The white, horse-drawn carriage, preceded by a royal trumpeter in brown Ankara attire, carefully wove its way through the crowd.
The other vehicles in the convoy – three black sports utility vehicles and a limousine – moved slowly behind the carriage.
An Agere performer – a masquerade-like man moving on stilts and donning green buba and sokoto made of ofi fabrics – guided the procession.
The spectacle was scintillating. As soon as the convoy came into view and the crowd got a glimpse of the personalities inside the vehicles, a loud and long ovation erupted from the confines of the expansive stadium.
Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi and the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Aare Ganiyu Abiodun Adams, alighted from the royal carriage, and the crowd as well as the scores of cameramen and photographers, became nearly uncontrollable. It took the efforts of dozens of security agents to lead the two men of the moment and their entourage, including Ayinba Mojisola, Aare Adams’ wife, to their seats at the high table, where several men and women of means were already seated.
And as both the king and the generalissimo leisurely strutted to their seats, Ajobiewe, the popular Yoruba griot, launched into a long panegyric of the Alaafin’s pedigree and the heroics of his ancestors.
“You are the son of death whom death must not touch; you are the one that kills and the victim’s parents would return, in trepidation, to express gratitude,” Ajobiewe told the revered monarch.
The bard also sang the paeans of Gani Adams, narrating how the National Coordinator of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) had been fighting to promote Yoruba interests and how he truly merited the generalissimo’s sceptre.
Date was Saturday, January 13, 2018, and venue was the Durbar Stadium, Oyo, the once powerful capital of the old Yoruba Empire. It was the final and most anticipated lap of an event that had dominated public discourse in recent times. It was the day Gani Adams would be installed the new Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland by the Alaafin.
The event was billed for 11am, but as early as six that morning, all roads leading to the stadium were already very busy. By eight, getting inside the stadium had become a herculean endeavour. Security agents, made up of hundreds of police personnel, National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and others, supported by hundreds of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) guards had a hectic time controlling the crowd and ensuring that only identifiable guests were allowed inside.
But that Saturday wasn’t the start of the coronation process. The journey actually began on Sunday, October 17, last year, when the Alaafin proclaimed the then Otunba Gani Adams the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo. The monarch said that the new commander of Yoruba military forces would be installed on January 13.
Oba Adeyemi had, in the proclamation letter, described Gani Adams as a distinguished son of Oduduwa and a Yoruba man in whom there is no guile.
“He is equipped by God with the vitality of youth, the agility of the long distance runner, unblemished patriotism, and the wisdom of Solomon. 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.
“Since his days in OPC, formed to defend Yoruba interests at a very critical period, at a time the Yoruba needed it most, he has been going all over the world, promoting the language and the tradition of Yoruba people through his OPU. He has been promoting our festivals through his Olokun Festival Foundation. All these made him the natural choice for the position of Aare Ona Kakanfo, the generalissimo of the Yoruba nation.”
A masquerade and his attendants created a scene at the event. As he drifted to and fro inside the stadium, making some guttural sounds, his attendants followed him with massive heaps of fodder with which they attempted to set the masquerade on fire. They persistently torched the masquerade’s costume, yet it never ignited.
Devotees of assorted Yoruba religions were also there in their numbers, each clothed in traditional regalia. And sundry artefacts with Aare Gani Adams’ name inscribed on them were also on sale.
Although last Saturday was the coronation day, the process didn’t start that day. The pre-installation rites started on Wednesday, January 10, when the Kakanfo-designate was received by the chairman of the planning committee, an Oyo prince and retired Methodist Bishop, Ayo Ladigbolu. He was thereafter taken into seclusion somewhere in Oyo, where the rites typically done on the traditional generalissimo were concluded. The process was concluded on Friday evening when the new Aare emerged at the palace, accompanied by a number of women clad in red. The new Kakanfo was clothed in white, as usual, with a red wrapper draped around his body, and a dark scarf covering his head. He was also clutching an embroidered white sceptre.
On Saturday, Oyo Town was filled to the brim. There were gridlocks in virtually all roads in the town, as thousands of people trooped in from all over the country and beyond. Motorists, apart from very important personalities like the governor, had to park their vehicles at an open field close to the stadium. Around the gate was a chaotic, rowdy atmosphere, with people struggling to enter the stadium.
Durbar Stadium itself donned an animated mien. Operatives of the various security outfits, OPC guards and other protocol officials had taken position inside and outside the stadium since early in the day. Well-decorated large tents, marked for different categories of dignitaries, stood on the field. In the different tents were politicians, monarchs, who came to the event from Nigeria, Benin Republic, Togo and other places, members of the Oodua Progressive Union (OPU) from Europe, Asia and North America. Members of the OPC and OPU, both led by the Kakanfo, had their own tents. Other dignitaries took their seats at the stands.
In the interim, while the crowd awaited the arrival of the chief host and Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, different cultural troupes from South-West states performed, to the admiration of many.
Shortly after, the chief host, Governor Ajimobi, arrived for the event, and the programme commenced with traditional prayers by Sango and Ifa priests, led by the Araba of Osogbo, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon.
In his welcome address, chairman of the planning committee, Bishop Ayo Ladigbolu explained why it was necessary to have an Aare Ona Kakanfo at this time. He traced the history of the office, noting that it was created in the 16th century by Alaafin Ajagbo to serve as the commander of the Yoruba army. The Alaafin subsequently appointed one of his friends, Kokoro Gangan, from Iwoye, in the present Benin Republic, as the first generalissimo.
The retired bishop also dismissed the myth that the title always brought misery and ruin upon its holders. In his words, the Aare Ona Kakanfo title was not a death certificate: “A former Kakanfo, Ojo Aburumaku, died in his house; he wasn’t at the warfront. Aare Latosa also did not die at the warfront. They died in their homes.”
