Aare Ona Kakanfo

MKO Abiola being installed as Aare Ona Kankanfo in 1988
22 years after the assassination of predecessor, Ladoke Akintola, MKO Abiola is installed here in 1988 by Alaafin Adeyemi III as Aare Ona Kankanfo of Yorubaland. Photo: TIN Magazine

Aare Ona Kakanfo is an exclusive Yoruba traditional title, historically the field marshal of the Oyo Empire. Holders of this title were war viceroys valued as the most powerful and revered among the warriors. The title in the times of the Oyo empire was usually conferred by the Alaafin on the greatest soldier and tactician of the day. Aare Ona Kakanfo was invented by Alaafin Ajagbo, the war-loving Oyo emperor who ensured the superiority of his empire’s army over those of the opponents.

Kokoro Gangan was the first, a soldier from Iwoye who was friend to Ajagbo. After him, the title has become like that of a Field Marshal, and is conferred upon the greatest soldier and tactician of the day. Because the Kakanfo is not supposed to make way for anyone including the Alaafin in ancient times, the Kakanfo are never created in Oyo Ile, the empire capital, hence towns like Ilorin have produced Afonja, Ogbomoso; Toyeje and Ibadan; Latosisa. The prominent politicians, Ladoke Akintola and MKO Abiola were titleholders.