The post of the Aare [Ona Kakanfo] was ordered by Alaafin Ajagbo in the seventeenth century. The Aare Ona Kakanfo controlled the armies of the provincial towns.
To avoid conflicts between the Aare and the provincial rulers who were themselves war commanders (for example, the Onikoyi and the Okare), the provincial rulers were often exempted from the campaigns led by the Aare. The Aare himself was a provincial ruler.
Indeed, the title was generally conferred upon a provincial ruler reputed for his qualities as an outstanding warrior. As Ajayi rightly observes, “Kakanfo were expected to typify in the extreme the qualities and outstanding characteristics of the Eso.”
|The 15th Aare|
The 2nd to be installed by Alaafin Adeyemi
At his initiation, the Aare received all sorts of charms from the leading Babalawo, besides the several incisions on the back of his head. “Like the Ilaris,” writes Johnson: “At the time of taking office, he is first to shave his head completely, and 201 incisions are made on his occiput, with 201 different lancets and specially prepared ingredients from 201 viols are rubbed into the cuts, one for each. This is supposed to render him fearless and courageous.”
An Aare could be distinguished from other members of the public by the peculiar style of his haircut, “they are always shaved, but the hair on the inoculated part is allowed to grow long, and when plaited, forms of tuft or a sort of pigtail.”
His ensigns of office, which set him apart from others, included ojijiko, “ a cap made of the red feathers of the parrot’s tail, with a projection behind reaching as far down as the waist”; “The Staff Invincible”; the asiso (pigtail) and “an apron of leopard skin to sit on always.”
|MKO Abiola: The 14th Aare Ona Kakanfo|
The first to be installed by Alaafin Adeyemi
An Aare should be stubborn and obstinate: “They have all been more or less troublesome; this is supposed to be the effect of the ingredients they were inoculated with.” The Aare’s powers made him a potential rival to the Alaafin: The Aare should “give way to no one not even to the king, their master.”
However, measures were taken to prevent personality clashes between the two heads. In the district where the Aare lived, he was allowed to be the lord, and his decisions on several issues were final. His attention was directed to wars: “By virtue of his office he is to go to war once in three years to whatever place the king named, and dead or alive, to return home a victor, or be brought home a corpse within three months.”
|Ladoke Akintola: The 13th Aare Ona Kakanfo|
Installed by Alaafin Ladigbolu
The Aare was not generally chosen from among the members of the royal lineage or those qualified to be members of the Oyomesi to make it difficult for one person to combine military and political power.
Source: Ibadan – Foundation Growth and Change 1830-1960 by Prof Toyin FALOLA, published by Bookcraft (2012)