UNTOLD FACTS AND THE ORIGIN OF THE ARE ONA KAKANFO
Aare Ona Kakanfo was a title given to the generalissimo, the war general during the old Oyo Empire. An Aare Ona Kakanfo would lead battles, fight wars, mobilise and train “soldiers” and conquer the enemies.
The title of Aare Ona Kakanfo was introduced hundreds of years ago to the Yoruba country by King Ajagbo, who ruled as the Alaafin of Oyo in the early 1600s. The introduction of the title was informed by 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. In recent times, the selection seems to have been informed by other considerations the chief of which is the acceptability of the leader among a large section of the people of the South West and such a leader being accepted as worthy Yoruba leadership by other nationalities in Nigeria.
The selection involves several rituals and there have been speculations that the last two Kakanfos before Gani Adams did not complete the ritual circles. Samuel Johnson in his book treatise on the Kakanfo stated that the Kakanfos are always shaved, but the hair on the inoculated part is allowed to grow long, and when plaited, forms a tuft or sort of pigtail, adding that Kakanfos are generally ‘very stubborn and obstinate.
They have been more or less troublesome, due to the effect of the ingredients they were inoculated with. In war, they carry no weapon but a weapon known as the King’s invincible staff.’ It is generally understood that they are to give way to no one not even to the King, their master. Hence, Kakanfos are never created in the capital but in any other town in the Kingdom.
Kakanfo is akin to a field marshal and is conferred upon the greatest soldier and tactician of the day. ‘By virtue of his office, he is to go to war once in 3 years to whatever place the King named, and dead or alive, to return home a victor, or be brought home a corpse within three months. Kakanfo usually has certain ensigns: The Ojijiko, and a cap made of the red feathers of the parrots tail, with a projection behind reaching as far down as the waist, an apron of leopards skin, and a leopard skin to sit on always the Asiso or pigtail and the Staff invincible.
THE CREATION OF THE TITLE: AARE ONA KAKANFO
The creation of the title of Aare Ona Kakanfo was the direct consequence of the ideas of a former ruler of Old Oyo Empire, Alaafin Ajagbo, who reigned in the 1600s.
His predecessors, from Ajaka, who succeeded Sango (the god of thunder), to Aganju, Kori, Oluaso, Onigbogi, Eguguojo, and Orompoto to Abipa and Obalokun, all suffered incessant attacks by neighbouring states.
Ajagbo had a twin brother, Ajampati, and like the Biblical Jacob and Esau, Ajagbo was an outdoorsman, while Ajampati preferred the comforts of the royal court. As a result, Ajagbo, as a prince was part of many military expeditions to fend off invaders, and grew up a warrior, all the while nurturing ideas on how best to deal with military aggression against his kingdom-state. One of the direct results of his ideas, when he became Alaafin, was the creation of the office and title of Aare Ona Kakanfo, meaning Field Marshal, or Generalissimo of the Alaafin’s armies. He then appointed one of his close friends, Kokoro Gangan, described as a skilled tactician, from Iwoye as the first Kakanfo. Ajagbo is perhaps the longest-reigning Alaafin in history; he was said to have reigned for over 140 years!
After creating the Kakanfo title, he invested the holder the command of all his forces, outside Oyo town. For the defence of the Alaafin and Oyo town and environs, Ajagbo created a metropolitan force which he placed under the command of the Bashorun
That is not all; Ajagbo created ranks for soldiers in the Oyo Army. In all, he was said to have created no less than 70 ranks; 16 of which were, in Western military terms, principal staff officers and field commanders, while the remaining 54 were non-commissioned officers and other cadres. Ranks/titles of the field commanders include the Bashorun, Balogun, Jagun, Agba-Akin, Akogun, Olorogun, Oluogun, AareAgo, and many more.
MYSTIQUES OF THE KAKANFO AURA
A peep into the spiritual responsibilities attached to the title probably explains why the late Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba I.B Akinyele prayed in his book, Iwe Itan Ibadan that no Ibadan indigene should ever become the Aare Ona Kakanfo again.
The procedures and conventions instituted by Ajagbo and nurtured by succeeding Alaafins were probably responsible for the mystiques surrounding the office and title. At installation, the major rite that must be performed is the administering of two hundred and one (201) incisions on the Kakanfo-designate. The incision is called gbere, in Yoruba, chiefly tiny cuts made with a razor, from the forehead backwards to the waist. Each of the 201 incisions is rubbed with 201 different herbal preparations expected to take the courage and bravery of the Kakanfo to super-human levels. After the incisions, the Kakanfo is “crowned” with a specially-made head-dress, that only him wears. It is, in Yoruba, called the Ojijiko.
The incisions are mainly to make the Kakanfo fearless and courageous, hence the stubborn and obstinate nature of Aare Ona Kakanfos.
In the days of the Oyo Empire, Oyo indigenes or residents were never made Kakanfos because the Aare was not to give way to anyone, not even the Alaafin, if the need ever arose.
And by virtue of his office as the commander of the Alaafin’s army and that of the entire Yoruba nation, Kakanfos of old were required to go to war at least once in three years on the orders of the Alaafin, and the Kakanfo must return dead or alive within three months. In other words, he is to return home a victor or be brought home as a corpse.
After installation, the Kakanfo leaves Oyo, the Alaafin’s city for his own domain; it is forbidden that the Kakanfo and the Alaafin live together in the same town.
THE OFFICE OF THE ARE ONA KAKANFO
As mentioned earlier, the Kakanfo is required to wage war against any peoples and territories at the behest of the Alaafin, and is expected to win, or return a corpse. The circumstances of the deaths of some past Kakanfo probably reinforced the belief that there is a curse on the title; this may not be so. Of the 14 holders of the title so far, the first 12, from Kokoro Gangan of Iwoye to Momodu Obadoke Latoosa of Ibadan, were purely military commanders. Of these, three waged wars that impacted the history of the Yoruba people significantly. These were Kurumi of Ijaye, Afonja of Ilorin, and Obadoke Latoosa of Ibadan.
Abiola was known to have held traditional titles from all the geo-political zones in the country and even beyond Nigeria. He achieved a rare feat of being the Basorun of Ibadanland and the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, holding the two titles simultaneously.
Though it has been claimed in recent times that the title has become more or less ceremonial, traditionally, the Kakanfo is meant to be the head of the Eso’s (the Alaafin’s special military force) and the head of the Yoruba army. The title in those days was reserved for the greatest Yoruba tactician.
When Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola became the occupant of the position decades after Aare Latoosa’s death during the Kiriji war, it was believed that the days when Kakanfos died in wars were over. The thought all over Yorubaland then was that Akintola’s dexterity and achievements as Minister and Premier of the Western Region earned him the title.
Samuel Ladoke Akintola and Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola were civilians; the title had regressed to the honorary pedestal after the effects of colonisation, the establishment of indirect rule, and the creation of western-style military institutions.
Akintola was a victim of military incursion into politics; he was a target as Premier of the Western Region when the putschists of 1966 struck, just like other political leaders in other parts of the country. Abiola’s case was significantly different in that he turned victim of a deathly power struggle whose ramifications were obscure to him.
THE ROLES OF AARE ONA KAKANFO IN MODERN DAYS
THE Aare Ona Kakanfo title is a very sensitive position in Yorubaland. It was a title given to the generalissimo, the war general during the old Oyo Empire. At the time, an Aare Ona Kakanfo would lead battles, fight wars, mobilise, train soldiers and conquer the enemies. The introduction of the title was informed by 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.
In recent times, however, the title has become more or less ceremonial, because there is no war to fight. Nevertheless, the Aare Ona Kakanfo is expected, in a sense, to ‘fight’ for the development and growth of the Yorubaland. He must be at the vanguard of the advocacy of Yoruba interests within the larger Nigerian framework.
The Aare is also to foster unity among the Yorubas and become a rallying point for the promotion of Yoruba culture and tradition. In this regard, he must work assiduously with other eminent personalities in the Southwest to actualise a common front on the issues that can advance both the Yoruba and national interests.
“The third one is to bring all Yoruba towns and villages in the present day Kwara and Kogi States that are being marginalized back into the Yoruba fold in a way. Most of these towns are today clamouring to have a sense of belonging within the Yoruba fold. This is because they are perceived as minorities in the two states Some of the communities affected in Kwara include Shao and Jebba. In Kogi, the Yoruba-speaking areas are known as Okunland, which includes all the towns in the defunct Kabba Province. Take the case of the communities in Kwara, for instance, their obas are not classified as high-ranking chiefs, because of the Fulani hegemony in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
The traditional ruler of Ejigbo, Oba Olayiwola Oyesosin, said the Aare title is a title for powerful people and “because I know you are capable of holding the office because of your antecedents, I charge you to use the office to foster unity among the Yorubas”.
His Ede counterpart, Alhaji Munirudeen Adesola Lawal, said: “The Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland title is not a small title, especially to those who know”. The monarch, otherwise known as the Timi of Ede, said: “Nobody can shove Gani Adams aside if we talk about fighting for the good of Yorubaland”, hence his submission that with God on his side, he will succeed.
In the same vein, the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Rasheed Adewale Akanbi, said there is no war to fight like the Aare Ona Kakanfo of old did. Rather, he wants the Aare to put into use the braveness and ideas which he is noted for to solve the problem of the Yoruba race.
He said: “The Aare is meant to defend the territory and the crowns of Yoruba kings. Your first job is to defend the crown. When you do that, the entire Yorubaland is defended. You have been picked to restore the dignity of the Yoruba race.
When addressing Otunba Gani Adams, he said: “You are no more Gani Adams of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) alone; you are now Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland. It’s different. You must repackage the kingship stool. You should be the solution to Yoruba problems.”
The former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, sees the role of the Aare beyond the Yorubaland. He said the Aare has the onerous responsibility to work for the unity of Nigeria. Saraki, who made the call when Adams visited him in Abuja, said: “You have a great role and responsibility ahead and I pray that the Almighty Allah will give you the strength and wisdom, so that in your time too, you can achieve a lot of feats; not just for the youth, but also for the unity of Nigeria because at this particular time, there is nothing more important to us than the unity of this great country.”
