Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Aare Ona Kakanfo! The Untold Story of How MKO Abiola Was Nearly Prevented From Becoming the Generalissimo


(https://onigegewura.blogspot.com.ng/)


Where were you in 1987? That was the year Oba Yesufu Oloyede Asanike, Olubadan of Ibadan made history. Olubadan installed Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola as the Bashorun of Ibadan. It was a prestigious title befitting of a distinguished personality in the mould of MKO Abiola.

That was the title of  the legendary Bashorun Oluyole who was the paramount chief of Ibadan in 1850. It was also the title of Bashorun Ogunmola who reigned between 1865 and 1867. It was therefore historic that exactly 120 years after the death of Ogunmola, MKO Abiola became the fourth person to be conferred with the prestigious title.

It was indeed a befitting honour for someone who had amassed chieftaincy titles from almost every town in Nigeria. As of the time of his installation in 1987, MKO Abiola was reputed to have over 150 chieftaincy titles. He was the Bobajiro of Ode-Remo. He was the Bada Musulumi of Gbagura Egba.

As he drove out of the palace of Oba Asanike that fateful day with his son by his side, MKO must have thought that he had reached the peak of traditional chieftaincy in Nigeria.

He was just settling down in his Ikeja home when he was informed that he had a call. Who was on the line? He asked before collecting the phone. It was the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III.

MKO snatched the phone. “Iku Baba Yeye, Igbakeji Orisa! Kabiyesi!” The newly installed Bashorun paid his homage to the foremost traditional ruler. Alaafin must be calling to congratulate me, MKO thought. Kabiyesi was however not calling to congratulate the business magnate.

“We have decided that you are to be conferred with the title of Aare Ona Kakanfo!” Kabiyesi informed him.

The phone nearly dropped from the hand of Bashorun. Aare Ona Kakanfo! The Generalissimo of Yoruba race! The Field Marshall for all descendants of Oduduwa! The portfolio held by Afonja, the founder of Ilorin! The title of Aare Obadoke Latosa of Ibadan – the scourge of Efunsetan Aniwura! The position held by the last premier of Western Region, Ladoke Akintola of Ogbomoso! Ha!


For a single person to be Bashorun and Aare was unheard of. It was the ultimate! Traditionally, Bashorun is the Prime Minister. Aare is the Field Marshall. When Bashorun Gaa moved against Alaafin Abiodun around 1770, it was Oyalabi from Ajase (now Republic of Benin), the Aare Ona Kakanfo that came to the powerful monarch’s rescue. Now, Abiola was going to be both the Prime Minister and the Field Marshall!

Alaafin had spoken. MKO Abiola had no choice. The news spread like wildfire. Congratulatory messages poured in from all over the globe. Aare Ona Kakanfo was not just another title. It was the title. It was the father of all traditional titles. Father ke? No, it was the Grandfather of All Titles. If it were to be a national honour, it would be the equivalent of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic!

Everybody in and outside Yorubaland was ecstatic at the choice of Abiola as the 14th Aare Ona Kakanfo. Well, almost everybody.

It happened that the Ashipa of Oyo, Chief Amuda Olorunosebi was not pleased with the choice of Bashorun MKO Abiola as the Aare. Ashipa was one of the prominent chiefs of Alaafin. He objected to the choice of the flamboyant publisher, an Egba man, as Aare Ona Kakanfo.  He went to Kabiyesi to protest. Iku Baba Yeye was adamant that MKO was eminently qualified to be the Aare Ona Kakanfo.

The Ashipa went back to his quarters at Isale Oyo. As MKO Abiola and the Alaafin were preparing for the installation of Bashorun, Chief Amuda was consulting with his lawyers. This was however unknown to the Alaafin. It was assumed that the Ashipa had been convinced to support Abiola’s candidacy.

Abiola was no ordinary person by any standard. He was larger than life. He was flamboyance personified. He was determined to make the chieftaincy installation as grand as possible. He invited all his contacts from all over the world. All the military governors were invited. A special invitation was delivered to the President, Ibrahim Babangida, who was a close friend of the Bashorun. African Heads of States cleared their schedules in order to honour MKO. Nigerian Embassies were issuing visas on daily basis. It was going to be a grand occasion.


