The leader of the Oduduwa Peoples Congress, Gani Adams, is the new ‘Aare Ona Kakanfo’, which in the pre-colonial Yoruba history was a supreme military title conferred by the Alaafin of Oyo.
The Alaafin, Lamidi Adeyemi, confirmed the choice of Mr. Adams for the title during his 79th birthday celebration on Sunday. The development was also confirmed by a spokesperson for Mr. Adams, Segun Akanni, who said his principal had received a letter of appointment from the Alaafin.
Mr. Adams will be replacing late business mogul and politician, Moshood Abiola, who died in July 1998. The late businessman had been imprisoned by the military government of Sani Abacha, following his struggle to claim his June 12 1993 presidential election victory and be inaugurated president.
Mr. Abiola earned the Aare Ona Kakanfo title in 1988. Before him, the second Premier of the old Western Region, Ladoke Akintola, was the holder of the title, which he held between 1962 and 1966, the year he died in Nigeria’s first coup.
Only Messrs. Akintola and Abiola held the title in the modern time.
The title was created some centuries ago by Alaafin Ajagbo during the reign of the Oyo Empire, which, at the peak of its glory, covered most of the present day Southwestern Nigeria, parts of Kwara State, including Ilorin, and parts of the present day Benin Republic, then called Dahomey.
In fact, the last Yoruba monarch of Ilorin, Afonja, was an Aare Ona Kakanfo, before the town fell to Fulani Jihadists at the start of the 19th century.
In the olden days, the title holder led old Oyo Empire’s military expeditions and was chosen from outside Oyo to avoid friction with the Alaafin.
But in the modern time, the title has been reserved for very influential individuals, with enormous goodwill and massive political influence as well as economic resources, for instance Mr. Akintola and Mr. Abiola.
The Alaafin said Mr. Adams had been at the vanguard of promoting Yoruba culture and defending the interests of the group.
“The OPC National Coordinator is a focused, committed and pragmatic Nigerian whose unrelented efforts and sense of devotion in the vanguard of making Yoruba traditional religion a reference point in global circles is inspiring, laudable and worthy of emulation,” said the Alaafin.
The monarch said a press conference would be held later to formally declare Mr. Adams the new Aare Ona Kakanfo and the reasons he was so honoured from the list of five persons he had considered.