By Eric Elezuo
Only recently, investment lawyer and rights activist, Barrister Kayode Ajulo, was conferred with yet another deserved honor as the Mayegun of Yorubaland by none other than the reverred warrior and custodian of the Yoruba culture, Iba Gani Adams, the Aare Ona kakanfo of Yorubaland. In this brief chat, the ebullient and cerebral philanthropist, who is reputed for various humanitarian exploits including representing clients on pro bono basis, revealed what the title means to him and humanity as well as his take on the political future of the nation even as the elections draw near. Excerpts:
Sir, could you please express your feelings as regards the new feather in your cap?
In the first instance, I thank God for His favour, kindness and mercy in making me to be counted worthy of such honour. There are other qualified people out there. But let me put it this way, and contrary to what some people might think, the confernment is not just an honour, but an award, cum a call to duty. I therefore see it as a challenge. The title is more or less a place of honour that I have been placed in and I thank God for the challenge. It is a challenge because it’s apparent, society is now more looking up to me, and I mustn’t do anything that will bring dishonour. Any honour is a challenge to me.
Sir, most times, such honours comes as a result of what someone must have been doing for humanity, so could you just briefly encapsulate the achievements that have made this honour possible?
Well, I’m not good at blowing my trumpet. I am a barrister and solicitor of the realm; I am trained to defend and speak for people, but I am deficient when it comes to speaking for myself. I don’t have to in the circumstance as I can’t be a judge in my case. I believe someone else should do that.
However, it must be stated that in whatever we do, someone, somewhere is watching and we need to be on top of our game at all times. As for this honour, it is the aftermath of what the Aare Ona Kakanfo himself described as my constant availability to be of help to others.
I remember the day when the Aare Ona Kakanfo, Gani Adams, visited my office, he spent about two hours talking about politics and Sundry issues, then on his way out, he just chipped in, recollecting when he or any of his members had issues with the police or anyone that once he briefed me, I have never hesitated in helping them out.
He also tried to recap the days of struggles with Dr. Frederick Fasehun (may his soul rest in perfect peace).
Note that I was briefed to represent Dr. Fasehun, but in one swift wise decision, I considered that these people were all Yoruba, and there should be no basis for the fight and division.
So I proposed that all the lawyers in the matter should come together and that’s how our relationship started.
That day Aare said something that touched me: “In all these cases, you never asked for a penny”. “Mayegun Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba fits you”
Honestly, I felt honoured on hearing that. I never knew he was taking note nor would remember. The truth was not that they could not pay but because I saw that what they were doing was more about the Yoruba interests and they were prisoners of conscience.
They were doing it for a just cause. I identified with them and I felt the only way I could join their cause, was to offer my legal services free of charge.
So that paved the way for the title you were bestowed with today?
You can say that because that day, he mentioned that he would soon be one year as the Aare Ona kakanfo and that the Aare is supposed to have some chiefs to advise him, “and for what you have done, you have to be part of my council”. And that was it. I didn’t commit any dime to it.
So it was actually a pay back…
…Every genuine honour is a payback…every confernment, award, degree and what have you is a payback. A book of rememberance must be opened on your behalf before you could get an honour, reward, confernment or even a degree. Aare Ona Kakanfo and his Chiefs titles are not hereditary. It’s borne out of courage and valour.
No one is honoured out of limbo. And that explains why everyone should keep doing good for you don’t know who is watching or the day the book will be opened.
How did you take his initial offer?
Honestly, i initially joked about it, and told him that I hardly wear agbada. There and then I experienced the extent of his generosity, as he told me not to worry as all preparation has been made, he also made me realize the he consulted far and wide before deciding on me. I am learning from his humility. The fact that he has to come down to my office in Abuja from Lagos just to tell me such a thing, shows the kind of person he is. He knows what he wants and how to get it and that is why God is blessing him.
The title ‘Mayegun’ – what does it really stand for?
I think of it very well before taking the title and its responsibility. It literarily means someone who stabilizes the world and restores law and order in the society, which he believes I have been doing, both locally and internationally. The Mayegun is the conscience of the community, constantly speaking against the ills of the society. Consequently, the Mayegun himself has to be without blame. Now, you can see the magnitude of the honour that has been bestowed on me. Mind you, from history gathered, the last time this title was given was in the 17th century, during the time of the 12th Aare Ona Kakanfo, Iba Momodu Atanda Asubiaro Latoosa, the then Mayegun was member of the Board of Enquiry on the murder of Efunsetan Aniwura, the famous Iyalode of Ibadan in 1864.