He urged all Yoruba sons and daughters to support the new Aare in his efforts to bring back the values and ethos once cherished across Yorubaland.
No regrets appointing Adams
Also in his speech, the Alaafin debunked the belief that past Aare Ona Kakanfos all suffered violent deaths.
Said the monarch: “This is the last Aare Ona Kakanfo I am to install. The myth that every Aare Ona Kakanfo in the history of Yorubaland dies a violent death is not your portion. Your appointment would make a positive history and you will not be a victim of the violent death.
“The appointment of Gani Adams is deliberate because I considered his immense contributions to the socio-cultural development of the Yoruba people. I am deeply convinced that Gani Adams is up to the task of discharging the responsibilities of being an Aare Ona Kakanfo. The vast majority of people here to witness the installation means absolute acceptance of Gani Adams by the people. I have no regrets appointing Gani Adams as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo.”
From Kokoro Gangan to Gani Adams
Shortly after, the real installation was done. Oba Adeyemi invited the over 400 Yoruba monarchs at the event to move to the centre of the pitch. Then the monarch, along with the Aare, walked with magisterial gait to the enclosure where 15 calabashes had been arranged, each symbolically belonging to a past Kakanfo. With the monarchs watching the proceedings, Aare Adams picked the 15 calabashes one by one, paid homage to the owner and the Alaafin, and then proceeded to bless the Yoruba race and himself. He beseeched God to let peace reign in Yorubaland during his term. He then listed the names of the past Aare Ona Kakanfos, Kokoro Gangan of Iwoye (Benin Republic); Oyapote of Iwoye (Benin Republic); Oyabi of Ajase (Benin Republic); Adeta of Jabata; Oku of Jabata; Afonja of Ilorin; Toyeje of Ogbomoso; Edun of Gbogun; Amepo of Abemo (Benin Republic); Kurunmi of Ijaiye; Ojo Abururuku of Ogbomoso; Latosa of Ibadan; S.L. Akintola of Ogbomoso; and MKO Abiola of Abeokuta.
After successfully carrying the 15 calabashes, the crowd rewarded the new Aare with a standing ovation. The new Aare was then clothed in a new coat – the harvested skin of a leopard, which he proudly donned atop his white agbada. His head was also garlanded with the generalissimo’s coronet.
In his acceptance speech, Aare Adams informed the gathering that his installation as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo was a challenge that had made all past challenges seem like a child’s play.
Said Adams: “The epoch-making event of today is symbolic, as 2018 marks the 558th anniversary of the installation of the first Aare Ona Kakanfo – Kokoro Gangan of Iwoye.
“It is of interest to note that the military, political, traditional and cultural symbolism of the title to the Yoruba Empire, about 600 years ago, is still of strategic importance in the 21st Century. This attribute reveals the uniqueness of the Yoruba race and shows that so much is still expected of the occupant of the post, despite the fact that physical and armed wars are no longer the order of the day.
“The import of the office still stands: protection of the interests of the Yoruba race, both within the country and everywhere people of the race exist.”
Asserting that the preservation of the Yoruba culture would be his first assignment, Aare Adams regretted that people of other races were more interested in the culture that the owners. He promised that his tenure would be tailored towards building bridges of unity.
“Inasmuch as the focus of my struggle has changed over the years, from the heady days of the OPC to the spread of our culture through the formation of the Oodua Progressive Union (OPU), which is now in 79 countries, the Olokun Festival Foundation, Gani Adams Foundation and many others, this new responsibility, despite my age, has unwittingly forced the stature of a statesman on me. I promise to live up to that calling.
“In this regard, I will work with our traditional rulers, grassroots leaders and have good rapport with all stakeholders, no matter the differences of the past, for the unity, progress and advancement of Yorubaland and Nigeria.
“The office of the Aare Ona Kakanfo will project the Yoruba culture and tradition by promoting and sustaining our identity globally. Also of strategic importance to me is research and documentaries to sustain the ideals of our founding fathers,” he said.
He pledged to give scholarships to Yoruba sons and daughters and also collaborate with security agencies and stakeholders to ensure adequate security across Yorubaland. He also promised to launch an Aare Ona Kakanfo Foundation and a website to document facts about the office and its past holders. He appealed to the federal government to quickly fix some of the critical roads in Yorubaland. These include Lagos-Ibadan, Oyo-Ilorin, Lagos-Badagry, Sagamu-Benin, Badagry-Lusada-Sokoto, Ibadan-Iwo-Osogbo, Osogbo-Ilesa, Ilesa-Akure-Owo-Lokoja and Lagos-Abeokuta roads.
He advocated restructuring as a key factor for development in Nigeria, adding that every person that loves the growth and development in the country should support restructuring.
“I appreciate all the persons present here today for the celebration of my installation. I am deeply grateful for the support ever since I have been proclaimed as the Aare Ona Kakanfo. I promise not to let anyone down,” he said.
Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Oyo State, Toye Arulogun, said the appointment and installation of Aare Gani Adams by the Alaafin was in order. He prayed that the tenure of the new Aare would be peaceful and bring more peace and unity to Yorubaland.
Among the dignitaries at the event were top politicians, members of National Assembly, state lawmakers, past governors, eminent businessmen, over 400 royal fathers, union leaders, OPU delegates from 79 countries, OPU members and hundreds of others.
A thanksgiving service to round off Oba Adeyemi’s 47th coronation anniversary and appreciate God for Aare Adams’ installation was held the following day, Sunday, January 14 at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Cathedral, Agogo, Oyo City. The new Kakanfo has since returned home to Lagos, from where he would be criss-crossing Yorubaland in fulfilment of his new mandate.