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Aare Gani Adams And The Kakanfo Jinx… The Beginning Of The End?


– By Wole Adejumo –

Gani Adams and Oba Lamidi Adeyemi

History will again be made on January 14, 2018; not only will the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi III be celebrating the 47th anniversary of his coronation as Yorubaland’s foremost monarch, Kabiyesi the Iku Baba Yeye will be installing Otunba as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland.

The date is no doubt significant; especially to those who follow Yoruba history and events with keen interest. Adams’ installation will be coming exactly three decades after that of his immediate predecessor, Aare Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, the 15th Kakanfo and the first man to combine the prestigious title of the Basorun of Ibadanland with that of the Aare Ona Kakanfo.

January 14, 1988 was Abiola’s day of glory; armed with the shield, staff of office and leopard skin apron, all official insignia of the Aare Ona Kakanfo, he was the cynosure of all eyes on the palace grounds; just like Samuel Ladoke Akintola was; decades before Abiola’s installation.

With about three months to his official and traditional installation as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, the new Aare has received numberless congratulatory messages; with many more to come as the days go by.  The reason may not be far-fetched; the Kakanfo title is one of the most revered in the whole of Yorubaland. At the zenith of the glory of the Oyo Empire, the Aare Ona Kakanfo; being the head of the Eso, was the leader of the Yoruba army which conveniently boasted of loyal troops from as far as the borders of the present day Borgu Kingdom in the North, to the Bight of Benin on the South and Dahomey, the present day Benin Republic on the western front to the River Niger in the east. Such were the powers the Alaafin invested in the Kakanfo!

The Man Gani Adams

Like the proverbial Gangan drum that turns it face to someone while its back turns to someone else, Otunba Gani Adams is a man of different parts; seen by people in different lights.  To some, Adams’ oversized ego led to the bloody power tussle that polarized the Oodua People’s Congress between the founder, Dr. Frederick Fasehun and Otunba Gani Adams.  To some others however, Adams should be praised for injecting life into the OPC.

Adams was born on 30th April 1970 at Arigidi-Akoko in the present Akoko North-West Local Government Area of Ondo State, Nigeria. After the completion of his primary education at Municipal Primary School, Surulere, Lagos in 1980, he attended Ansar-Ud-deen Secondary School, Randle Avenue, Surulere before he went for furniture making and interior decorating training which he successfully completed in 1987.

He was later employed by Italian Construction Company, Visinoni Stabilini, Apapa, Lagos and voluntarily resigned after some spell to establish his own furniture making business.

Not many know that Gani Adams was once the Public Relations Officer of the Mushin Chapter of the Campaign for Democracy (CD). He was a foundation member of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) when it was formed in 1994 to champion the cause of the Yoruba nation after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election. He was the first Deputy National Coordinator and now the National Coordinator of the organization that gave the military government much to worry about.

Between 2000 and 2001, Adams was declared wanted and was eventually arrested by the police. The arrest was widely reported by television stations then and many remember seeing pictures of a shirtless Gani Adams; handcuffed and paraded by the police accompanying stories on the cover of magazines.

Under him, members of the OPC mooted the idea of returning Ilorin to the Yorubas.

As he grew in importance, so did his drive for self-improvement; he bagged a Diploma in Tourism Management from the International Aviation School, Tema, Ghana in 2003. To further sharpen his academic capabilities, he bagged a Diploma in International Affairs and Strategic Studies from the Lagos State University (LASU).

That Gani Adams is a paragon of Yoruba culture is a fact known all over the world as he has carried his cultural crusade across the Nigerian borders to Brazil, Ghana, Ethiopia, Namibia and other countries.

The Kakanfo Title

As stated earlier, in the days of inter-tribal wars, the Aare Ona Kakanfo was the Field Marshaof the Yoruba army, being the head of Esos put him in charge of 70 Generals. The title was created by Alaafin Ajagbo. A Kakanfo is expected to be well fortified in terms of charms and with his status, he never carries his weapons at the war front. Instead, he holds only the staff of war which is believed to be capable of rendering him invincible.

Characteristically, Aare Ona Kakanfos are obstinate; this, Rev Samuel Johnson, in his book The History of The Yorubas traced to the ingredients used in inoculating the Aare after incisions are made on his head shortly before taking office. The Kakanfo must never turn his back at the enemy. He must either emerge victorious or die in battle.

The title is reserved for battle tested veterans; as such rigorous spiritual exercises come with becoming the Aare Ona Kakanfo. One of such is that at the time of taking office, the Kakanfo must shave his head completely and 201 incisions are made on the back part of the head, each with a different razor while a different ingredient will be rubbed on each incision.

In his book, Iwe Itan Ibadan, Oba Isaac Babalola Akinyele, who was the Olubadan of Ibadan between 1955 and 1964 described the Kakanfo title as a “terrible title” and prayed that it will never again be conferred on any Ibadan indigene.

