By Ayodele Fagbohun
The ongoing efforts to re-define the collective struggle of Yoruba nation hankering after self-determination within the framework of Nigeria as an indivisible federal institution necessitates the rejoinder to tendentious of facts in contemporary Yoruba history intentionally committed by no less an eminent Yoruba personage, Aare Afe Babalola.
It was widely reported in the media whilst hailing and eulogizing the decision of Alafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III on the conferment of Aare Oakankafo on the leader of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Gani Adams.
Chief Afe Babalola, an erudite, opulent lawyer and founder-president of an elitist and palatial private university sunk in a far flung territories in his country-home, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State was quoted as saying: “Aare Ona Kakanfo is higher than a chief. I was the one who fought for the installation of the late Chief MKO Abiola when the Ooni of Ife did not want him to become Aare Onakanofo.”
With due respect sir, this is not backed up with historical facts and any cited authorities as cast-iron-evidence.
Armed with a compendium, master piece: “The History of the Yorubas,” authored by the erstwhile Balogun of Oyo and astute historian, Revd. Samuel Johnson attested to the fact that Kakanfo ranks after the Basorun.
Hear him: “After the death of the Kakanfo Oyabi, Afonja of Ilorin demanded the title, but as a prince (Though the mother) the title was below his rank, for the Kakanfo ranks after the Basorun, but being the highest military title, it suited his restless nature best and so he obtained it, almost by force.”
Afonja, the Kakanfo of Ilorin proclaimed his independence and revolted against the authority of Alafin. Afonja was assisted by the Fulani, a situation which touched off civil wars throughout the Oyo Empire. This was the beginning of the break-up of the unity of the Yoruba kingdom and the genesis of the tribal independence.
Alimi, a bloodshot Fulani imperialist employed every stratagem and chicanery to overrun the legitimate government in Ilorin under the guise of Islam. The Fulani incursion otherwise known as the 19th century Jihadist revolution was an unfortunate singular set back on the peaceful and well organised town of Ilorin which accelerated the process of destabilization and dismemberment of the Yoruba.
This further crystallized into a long drawn warfare, naked bloodletting and general insecurity of lives and property which ravaged Yoruba until British imperialism was imposed on the area to effect cease-fire of all hostilities.
It is a sad commentary that a tiny pocket of influential Yoruba has to swallow, hook, line and sinker the terrible opium of religion to sell their birthright on the mess of pottage and condescend so low to be ordinary serfs to their Hausa/Fulani overlords in the north for mere pittance and transient political patronage.
It is more damnable in the extreme that Ilorin is totally subjugated and placed under the offending Hausa/Fulani pax which permanently consigns the Yoruba to awful position of underdogs and second fiddle mentality in their own country.
It is not difficult to infer from the scenario that the influence of the kakanfos had brought some deleterious consequences on the course of events which successive kings in Yorubaland especially the Alaafin must avoid like a plague to restore lasting peace, amity and concord throughout the length and breadth of Yoruba race. Instead of reviving the dreaded title, the Alafin should have kept Are Ona Kakanfo title in abeyance.
The last late Premier of Western Region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola and the late business mongul and acclaimed winner of 1992 presidential elections, Chief MKO Abiola who in recent times held the title died as miserable wretches under dastardly and lugubrious circumstances too grim and terrifying to contemplate.
With all humility, we refuse to acknowledge any value this somewhat prestigious and warlike title will confer on modern Yoruba since we are no longer at war; rather than ominous nostalgic reminiscences on our past non edifying national travails. The earlier necessary amends are in the offing to either jettison the ugly sanguinary past or fashion another way forward to reflect the present role of Yoruba as the bastion of progressive government in Nigeria.
As oblique reference made to a certain in interference of Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade trying to scuttle the installation of MKO Abiola as Aare Onakakanfo, this assertion by Chief Afe Babalola cannot hold water and fizzles out subject to rigorous scrutiny and historical analysis.
Ile-Ife, the spiritual home of Yoruba and equally significant, a semi legendary prince called Oranmiyan, the son of Oduduwa reigned in Ife sequel to the founding of Oyo which subsequently grew into large Oyo Empire.
I quite agree in principle if Oba Okunade as a symbol of spiritual essence and father of Yoruba race gave a word of advice and caution to his spiritual son, Abiola to be softly and not embark on a journey that he could not accomplish. Ooni could not have compromised his exalted position and be envious of intangible matters with little or no direct benefits to any part of Yoruba nation.
Our greatest preoccupation and task in Yorubaland is not dissipating energy, time and money acquiring a string of chieftaincy titles known and unknown; but the need to assist government to provide and fund free education at all levels and improve our public schools now in shambles.
Whilst in juxtaposition, private schools and colleges especially private universities are blossoming and flourishing in great splendor at the expense of the public. That should not be.
It should be noted that the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his kindred spirit, Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin had the wherewithals to own and finance private schools and universities.
Indeed, out of selflessness and strong commitment to the success of free education policy of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) led administration, in Ondo State (1979-1983), Ajasin shut down the primary school section of Adeolu Nursery/Primary School, Owo owned and run by his wife, Mama Babafunke Ajasin.
Ajasin and Awolowo invested in no small measure on public institutions and left behind shining and undying legacy of free education which our leading bourgeois like Aare of Yoruba Chief Afe Babalola and his close and business ally, the former head of state, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. tried to exterminate through baneful and harsh policies in their individual theatres of operation designed to whittle down the growth of public institutions.
It is a matter of great concern that some Yoruba elite including these famous elderstatesmen who are beneficiaries of Awolowo’s free education of 1955 felt ensconced and in self satisfaction at the collapse of our public schools at their very eyes whilst priding themselves in setting up private varsities in unhealthy competition and rivalry with the public owned varsities.
On our part as the younger elements of this country, we shall not look back or unconcernedly whilst our predecessors in their own understanding distort and bleed our contemporary history to death. They are past masters in intrigues; in covering the people with smokescreen and play to the gallery.
We shall resist this naked lie with every spleen in our blood but with malice towards none. We shall dig into achieves and bring out the facts and materials in the raw to the front burner of public discourse.
Ayodele Fagbohun writes from Akure.