The story of the life of Aare Afe Babalola, CON, OFR, SAN – who is today one of the most successful professionals of global reckoning is that of triumph over vicissitudes of life. Aare Babalola knew poverty but also knew how to maneuver his ways around difficult terrains. The little one knows about this great Nigerian is that Afe Babalola is a sympathizer of humanity, not boisterous as a result of his immense successes in diverse endeavours and ever ready to ride of the numerous storms of life that have come his way for the past 92 years of his terrestrial journey so far. A point that sticks is Afe Babalola’s never-ending struggles to emerge one of the notables in life, forcing him to take his fate in his own hands, studied privately, and earned a Bachelors’ degree.
NEVER SAW THE INSIDE OF A SECONDARY SCHOOL: Born30th October 1929 in Ado Ekiti, Ondo State, Aare Afe Babalola attended Emmanuel Primary School, Ado Ekiti. After his primary school, he enrolled for private studies with Wolsey Hall, Oxford in preparation for his Senior Cambridge School Certificate examination. Babalola later obtained the A’Level Certificate of London University which is a prerequisite for enrolling in London universities. He is a shining example of a self-made man. Veteran media chieftain, AkogunTola Adeniyi, in his fitting tribute on the occasion of Aare Afe Babalola’s 90th birthday anniversary brought out intrinsic virtues of Afe Babalola who remains a mystery and in terms of his enviable conduct in the legal profession, as well as his disposition to humanity. Tola Adeniyi stated: ‘’Aare Afe Babalola SAN was not privileged to see the inside of any Secondary school after graduating from Primary School. He read only Standard Six of those days. Armed with that lowly Certificate, and without ever stepping a foot in any University, Babalola’s Spirit-Head propelled him beyond Secondary school certificate, catapulted him beyond a first university degree, beyond second and third degrees and armed him with laurels in Law Studies and Practice and landed him at the very peak of the respected profession.’’ After earning a B.Sc from the London School of Economics, he worked briefly with Central Bank of Nigeria before going for a second degree (Bachelors degree in Law). The second degree was from the University of London. He was called to the England bar in 1963, the same year he became a member of Lincoln’s Inn, London.
Adeniyi continued: ‘’The very moment Babalola started earning a living from his law practice and was able to make some savings, he turned his attention to philanthropy. He did not wait to become a millionaire or a billionaire before he decided he should help the needy and the poor and to ensure that other talented but indigent children of the poor didn’t have to go through his own harrowing path. ‘’He started awarding grants and scholarships to indigent students and went an extra mile by helping proprietors of private schools with financial assistance. All without noise and fanfare! Aare Afe Babalola attended Emmanuel Primary School, Ado-Ekiti, where he obtained his standard six certificate. That was the end of his formal education. All the educational qualifications listed against his name above were obtained through private study. Aare Afe Babalola was at various times a pupil-teacher, a secondary school teacher, secondary school vice principal, university lecturer, economist, auditor, administrator, farmer, and educationist. Today, he is a foremost legal icon of his generation not only on the African continent but in the world. The self-made man is proud of the qualitative primary education he had. It was the high quality of instruction received by him at the Primary School level, he says, proudly, that served as the foundation for his subsequent educational achievements.’’
AS A BUDDING LEGAL PRACTITIONER: Aare 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. Aare Afe Babalola started his legal practice in the Chambers of Olu Ayoola and remained there till 1965, when he proceeded to establish the firm of Afe Babalola & Co (Emmanuel Chambers), reputed today as one of the leading law firms in Nigeria. He was admitted into the Nigerian Inner Bar as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1987. Aare Afe Babalola has been in practice for over 60 years and is an active uninterrupted member of the Nigeria Bar Association and International Bar Association (IBA). He is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Nigeria, Fellow of the Leadership Institute of Nigeria, member of the Body of Benchers, the highest legal body in Nigeria. In Ibadan, he founded of Afe Babalola & Co. (a.k.a. Emmanuel Chambers) as a model. In 1987, Babalola became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN): the highest rank for legal professionals in Nigeria.
REVOLUTIONALIZED HIGHER EDUCATION IN NIGERIA: The tribute continues: ‘’Afe Babalola started with the University of Lagos where he served as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council. He served meritoriously as Chairman of the Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities. Aare Afe Babalola is the founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State (ABUAD). It was while serving at UNILAG that he decided to establish a first-class university to serve as a benchmark for other universities. He conceived Afe Babalola University (ABUAD) set to lead education reform by example in Nigeria. Afe Babalola turned to agriculture, probably in remembrance and commemoration of his roots and made a success of it as a big time farmer primarily as a contributor to the country’s food security. Education, however, remains Afe Babalola’s major focus and he has spent more than 90 per cent of all his investments on provision of education and knowledge. Even as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of the prestigious University of Lagos, he served meritoriously without a Kobo for all his selfless services to the University. He even donated a massive building to the University. More than anybody else,
AS FOUNDER/PROPRIETOR ABUAD: It was Afe Babalola’s passion for education and his well-known proclivity for perfection that informed his decision to establish a model University sited in his state. His vision was not just to assemble buildings, students and teachers. His mission and vision were larger and bigger. He envisioned a Comprehensive and all-encompassing University that would meet the needs and standard of not just the 21st century but also 22nd! Information Technology, Medical Health Sciences, Agriculture and Food Security, Culture and Tradition and Character Building, Leadership and Human Capital Development are all brought under one huge umbrella in the University. It is little wonder that within its young existence it has caught the attention of UNESCO and all major international assessors as one of the most vibrant universities not only in Africa but in the world. Currently, the school offers 47 accredited courses with a standard farm for agricultural students. The farm sells maize to Obasanjo farms. