By Tayo Ogunbiyi
On 13th January 13, 2018, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, officially installed Iba Gani Abiodun Adams 15th Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland at the ancient town of Oyo. The pomp and grandeur of the event sufficiently attests to the substance of the Kakanfo chieftaincy title in Yorubaland. The office was last held by late business mogul and winner of June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief M.K.O Abiola, who died in detention in 1998 after refusing to give up his mandate, which was annulled by former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida.
In the old Oyo Empire, Aare Onakakanfo was the military General who controlled the armed forces. Holders of the tittles were reputed to be fearless, courageous and highly proficient in the art of warfare. Indeed, it could be safely affirmed that the office of the Aare Onakakanfo was partly one of the reasons why the old Oyo Empire enjoyed so much glory and might. At the peak of its power, the old Oyo Empire covered the entire modern day Yorubaland, part of the old Mid-Western region, part of the present day Middle Belt as well as old Dahomey (now Republic of Benin).
The Kakanfo chieftaincy title was instituted by Alaafin Ajagbo (1587 -1624) who installed a native of Iwoye (in present day Republic of Benin) and daring hunter, popularly called Kokoro Gangan as the first Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland. Kokoro Gangan was alleged to possess magical powers that made him untouchable and beyond repression, by any means. According to history, he was so powerful that he could singlehandedly subdue towns.
Subsequent Aare Onakakanfos were to follow in this tradition of fearlessness, bravery and gallantry. History had it that most of them had amazing mystical powers that made them lived and acted mysteriously. For instance, it was alleged that Kokoro Gangan, the first Aare Onakakanfo, had supernatural powers that made him disappear and appear as he wished. Not only that, it was alleged that he also had powers that made him listen to conversations about him, irrespective of the distance.
It could, thus, be established that, in the olden days, Aare Onakakanfos were dominant men who possessed unusual paranormal powers. This couldn’t have been otherwise because in those days the influence of kingdoms and empires were measured by the fierceness and invisibility of their military. In those days, territories were subdued and acquired through military might and naked force.
However, in contemporary times, the trend seems to be changing. For instance, Late Chief S.L. Akintola, the then Premier of Western Nigeria and the 13th Aare-Ona Kakanfo, was a colourful politician and a brilliant lawyer. Similarly, his successor, Late Chief M.K.O Abiola, was an affluent industrialist with wide range interests in diverse sectors of the national and global economy. He was equally an accomplished politician and statesman who was famous all over the world. Hence, it could be accurately asserted that in the modern era, dexterity in the art of warfare is no longer a desirable feature in the selection and appointment of an Aare Onakakanfo.
The appointment of the current Aare Onakakanfo follows in this contemporary tradition. While it is true that Aare Gani Abiodun Adams has a rich history of political activism, it is, nonetheless, his love for the promotion of Yoruba cultural and traditional heritage that put him in better stead ahead of other top contenders for the high office. In proclaiming Adams as the 15th Aare, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, declared that “his antecedents in the promotion of Yoruba culture are unquestionable, and he has a clear vision of where the Nation should be in its cultural reawakening both at home and overseas”.
In view of Adams’ undying and conscientious passion for the promotion of Yoruba culture and tradition, his appointment as the 15th Aare Onakakanfo is, no doubt, a befitting one. In 2011, founded Oodua Peoples’ Union (OPU) in 2011 as a body for Yoruba people in Diaspora and he has since established branches of OPU in major countries across Europe, Asia, Africa North America and South America. One of the most fundamental goals of the body is to foster unity and harmony among all Yoruba sons and daughters all over the world.
In 2004, Adams founded Olokun Festival Foundation (OFF) with which he annually promotes 18 traditional festivals across Yorubaland. He is firmly convinced that culture can be used as a vehicle for national integration and a platform for the realization of the elusive peace and love in our society. As a strong believer in the attributes of the Yoruba cultural heritage, his Olokun Festival Foundation remains the only Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that is exclusively dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Yoruba culture and tradition.
The Olokun Festival Foundation actively sponsors and takes part in the following festivals across Yoruba land: Eledumare Festival in Ijora Lagos, Ajagunmale Festival in Lekki Lagos, Osun Osogbo, Olokun Festival in Badagry Lagos, Oya Festival in Kwara State, Oke Ibadan Festival in Oyo State, Oodua Festival in Ile-Ife, Grandmothers’ Festival in Epe Lagos; Olumo Festival in Abeokuta, Ogun/ Ifa Festival in Lagos, Aje Festival in Agege, Lagos, Obatala Festival in Oyo State; Oranmiyan Festival in Oyo State; Okota Festival in Ondo State, Oro Festival in Iseyin, Oyo State, Ogun Festival in Ikorodu, Lagos State and Elegbara Festival in Shasa, Lagos among others.
It is in view of his zeal for preserving indigenous culture and tradition that the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Lagos State Council, is identifying with the installation anniversary of Aare Gani Abiodun Adams. The main goal is to ensure that younger and coming generations of Nigerians take pride in their language, culture and tradition. This way, they can desist from perceiving foreign culture as superior theirs.
Towards this end, the Union will be unveiling two books in honour of Aare Gani Abiodun Adams. The historical publications will be publicly unveiled on Wednesday, January 9, 2019 at Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Ikeja. It is the firm conviction of the Dr. Qasim Akinreti led NUJ, Lagos State Council that for our beloved nation to move forward, we must go back to the path of holding our culture in high esteem and with great reverence. For the avoidance of doubt, our indigenous culture is laid on certain core values for the development of the people and their homeland. Sadly, ‘civilization’ and technological advancement has encouraged new generation of compatriots to abandon these traits.
We need to take a cue from developed nations such as China, Japan, Germany, Portugal, USA and a few others that use their culture as veritable tool for developing morality and social justice in the society to attain enviable heights. They respect their language and other cultural values so much so that they can do anything to preserve them.
We need to follow same trend by rebuilding the collapsed wall of our cultural and traditional heritage. This is why NUJ, Lagos State Council is collaborating with Aare Gani Adams to trigger cultural renaissance in our land.
Ogunbiyi, Assistant Director, Lagos State Ministry of Information & Strategy, is Chairman, Publication Committee, NUJ, Lagos State Council