By Adekunle Adekoya, Deputy Editor
YESTERDAY, we read about Kurunmi, the obdurate Kakanfo that set the empire on fire; he was the tenth Kakanfo, and was succeeded by Ojo Aburumaku of Ogbomoso, who himself was the son of Afonja’s successor, Toyeje.
Today, it is the turn of Obadoke Latoosa (or Latosisa) of Ibadan, the 12th Kakanfo. He is worthy of mention because he was the Kakanfo in office when again, several parts of Yorubaland were at war — the Kiriji War, said to be the longest civil war in global history, and was fought for 16 years from 1877-1893. He was also the last military Kakanfo, being succeeded by a honourary holder, Samuel Ladoke Akintola.
On October 3, 1871, Latoosa was installed Aare Ona Kakanfo and ruler of Ibadan. Originally from Ilora, not far from today’s Oyo, Latoosa was a palm tree farmer said to have possessed intimate knowledge of the palm plant, and could tell when a palm tree would bear fruits with precision. On arrival in Ibadan, Latoosa joined Basorun Ogunmola’s army and soon became the captain of his guards.
For a long time, some say as much as 16 years, Latoosa remained childless, despite sacrifices and propitiations to the gods of the land. Due to the growing influence of Ilorin, whose new Emir, Abd Salaam had sacked the capital of Old Oyo Empire at Katunga, Latoosa opted for the Islamic faith, and took the name Mohammed, inflected in Yoruba pronounciation as Momodu, and became fully known as Momodu Obadoke Latoosa. Shortly after, his wife birthed a son which he named Sanusi, believing that his childlessness ended because of his new faith.
Many historical accounts concur that Latoosa, actually usurped the title of his predecessor, Ojo Aburumaku, who later became Soun of Ogbomoso. When the rulership of Ibadan fell vacant following the self-exile of Balogun Ajobo, and the death of Baale Orowusi, Latoosa and Ajayi Ogboriefon were the most senior chief left. Latoosa claimed that he could not rule with the title of Baale; and opted to be the ruler of Ibadan with the title of Aare Ona Kakanfo. He thus became the Aare. In his view, the titles of Basorun and Baale were of lower ranks that brave soldiers should not take. He was a popular ruler; never afraid of war.
As the successor state to Oyo Empire, Ibadan under the rule of generals called the shots, and appointed administrators for vassal states and towns. Popular commanders that served under Latoosa included balogun Ibikunle, who would later be Latoosa’s nemesis. These administrators were called Ajeles. Many of the Ajeles ruled with high-handedness, and in Oke-Imesi, in today’s Ekiti State, one Ajele forcefully had carnal knowledge of a woman who was returning from the farm. The woman turned out to be the wife of an Oke-Imesi prince, Fabunmi. The defiled woman, in tears, narrated her ordeal to her husband, and infuriated, Fabunmi drew his sword, marched to the Ajele’s quarters, and beheaded him and his guards. Those of the Ajele’s entourage that survived the carnage wrought by Fabunmi fled for dear lives, and returned to Ibadan, where they reported happenings to the Kakanfo, Latoosa.
The Kakanfo saw reported developments at Oke-Imesi as an affront on his authority and declared war on the offenders, but he had underestimated the resolve of all states and towns that had Ajeles to repudiate them. Oke-Mesi, being Ekiti, sought the help of their ethnic kith and kin in Ijesaland, a famous general called Ogedengbe Agbogungboro, rallied warriors from Ekitiland and Ijesaland into a coalition of forces known as the Ekiti Parapo, jointly commanded by Ogedengbe and Fabunmi. Thus, in 1877, the series of battles that would later be known as Kiriji Wars began, and lasted for 16 years. It is said to be the longest civil war in global history.
That is not all about the mystiques surrounding Kakanfo Momodu Obadoke Latoosa, Asubiaro Agadagudu. He is on record as the ruler that put an end to the inhuman treatment of slaves in Yorubaland when he decisively dealt with a renowned slave dealer and women leader, Efunsetan Aniwura. This story has been romaticised in movies, and is the subject of a Yoruba novel by Emeritus Professor, Akinwunmi Isola of the University of Ibadan.
In 1885, while the Kiriji War was still on and the Europeans were in Berlin at a conference later known to history as the Scramble for Africa, Latoosa met his end in an unexpected way. He had a slave whom he loved a lot, and allowed the rights of a freeborn. Being under the protection of the Kakanfo, this slave took liberties beyond his rights, and was frequently reported to Latoosa who however continued to indulge him. On an occasion, the slave insulted one of Latoosa’s generals, Balogun Ibikunle. Ibikunle chastised the slave, and according to some reports, had him whipped. The slave reported his ordeal to Latoosa, who summoned Ibikunle before him and demanded why he should treat his slave that way. Ibikunle, angered that a general like him could be asked to state his side of a case involving a slave, drew his sword and beheaded the slave. Other generals were present, and arrayed themselves on Ibikunle’s side. Latoosa saw his error of judgement, and turned, entered his chambers, and took poison.
Perhaps worthy of mention is Ojo Aburumaku of Ogbomoso; the 11th Kakanfo and Latoosa’s predecessor. He fought no wars, but in a bid to live up to the requirement that a Kakanfo should fight, he fomented an insurrection in his own domain, which he turned around to repress with brutal glee, a development that almost cost his lineage the title of Soun of Ogbomoso, which he later ascended to.