Aare Gani Adams

By Olakunle Abimbola

In the Yoruba country, plebeians (who don’t know) and patricians (who should know and guide) appear yoked in passionate ethnic-goading. It’s a brewing tragedy.

When passion runs high, reason takes a dive. It’s often the wide and merry way, to borrow that biblical phrase, that leads nowhere but avoidable catastrophe.

First, Gani Adams, as “Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland”, warned southwest governors against ceding any part of Yorubaland for any Fulani ranching settlement, otherwise known as ruga.

While interrogating the propriety or otherwise of this diktat, the tragic Afonja of Ilorin cropped up, prompting a friend and top editor to join the battle.

Ripples’ stand was simple: Adams clearly over-reached himself, purporting to give orders to elected governors. Beyond the honorific Kakanfo title, Adams has nobody’s mandate.

Besides, Adams’ rash and stark “orders” only exposes the Kakanfo title as a historical farce — at least, the claimed “Yorubaland” of it.

There was Kakanfo of Oyo Empire. But Oyo Empire never covered the whole of Yorubaland. Indeed, the coastal Ijebu were never part of it. Neither was Eko (Lagos), with its Awori aborigines.

Even efforts to suck in the Ekiti/Ijesa, beyond imposing the Oyo “Ajele” (viceroy), crude envoys of war and plunder extracting tributes, sparked the Kiriji War (1877-1893), which though raged for 16 years, ended in a dreadful stalemate.

Only superior British arms broke up that stalemate. But British force not only stopped the belligerent parties, it also degraded the Alaafin from the unquestioned and unquestionable empire sovereign (Kaabiesi o!), to a British vassal-King.

The same British might tamed the rather aggressive Ijebu, in the Anglo-Ijebu War, that saw the then reigning Awulaje, the Ijebu paramount monarch, banished to neighbouring Epe. All these facts are in the Oyo-centric History of the Yorubas by Samuel Johnson.

So, if the Kakanfo was limited to the Oyo Empire, what then is the progeny — nay propriety — of a “Kakanfo of Yorubaland”, dishing out orders to South West governors on state matters, beyond pitiable historical farce?

Even within the Oyo Empire, was it ever heard that the Alaafin shared state powers with the Kakanfo (beyond giving and receiving battle orders), to the extent the Kakanfo would tell the Alaafin how or how not to wield his powers, even with the strict check-and-balance in the Oyo feudal system, best epitomized by the council of Oyomesi?

At least two Kakanfo, consumed by hubris, tragically over-reached themselves. One was Kurunmi, the great Ijaiye General. His tragedy was well captured in Ola Rotimi’s play, Kurunmi.

The other was the perfidious Afonja, and the dire curse of Aole. That curse not only doomed Afonja to a tragic end, it also cost the Yoruba Ilorin, which they lost to Alimi and fellow Fulani, Afonja’s anti-Alaafin confederates turned fatal foes.

If even in the Oyo Empire, the Kakanfo would share the political spotlight with his sovereign, the Alaafin, only at his own perils, what makes Gani Adams think he could order governors around in a modern setting — a setting more democratic than feudal; where the Kakanfo is more honorific than real?

By his happy starkness, Adams appears gravitating towards the well-paved self-destruct tragedies, which have plagued the Kakanfo title till the modern era.

But while that is a free and democratic choice Adams can embrace or shun, not slamming his reckless orders would be tantamount to bowing to mob rule, in a duly constituted polity ruled by law.

That is why the governors should assert their mandate on state matters — except, of course, they want to yield space to mob rule; from which nobody gains.

But it was on Afonja, the top editor’s point of intervention, that plebs and patricians appear merged, in a Yoruba ultra-nationalistic army, against a looming Fulani occupation army, real or imagined.

Ripples’ interpretation of Afonja was that by dabbling into matters beyond his ken, and trading off his sovereign for personal gain, he courted tragedy and earned his doom — a fate Adams, the Kakanfo modern caricature, appears too stark to grasp and learn from, given his rash South West gubernatorial diktat.

But the editor had a diametrically opposed interpretation: he alleged present neo-Afonja were aiding and abetting the capture of Yorubaland, by Fulani modern-day occupiers!

Same tragic historical figure. Contrasting interpretations. How interesting!

But that goes to the crux of the matter: the anti-Fulani hysteria is just the blinding tribal smoke. The real crux is an election lost and won; and plotting losers who won’t let go!

What are the facts, though starkly out there in the public space?

For starters, the editor’s neo-Afonja theory is rather rich, for it is nothing but a fabulous, if not outright mischievous, colouring of the South West-North-West entente that in 2015 sacked the PDP and drove Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo to power.

But the real gist is the South West political mainstream broke into two. A faction, led by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Baba Bisi Akande won.

The other faction, most epitomized by Baba Ayo Adebanjo’s Afenifere faction lost — and justly so. Both 2015 and 2019, they have proved the democratic minority, despite thunderous barks and doomsday howls, on behalf of the “Yoruba”, whose mandate they don’t even have.

Even Adams that now postures as some rebel-general with suspect cause, on behalf of the Yoruba, marshalled his Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) thugs to sack Lagos, in aid of Goodluck Jonathan’s doomed presidential re-election.

That barbarism was bad enough if it was a genuine hustle for democracy. But alas! It was a cynical hustle for cheap, near-illicit pipeline security contracts that the new PMB government promptly voided.

Now, the same Adams is hankering for anti-Fulani ruga war, on behalf of the Yoruba!

The ruga controversy is only the latest in the series of schemes by the electorally vanquished, who nevertheless clutch at rogue activism, that can only sucker the dumb, on the Yoruba ultra-nationalist front. That path leads nowhere but perdition.

Let the ruga ranching question be clinically debated. After, let the governors take decisions that best tally with the interest of their people, and of course, pan-Yoruba interest, in a federal Nigeria.

That task is for clinical thinkers that understand the issue in all its ramification, not rabid ultra-nationalists who spew nothing but ethnic hate, because naked fear, phantom or real, has captured and paralyzed their thinking.

In these stark times, the Yoruba must draw inspiration from Awo, the avatar himself. In his titanic battle against the North-Eastern Region order of the 1st Republic, he deployed his acute mind, not some rabid and scalding tribal appeal, to trump his enemies on the high shrine of ideas.

That’s why he lives today, while most of his traducers are dead, buried and forgotten.

A reportage and private discourse prompted this piece.