Then the unthinkable happened! It started as a rumour. It was days to the installation.

Eti Oba nile, eti Oba l’oko, eniyan lo n je be.’ The ear of a king is everywhere. Iku Baba Yeye was in his palace when he heard from the grapevine that a case had been filed to stop the occasion! “Ewo! Sango o ni je! Abiodun o ni je! Aole o ni je!” Kabiyesi went on to invoke the names of his predecessors on the royal throne of Alaafin!

It was around noon when the phone rang in Ibadan. It was from the Palace, Oyo Alaafin. Chief Afe Babalola, the famous legal practitioner, picked the phone. After exchange of homage and royal blessings, Alaafin informed Afiwajoye of Ado Ekiti that Ashipa had filed a suit against the installation of MKO Abiola. Not only that, a motion ex parte for interim injunction had also been filed. It was apparent that Ashipa was not ready to gamble with his chance.

Though Kabiyesi did not say it, Chief Afe knew the urgency involved. Installation was on Saturday. The call came in on Tuesday.
 
Less than thirty minutes after the call, Chief Afe was almost at Oyo. The legendary lawyer covered the 57 kilometres between Oyo and Ibadan as if he was on a chariot. He proceeded to court where he met the court registrar. Of course, the registrar knew Chief Babalola. It is doubtful if there is anyone in the Judiciary who does not know the Mayegun of Modakeke.  Mayegun paid the requisite fees and conducted a search of the court’s file. It was there! Alaafin’s information was correct!

Iduro ko si, ìbèreè ko si fun eni ti o gbe odó mi. A person who swallows a pestle can neither stand nor sit comfortably. Installation was on Saturday. The search was conducted on Tuesday! The motion ex parte was to be heard the following day, Wednesday.

Time was of the essence! Chief Afe turned his car around, off to Emmanuel Chambers, Ibadan. Before the car reached Fiditi, he had mentally finished composing the processes. He was nodding as the cases and other relevant authorities began to surface in his mind.

By the time he reached his office, the mental process was complete. In a minute the Counter-Affidavit was ready. There was no need for a Written Address. Professor Yemi Osinbajo was then a Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the Federation. It would be years later before he introduced Written Address as the Lagos State Attorney General. The counter-affidavit was filed and served on counsel to the Ashipa.

On Wednesday, the court was full. Chief M. L. Lagunju, Ashipa’s counsel was in court. He adjusted his wig and checked his books. He smiled. It was a Motion Exparte. It won’t be contested. He checked his time. Then there was some commotion at the entrance of the court.

Chief Lagunju blinked! He blinked again! Walking in majestically was the Afiwajoye of Ado-Ekiti, the Balogun of Mobaland, the Mayegun of Modakeke, Chief Afe Babalola in flesh! He was followed by a host of other lawyers, each armed with bags of legal authorities enough to open a law library. Chief Lagunju didn’t know when he said: “The game is up!”

On the dot of 9 O’clock, the Court began sitting. The trial judge was a royalty himself. Justice Aderemi’s father was the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Sir Tadenikawo Adesoji Aderemi, the first Governor of Western Region. The case was called.

The plaintiff’s counsel sought to move his application. The learned counsel informed the court that it was an ex parte application and therefore the other party had no right of audience.

His Lordship turned to Chief Afe Babalola. The court was as silent as a ghost town. Young lawyers craned their necks to hear what the Legend was going to say. They have been taught in law school that Ex Parte Motion was for only one party. Some of them must have been wondering what magic the Mayegun of Modakeke was going to perform.


Chief Afe Babalola brought out the White Book. Oh! Sorry, you don’t know the White Book? The White Book is an important book for lawyers. It contains the sources of law relating to the practice and procedures of the High Court. Ask your lawyer friend to show you a copy. He won’t charge you, unless you open it.

