A new chapter will open in the history of the Yoruba today (Saturday) as the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, confers the title of Aare Ona Kankanfo of Yoruba land on the national coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams, in Oyo, the capital of the old Oyo Empire.
Eminent Nigerians will be hosted in the capital of the old empire by the foremost traditional ruler, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Layiwola Atanda Adeyemi, for the installation of the 15th Aare Ona Kankanfo of Yorubaland.
The man of valour will put on the ageless costume and receive the ’invincible’ staff of war, which are the insignias of the ancient title.
Other badges, which he will take home, are the Ojijiko, a cap made of the red feathers of the parrot’s tail, with a projection behind reaching as far down as the waist; an apron of leopard’s skin, a leopard’s skin to sit on always, and the asiso or pigtail.
The Iku BabaYeye will pour his royal blessings on the new Generalisimo at the sacred ceremony, which will be coordinated by the Oyomesi, the Esos, Ilaris, the members of the Ogboni, Osugbo, and Awo’pa.
The historic event will be witnessed by monarchs, statesmen, politicians, top government officials, captains of industry, leaders of self-determination groups, and women and youth groups.
The modification in the process is that Alayeluwa Adeyemi will not send Aare Adams to any war, unlike his predecessors.
In peace time, the Aare Ona Kankanfo is a honorary title bestowed on valiant men worthy of the honour. His headship of the Esos pales into symbolism. He is still revered as the Commander. But, there is no more organised Yoruba military force.
According to observers, the position is a befitting reward for Adams’ principled defense of Yoruba interest, culture and heritage.
Although the OPC coordinator cannot be on the same pedestal with his illustrious predecessors, he is perceived as a house hold name in Yorubaland who has fought for his race.
He may not measure up to their giant traditional, military, economic and political stature, Kankanfo Adams, in a modern clime, has displayed a rare courage and resilience as a focused self-determination champion worthy of emulation and pride in Yorubaland.
The Alaafin is the only traditional ruler in Yorubaland who has the power and authority to bestow the title.
His choice and decision are not subject to debate. They are unquestionable. The exclusive right may place the highly revered monarch in an undeniable and enviable position as the King of Yorubas, to the envy of those obas who pose as his rivals.
Adams is now in the rare class of Yoruba nobility by tradition. His seniors in the Oyo of yore were the Oyomesi, led by the Basorun. In the defunct Oyo Empire, he Basorun or Osorun and his colleagues-Agbakin, Samu, Alapinin, Laguna, Akiniku and Asipa, inherited their titles by birth.
But, the eminent historian and priest, Samuel Johnson, described the title of Aare Ona Kankanfo as “a reward of merit alone.”
Only brave warriors were eligible and they were seen to be capable of holding forth in battles.
“It is a title akin to a field marshal, and is conferred upon the greatest soldier and tactician of the day,” he added.
History was made in Yorubaland when the title was created by Alaafin Ajagbo, who succeeded Oba Obalokun.
As a tradition, the Aare must not live in the capital with the Alaafin. Reality later dawned on the monarch that he had created the most powerful office outside royalty that could even dare the throne.
He knew that no Kankanfo will dare destroy Oyo. But, other towns and villages were vulnerable to his onslaught.
Therefore, Oba Ajagbo decreed that under no circumstance should any Kankanfo wage war against Iwere, his mother’s town. From time immemorial, it became a taboo.
The first holder of the prestigious title was Kokorogangan, a native of Iwoye. The rites of installation underscored the spiritual seriousness of a title, whose holder is sustained by the black power, juju, before shouldering the heavy and delicate responsibilities of the shoulders of the Aare.
After going through the rites, he becomes more daring, brave, bolder, permanently warlike and most dangerous.
Putting this into perspective, Rev. Johnson stated, “Like the Ilaris, at the time of his taking office, he is first to shave his head completely, and 201 incisions are made on his occiput, with 201 different lancets and specially prepared ingredients from 201 viols are rubbed into the cuts, one for each.
“This is supposed to render him fearless and courageous. They are always shaved, but the hair on the inoculated part is allowed to grow long, and when plaited, forms a tuft or a sort of pigtail.
Kankanfos are generally stubborn and obstinate. They have all been more or less troublesome, due to the effects of the ingredients they were inoculated with.
“In war, they carry no weapon, but a baton 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, Kankanfos are never created in the capital, but in any town in the kingdom.
“There can be only one Kankanfo at a time. By virtue of his office, he is to go to war once in three 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.”
So fearful and awful were the installation rites and spiritual responsibilities associated with the title that a cleric and former Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Isaac Babalola Akinyele, prayed in his book: ‘The History of Ibadan,’ that no Ibadan indigene should ever bag the title again.
In the days of war, Yoruba had 12 Kankanfos. Kokorogangan’s successors were Otatope, also from Iwoye, Oyabi of Ajase, Adeta of Jabata, Oku, also a native of Jabata, and Afonja of Ilorin. Others were Toyeje, a native of Ogbomoso, Edun of Gbogun, Amepo of Abemo, Kurumi of Ijaye, Ojo Aburumaku of Ogbomoso and Iyanda Asubiaro Latosa of Ibadan.
Indeed, these Kankanfos were associated with the long periods of turbulence and upheavals in Yorubaland.
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