Saraki said the conferment of the title on Adams is a reflection that the time has come for the younger, vibrant and energetic generation of Nigerians to take responsibility. He added: “The demographics of the country show that over 70 per cent of our population is under the age of 30. At such, it is only good to see that those in these positions of authority should be the people that can connect with the youths.”
The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, alluded to the reason why he picked Otunba Adams as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo, when he said the title is reserved for men of courage and patriotic zeal. The monarch said Gani Adams is very courageous and that he has the interest of the Yoruba at heart.
In a letter titled: ‘The making of new Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland’, the Alaafin said: “Since the demise of Aare Moshood Olawale Kasimawo Abiola there have been numerous appeals, requests, applications, delegations, and agitations from various parts of the Yoruba nation for the filling of the vacant position.
“The position of Aare Ona Kakanfo in Yoruba history makes it mandatory for us to hasten slowly, and that is what we have done. Manliness, courage, and patriotic zeal (not political ambition or opportunism) were three virtues respected in Yorubaland, even during the Yoruba warfare in the 19th century.”
Historian and Second Republic politician, Prof. Banji Akintoye, sheds more light on the above position. He said to be the Aare Ona Kakanfo, one must be a great warrior and very courageous, adding that the creation of the title stopped the invasion of Yorubaland by external aggressors.
He said: “The Aare Ona Kakanfo was so powerful and invincible that he would fight several wars at the same time. He never lost any battle. Due to his power, the Alaafin would not allow him to live in the same town as him. The Aare Ona Kakanfo normally lives in a commercial city.”
Akintoye said the choice of Otunba Adams for the title is a good one. The historian added: “He was nobody, but he developed himself and became what he is today. We have a lot of people who developed themselves. I was a lecturer for many years in the university and I had students who rose from nothing to become great scholars. I appreciate people like that. Adams belongs to that category. He started from nothing and without anybody, but today he is a university degree holder. Those who say all sorts of things against the OPC are not fair to the group. Have they forgotten what the OPC did for us in Yorubaland?”
From all indications, the enthusiasm and commitment of Otunba Gani Adams to the promotion of the Yoruba culture must be, no doubt, one of the factors that earned him the title. He is a believer in Yoruba culture and tradition. For instance, Adams is the sole sponsor of Olokun Festival Foundation, the only non-governmental organisation (NGO) that is dedicated to promoting and preserving Yoruba culture and tradition.
The NGO is supporting Yoruba festivals such as Eledumere Festival, Ijora Lagos; Ajagunmale Festival Lekki, Lagos; Osun Oshogbo Festival; Olokun Festival, Badagy; Oya Festival, Kwara State; Oke Ibadan Festival, Oyo State; Oodua Festival Ile-Ife; Olumo Festival, Abeokuta; 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 State.
AARE ONA KAKANFO; A JINXED TITLE?
Whether by coincidence or design, most of them were connected with the turmoil that shook Yorubaland. Afonja L’aiya L’oko (the brave warrior with the spear) of Ilorin, Kurumi of Ijaye, Latoosa of Ibadan and Ladoke Akintola had their deaths connected to incidents involving a change of government. Toyeje who could have been said to have had a good end suffered an ignominious treatment as Onikoyi, a provincial ruler created a parallel Aare Ona Kakanfo in the person of Edun. As such, Toyeje had to cope with the existence of a rival Kakanfo and it was only in his time that Yorubaland had two Kakanfos.
The similar fates that befell past Kakanfos were obviously more than just coincidence. MKO Abiola’s immediate predecessor, Samuel Ladoke Akintola, the former Premier of the Western Region was shot dead on January 15, 1966, during a coup that marked the end of the First Republic. Armed soldiers had stormed his residence and like a true Kakanfo, Akintola did not give up without a fight. He opened fire and wounded some of the soldiers before he was eventually shot.
Yorubaland will never forget Iyanda Asubiaro Latoosa of the Oke Aare fame in Ibadan, Latoosa, Akintola’s predecessor died in the course of the 16-year Ekitiparapo War that shook the whole of Yorubaland. Ekitis and Ijesas came together with their allies and in a desperate battle to attain independence from Ibadan which held them under subjection for decades. After spending years on the war front on the hills of Imesi Kiriji, Latoosa died of a broken heart in 1885. Of course, by the end of the Ekitiparapo War, the face of administration of Yorubaland changed, the Ibadan yoke was thrown off just as the British became the new masters.
Kurumi, the Aare who held sway in Ijaye paid dearly in the hands of the Ibadan army for insisting that Crown Prince Adelu should die with Alaafin Atiba, his father, according to the old order. His refusal to recognise Adelu as Alaafin led to his downfall as the Ibadan army had aligned with the “constitutional amendment” effected by Alaafin Atiba which enabled crown princes to succeed their fathers. After a two-year war, Ijaye was reduced by famine and the Aare eventually died a sad man having lost two of his sons in one of the battles. Till date, Ijaye has not fully recovered from the 1870s war. Most of the inhabitants fled to Abeokuta where they took refuge in a part of the town known then as Ago Ijaye (Ijaye Camp). Many never returned as they adopted Abeokuta as home leaving Ijaye which was one of the main Yoruba towns then with the status far below the one it enjoyed in the days of old.