The Legal Colossus was on his feet. He was vibrating like a trumpet, but his voice was as soft as velvet. He began to reel out authorities after authorities to the effect that a defendant who became aware, anyhow, that a party had gone to court and was about to obtain an order ex-parte that would affect him, had a right to appear in court and to insist on being heard.

His Lordship – a brilliant Judge from the Source of Yoruba Race – was nodding as he scribbled down the authorities being cited by the Legendary Advocate. His Lordship was not the only one writing. Most lawyers in court were writing furiously. One old man turned to his friend and whispered: “I don’t mind selling my house, Mufu, my son must become a lawyer like this man. Look at the way he is speaking English as if he is chanting oriki Sango!

“There is merit in the case of the Defendants. I agree with Chief Afe Babalola, the Defendants deserve to be given the right to be heard. Case is hereby adjourned to tomorrow for arguments on the Motion on Notice.” His Lordship rose. 


It is doubtful if the parties involved in the case slept that night. Whilst the lawyers checked and re-checked the authorities, the litigants were in anxiety mode. Chief MKO Abiola’s invited guests had started arriving from their various bases. Musicians engaged for entertainment had begun to set up their instruments in Oyo and Ikeja. Caterers had booked all the cows in Ilorin, Oyo and Ibadan. Local drummers had cancelled all engagements. The royal poet, Lanrewaju Adepoju had finished composing his masterpiece. All roads led to Oyo Alaafin.

If the court was filled to the brim on Wednesday, it was spilling over on Thursday. Litigants, journalists, lawyers, in fact everybody was in court that day. Chief Lagunju stood up. The learned counsel knew what was at stake. He argued his application expertly. He guessed the likely issues that Chief Afe would raise. He addressed each comprehensively. It was advocacy at its best.

Then the Balogun of Mobaland stood up. Like a surgeon, Chief Afe surgically cut through the issues deftly. He was not going to take any prisoner. After cutting through the issues, the authorities followed. From Halsbury’s Law of England to Commonwealth Law Reports, from decisions of House of Lords to decisions of Court of Appeal, from WACA to White Book, and then finally to the Supreme Court. The authorities were flowing like water from Asejire Dam.  There was no stopping the deluge.

“In the light of the copious authorities cited by the learned counsel for the plaintiff and the defendants, the Court will be adjourning to……” There was pin-drop silence in Court. The installation was only two days away.  “…Friday” Ha! Palpable relief went through the court. 

On Friday, Chief Afe Babalola’s phone began to ring from dawn. “Chief, E ma lo gba ruling yin l’Oyo loni o. Please send your junior o.” Clients, friends and well wishers who witnessed or heard of the tension soaked session in court on Thursday were justifiably apprehensive. But Chief Afe was not the Balogun of Mobaland for nothing. A General must not be afraid of the warfront. Off to Oyo.

Chief Afe had hardly left Ibadan when he started seeing policemen at strategic junctions on the road to Oyo. As they approached Fiditi, the number of policemen increased. By the time they got to Jobele, it was as if the Police College had moved its campus there. In the forest, on top of trees, in the bushes, and on top of buildings, the police were everywhere.

The Courtroom itself was no exception. More than fifty police officers joined lawyers and litigants in the courtroom. If you were not wearing a wig and you were not a party to the case, you would have to stay outside.

Court!

Justice Aderemi went straight to the business of the day. “RULING” His Lordship began. Time stood still as His Lordship went on to review the facts of the application and the authorities cited by the counsel for the parties. “In the final analysis…” Counsel and cops in the court became tense. “This application fails and is hereby dismissed.”

As if by telepathy, the crowd outside heard the ruling immediately! Shouts of joy erupted. Drummers who must have been hiding their gangan drums under their agbada sprang out. Sekere came out. Agogo was not to be left behind. Chief Afe Babalola was pulled out of his car, The Balogun was placed squarely on the roof of the car. Women danced, men jumped. I’m not sure but one of the songs on that day must have been “Ajekun Iya ni o je”. I have to confirm this from Chief. May God preserve his life.