How would you now juxtapose the job of a professional lawyer and that of a traditional chief both of which you today represent?
Unfortunately, we just refuse to understand some things. We all have culture, but unfortunately, we see the European culture as more superior to ours, which is not.
I remember sometime ago, discussing with a British Professor of African History, at the British Museum in the United Kingdom; he was trying to tell me about my history. Just imagine..
In trying to explain the positions of our revered monarchs, he mentioned the Archbishop of Canterbury, who he claimed can be likened to the Ooni who is our spiritual head. I asked him about the Alaafin and he said he is the political head, like the Queen of England. In order of precedence in Great Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury, a small town in England, is the third most powerful. I’m not saying whether what he said is true or not, but I think the Professor struck some cord in me. Our system of government is akin to theirs in some ways. In Oyo, we have the Oyomeesi – they represent the people at the palace and make laws like the House of Lords in the Parliament; they could weigh in on any issue concerning the Alaafin, including asking him to abdicate the throne or commit suicide. We have the Ogboni in Yoruba land, and judges and those performing intelligence and essential services could be drawn from this elite group.
Same with this Chieftaincy honour, it’s not hereditary, it’s based on your performance, purely merit, on courage, valour etc. it’s like being knighted; the best of our colonial administrators are Knights: Sir. Fredrick Lugard, the first Governor-General of Nigeria is a Knight; Sir. Robertson, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sadauna of Sokoto and the Late Premier of the Northern Nigeria; Sir. Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa, the Late Ooni of Ife, Sultan of Sokoto all those great men, are Knighted and all because they excelled in their chosen careers. The best lawyers I know are knights. They’re also High Chiefs of note.
Now, I have been given the traditional chieftaincy and incorporated into a most prestigious institution of Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland. My installation by the Aare assisted by some Traditional and Political leaders was similar to the Queen knighting someone, the only difference is how we look at it.
So, we need to appreciate our culture, we need to repackage. If the Queen of England should call to honour me with the Order of the Garter, which is an order of chivalry founded by Edward II in 1348 and regarded as the most prestigious British order of chivalry, I will be so happy; the same way I am glad about this chieftaincy title I have been given.
I will soon roll out agenda under the Maiyegun title along with Aare Gani Adams for the Yoruba race both home and abroad. Our culture must not die, and we won’t allow wrong narratives about our rich culture. Our peaceful coexistence and development as a race is paramount and this we shall push for.
Could that be the reason why personalities like General Ibrahim Babangida were bestowed with the privileged honour?
Absolutely! Thanks for mentioning the revered soldier. Babangida had to rush to the UK to receive the honour of the order of Garter cause he understood what it meant and stand for.
Can we go a little political? Do you have any intention to go into full-fledged politics?
Well, I always believe one thing, that every human being as far as he can think is a politician. We are all politicians, so it depends on the level of your politicking. I am a politician, whether I am docile or active; I have ran for election up to the Senate of the Republic of Nigeria before. And by the grace of God, I have been the National Secretary of Labour Party.
But as it is, politics has to do with your people; it depends on what they want you to do. If tomorrow, the people of Ondo state say they want me to become the governor of the state, I will look at the fundamentals and if everything works well, and if my God okays it, I will go for it.
But as it is, I remain a lawyer. I have my chambers in some part of the world and I ensure I maintain them, because when it comes to politics, you need money to run it and the only way I can do that is to work harder. Now, I’m working harder.
Finally, could you make a comment on the governmental situation of Nigeria today?
I’m afraid it will be a little bit hard to make any comment particularly because the elections are roughly about a month from now. Nobody seems to understand and everyone seems to be going left and right, things are going wrong and politicians are desperate. And when you are desperate, you tend to flout laws and violate some basic principles and tenets of democracy. And I think this is what is happening in Nigeria and I pray this time would pass and pass well. I will tell our people to endeavor to just make the right choice. Look at where we are before and where we are now. We should not sell our conscience but vote for who genuinely has interest of the county at heart and ready to correct wrongs of the past.
Thank you so much for taking out time to talk with us.