Saturday, 13th January, this year, chosen by His Imperial Majesty, Iku Baba Yeye, Oba (Dr) Lamidi Olayiwola, Adeyemi III JP, CFR, LLD, SAP, DLLT, the Alaafin of Oyo, to install Otunba (Dr) Gani Adams, as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, will make it exactly 30 years (less than 10 days though) that Oba Adeyemi installed Otunba Adam’s immediate predecessor, the late Basorun Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola (MKO) the 14th Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland.
I congratulate Otunba Adams, the National Coordinator of Odu’a Peoples Congress (OPC), on the well-earned title. He is, with respect to his new office, my dear brother and compatriot in the noble causes for the advancement of Yoruba tradition, culture and progress, Nigerians liberty and abundance and the freedom and dignity of the black race in a peaceful and equitable world.
Whereas, the title of this piece states my intention to attend Otunba Adam’s installation as a mark of honour to the late Basorun Abiola, alias “MKO”, it begets the fact that I am also grateful and honouring the kind act of Kabiyesi the Alaafin, for extending a formal invitation to the ceremony to my humbleself. The reason for singling out MKO, Nigeria’s undeclared winner of the 1993 Presidential election, will manifest soon in this article.
Thirty years ago, as I said earlier, Oba Adeyemi III, on Saturday, 23rd January, 1988, installed the late Basorun Abiola, as the 14th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland in his palace at Oyo. That installation met with storms in various quarters, including a civil suit calling for an injunction to restrain the Alaafin from installing Basorun Abiola. The suit was dismissed and Oba Adeyemi III carried out his royal duty, eventually in 1988.
A fallout of Basorun Abiola’s installation as Aare Ona Kakanfo was his fury at the non-attendance of the traditional ceremony by the sitting military governors of the old Oyo State (today, present Oyo and Osun States), Ogun, Ondo and Lagos States. It piqued MKO so much so that he berated the military governors and described them as “eaglet governors”. His utterance drew flanks not only from governments, Federal and States, but the general public.
As the Press Secretary to the (affected) military governor of the then old Oyo State, now – retired Brigadier Adetunji Idowu Olurin, it was my duty to respond to Basorun Abiola’s spite, and clear the air on his (and colleagues) absence from the installation ceremony in Oyo town. Issuing my press statement on the Aare Ona Kakanfo Palaver, as it were, was one of my most difficult assignments as Press Secretary to four (one civilian and three military) governors of the old Oyo State from 1983 to 1989. Why? It was public knowledge that Basorun Abiola was my role model and financier, who despite the age gap between us, always referred to me as, “Lekan is my friend from Ibadan”. But, duty called and I chose professionalism and loyalty over and above other considerations (primodial, pecuniary etc) by issuing the following press statement on 8th February, 1988.
The late Basorun M.K.O Abiola (left) and I at our first meeting after the “Eaglet Governors” episode – the 25th Foundation Lecture / Luncheon of the now- defunct Sketch Press Limited, Ibadan, in November, 1989.
Thirty years after MKO installation imbroglio, let me today restate emphatically that neither the military governors of the old Oyo State nor any of his colleagues was formally invited to the installation ceremony in Oyo town. All well that ends well, MKO, a great man with a large heart did not hold a grudge against me till he died, neither, does Iku Baba Yeye.
After a “cold war” or better still, “hide and seek” between Basorun Abiola and I for over a year, after I had issued the above press statement, fate brought us, unavoidably, face to face again at the 25th foundation anniversary lecture/luncheon of the now-defunct Sketch Press Limited, Ibadan in November, 1989, where he (Abiola) was the Special Guest of Honour and I, a former staff of Sketch from 1973 to 1978, an invited guest. At that reunion, if you permit, Basorun Abiola publicly said he was more than proud of me because I acted with professionalism, loyalty and discretion, over my response to his “eaglet governors” comment. He said he expected any Press Secretary worth his/her salt to do the same. Our friendship, from that day, continued to grow by leaps and bounds until he died in mysterious circumstances on 7th July, 1998, while being held in illegal detention by the late General Sani Abacha – led jackboot military government.
With the foregoing, I believe my dear readers will give their nods to my intention to attend Otunba Adam’s installation as the immediate successor of MKO, my late mentor, leader and friend. Meanwhile, I wish Otunba Adams a dynamic, remarkable and long reign as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland.
Oloye ’Lekan Alabi D. Litt (h.c)
Agba Akin Olubadan of Ibadanland