Alaafin was waiting in the Palace with his Council Members. For a moment, the Sango of our time, Iku Baba Yeye was close to tears. It was an emotional moment. MKO Abiola was called. The Bashorun shouted: “Allahu Akbar! Alhamdulillah.”


On Saturday, January 14, 1988, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III installed Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Abiola as the 14th Aare Ona Kakanfo. The famous Yoruba Poet, Lanrewaju Moshood Adepoju was then called to the podium. In his deep and flawless Yoruba, Adepoju movingly rendered traditional poetry tracing the history of the title and the qualities of the new Aare Ona Kakanfo.

Abiola smiled.

It was indeed a glorious day for the husband of Simbiat Atinuke.

In recognition of his service to the Crown and the Law, Alaafin later conferred Chief Afe Babalola with the prestigious title of Aare Bamofin of Oyo Empire.

Thank you for your time.



Onigegewura©

(Adapted from Impossibility Made Possible by Chief Afe Babalola, with additional materials researched from publicly available sources. Images sourced from the internet)




48 comments:

  1. This article is a masterpiece, an essential facility which must be at the finger tips of everyone who revers language and its artistry.

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    1. Ilias, thank you for appreciating Onigegewura's humble effort at keeping our history alive.

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    2. An elegantly artistic write-up and historic grand piece for Yoruba great grand children to hold

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  2. Great piece and fantastic display of language dexterity. Thanks.

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    1. Seun, I appreciate your kind words. Cheers.

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  3. Nice documentation of historical facts for posterity.

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  4. Your 'gege' surely flows with gold.. Lines well delivered without missing key points of history & not laced with needless repetition. The quality of your stories are thematically rich and captures the imagination of your readers!!! Well done!!!

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  5. Great and incisive piece.
    Please note that pestle is for omorido while mortar is the odo itself. Cheers!

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  6. Oh my gosh, this is damn a masterpiece. I never knew it was this contested...Allahu Akbar. RIP MKO

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  7. Not a fan of histories or politicians past life but i had a good time reading this. Thank you very much for sharing this

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  8. If I could describe this piece in one word it would be "skilful execution". I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I will be looking forward to reading more articles from this blog. Thank you.

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  9. This is a masterpiece written with passion. The richness of this historical piece is awesome. Whether from Oyo or egba or modakeke or Ibadan... we are one Yoruba nation. Let live in peace... No to Ote! ! ! Eni ilu fe MKO Abiola.. rest in peace

    Thank you for sharing. I love it.

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  10. The choice of words and dramatic expression of event was spot on. Long live Nigeria...long live the people of yorubaland

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  11. A masterpiece. A beautiful piece of a skillful craftsman well researched and beautifully put together. Kudos.

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  12. The use of word is awesome, the theateric narration is explosive. May your ink never go dry.

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  13. Thanks a lot. I love Yoruba history. Keep it up!

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  14. Whao! What a brillant piece. What happened to the Asipa afterwards? Did he serve any punishment for trying to embarass the Oyo Empire?

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  15. Historic and informative piece. Thanks for the good work. God bless

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  16. Historic and informative piece. Thanks for the good job. God bless

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    Replies
    1. Brother mi, keep following this blog for more interesting historical stories.

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  17. Baba mi, thank you for sharing this with us.

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  18. I enjoyed this. Nice to read bits of our history. Good job

    Will be spending more time on your blog.

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  19. I love dz piece....indeed worth d time..#more gacie!

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  20. Thanks for such wonderful information. Any information on Ashipa Amida?

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  21. This is a master piece, an article borne out of qualitative, thorough research.
    I love it.
    Great work.

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  22. Wow! Interesting. Informative. Brilliantly articulated. ��������

    This was went to me via what's app which I normally wouldn't read as it looked too long but it was captivating right from the beginning all the way to the very end! Made me want more, result ... well I'm on the blog now and I'll be spending a lot of time here henceforth lol

    Kudos ������������

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    Replies
    1. Thank you very much. Please click on the 'FOLLOW' on the top right hand side of the page. You will be informed of new posts immediately. Please help us to keep our History alive by informing others of this blog.

