By Tunde Odesola
I heard their babble, those who bayed for my blood and canvassed support for the Aare Ona Kakanfo-designate, Gani Adams, on the basis of his relative young age and perceived accomplishments.
Spanish-American philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist, George Santayana, in a moment of elucidation on the primacy of history, reasoned, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” According to Samuel Johnson’s book, ‘The History of the Yoruba’, “In war, they (Kakanfo) carry no weapon but a baton known as the ‘king’s invincible staff.’” Unmmhh?
So, the Kakanfo carried no weapon? Why then the prattle about the need for a young, aggressive person to occupy the post? In the not-too-distant past, after the colonial era, to be precise, the Yoruba have fought and won political battles in the Nigerian political space using their intellectual range of vision and not through bloodletting.
Historically, the Yoruba have never run away from a war. For them, it is not the acme of excellence or the celebration of the ‘Omoluabi’ ethos to uphold the ridiculous and the vile. Employing their international connections and links across the nation, the Yoruba, during the June 12 crisis, spearheaded the war against the smiling ‘agbako’ (gnome) and rogue general, chasing him to a faraway hilltop cove.
They also stopped the dark-goggled dimwit, who wore the uniform of a general but had no balls to visit the South-West, from leaving the Ass-o-Rock, where he was holed in his dying days. “Talo sope ao ni baba, kai, a ni baba!” goes a popular Yoruba chant.
It means, “Who says we don’t have a leader; hold it!, we have a leader!” Yes, the Yoruba have qualified leaders who can be Aare Ona Kakanfo. They don’t necessarily need to be young, says the history book as they do not have to bear arms but must be steeped in ‘oogun abenugongo’ (juju).
If you’re looking for authentic babalawos, the Awise Agbaye, Prof Wande Abimbola; and the Araba of Osogbo, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon, are time-tested. If you are looking for a war general, the Yoruba have a former Chief of Defence Staff, Lt.-Gen. Alani Akinrinade (retd.). The Yoruba also have the National Leader, All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Afe Babalola; a former Ogun State governor, Aremo Olusegun Osoba; human rights activist, Chief Femi Falana (SAN), just to mention a few – who, by their antecedents, are much more qualified than the factional leader of the Oodua Peoples Congress, Adams – to be the next Kakanfo.
Because he is mischievous, I never know what to expect whenever my friend, Adeolu Adeyemo, calls. Last week, I picked his call and held my breath, “Deolu, bawo ni, (how are you)?” I greeted.
By the way, Adeyemo is the chief correspondent, New Telegraph newspaper in Osun State. He cleared his throat, “Jo, (please) Tunde, I need your reaction on the Aare Ona Kakanfo issue.” “Why my reaction, I asked,” suspecting he had something up his sleeve. “I used your WhatsApp reaction yesterday, and I was directed by my head office to get a more comprehensive reaction on the issue,” he said. “Oh, I see. You have to give me some time to put something down,” I said.
Thus, the article, “Kakanfo my foot!” was birthed. When I finished writing the piece, the man who has the most profound influence on my career as a journalist, Mr Adeyeye Joseph, a former Editor, The PUNCH, read it on Whatsapp, and said, “You must be ready for trouble after this is published.” The article caught fire on the social media as soon as it was published in The PUNCH of October 18, 2017, instantly setting the tone for discourse on the impropriety of Gani becoming the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land.
So, when I saw Kayode Ogundamisi, whose name I mentioned in the article, shooting from the hips – in reaction to the article a few hours after its publication, I smiled and remembered the warning of my mentor.
As soon as the day broke, a neighbour in my Agege suburb of Lagos State, Rosemary Ayenero, who now resides in the UK, woke me up with a call. “Boda Tunde, kilo se eyin ati Kayode Ogundamisi (what’s the matter between you and Kayode Ogundamisi)?” she asked agitated. “Kayode Ogundamisi,” I yawned, trying to shake off sleep. “Yes, Kayode said you lied against him; that he was never in Ondo State in 2000,” Rosemary stressed. “An almost lifeless man came to my office and said he was the secretary general of the OPC. He said he was the second-in-command to Gani Adams. At the time, the only secretary general of the OPC I knew was Kayode Ogundamisi; that was why I took him for Ogundamisi,” I said. “Ah, omo adugbo leyin mejeji o. (The two of you are from the same neighbourhood, you shouldn’t fight),” Rosemary advised. “You know me, would I cook up a lie against him,” I asked my neighbour. “But Kayode too doesn’t lie,” she said.
The die was cast. Who was in the wrong? It was me. But did I deliberately bring Ogundamisi into the story to malign him or make my story credible? No, because the story, without his name, remains very, very credible. But, would it be honourable to keep quiet in the face of Ogundamisi’s denial? No! Ogundamisi has the right to be angry, I apologize. I went through the online reactions praising and condemning the article.
Notably, most of the reactions condemning the write-up did not answer the eternal truths I raised. Gani must just be the next Kakanfo, whether or not Orunmila approves of it. Mainly, those who condemned the article latched onto the denial by Ogundamisi, throwing out the baby, the bathwater and the mother. But the Kakanfo-in-waiting has not come out to deny that he fled when his convoy was attacked in 2000, in Ondo State. He has not denied that several members of the OPC on his entourage were killed in the attack.
Among the truths I raised in the article was the murderous and violent nature of the OPC led by Adams. I also pointed at the uncountable number of exploitation, rape, extortion cases by OPC members in various police stations and courts across the South-West. The article went on to underscore the fact that the OPC was not ‘securing’ our land for free. It was collecting money for the services rendered and thus, should not be seen in the light of Rotary or Lion clubs. I recalled that the OPC got a multi-billion naira contract from the Goodluck Jonathan administration to secure oil pipelines when Nigeria has a standing army, navy, air force, police, Department of State Services, Customs, Immigrations, etc. I noted that in order to show gratitude for the juicy contract, Adams led his OPC members on the rampage along the Ikorodu Road in Lagos, a few days to the 2015 presidential election.
In a telephone discussion on Monday, Professor of History and Fellow, Historical Society of Nigeria, Siyan Oyeweso, said the Kakanfo must be stubborn and courageous, traits he said Gani possesses to a hilt. He said Gani had grown from being a carpenter to acquiring higher education, stressing that the Yoruba need Gani to ward off the Hausa/Fulani herdsmen attacks and other such threats.
In response, I told the scholar that the post is too big for Gani, who lacks the elocution and erudition to speak on behalf of an educated race such as the Yoruba. We should allow King Ajagbo, whom Samuel Johnson said introduced the Kakanfo title, to rest on peacefully in his grave by installing a befitting candidate, please. ‘E je ka se bi won se nse, koba le ri bi o se nri’. If the Yoruba need a chief ‘maiguard’, we know where to look.
Odesola wrote from the United States.