God rest Gbenga Adeboye, the comedian-extraordinaire, who in his life employed comedy as a strong tool for correction and socio-political development. Adeboye once said: “If you call your king a mad man, you are only inviting strangers to call your race a wasted race”.
Over the past 48 hours, many unprintable things have been said about one of the leading kings in Yorubaland. If Adeboye were alive, his thought may not have been all the way different from mine. I grew up with a strong sense of identity, first as a Nigerian and as a Yoruba boy.
I had an overdose of cultural folklore, I listened to the stories of Lagelu, Iba Oluyole, Bashorun Gaa, Oba Telu and of course the cultural diversities and rivalries between the Oyo Empire and the great Ife Kingdom — a debate that never ends.
I also had the great privilege to listen to the influence and power wielded by the Aare Ona Kakanfo, the commander of the Yoruba army, as they progressed through the centuries. There are a few titles and offices that have lasted more than three centuries unbroken, and this, is fortunately one of those.
As you may guess, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola was the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland for the better part of my childhood. Before him was Ladoke Akintola, who himself was preceeded by 12 ultimate generals to include the Latoosa of Ibadanland, the Afonja of Ilorin, and Kurumi of Ijaye.
On Sunday, Alaafin of Oyo, Ikubabayeye himself, the vice-deity of Yorubaland, named Gani Adams, the former leader of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland — after keeping the office vacant for 19 long years.
As I was taught, you may be disappointed in the King’s decision, but no one dare questions the king — t’obalase (The king has the final say).
Many people across Yorubaland have expressed dissatifaction at the King’s decision, while many others have said it is the king’s exclusive preserve, and he can handpick anyone — hero or villain. According to Alaafin, who turns 80 in a year’s time, Aare Adams is blessed with agility, vitality, wisdom, and patriotism.
Adams “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,” the king had said.
TWO SIDES OF GANI ADAM’S SWORD
Adams is a largely controversial figure, who is quite at variance with many of the qualities the King attributed to him. According to the history of the title, Aare Ona Kakanfo is the generalissimo who leads the culture’s warfare in every aspect of its expedition and political adventures.
Akintola and Abiola were not physically-fierce warriors in the raw sense of the word, but both men had what it took to wield the title. The political leadership they offered to generations of Yoruba in the modern times was worth the title.
Gani Adams, on the other hand, who has led OPC for a number of years may have the physical might or vitality of youth for physical battles, but has little or no clout to lead political expeditions.
His past does not seem to have been all in the interest of Yorubaland — let us say it has been more of who pays the piper. While Olusegun Obasanjo was president Adams and his team at OPC led some violent activities which made OPC a dreaded group across many portions of the Nigerian state. At some point, he was declared wanted for the alleged murder of another Yoruba man.
In fact, some have argued that Adams (an English name by the way) is a man of his belly, stating that he goes anywhere the money goes. In 2015, Gani was for former president Goodluck Jonathan, who offered multi-billion naira pipeline protection deal to OPC. After signing the contracts, Adams came out to throw jabs at Bola Tinubu, one of the leaders of thought and politics in Yorubaland.
“Deliberately Tinubu instructed all the governors; don’t work with OPC, don’t empower OPC, don’t associate yourself with OPC,” Adams said four days to the 2015 presidential elections.
“Ask our people from the south west, if you treat us very well, why should we get an opportunity from your enemy? If you gave us jobs, if you empower us, we would turn down the offer from the federal government. Because you neglected us, you don’t want the organization to exist anymore.”
He declared his support for Jonathan, and said Tinubu and friends were “supporting the wrongdoing of Attahiru Jega,” the INEC chairman at the time. We know how the story ends; before the contracts were cancelled by President Buhari, OPC had allegedly killed many innocent people in Arepo, including Oluwadimilola Adebimpe Fajana-Ojo, a 26-year-old lawyer, who was pregnant at the time she was shot.
Adams may not have the kind of track record to be Aare Ona Kakanfo, but I will like us to see this as a marriage, where the certifcate is awarded before the journey begins. Couples have forever to determine if they were worth the certificate awarded. Aare Ona Kakanfo has the duty to mortals and the divine to prove if he is worth the given title. Typically, they live and die in battle as they protect Yoruba land. Shall we watch if Adams can redeem himself?
BLAME NOT THE KING NOR OKOROCHA…
Need I speak of the acts of Rochas Okorocha, who “squandered” tax-payers money on the immortalisation of the South African figure of modern corruption and impunity? As much as I want to dive into this and show the governor how extreme his misjudgements have gone, I will excuse him.
As Okorocha immortalises Jacob Zuma, Alaafin has also immortalised a questionable man. But who are we to blame them. Blame not the king nor the governor, the dark cloud is upon us, a famine of leaders has befallen our land. Shall we decide if this dark cloud shall yield the rain and reign of a new generation of leaders or shall it be a repeat of the past? The future is ours to take.