Re: Kakanfo My Foot! By Taiwo Adisa

I have come to recognise the awe, power and relevance of the Aare Ona Kakanfo title very early in life and it was not just about the exploits of the title holders as we read in the books. As a primary three pupil, my class teacher, a woman, decided to conduct a test and promised whoever came first would be named Aare Ona Kakanfo of the class. I came tops and was named the Aare Ona Kakanfo.

And what were the duties of the Aare? I was given a seat directly opposite the class teacher, presided over affairs of the class and dished out punishments. That included dishing out strokes of the cane to some offenders and in some instances appointing the big boys in the class to stretch out key offenders whose names entered the black book. I enjoyed the reign but little did I know it was a ploy by the woman (a nursing mother) to save herself the stress of having to give recalcitrant pupils strokes of the cane.

In those days, it was fun and responsibility co-joined. I saw classmates fell over themselves to curry the favour of the Aare. On our way home, some classmates would offer to carry the Aare’s bag, in anticipation of lesser punishment in case their names enter the black book.

As years went by, I got to read the historical essence of the Aare Ona Kakanfo title. More than the childlike innocence with which we held that title in primary three, it became clearer to me that the title was reserved for warriors, the Generalissimo of Yoruba land. The Aare was the man who led the wars of the Oyo Empire, he never returned from a battle defeated. It was a powerful title for powerful men.

And history has told us of the myths and mystiques around that title. One of the names of the previous holders that struck me is Ojo Aburukamu. The name portends danger and easily strikes fear- One who is so fierce and would not die.

Notwithstanding the changing times and the rise and fall of Empires, historical relics still give today’s generation a sense of connection to the past. A sense of belief that their forebears actually had sense of organisation and operated strong and complex political institutions long before the advent of the scramble for and partition of Africa. That is my point of departure from some social media commentators and those a friend called English-speaking graduates of today, who have tended to question the essence of the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland where there is no one single Oba of Yoruba land. Or even some of those who question Gani Adam’s credentials as the right candidate.

One of the critics who put pen to paper in the traditional media is a former News Editor of The Punch, Tunde Odesola, who wrote from the US. His grouse was that he did not see any visible impact of the Adams-led Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) in the fight to actualise the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential mandate of the late Chief MKO Abiola. He linked the organisation more to thuggery and violence than noble objectives.

Even while I believe that the OPC is big enough to defend itself, I make bold to state that the organisation did some noble exploits in those days of the jackal. Maybe Odesola lacks the requisite information. But suffice it to state that the OPC had directly affected Odesola’s daily bread when its enthusiasts turned themselves to emergency vendors to help save Punch from the ban imposed by the vendors’ association at the start of the unsold policy. With the presence of OPC, the newspaper kept afloat and was able to break the vendors’ resistance in weeks.

I am one of those who have remained impressed by the rise of the ‘Carpenter’ Adams. Years back, I recall how a committee of five Oodua sons, Wale Adedayo, Gani Adams, Wale Adeoye, Kayode Ogundamisi and this writer met at Adeoye’s Maryland home to fashion out some good causes for the emerging OPC under Adams. The amiable Adams internalised the outcomes of those brainstorming sessions, expanded on them and it is not a surprise that honour for him is coming from home and abroad..

What to add? Only to congratulate Adams for doing Yoruba youths proud and urge him to keep his head up in this position of high responsibility. And just like my own tenure as Aare Ona Kakanfo of primary three class ended in backstabbing and revelry, may Gani’s tenure defy the tragic myth already weaved around that title.

This Maina Saga…

The story of Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman of Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms, which broke last week promises to remain in public eye for long. It has already won for itself an unwinding lifespan, following the trajectory from 2010 to date.

Some commentators hailed the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari in ordering Maina’s sack as salutary and presidential. I beg to disagree. The president cannot direct the sack of a civil servant by fiat. In the same vein, he cannot distance himself from everything that is bad in his administration. The buck stops at his table and like he promised during the campaigns, Buhari must lead from the front. In what looks like trying to turn pap (agidi and in Yoruba it’s called eko) to a match stick, some persons are trying to paint a victim image for the president in all this. It’s what the dramatists would call attempting to pack someone’s stew with bread in his presence. Whether Buhari admits knowledge of the Maina saga or not, I take it as his fault; if he feigns ignorance, I stick to my gun. I will not be party to those who paint a saintly image of a father whose children are turning out as armed robbers. As head of the family, he takes the blame and the praise.

And to his order that Maina be sacked? What does that amount to? Nothing; just nothing. Presidential verbal directives can do nothing to deny a civil servant his job. The appropriate agencies that can do Maina harm are the Office of the Head of Service and the Federal Civil Service Commission. As far as those have not commenced disciplinary measures against the man, the presidential directive is of no effect. And if that is the situation, Maina would continue to earn his money (he was said to have earned N22million already) while the EFCC continues to waste its paint on buildings the Maina family claimed are inherited.

Kakanfo My Foot! Part 2

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.