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Afe Babalola: Encomiums For Epitome Of Philantropism
A pragmatics scholar’s postulation on the principles of politeness, one of which is that it is more polite when one is praised by others than blowing one’s trumpet, played out last week in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, as the University of Ibadan Medical Students Association (UIMSA), congregated some of the high and the mighty in Trenchard Hall to witness the occasion of a distinguished personality lecture in honour of the founder of Emmanuel Chambers and foremost educationist-cum-legal idol, Aare Afe Babalola (SAN).
At the ceremony, the numerous philanthropic acts of kindness demonstrated by the legal luminary were extolled in the superlatives. The gestures, according to those who spoke glowingly about the frontline lawyer, ranged from those shown to individuals, educational institutions, corporate organisations and others as well as cutting across divides in the country.
The occasion’s chairman and Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, it was who, in his opening address, set the tone that soon came across as opening a floodgate of warm and superlative accolades for Aare Babalola. The Oba said Aare Babalola had been doing all within his power to support qualitative education in the nation. He added that the legal luminary remained one of the highest private sponsors of students not only in Law but also in other disciplines, with a scholarship scheme being enjoyed in many Nigerian universities and abroad.
According to the monarch, perhaps coming from his own background of have-nots, “Aare Babalola has cut a figure of a kind-hearted man and a wonderful, generous giver at all times. He is a diligent lawyer, who does not take anything for granted and that explains the story of his life as a foremost lawyer in the country.
“Long before Aare Babalola conceived the idea of having his own university, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, he had done so much for many other universities, state and federal. He built a large lecture theatre for the University of Lagos, where he served a two-term as pro-chancellor, winning the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC), best pro-chancellor award twice.
“Without any prompting, he built a beautiful auditorium for the Faculty of Law, University of Ado-Ekiti. He also single-handedly built a Nuclear Medicine building for the treatment of cancer patient at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan. The gesture was acknowledged by the United Nations. Aare Babalola is one individual who virtually built the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti.
“No wonder, the NUC, while commenting on the pace, quality and the vision of Afe Babalola University, noted that the citadel was a miracle, model, reference point and founded by the man, who is a member of the Club of Rectors of Europe, “ the Alaafin said.
The royal father further described the university as the only one that moved to its permanent site prior to the issuance of a provisional licence by the Federal Government and also added that “apart from having trained over 2,000 lawyers, Aare Babalola has about 200 lawyers in his employ and to his credit, over 20 Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SANs) have emerged from his chambers, a feat which no other lawyer has achieved in the country.”
Oba Adeyemi lauded the contributions of the lawyer to the struggle for the creation of Ekiti State in 1991, adding that he conferred on the SAN the chieftaincy title of Aare Ba’amofin of Oyo Empire in 2008 because of his benevolent services to humanity in general.
He added that the only thing that could sustain a relationship with Aare Babalola was to share and imbibe his principles of humanitarianism, excellence, diligence and industry.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in his remarks, said it would be a misnomer for him to call the chief his lawyer because he had not been able to adequately pay for his legal services. He described the lawyer as his confidant with whom he shared views and feelings on matters.
“There are three people to whom you must not tell lies. The first is your pastor, who you must confess all your sins for adequate spiritual guidance. The second is your lawyer, who you must tell all the crimes you have committed. And lastly, your doctor, who you must tell all the diseases you have contacted,” he said.
Obasanjo in his own address noted that disappointments could be disguised blessings, as was the case with Aare Babalola who, he said, had his tenure as pro-chancellor of the University of Lagos terminated abruptly in spite of many achievements that were wrought through him. He remarked that the proprietor of ABUAD Varsity was truly distinguished in whatever he undertook to do.
“One thing that is common with us humans is that we worry and lament over disappointments. When Afe’s term was suddenly terminated at Unilag, this opened an avenue for him to use his beautiful ideas for his own university in Ado-Ekiti.
“I have learnt university administration from him. Disappointment has a way of bringing the best to humanity and also bring out the best in human beings. I thank him for his services to education and also his contribution to Nigeria,” he said.
The guest lecturer and Dean Faculty of Law of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba–Akoko Ondo State, Professor Yemi Akinseye-George, did justice to the topic Humanitarian in its Rightness: The Role of Aare Afe Babalola in Redefining the Standard of Education in Nigeria, as part of event lined up to golden anniversary of UIMSA.
Akinseye-George, in the 27-page lecture, noted that besides Babalola’s role in promoting the growth of the Nigerian legal system, the legal enigma had become the foremost Nigerian with the singular highest investment in educational and philanthropic causes in the country.
In an attempt to fully appreciate the impact of the lawyer on education, he analysed the two major aspects of education: Formal and informal. According to him, the latter is learning by observation and the classroom is the society, which teaches on values and virtues such as merit, honour, prudence, courage and so on.
The lecturer, himself an Emmanuelite (as those who went through Babalola’s Emmanuel Chambers are called), acknowledged the immense contribution of the Ba’a mofin of Oyo Empire in this regard while lamenting that his likes are endangered species.
“We have a predominance of “talkers” who preach a message of do as I say, not as I do. Our public space is crowded by “grabbers,” political jobbers and self-centred individuals who want to “gain the whole world” by indulging in primitive accumulation to the detriment of the overwhelming majority of the people.
The professor also featured the comments of eminent Nigerians who lauded Aare Babalola’s obsession for charity; how he rendered free legal services to the oppressed; how he gave subsidised legal services to the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), among many others.
Aare Babalola’s achievements in UNILAG namely, infrastructural rejuvenation, mobilising funds, arresting cultism, introduction of what is now widely accepted post-UTME test to ensure that only quality intakes are admitted, among others.Share