The case of Afonja of Ilorin was pathetic. At the zenith of his glory, he was the greatest and most powerful Yoruba ruler. His undoing was the invitation he extended to his Fulani priest to come and reside in Ilorin. It was only a matter of time before an insurrection was made against him; he eventually died by the hands of the Fulanis. With Afonja’s death came the transfer of power as Ilorin which was before then a Yoruba town went into the hands of the Fulanis. Like Ijaye, Ilorin changed; a town that was once ruled by an Aare came under the firm control of the Emir.
Those who believe the Aare Ona Kakanfo title is jinxed have traced the woes of subsequent Aares after Afonja to the curse placed on the sixth Aare Ona Kakanfo, Afonja by Alaafin Aole.
Aole had ordered Afonja to embark on a suicide mission by attacking Iwere Ile, a town naturally fortified. The refusal of the Aare to carry out the orders of his sovereign led to distrust. With the help of Fulanis, Afonja instigated an attack that sacked Oyo. Before the Alaafin went to sleep eternally, however he pronounced some curses after which the Yoruba country never remained the same.
As history has it, the first Aare Ona Kakanfo was from Iwere-Ile, so there was a kind of understanding within their ranks that no Aare Ona Kakanfo should go to war against the town. Alaafin Aole saw this as an affront against his office, because in the ancient Oyo Empire, the Alaafin was so powerful that everyone deferred to him.
Scholars and students of Yoruba history say the refusal of Aole to recognise and accept Afonja, as the new generalissimo of Yoruba Army, made him (Afonja) to send an empty calabash to Aole, which symbolised a rejection of Aole and demanded his head in the empty calabash. That was a sign of rejection in the Yoruba nation in those days. This school of thought believes that the curse is still affecting the Yoruba race till date.
One of such culture enthusiasts, Mr. Ajani Fadare, said Aole also cursed Afonja and his descendants. Afonja is the founder of Ilorin, but today the throne of the ancient kingdom is occupied by the Fulanis. Aole had declared that Afonja and his descendants would never get to the throne and that they remain second-class citizens in their kingdom.
NO, THE TITLE “ARE ONA KAKANFO” IS NOT JINXED!
There is a saying in Yoruba that:
“Iku Ogun lo n pa akikanju”
Which literarily means: The brave and courageous die of war. It shows that the Generalissimos acts like shield protecting the Yoruba nation and they are needed. It’s known that Samuel Ladoke Akintola (SLA) was very powerful and couldn’t be killed but had to become vulnerable to enemies’ attack so that his family would not be killed in his stead.
When interviewed by “Punch newspaper” Alaafin said it as an untrue, age-long myth that the occupant of the Aare Ona Kakanfo stool is destined to die a tragic death after his installation.
He said, “A lot has been said about the Aare Ona Kakanfo that they die tragic death. This is not true. We have prayed that the time of the new Aare will usher in great things for Yoruba land.
“It is important that we have someone that will establish enduring unity in Yoruba land. Gani Adams today has become the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land and this is witnessed by monarchs from all over Yoruba land.
“We have begged all the deities of Yoruba land to enable unity and peace in the land during the time of Gani Adams so that Yoruba land can regain its leadership position among all races,” said the monarch.”
While also dismissing the myth surrounding the life of an Aare Ona Kakanfo, Adams said although the last two occupiers of the stool died tragically, there were others who lived up to 100 years.
LIST OF THE PAST FOURTEEN AARE ONA KAKANFO
Below is the list of the past Fourteen Aare Ona Kakanfo (from archive) that had been:
- Kokoro igangan of Iwoye-Ketu.
- Oyatope of Iwoye.
- Oyabi of Ajase.
- Adeta of Jabata.
- Oku of Jabata.
- Afonja l’aiya l’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 of Ogbomosho (the premier of the western region during the first republic).
- MKO Abiola of Abeokuta.
Gani Adams of Arigidi-Akoko was installed as the Are Ona Kakanfo in 2017.
LEGENDS OF SOME PAST ARE-ONA KAKANFO
KURUMI OF IJAYE
Kakanfo Kurumi was very spectacular. He insisted that the Aremo must die with the Alaafin according to tradition. The truth was that he had been part of an earlier conference in which that convention was abolished. To enforce his desire, he made war on the rest of Oyo kingdom from his garrison city in Ijaye. His reputation as a warrior was legendary. He is portrayed in art as a no-nonsense nimble wit with a commanding presence.
In his days, Aare Kurumi was eulogized in the following manner:
Aare Kurumi npe o,
Bifa ba fore
ti Aare o ba fore nko?
Meaning in English:
The Generalissimo is calling you
You said you are consulting the oracle
If the Oracle bids you goodwill
What if the Generalissimo doesn’t?
