ONE of the wonders of creation is the dotting of the galaxy of humanity with giant stars of men and women. These stars are the inventors, the great writers, the philosophers, the philanthropists, all who spend their intellectual and material endowments for the collective good of the majority in a grand design to leave the world around them better than they met it.
Such is the story of Nigeria’s own Aare Afe Babalola, SAN, a man who by dint of hard work, determination and sheer grace of God fought and conquered debasing and grinding poverty right from his root in Ado-Ekiti where he grew without a pair of shoes, where he lived in a thatched house without a door and a parenthood that could not see him beyond secondary education because of paucity of funds in those early days. Yet, he has since risen from that bucolic beginning to become a leading citizen of the world and a toast of many.
Fortunately, the young Afe Babalola understood the great powers of the twin master keys of hard work and determination to tear down what appeared to be the Berlin Walls or the Walls of Jericho of illiteracy and poverty befuddling his otherwise great and verdant future.
Having no opportunity for secondary education, he ventured into private study through correspondence, reading with hurricane lamps in one obscure village near Ibadan, an endeavour through which he acquired London GCE Ordinary and Advance levels, one after the other, with flying colours.
The outstanding performances gave him an impetus that he could convert his obstacles to out-and-out stepping stones to success and great accomplishments. He thus registered as an External student at the University of London where he bagged a B.Sc. in Economics in 1959. Not long after that, the man who has since won acclaim as an icon in legal practice and in quality education through private initiatives, again registered for Law, again as an External student in the same University of London where he became a Barrister at Law at Lincoln’s Inn in 1963.
Incidentally, it is the same university where he obtained two Bachelor’s Degrees as an External candidate that on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 honoured him with its LLD, the first African to be so honoured in the 179-year history of the University of London bearing in mind that the former South Africa President, Nelson Mandela, was conferred with the honorary Doctorate Degree in Economics of the University in 1996 while Archbishop Desmond Tutu was conferred with the Doctorate Degree in Divinity at a ceremony held in the university on December 2, 2008.
In a January 16, 2015 letter by the Vice Chancellor of the University of London, Prof. Sir Adrian Smith, FRS, announcing the Award, he said inter alia that “each year, the University of London International Academy is eligible to award honorary degrees on persons of eminence and distinction”, adding that the Collegiate Council of the University would very much like Babalola to accept the award of the degree of Doctor of Law honoris causa at the University of London International Academy Graduation Ceremony on March 11, 2015.
According to Smith, the University of London confers its honorary degrees on individuals who have met some identified requirements of being “a person of conspicuous merit”, and/or “who is outstanding in the field”, “commands international recognition”, “has given exceptional service to the community”, and/or has made an important contribution to the University”.
It is no small wonder then that Afe Babalola has joined the ilk of the celebrated statesman, war hero and distinguished author and politician, Winston Churchill, the poet and writer, T. S. Eliot, and Henry Moore on the list of worthy beneficiaries of the honorary Doctorate Degrees of the University of London.
Known as the grandmother of British Universities, the University of London gave birth to University Colleges in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries which later became autonomous universities. The University of London also nurtured the University College, Ibadan, Nigeria which was established in 1948 and by inference, all Nigerian universities and continues to have considerable impact on the development of higher education in the Commonwealth and globally.
In line with his belief in personal sweat for greatness, Afe Babalola went into private practice in the profession he started at the base of the ladder in 1963 in the Chambers of the Ayoola Brothers in Ibadan from where he rose to the pinnacle as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1987.
A Counsel of Counsel and teacher of teachers, Afe Babalola has become an international brand in jurisprudence, and through his famous Emmanuel Chambers, has trained and mentored over a thousand lawyers, 15 of whom have become Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Attorneys-General and judges as well as traditional rulers.
A man of Spartan discipline and dogged determination who has consistently shunned the glitz and glamour of power, Afe Babalola is a man who rose from grass to grace, from zero to hero, epitomising legendary efforts at self-help and personal development.
