Aare Ona Kakanfo is a title given to the war general, chief marshal or generalissimo of the old Oyo Empire. An Aare Ona Kakanfo would mobilise and train “Soldiers”, lead battles, fight wars and conquer his opponents.
The Aare Ona Kakanfo title was created hundreds of years ago to the Yoruba states by King Ajagbo who ruled over 700 years ago as the Alaafin of the Oyo kingdom, he reigned for over 100 years.
King Ajagbo had a twin brother, Ajampati who prefers the comforts of the royal court while Ajagbo an outdoor person has many year experiences of military expeditions to fend off invaders.
He grew up a warrior and thoughts on how best to deal with military aggression against his kingdom never leave him.
On becoming the Alaafin, he created the office and title of Aare Ona Kakanfo. Upon creation, he appointed his close associate, Kokoro Gangan, a skilled tactician from Iwoye-Ketu town as the first Kakanfo.
The selection of the new Kakanfo involves several rituals. At installation, the major rite that must be performed is the administering of two hundred and one incisions on the designated Kakanfo. Each of the two hundred and one incisions is rubbed with two hundred and one herbal preparations.
Samuel Johnson in one of his books the “Treatise on the Kakanfo” criticized the 12th and the 13th Kakanfo’s for not completing the ritual circles. According to tradition the designated Kakanfo after administering incisions and other rituals must always shave their hair. The hair on the inoculated part is allowed to grow long and when plaited form a tuft or sort of pigtail.
After confirmation as the new Kakanfo, the Kakanfo leaves Oyo town far away from the Alaafin city to his own territory. It is a taboo for the Alaafin and the Kakanfo to live in the same town.
At the call of the Alaafin for war, the Kakanfo have no option but to hear the call, he is expected to win or return as corpse after three month of his presence at the battle ground. In war, he carry no weapon but a weapon known as the kings invincible staff.
Like every other title in the traditional institute, the Aare Ona Kaknafo usually has their own ensigns; The Ojijiko and a cap made of the red feathers of the parrots tail, with a project behind reaching as far down as the waist, an apron of leopards skin, and a leopard skin to sit on always, the Asiso or pigtail with the invincible staff.
The names of the past and incumbents Aare Ona kakanfo’s is as follow;
- Kokoro Gangan of Iwoye-ketu
- Oyatope of Iwoye
- Oyabi of Ajase
- Adeta of Jabata
- Oku of Jabata
- Afonja l’aiya l’Oko of Ilorin
- Toyeje of Gbogan
- Amepo of Abemo
- Kurumi of Ijaye
- Ojo Aburumaku of Ogbomosho (Son of Toyeje)
- Latoosa of Ibadan
- Ladoke Akintola of Ogbomosho (The premier of Western Region on Nigeria during the first republic)
- Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola of Abeokuta (The adjudged winner of Nigeria June 12, 1993 Presidential election)
- Gani Adams of Arigidi-Akoko (The President of the Oodua Peoples Congress) The incumbent