There was no excuse for refusing a call from the generalissimo. In a surgical commando strike, Ibadan special forces attacked at night his troops in Iseyin and wiped out the entire rear brigade. All of Kurumi’s five children who were company commanders died in that attack. Like his name, Aare Kurumi was ruined by death, indeed. I-k –u-r-u-m-i.
The musician Beautiful Nubia Sang “Kurumi” to honour and tell tales of this particular Are Ona Kakanfo
OYABI OF AJASE
It must be acknowledged though that a few of the kakanfos had glorious tenures. Oyabi was based in the garrison town of Jabata. He kept off the internal strife of the kingdom with the wily Osorun Gaa killing the Alaafins in quick succession until the reign of Adegoolu who linked up with the military to destroy the prime minister. The Eso were lead into the city like Caesar did across the Rubicon River and Basorun Gaa was killed by Oyabi.
Oyabi from Ajase lived very long and he was very loyal to the Alaafin and Oyo empire.
OJO ABURUMAKU OF OGBOMOSO
Kakanfo Ojo Aburumaku had no war to fight. He fomented a civil war in his native Ogbomoso which he then had a good sport of putting down with severity. After all, he was Aare Onakakanfo, the Supreme Head of the Esos, the 70 military commanders who make the Yoruba warrior caste.
In his days, Ojo Aburumaku was eulogized in the following manner:
Eso Ikoyi won kii gbofa leyin
iwaju ni won fii gbota.
Agba Ikoyi to gbojo iku toree gbalu.
Ikoyi Eso, arogun yo.
OBADOKE LATOOSA OF IBADAN
In Ibadan, the new city full of promise where Kakanfo Obadoke Latoosa had taken up residence, the scourge of the notorious slave dealer, Efunsetan Aniwura, was ended by the Aare Ona kakanfo. However, even he Latoosa was the victim of the mystique of the office of supreme commander. Latoosa was confronted by a palace coup and in very dramatic circumstances, he committed suicide. He had a notorious slave according to history, who grew increasingly disrespectful of the generals. Latoosa did not curb this behaviour until the deputy commander, Balogun Ibikunle was insulted by the slave. Ibikunle could not believe his eyes when Latoosa asked the slave to state his side of the case like two equals squabbling. Ibikunle simply beheaded the idiot there and then.
Latoosa then asked Ibikunle if he was ready to take the sceptre of office, to which Ibikunle answered in the affirmative. There was no negative response from the other commanders present. Latoosa had overrated his own popularity. Depicted as an overbearing and brutally magnificent warrior who went about like a masquerade, he was stunned by the turn of events and swallowed poison. He simply laid down and covered himself like one in sleep.
SAMUEL LADOKE AKINTOLA (SLA) AS THE ARE ONA KAKANFO
Chief Samuel Ládòkè Akíntọ́lá or “S.L.A.”(July 6, 1910 – January 15, 1966) was a Nigerian politician, lawyer, aristocrat and orator who was born in Ogbomosho, of the then Western Region. In addition to serving as one of the founding fathers of modern Nigeria, he was also elevated to the position of Oloye Aare Ona Kakanfo of the Yoruba.
At a young age, the family moved to Minna and he was briefly educated at a Church Missionary society school in the city. In 1922, he returned to Ogbomosho to live with his grandfather and subsequently attended a Baptist day school before proceeding to Baptist College in 1925. He taught at the Baptist Academy from 1930 to 1942 and thereafter worked briefly with the Nigerian Railway Corporation. During this period, he became acquainted with H.O. Davies, a lawyer and politician and joined the Nigerian Youth Movement where he assisted Ikoli and supported the latter to represent Lagos in the legislative council over the candidacy of Samuel Akisanya, who was supported by Azikiwe. He joined the staff of the Daily Service Newspaper and soon became the editor in 1943 with the support of Akinola Maja, a shareholder, replacing Ernest Ikoli as editor. Akintola was also the founder of Iroyin Yoruba, a newspaper written in the Yoruba language. In 1945, he opposed the general strike led by Azikiwe’s NCNC and Michael Imoudu, earning the distrust of politicians like Anthony Enahoro. In 1946, he earned a British scholarship to study in the U.K. and completed legal studies by 1950. He started his legal career working as a lawyer on land and civic matters. In 1952, he formed a partnership with Chris Ogunbanjo, Chief Bode Thomas and Michael Odesanya.
CHIEF SAMUEL LADOKE AKINTOLA AS A POLITICIAN
After he was trained as a lawyer in the United Kingdom, Akintola returned to Nigeria in 1949 and teamed up with other educated Nigerians from the Western Region to form the Action Group (AG) under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He initially was the legal adviser of the group before becoming the deputy leader in 1953 after the death of Bode Thomas. He defeated Arthur Prest in the primary to succeed Bode Thomas.
As the deputy leader of the AG party, he did not serve in the regional Western Region Government headed by the premier Awolowo but was the Action Group Parliamentary Leader/Leader of Opposition in the House of Representatives of Nigeria. At the federal level he served as Minister for Health and later Minister for Communications and Aviation.