By this recognition by the University of London, Afe Babalola has undoubtedly not only brought honour to Nigeria, a country he loves so much and serves with passion, he has brought considerable and enormous honour to the West African (ECOWAS) region in particular, being the first West African to receive the honorary degree of the University of London.
Happily, the society he has worked so hard for, locally and internationally, has not failed to acknowledge his immense contributions to make the world a better place to live in. With over 40 titles and Awards across the globe, including Honourary Doctor of Law and Doctor of Letters by five universities as well as a trailer-load of chieftaincy titles, humanity has unequivocally and loudly demonstrated that Afe Babalola, a man of commendable candour and incisive intellect, is a rare gem with all-time and all-round relevance to the world around him.
His ovation reverberates from Ewi’s palace in his root in Ado Ekiti to the Alafin’s palace in the ancient city of Oyo where he has been awarded frontline chieftaincy titles. His prodigious personality rings bells in Aso Rock where his name echoes as Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) and Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).
The name resonates far away in England on the Roll of Honour of the European Business Assembly in Oxford as the 2007 Winner of the prestigious Queen Victoria’s Commemorative Award and today, another decibel is being added to the resonance of his name in the UK.
A legal luminary of global repute, a Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (FNIALS) and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Afe Babalola is a man who is popular at home and even more revered abroad.
It is these virtues of distinction, excellence, industry, dignity, courage and hard work that have propelled him to establish Afe Babalola University, which has been showered with Awards, commendations and recognitions as well as encomiums nationally and internationally by all that have seen the wonders he is quietly performing in his homestead in Ado-Ekiti.
The establishment of the university is in fulfillment of his dream and vision to reform functional education in this clime by providing and leading others in quality education, service, industry and character as well as discipline.
In line with Babalola’s Midas touch, the university has personified its Founder. The location in the suburb of Ado- Ekiti is where the forest is fast giving way to the emergence of a first-class citadel of learning with the state-of-the-art facilities. No wonder, it has been rated by local and international organizations and scholars as a benchmark for modern tertiary institution. The university is adjudged as Africa’s fastest growing private University.
Although at 86, he never shows signs of trauma from extreme lack he experienced in the past, the valiant and unsparing Babalola never forgets the pangs of poverty. No wonder he willingly and joyfully shares his hard-earned resources with the needy with the hope of alleviating their plight.
A man of uncommon humility, he demonstrates philanthropy beyond borders, engraving his footprints with multi-billion naira worth projects across the landscape of Nigeria and beyond.
His primary constituency is humanity. His manifesto is service to mankind. He is not political but nationalistic, not of royal blood but noble in deeds and character, not arrogant but dignifiedly proud of his nation and profession, not violent but fearsome because of his towering, intimidating and impeccable professional profile which he has painstakingly built for 52 years now.
Chief Afe Babalola is a Lecturer at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, visiting lecturer at the Post Graduate Schools of the University of Lagos and the University of Ibadan, as well as the Centre of African Law and Development studies. He is also the author of “YOU AND THE LAW”, a column published by the Nigerian Tribune Newspaper on Mondays.
Chief Afe Babalola is an administrator of repute and is actively involved in both domestic and international arbitration. He is the founder of Afe Babalola & Co. (a.k.a. Emmanuel Chambers), Chief Afe Babalola was called to the Bar in England in 1963. He is a member of the Lincoln’s Inn, London, a registered member of the Bar of England and Wales and a distinguished member of the Nigerian Bar.
Chief Afe Babalola also owns a huge law library and is strongly devoted to the advancement of law and the legal profession in Nigeria.
If Chief Afe Babalola can rise above his foundation, you too can rise above your foundation. Your becoming has nothing to do with your beginning.
#Walking in the footsteps of Giants with Gbenga Asaolu~Eagleolu# Afe Babalola_May 8
Connect: BBM: 2BC57FB5; twitter @gbengasaolu; whatsapp +2348053293551; www.olugbengasaolu.blogspot.com