By Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon & Adeola Badru
Aare Onakakanfo, Gani Adams, has promised to use his office to bring about unity in Yorubaland and build bridges across Nigeria.
He also vowed to protect the territories in South-West against external aggression.
This came as the ancient town of Oyo stood still for the better part of yesterday as the 15th Generalissimo of Yorubaland was installed by the paramount ruler of Oyo, the Alaafin, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi.
The installation of Adams came 20 years after the death of Chief MKO Abiola, the last holder of the title.
The event attracted dignitaries, who thronged the Durbar Stadium, Oyo, the venue of the programme.
Traditional rulers, arrayed in their royal regalia, and traditional drummers added colour to the occasion.
The installation of the Aare was preceded by his retreat from Wednesday during which traditional rites including 201 incisions were said to have been performed on him ahead of the ininstalla
Security operatives had a hectic time controlling the crowd who came from across the six Yoruba states and beyond to witness the colourful ceremony.
Meanwhile, petty thieves caught stealing telephones, jewelries and cash were beaten mercilessly by security operatives before they were whisked away.
Arrival of Alaafin and Adams
The Alaafin and Adams arrived the venue of the ceremony in a cart driven by horses and were received by some traditional rulers from the South-West, former governors, captains of industry, notable personalities and guests from across the country.
The lateness of Governor Ajimobi delayed the ceremony for hours.
Members of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) from across the country came in their thousands in branded outfit.
Before installing Adams, the Alaafin of Oyo, who performed the spiritual rites for the installation of the Aare Onakakanfo, directed the OPC leader to open 15 calabashes, which represented the previous holders of the title.
Performing the last rites at Iyewoo on the stadium grounds, Adams prayed for the unity and progress of Yoruba and prayed that his reign will bring out good things.
He prayed for Yoruba unity
In his remarks, Oba Adeyemi dismissed the mythabout the Aare Onakakanfo of having a short life span.
‘“We wanted someone who could bring about unity in Yorubaland. Gani Adams is now the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland”, he said.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who was represented by the Commissioner of Information, Mr Kehinde Bamigbetan, said he appreciated the contributions of Adams and wished him success and courage in his new assignment.
In his address, the new Aare Onakakanfo promised to live up to his calling.
He said: “There cannot be a more humbling occasion for me as the one we are in today.
“The import of the office still stands: protection of the interests of Yoruba race, both within the country and everywhere else people of the race exist.”
Aside the promotion of peace and unity, he vowed to project Yoruba cultural heritage, which, he said, has been waning.
His words: “While it is estimated that there are 60 million Yoruba within Nigeria and about 200 million others scattered all over the world, as a starting point, the preservation of the culture of the race will occupy my attention.
“Pitiably, as a race, we are gradually losing our culture. In fact, from my travels around the world, it has become obvious that people of other races are taking more interest in our culture than we the owners of the culture, with Americans, Europeans and Asians now earning Degrees in the study of our culture, beliefs and what they have come to term Doctrine. We need to preserve our culture to fully realize the potential of the Yoruba.”
While he promised to do more in bridge building, he said: “Though with an activist background, it is now clear that I have to do more as a bridge builder with this new responsibility.
“In as much as the focus of my struggle has changed over the years from the heady days of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) to the spread of our culture through the formation of the Oodua Progressive Union (OPU), which is now in 79 countries, the Olokun Festival Foundation, Gani Adams Foundation and many others, this new responsibility, despite my age, has unwittingly forced the stature of a statesman on me. I promise to live up to that calling”.
He also pledged to collaborate with traditional rulers to bring about unity, progress and advancement of Yorubaland and Nigeria.
According to him, “I will work with our traditional rulers, grassroots leaders and have good rapport with all stakeholders, no matter the differences of the past, for the unity, progress and advancement of Yorubaland and Nigeria.”
“The office of the Aare Onakakanfo will project the Yoruba culture and tradition by promoting and sustaining our identity globally.
“The office will equally ensure unity of all Yoruba sons and daughters all over the world.
“To ensure the continuation of the leadership role the Yoruba is known for educationally, I will give scholarships to our sons and daughters because education is light and power.’
On his plan to secure Yoruba land, he said, “I will collaborate with security agencies and stakeholders to ensure that Yorubaland is effectively secured through our various organizations.”
“I want to assure this August gathering that given the fact that the Oodua Progressives Union (OPU), which I am also the Convener, is now established in 79 countries, I will use this Union and other pan-Yoruba groups abroad to invite our sons and daughters with exceptional abilities, who have distinguished themselves in various fields, to come home and help in our quest to ensuring that our country takes its rightful place in the comity of nations”, he said.
Calling for unity among Yoruba leaders and monarchs, the new Generalissimo said: “The journey has started from here. And my first appeal goes to Yoruba sons and daughters who are outside the shores of the country not to forget that there is no place like home. This was what informed the formation of the Oodua Progressives Union (OPU), Gani Adams Foundation and Olokun Festival Foundation. Please, see Yorubaland as the place to be. Don’t give the race a bad name. Come home to invest.
“As the 15th Aare Ona Kakanafo, I consider myself lucky that there is no war at hand confronting the Yoruba race now. In other words, we are living in peace time. However, I am not pleased with the level of Yoruba unity today and I am very concerned. Therefore, my greatest priority is the unity of the Yoruba race at home and in the Diaspora.
I will, therefore, spare no effort in ensuring the unity of Yoruba race within the contemporary Nigeria body polity”.
He appealed to the Federal Government to fix roads in Yorubaland that are critical to its citizens.
The Aare assured stakeholders of working with them to “turn our land into a viable tourist destination.”
He called on the South-West governors for cooperation, regardless of party affiliation, saying, “I want you all to see me as a partner in progress.
“I offer myself for service once it is for the advancement of the Yoruba race. The various groups in the South-West should also resolve their crises.
“I will also persuade seven of our elders, who are not partisan, to work with me in uniting all Yoruba and resolve differences wherever they may arise.”