Akintola was dignified orator and was responsible for completing the founding of University of Ife (Awolowo’s brainchild and currently Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1962 while still a premier in Western Region. He was also involved in development of Premier Hotel and other monuments.
A number of institutions, including Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho, were established in both the Oloye’s home town and other Nigerian cities as a means of remembering him posthumously.
Akintola was assassinated in Ibadan, the capital of Western Region, on the day of Nigeria’s first military coup of 15 January 1966—which terminated the First Republic. This was the “Young Majors Coup” or the “coup of the January boys”, which resulted in the assassination of many leading politicians, mostly members of the Northern People’s Congress.
MOSHOOD KASIMAWO OLAWALE (MKO) ABIOLA AS THE ARE ONA KAKANFO
Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, GCFR (24 August 1937 – 7 July 1998) was a Nigerian Yoruba businessman, publisher, politician and aristocrat of the Yoruba Egba clan, he was the Aare Ona Kankafo of the Yoruba land. MKO Abiola ran for the presidency in 1993, for which the election results were annulled by the preceding military president Ibrahim Babangida because of allegations that they were corrupt and unfair. Abiola was awarded the GCFR posthumously on 6 June 2018 by President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria’s democracy day was changed to June 12.
Abiola was a personal friend of Babangida and he is believed to have supported Babangida’s coming to power.
Abiola’s support in the June 1993 presidential election cut across geo-political zones and religious divisions, among a few politicians to accomplish such a spread during his time. By the time of his death, he had become an unexpected symbol of democracy.
M. K. O. Abiola was born in Abeokuta, Ogun State to the family of Salawu and Suliat Wuraola Abiola, his father was a produce trader who primarily traded cocoa and his mom traded in Kolanuts. His name, Kashimawo, means “Let us wait and see”.Moshood Abiola was his father’s 23rd child but the first of his father’s children to survive infancy, hence the name ‘Kashimawo’. It was not until he was 15 years old that he was properly named Moshood, by his parents. Abiola attended African Central School, Abeokuta for his primary education. As a young boy, he assisted his father in the cocoa trade, but by the end of 1946, his father’s business venture was failing precipitated by the destruction of a cocoa consignment declared by a produce inspector to be of poor quality grade and unworthy for export and to be destroyed immediately.
At the age of nine, he started his first business selling firewood gathered in the forest at dawn before school, to support his father and siblings. Abiola founded a band at the age of fifteen and would perform at various ceremonies in exchange for food. Abiola was eventually able to require payment for his performances and used the money to support his family and his secondary education at the Baptist Boys High School Abeokuta. Abiola was the editor of the school magazine The Trumpeter, Olusegun Obasanjo was deputy editor. At the age of 19 he joined the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons ostensibly because of its stronger pan-Nigerian origin compared with the Obafemi Awolowo-led Action Group.
In 1960, he obtained a government scholarship to study at the University of Glasgow where he later earned a degree in accountancy and qualified as a chartered accountant.
BUSINESS CAREER AND POLITICS
In 1956 Moshood Abiola started his professional life as a bank clerk with Barclays Bank in Ibadan, South-West Nigeria. After two years he joined the Western Region Finance Corporation as an executive accounts officer, before leaving for Glasgow, Scotland, to pursue his higher education. From Glasgow University he received a first class degree in accountancy, and he also gained a distinction from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. On his return to Nigeria, Abiola worked as a senior accountant at the University of LagosTeaching Hospital, then went on to US firm Pfizer, before joining the ITT Corporation, where he later rose to the position of Vice-President, Africa and Middle-East. Abiola spent a lot of his time, and made most of his money, in the United States, while retaining the post of chairman of the corporation’s Nigerian subsidiary.
Abiola’s involvement in politics started early on in life when he joined the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) at age 19. In 1979, the military government kept its word and handed over power to the civilian. As Abiola was already involved in politics, he joined the ruling National Party of Nigeria(NPN) in 1980 and was elected the state chairman of his party. Re-election was done in 1983 and everything looked promising since the re-elected president was from Abiola’s party and based on the true transition to power in 1979; Abiola was eligible to go for the post of the presidential candidate after the tenure of the re-elected president. However, his hope to become the president was shortly dashed away for the first time in 1983 when a military coup d’état swept away the re-elected president of his party and ended civilian rule in the country.
Abiola announced his candidacy for president in February 1993, this was after a previous round of presidential primaries had been cancelled by military President Babangida. His party of choice was SDP, though he was an outsider who was new to the partisan politics within the party which at the time was dominated by two major factions, People’s Front(PF) and PSP. Both SDP and its opposition, NRC held presidential primaries in March 1993. SDP’s primaries were held in Jos and were largely a three-way contest between Abiola, Kingibe and Atiku even though there were more aspirants.
Abiola was heavily supported by the People’s Solidarity faction (PSP) within SDP while Atiku was supported by PF faction led by Yar’Adua and Kingibe was supported by a loose coalition of party members. During the first ballot, Abiola was able to score a slim majority vote of 3,617 to Kingibe’s 3,225. A second round was contested two days later and Abiola again emerged victorious with a slim margin and he became the party’s presidential candidate for the June 12 election.