The Modern Day Kakanfo

Many Yoruba sons and daughters are of the opinion that the Kakanfo title has become ceremonial; no thanks to the gradual erosion of Yoruba culture by civilization. Some have gone as far as arguing that most of the rites that precede the Kakanfo’s installation have been abolished. For instance, the culture of delivering the Kakanfo’s skull to the Alaafin had faded out over the past few centuries. The last three Kakanfos were accorded grand burial ceremonies; even Aare Latosoa who could not be taken home to Ibadan during the Kiriji War had his remains preserved and after the war, Ibadan troops marched home after the body and laid him in state at Oke Aare where the Balogun, who took charge of the army gave a detailed account of the war as he would have done if the Aare were alive.

Before Gani Adams, Yorubaland has had 14 Kakanfos; namely Kokoro Gangan of Iwoye, Oyape also of Iwoye, Oyabi of Ajase, Adeta of Jabata, Oku of Jabata, Afonja l’aiya l’oko of Ilorin, Akanni Toyeje of Ogbomoso, Edun of Gbogun, Amepo of Abemo, Kurunmi Oyindaola of Ijaye, Ojo Aburumaku (son of Toyeje) of Ogbomoso, Momodu Iyanda Asubiaro Latoosa of Ibadan, Ladoke Akintola of Ogbomoso and Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of Abeokuta.

Some of those who were around then confirmed seeing Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola undergoing some of the rites at Isale Oyo; an indication that civilization or not, a Kakanfo remains a Kakanfo.

Interestingly, the OPC is factionalzed, an indication that Gani Adams might start his battles from within.


Will Adams Be Any Different?

While it has been concluded by many that Kakanfos don’t end well, it may not be wrong to believe that the reign of a Kakanfo usually heralds the end of an era in Yoruba history while many of the past holders of the title had links to major disturbances that shook the Yoruba nation.

For instance, the death of Afonja signaled the loss of Ilorin which was till then a Yoruba town to Fulanis. Afonja; known for his bravery with the spear was killed by hundreds of Fulani arrows and even when he died, the grin on his face prevented the assailants from moving close till they were certain the Kakanfo had truly fallen.

With Kurunmi’s death, majority of Ijayes fled the town which then was at par with Ibadan in terms of importance and military might. It was recorded that no fewer than three of Aare Kurunmi’s sons were killed by Ibadan troops and when the aging warrior saw that hope of victory against the more determined Ibadan army was slim, he opted for suicide. The slaves who dug his grave were immediately murdered to ensure that the burial site of Aare Kurunmi Oyindaola remained a mystery.

While some Ijayes returned to rebuild the town, many more chose to stay back at Abeokuta where they sought refuge at a place called “Ago Ijaye”, now known as Ijaye in Abeokuta. Centuries after, Ijaye cannot be said to have recovered fully.

Aare Latoosa was the head of the army when Ibadan engaged a coalition of Ijesa and Ekiti forces in the Kiriji War that went on for 16 years. In his time as the ruler of Ibadan, his name and that of his town elicited fear all over Yorubaland. Several plots to overthrow him failed with the plotters usually going back to Oke Aare to beg “Iyanda Baba Sanusi” for forgiveness.

Before leaving Ibadan for the Oke Mesi front of the Kiriji War, with his drummers beating the usual battle cry ‘Asubiaro npa ‘le ogun mo, oosa ma je o t’enu mi jade’ (Asubiaro is preparing for war, the gods forbid that I say it out), Aare made a statement that “by the time this war ends, never again will there be war anywhere in Yorubaland”. It was true, Kiriji was the last war that involved the whole of the Yoruba country; alas, Latoosa never witnessed how it ended. He died of a broken heart while the war raged on.

Samuel Ladoke Akintola was shot dead by soldiers during the January 15, 1966 coup. An account said typical of a Kakanfo, he took a shotgun and wounded two of the soldiers who invaded his Iyaganku, Ibadan official residence. His death was one of the events that signaled the end of Nigeria’s First Republic. And of all those ones were coincidences, how then does one describe the death of Aare Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola; whose death marked the end of Nigeria’s Third Republic and heralded the Fourth Republic?

Almost all the Kakanfos went down with a fight and it has also been recorded that of all the 14 so far, only Akanni Toyeje of Ogbomoso died peacefully.

While the whole world looks forward to the shouts of Loogun ofe at the installation of Aare Gani Adams, the debates on the criteria of choosing him should give way to prayers for greater length of days and victory on all fronts for the new Aare as well as a different ending from the violence that has characterized Kakanfos in the past.

Olumide Anifowose

Olumide Anifowose

A graduate of Anthropology, University of Cape Coast.

Olumide Anifowose


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