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  23. Effortlessly liquid, eloquent,easy to ready and above all spell bounding. The writer has the uncanny ability to connect to a wide range of intellect and makes light of the deep qualitative research that has gone into making this work a master piece.

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    1. Benny writes like a poet. Are you one? I value your very generous comments.

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  24. I thank you all for your comments and appreciation of the modest efforts of Onigegewura, the Amateur Historian. Our History is Our Heritage. Thank you.

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  25. This a great write up, i believe onigegewura intelligence is being under utilised. I will appreciate if he can start dishing out historic books for our children to learn more about people,things and events relating the present and old Nigeria. God bless you.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. Our books are on Nigeria History are in the works. Please click on the 'FOLLOW' on the top right hand side of the page. You will be informed of new posts immediately. Please help us to keep our History alive by informing others of this blog.

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  26. Fantastic.Please keep it up. Thank you

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  27. Well written historical facts,I will send to my lawyer nephew undergoing his LLM in the USA to motivate him ,the acting president professor yemi osinbajo has been in the game for a while,I will like to have a lawyer son like him.

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    1. Thank you, Sir. May your prayer of having a lawyer son come to pass. May you never witness the death of any of your children. My best wishes to your lawyer nephew. I appreciate your support.

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  28. The story is so captivating. I was hopeing it will not end. Keep the good work up sir. I will definitely share the link with my colleagues and friend. Thank you

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  29. This story is a must read. I started it but could not resist it till the end.
    You have a gift my brother.

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  30. The story is nothing short of revolutionary recovery of our history; written in a style intelligible to the modern minds, with compelling in sight backed by powerful archeological digging into the ruins of a great Golden wall of the PAST. Please, do not give-up, soon you shall discovered the GOLD.

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    1. Ademola, as long as you continue to read, Onigegewura will continue to write, in sha Allah! Many thanks for your time.

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  31. Ojurabesa Adeola15 August 2017 at 13:53

    This is outstandingly wonderful.
    Praying for the good Lord to keep and strengthen you for us. This is an extraordinary gift and educative talent from above.

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  32. This is truly a masterpiece!. When you are good,(there is no other qualification to it), you are good. From Aare Ona Kakanfo,to Chief Afe Babalola to Prof. PSI banjo, history will never forget these names.
    Nothing was ever heard of the gruesome murder of the Chief Olorunosebi after these event in 1992. Singing in Ebenezer Obey's voice....A o mase, Ile 'nje niyan' ...the earth continues to devour human - DD

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  33. Am awed by your skills...beautiful!

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  34. This is an excellent article. Thanks as always Onigegewura. Meanwhile, I think we later heard that the dissenting Ashipa later came to a tragic death a couple of years after this case with the Crown. Can you please some day in future tell us about this as well?.
    God bless you Onigegewura

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  35. Thanks sir for this exposition. I'm an aspiring amateur student of history as well and I'm particularly interested in the autobiographies you have referenced in this and other articles. I've tried to search online for where I get get them to no avail. Can you provide any reference to a bookstore I can. Pick them up? Already been to Terra Kulture.

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    1. Many thanks, Diji, the Aspiring Historian. You may wish to check bookshops at the Universities in Ife, Ibadan and Lagos. They have rich catalogues. Booksellers in Ibadan and Abuja, and Glendora are also recommended. There are many leading bookshops in almost every capital city. Wishing you all the best.

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  36. Wow!!! What an exposition. Onigegewura you're a great writer who's well vast in history. A big thumbs up to you. I keep learning new things from your write ups. but what latter happens to the Ashipa of oyo Amuda Olorunosebi? Was he removed as the Asipa? Then how powerful is the Ashipa's chieftancy in the oyo empire?

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  37. This is really inspiring and historic, well put up as if it was just happening now,white paper was the only thing he use to file the case orally....lawyers r doing great jobs

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