Abiola’s political message was an optimistic future for Nigeria with slogans such as “Farewell to poverty”, ” At last! Our rays of Hope” and the “Burden of Schooling”. His economic policy included negotiations with foreign creditors and better management of the country’s international debts, in addition, increased cooperation with the foreign community while presenting himself as someone the international community can trust
BASHORUN MOSHOOD KASHIMAWO OLAWALE ABIOLA INSTALLED AS THE ARE ONA KAKANFO
In 1987, Oba Yesufu Oloyede Asanike, Olubadan of Ibadan made history. Olubadan installed Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola as the Bashorun of Ibadan. It was a prestigious title befitting of a distinguished personality in the mould of MKO Abiola.
That was the title of the legendary Bashorun Oluyole who was the paramount chief of Ibadan in 1850. It was also the title of Bashorun Ogunmola who reigned between 1865 and 1867. It was therefore historic that exactly 120 years after the death of Ogunmola, MKO Abiola became the fourth person to be conferred with the prestigious title.
It was indeed a befitting honour for someone who had amassed chieftaincy titles from almost every town in Nigeria. As of the time of his installation in 1987, MKO Abiola was reputed to have over 150 chieftaincy titles. He was the Bobajiro of Ode-Remo. He was the Bada Musulumi of Gbagura Egba.
He was just settling down in his Ikeja home when he was informed that he had a call. Who was on the line? He asked before collecting the phone. It was the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III.
MKO snatched the phone. “Iku Baba Yeye, Igbakeji Orisa! Kabiyesi!” The newly installed Bashorun paid his homage to the foremost traditional ruler. Alaafin must be calling to congratulate me, MKO thought. Kabiyesi was however not calling to congratulate the business magnate.
“We have decided that you are to be conferred with the title of Aare Ona Kakanfo!” Kabiyesi informed him.
The phone nearly dropped from the hand of Bashorun. Aare Ona Kakanfo! The Generalissimo of Yoruba race! The Field Marshall for all descendants of Oduduwa! The portfolio held by Afonja, the founder of Ilorin! The title of Aare Obadoke Latosa of Ibadan – the scourge of Efunsetan Aniwura! The position held by the last premier of Western Region, Ladoke Akintola of Ogbomoso! Ha!
For a single person to be Bashorun and Aare was unheard of. It was the ultimate! Traditionally, Bashorun is the Prime Minister. Aare is the Field Marshall. When Bashorun Gaa moved against Alaafin Abiodun around 1770, it was Oyalabi from Ajase (now the Republic of Benin), the Aare Ona Kakanfo that came to the powerful monarch’s rescue. Now, Abiola was going to be both the Prime Minister and the Field Marshall!
Alaafin had spoken. MKO Abiola had no choice. The news spread like wildfire. Congratulatory messages poured in from all over the globe. Aare Ona Kakanfo was not just another title. It was the title. It was the father of all traditional titles. Father ke? No, it was the Grandfather of All Titles. If it were to be a national honour, it would be the equivalent of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic! Everybody in and outside Yorubaland was ecstatic at the choice of Abiola as the 14th Aare Ona Kakanfo. Well, almost everybody.
It happened that the Ashipa of Oyo, Chief Amuda Olorunosebi was not pleased with the choice of Bashorun MKO Abiola as the Aare. Ashipa was one of the prominent chiefs of Alaafin. He objected to the choice of the flamboyant publisher, an Egba man, as Aare Ona Kakanfo. He went to Kabiyesi to protest. Iku Baba Yeye was adamant that MKO was eminently qualified to be the Aare Ona Kakanfo. Despite all the efforts of Chief Amuda Olorunosebi, Alaafin installed MKO Abiola as the Are Ona Kakanfo.
On Saturday, January 14, 1988, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III installed Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Abiola as the 14th Aare Ona Kakanfo. The famous Yoruba Poet, Lanrewaju Moshood Adepoju was then called to the podium. In his deep and flawless Yoruba, Adepoju movingly rendered traditional poetry tracing the history of the title and the qualities of the new Aare Ona Kakanfo.
It was indeed a glorious day for the husband of Simbiat Atinuke.
Ashipa Amuda Olorunosebi tried jeopardizing the intention of Alaafin to install MKO Abiola as Are Ona kakanfo but Chief Afe Babalola was available to give Alaafin legal support. In recognition of his service to the Crown and the Law, Alaafin later conferred Chief Afe Babalola with the prestigious title of Aare Bamofin of Oyo Empire.
(Adapted from Impossibility Made Possible by Chief Afe Babalola, with additional materials researched from publicly available sources.)
