The Curse of Are Ona kankafo. - OOU Campus Mirror

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Monday 30 October 2023

The Curse of Are Ona kankafo.

 By Nuga Olasubomi. 

Of all the Yoruba kingdoms, the one that eventually acquired the largest territory and became a veritable empire was Oyo. It emerged as a strong kingdom in the middle of the 16th century from the Bariba and Tapa attacks with an army composed of both cavalry and infantry. After a short period spent consolidating, it embarked on its imperial expansion around the beginning of the 17th century.

The Alaafin (king) who started this movement was Obalokun. He placed the first Ajele, that is political agents, at Egbado, an indication that Oyo's conquest had gone far down towards the coast. However, it was not towards the Southwest alone that Oyo was expanding, but it also appeared to be expanding south-eastwards, for an expedition by Obalokun is remembered to have been heavily defeated at the hands of the ljesha.

Ajagbo was the next Alaafin after Obalokun and he continued the quest of Obalokun. Military expeditions continued and he strengthened the army by creating the post of field marshal, which is known as Are-Ona-Kakanfo. He created the title and bestowed it on a warrior friend called Kokoro-gangan. 

After installation, the Kakanfo leaves Oyo, the Alaafin's city for his domain; it is forbidden that the Kakanfo and the Alaafin live together in the same town. The Kakanfo is required to wage war against any people and regions at the direction of the Alaafin and is expected to win or return a corpse.

The circumstances of the deaths of some past Kakanfo probably reinforced the belief that there is a curse on the title. The title has been the most fearful position to attain in Yorubaland and only 15 people have been given this position since its creation in the middle of the 17th century. 

An Aare Ona Kakanfo would lead battles, fight wars, mobilise and train “soldiers” and conquer the enemies. The post is sacred, powerful, and diabolical. The position is only reserved for powerful sons of the Oduduwa and influential people. 

There have been 14 holders of the title who have died in the history of the Yoruba race and they die mysteriously. The 14 holders were: Kokoro Gangan, Oyatope, Oyabi, Adeta, Oku, Afonja, Toyeje, Edun, Amepo, Kurunmi, Ojo Aburumaku, Latoosa, Ladoke Akintola, and MKO Abiola. The serving Aaare Ona Kakanfo is Aare Gani Adams, who was the leader of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress, OPC.

Kokorogangan of Iwoye-Ketu. He is a friend of Alaafin Ajagbo. He died in a battle with the Ibariba. Aare Oyatope of Iwoye who took over after many decades also died in a battle after he had defeated Basorun Ga in previous battles

Aare Ojo Aburumaku, who had no reason to fight at all, as no one wanted to fight him, had to foment a civil war by himself in Ogbomosho and still died fighting. As for Aare Afonja, at the zenith of his glory, he was the greatest and most powerful Yoruba ruler. However, his invitation to Fulani to Ilorin caused his downfall. He eventually died at the hands of the Fulani. 

Aare Toyeje of Ogbomoso died a sad man because he was not accorded the respect he deserved. Aare Edun of Gbogan lost favour and respect after he failed to retrieve Ilorin from the hands of the Fulani. He committed suicide. 

Aare Kurunmi’s case was that of self-sacrifice, and obduracy in defense of tradition. He was against the leadership of Alaafin Adelu because he felt Adelu was ruling against the normal custom of Yorubaland. He began the Ijaiye War of 1860 and he lost heavily; his five children died in the war, and he jumped into the Ose River when one of his son's skulls was brought to him. 

Latoosa, Akintola’s predecessor died in the course of the 16-year Ekitiparapo War that shook the whole of Yorubaland. Ekitis and Ijesas came together with their allies and in a desperate battle to obtain independence from Ibadan, which held them under subjection for decades they were spoilt for war. After spending years on the war front on the hills of Imesi Kiriji, Latoosa died of a broken heart in 1885. Of course, by the end of the Ekitiparapo War, the face of the administration of Yorubaland changed, and the Ibadan yoke was thrown off just as the British became the new Masters.

Another Aare Ona Kakanfo story that is worthy of note was Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, who was shot sporadically by soldiers during the first coup in 1966.

The last Aare Ona Kakanfo before Iba Gani Adams was Chief MKO Abiola who died in military custody on 7th July 1998, the same day he was supposed to be released after 4 years in military detention.

Below is the full list of all Are-Ona Kakanfo: 

  1. Kokoro Gangan of Iwoye 

  1.  Oyapote of Iwoye

  1. Oyabi of Ajase

  1. Adeta of Jabata

  1. Oku of Jabata

  1. Afonja of Ilorin 

  1.  Toyeje of Ogbomosho 

  1.  Edun of Gbogun 

  1.  Amepo of Abemo 

  1.  Kurumi of Ijaye 

  1. Ojo Aburumaku of Ogbomosho ( Son of Toyeje of Ogbomosho)

  1.  Latoosa of Ibadan

  1. Ladoke Akintola of Ogbomosho (Premier of the Western region)

  1. MKO Abiola of Abeokuta 

  1.  Iba Gani Abiodun Ige Adams of Arigidi Akoko (Present title holder)

Of the 15 holders of the title so far, the first 12, from Kokoro Gangan of Iwoye to Latoosa of Ibadan, were purely military commanders. Of these, three waged wars that affected the history of the Yoruba people significantly. These were Kurunmi of ljaye, Afonja of Ilorin, and Obadoke Latoosa of Ibadan.

The succeeding three: Samuel Ladoke Akintola, MKO Abiola, and Gani Adams were civilians; the title had regressed to the honorary pedestal after the effect of colonization, the establishment of indirect rule, and the creation of Western-style military institutions. To spotlight how dangerous the post of Aare-Ona-Kakanfo can be, the late Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba I.B Akinyele prayed in his book, Iwe Itan Ibadan that no Ibadan indigene should ever become the Aare Ona Kakanfo again.

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