his position as premier of the Western region then. On my own situation, the kabiyesi considered me on account of my promotion of Yoruba culture. And kabiyesi brought out the details that when you’re promoting Yoruba culture, you’re trying to liberate the Yoruba. And in a situation where we have lost our culture and identity, there’s no doubt, we will be weakened in every angle. And as part of your calling, leading a non-violent organization which is promoting the culture and identity of the Yoruba, you have done enough on the liberation of our people. I told him, I am ready to continue with my service to my motherland and the serviced to my fatherland.
And this is what I have been doing since 1999 when I became the National Coordinator of Oodua People’s Congress despite facing a lot of tribulations impediments. So, I thank God Almighty that Alaafin has finally made me the Aare Ona Kakanfo designate. The process will be announced by the palace as the time goes on.