For 12 days recently, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Aare Gani Adams, was in Europe. Adams, who was in January installed the Generalissimo of Yorubaland, was in Italy, France, Sweden and the United Kingdom. It was the first time he would be travelling outside the country since his inauguration.
Besides receiving a number of awards by Nigerian groups in Europe, Adams was also treated to grand receptions by the Oodua Progressive Union (OPU) in the four countries. Among those on the trip were members of his immediate family, his wife and children, his chief of staff, Prince Segun Akanni, Zaki of Arigidi Akoko, Oba Yisa Olanipekun and Mr. Hakeem Alade, among others.
The team was received in Milan, Italy, by members of the OPU in the country, led by the coordinator, Chief Odutola Pensa. A huge reception was thereafter held in honour of the visiting generalissimo.
In his speech, Adams spoke about the accommodating spirit exhibited by members of the OPU in Italy, adding that he was impressed by the exemplary character displayed by the members.
“We are happy to be the first chapter of the OPU to host our convener and leader. Aare Gani Adams’s visit to Italy, though very brief, is a good omen for all Yoruba sons and daughters in this country. As the coordinator of the OPU in Italy, I say with all sense of humility that the reception given to Aare and his team was just a tip of the iceberg. We hope to do more in future,” Pensa said.
The following day, Aare Adams and his team were in Paris, France, where the OPU members in the country received them at the Charles De Gaulle Airport, Paris. Leading the team was OPU coordinator in Europe, Akinrogun Victor Mobolaji.
Aare Adams later visited the Nigerian Embassy in Paris, where he engaged the ambassador, Mrs. Modupe Irele, and the deputy head of mission, Mr. Benedict Adejinle, on a number of issues.
Aare Adams, while giving reasons for the visit, said he was determined to project the ideals of the Yoruba race to the world. He informed his hosts at the embassy that the OPU was formed six years ago to unite Yoruba sons and daughters in the Diaspora for socio-economic integration, growth and networking, using various platforms to promote Yoruba culture and tradition.
“I am delighted to tell you that, today, the Oodua Progressive Union is in 82 countries already, with branches in other countries waiting to be inaugurated soon,” he said.
In her response, Irele applauded the efforts of the Aare Ona Kakanfo at bringing Yoruba sons and daughters in the Diaspora together under one umbrella. She promised to ensure a lasting relationship with the office of the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland as well as members of the OPU.
A special reception was later held for Aare Adams and his team by the OPU. Guests included Irele as well as top officials of the embassy, Oodua Association in France, Edo United Forum and other prominent groups.
Mr. Benedict Adejinle, deputy head of the Nigerian mission, spoke on the need to project the image of Nigeria in that country and urged members of the OPU to be good ambassadors. He counselled them against deviating from the original reasons for which the group was formed.
On Sunday, March 25, the train moved to Gothenburg, Sweden, where an elaborate reception was also held for the visiting culture activist. Many members of the OPU as well as other Nigerian groups were at the reception.
Between March 27 and 31, Aare Adams and his team were in the United Kingdom. They arrived at Gatwick Airport, London, to a rousing welcome from members of the OPU in the UK, led by the coordinator of the group, Chief Olawale Harrison.
Shortly after arriving in London, Aare Adams visited the headquarters of the British Broadcasting Corporation, where he spoke on the need for the BBC to continue its promotion of cultural/tourism programmes that would enhance unity across the world. He said he was at the BBC headquarters to have firsthand information on how the organisation was being run and to express appreciation to the management for setting up Yoruba channels.
“By creating the portals and programmes for different languages of the world, the BBC has saved the world’s languages from going into extinction. And by sustaining the languages, cultural values and identities of the people, they have provided a generational service for humanity,” he said.
On Thursday, March 29, Adams and his team paid a courtesy call on the High Commissioner, Justice George Adesola Oguntade, at the Nigerian High Commission in London.
Adams told the envoy that as the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, he was in London as part of efforts to bridge the gap between Nigerians, especially, Yoruba in Diaspora and those living at home.
“We are all part of the emerging history of our great nation. Nigeria is blessed with everything we can think of as a people, but we can only regain the lost glory if we continue to project the image of our nation positively to the world. This is what we have been doing in the last two decades through our various platforms such as the Olokun Festival Foundation and the Oodua Progressive Union, which is now in 82 countries. By promoting our cultural values and identity, we are sending positive signals to the entire world,” he said.
In his response, Oguntade described Adams as a true ambassador of the Yoruba race and a source of inspiration to the youth.
“We can all testify to your various efforts to the Yoruba race, especially in the area of promoting our cultural identity and values. These are no mean feats. You can always count on our support any time, even as I wish you well in all your endeavours,” the ambassador noted.
Top officials of the high commission were present at the meeting, which lasted for about two hours.
The London visit, the reporter learnt, was concluded with two special receptions for Aare Adams. The first was a private dinner organised by Chief Dapo Williams and family at the Bexleyheath Marriott Hotel. The party was well-attended by prominent Nigerians in the United Kingdom. The next day, the UK chapter of the OPU hosted the Aare and his team to a grand reception at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, Docklands.
At the reception, the generalissimo enjoined members of the OPU and all Nigerians never to forget the homeland. He noted that many Nigerians abroad were not too protective of their cultures, unlike Asians. He urged them to often bring their children home so that the young kids would know about their roots from their early years.