IMPRISONMENT AND DEATH
In 1994 Moshood Abiola declared himself the lawful president of Nigeria in the Epetedo area of Lagos island, an area mainly populated by (Yoruba) Lagos Indigenes. He had recently returned from a trip to win the support of the international community for his mandate. After declaring himself president he was declared wanted and was accused of treason and arrested on the orders of military President General Sani Abacha, who sent 200 police vehicles to bring him into custody. MKO Abiola has been referred to as Nigeria’s greatest statesman. His second wife Alhaja Kudirat Abiola was assassinated in Lagos in 1996 after declaring public support for her husband.
Moshood Abiola was detained for four years, largely in solitary confinement with a Bible, Qur’an, and fourteen guards as companions. During that time, Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and human rights activists from all over the world lobbied the Nigerian government for his release. The sole condition attached to the release of Chief Abiola was that he renounce his mandate, something that he refused to do, although the military government offered to compensate him and refund his extensive election expenses. For this reason, Chief Abiola became extremely troubled when Kofi Annan and Emeka Anyaoku reported to the world that he had agreed to renounce his mandate after they met with him to tell him that the world would not recognise a five-year-old election.
Abiola died in suspicious circumstances shortly after the death of General Abacha, on the day that he was due to be released, 7 July 1998. While the official autopsy stated that Abiola died of natural causes, Abacha’s Chief Security Officer, al-Mustapha has alleged that Moshood Abiola was in fact beaten to death. Al-Mustapha, who was detained by the Nigerian government, but later released, claims to have video and audiotapes showing how Abiola was beaten to death. The final autopsy report, which was produced by a group of international coroners has never been publicly released. Regardless of the exact circumstances of his death, it is clear that Chief Abiola received insufficient medical attention for his existing health conditions.
As recounted at the time in a BBC interview with special envoy Thomas R. Pickering, an American delegation which included Susan Rice visited Abiola; during their meeting with him, Abiola fell ill, with what was presumed to be a heart attack which caused his death.
A clause in Abiola’s will required that his heirs prove that he was their father. Over seventy people were able to show that Abiola was their father using DNA tests. Seven children were descended from his second wife, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola.
OTUNBA GANI ADAMS
Otunba Ganiyu Adams (known simply as Gani Adams) was born on April 30th, 1970, at Arigidi-Akoko, the present Akoko north-west local government area of Ondo state, Nigeria to the family of Pa Lamidi Adams and Dada Adams.
On October 14, 2017, Adams was declared to be the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland by Oba Adeyemi III, the Alaafin of Oyo. The chieftaincy was last held by Moshood Abiola before his death in 1998
Gani Adams Early Life
Adams started his education at the Army Children’s School, Oturkpo before his father moved to Lagos, where he completed his primary education at Municipal Primary School, Surulere, in 1980. He attended Ansar-Ud-deen Secondary School, Randle Avenue, Surulere and later went to train in furniture-making and interior decoration, which he completed in 1987.
According to Wikipedia, Lagos state university is Otunba Gani Adam’s Alma mater
Gani Adams Career
Upon completion, Adams was employed by an Italian construction company, Visinoni Stabilini, Apapa, Lagos. He later resigned to start his own business. Adams was a part of the pro-democracy movement in the 90s, as he served as the public relations officer of Mushin local government chapter of the Campaign for Democracy (CD) in 1993. He is a foundation member of the OPC, a Yoruba nationalist organisation. The militant wing was led by Otunba Gani Adams, which led to a leadership crisis between him and Chief Fasheun who wanted a less confrontational approach. this militant nature gained Adams but notoriety and popularity, with the former leading to clashes between his faction and security forces.
He was the first deputy national coordinator and currently the national coordinator of the group. Due to hush critics who tagged him an illiterate, Adams obtained diplomas at the International Aviation School, Ghana, and the Lagos State University, Nigeria.
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. He was a member of the National Peace Forum, organized by the Obasanjo-led government, through the then Special Adviser on Inter-governmental Relation, Chief Rochas Okorocha.
In recent years, Adams has turned to a less militant tone in his agitations which has allowed him to be honoured and feted by prominent leaders and kings in the South-West, but many people still point to the inglorious part he played leading to the 2015 elections with his faction of the OPC holding a rally with guns and other deadly weapons in Lagos for ex-president Goodluck Jonathan after allegedly getting billions of Naira in return.
On October 14th, 2017, Adams was declared as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland by Oba Adeyemi III, The Alaafin of Oyo. The title was last held by Moshood Abiola before his death in 1998. On Saturday, January 13th 2018, the ancient town of Oyo was agog as eminent Nigerians gathered at Durbar Stadium, Oyo, as he was installed as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland by Oba Adeyemi III
Gani Adams Personal Life
Otunba Adams is married to Erelu Mojisola Adams and together they have a daughter named Adams Iyunade Mary Mariam born in 2017, nine years into their marriage.
Gani Adams Awards
In recognition of his contributions to the development of Yoruba land, Otunba Adams has been honoured with many chieftaincy titles across Yoruba towns. Among them are; Otunba of ArigidiAkoko, Ondo State, Ajagungbade of Oodua Land (ANTP), Akinrogun of Erin Osun, Osun State, Ajagunla of Aala Land, Kwara State, and Arogundade of Ode Omu, Osun State. He also has to his honour about 232 local and international awards.
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