Aare Ona Kakanfo-designate, Otunba Ganiyu Adams, two weeks ago, hosted the Editor, FOLORUNSHO HAMSAT, to a 45-minute interview session at his Omole, Lagos residence. The national coordinator of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), during the interview, shared his passion for the liberation of the Yoruba nation, his unknown lifestyle, how he is prepared to make more sacrifices now that he has a higher responsibility to prove his mettle. And more. Enjoy…
Congratulations on your new appointment. You have bigger responsibilities on you now as Aare Ona Kakanfo. What are you planning to do differently from what you have been doing as just cultural ambassador and Oodua People’s Congress leader?
God makes every responsibility possible to handle. No man can be wiser than God. But having been made Aare Ona Kakanfo, which is the most prestigious title in Yoruba race, my first and most prioritized responsibility would be to work for the unity of the Yoruba race. You cannot be awarded that kind of title if you do not believe in the unity of Yoruba race. As I work for unity, I will then move for the development of Yoruba race. I will ensure that the potentials of Yoruba sons and daughters both at home and in the diaspora are tapped for the benefit of developing the Yoruba race. Also, I’m going to do more in promoting the rich Yoruba cultural heritage. We have been doing this before but the new responsibility calls for us to do more. There are many Yorubas that don’t realize the importance of the culture and tradition of a big race like Yoruba. I’m going to ensure that we work more on the awareness. I’m going to also expand the scope of my humanitarian activities.
As OPC leader, you are feared as very strong and audacious. Are you going to be more daring in your approach now as Aare Ona Kakanfo, the chief of Yoruba army?
There is nothing strange in being heroic. As a freedom fighter, one is not expected to be gutless. But then, you need to apply human face to whatever you do. Besides, this is modern age. Everything about life is becoming modern. No matter how you had been doing your thing, to succeed, you must adapt with the reality of the moment. During the time of the past Aare Ona Kakanfos, I’m talking about the time of Afonja, Toyeje, Edun, Kurumi, Ojo Aburumaku and others before them, there were no cars, no airplanes, no electronic forms of communication. But we have all that now. So, we cannot compare what was obtainable at that time to this age. What I’m saying in essence is, technology wise, the world has advanced. Therefore, I’m going to continue to be liberal and a model as the 21st Century Aare Ona Kakanfo.
The myth that the Alaafin and Aare Ona Kakanfo don’t see eye-to-eye, is that also applicable at this time?
That tale is not correct. What the history says is that Aare Ona Kakanfo did not live in the same town with Alaafin. Aare Ona Kakanfo did come to Alaafin for consultation and instructions. The Oyo Kingdom is structured into four aspects. Alaafin is the commander-in-chief of the Oyo Empire, Aare Ona Kakanfo is chief of defense staff, the Ogbonis are the judiciary and the Oyo Mesis are the legislators. The Yoruba had democracy before the Europeans came with their format. The past Aare Ona Kakanfos sat with the Alaafin to deliberate on issues but they never lived in the same town. Perhaps that is why no Oyo indigene had ever been given the Aare Ona Kakanfo title.
Before you were born, was there a divination that you would become a great man in life?
Yes, there was. Before the demise of my mother in 1993, she told me a lot of things concerning my birth. I was born in Arigidi-Akoko, Ondo State. While she was about to deliver me, blood continued to flow from her body and they could not stop the flow. She had to be taken to a herbalist in Omuo-Ekiti in Ekiti State. In the process of stopping the blood flow, the herbalist told my parents that the child you are giving birth to is a special child who would become great in life. There was also a time when my mother was carrying my pregnancy. She was crossing the river in Otukpo in a boat and the boat almost crashed. The captain of the boat, who was obviously a soothsayer, told my mum that the child you are carrying in your womb is the cause of this trouble. He must be a special child. The man said that the enemies have foreseen the destiny of the baby, that’s why they don’t want him to come to life. There are other experiences like that surrounding my birth.
How would you pay tributes to fellow freedom fighters that started the struggle with you, living and martyred?
The only way to pay our tributes to our heroes, dead or living, is by not disappointing them as we carry on with the struggle. We have no choice than to pay them tributes because if we don’t, then there is limit to the level one would go. We are going to recognize our living and fallen heroes so that their spirit can support us to grow and have a better society. For example, I’m going to make sure that we honour M.K.O. Abiola if I have the opportunity. He was the last holder of this title. Since the federal government has not deemed it fit to honour him, we are going to do that in many ways if we have the opportunity. I will also encourage the government to name monuments after him. It is only Lagos, Ogun and Osun that have honoured him. Yet he was a national figure. This was a man who lost his wife, his businesses and freedom to fighting for a national cause and died in the process. For those living and still believing in the struggle, we are going to continue to support them with the limited resources at our disposal. I have been doing that before I got the Aare Ona Kakanfo title but I’m going to do more.
On a lighter note, characteristics of the Aare Ona Kakanfo, are you going to marry more wives now?
That is not a criterion for getting the Aare Ona Kakanfo title. Marrying more than one wife is a personal decision. You can have a hundred wives and you can choose to have just one wife. It has no link to the title.
How do you plan to carry along all Yoruba obas in your new assignment?
I have always been very cordial with all Yoruba obas, particularly through the Olokun Festival that we founded about 15 years ago. Besides, we have about 18 cultural festivals that we promote every year, so virtually all Yoruba obas are being carried along in the programmes. Through those platforms, including the Oodua People’s Congress and the Odua Progressives Union, we have been very cordial with majority of Yoruba obas, from first class to baales. So, this platform will make it even easier for me to work with them because it is a relationship that has blossomed for over 20 years.
Can you recall the pranks you played as a child?
What I can remember is that I was very stubborn as a teenager. Any trait of courage that you see in me now started with me from childhood. I’m naturally stubborn, no apology. If I was fighting with you, I would not run away even though I knew you could beat me. Hardly could you force me to shift from my position no matter how strong or giant you are. That was me then. But I would not cheat and I would not allow you to cheat the next person. I always supported people to have their rights. That is one of the attributes you will find in me now.
Did you have a nickname as a child?
Yes, I had a nickname. When I was in primary school, they called me ‘Gani Ganga’. Our teachers at Adeniji Municipal Primary School gave each student a nickname. They named me ‘Gani Ganga’. With that, I was very popular. I was popular with that nickname when we lived on Cole Street, Surulere and later at Itire, Lagos State. If you looked for a Gani and you didn’t add ‘Ganga’, then that wasn’t me (general laughter).
What should the Yoruba nation expect from your leadership?
The Yoruba nation should believe in my humility and capability to work with everyone that matters to bring lasting unity to the Yoruba race. I pledge not to compromise. I’m going to work with everybody, including the government’s security agents to succeed in this assignment.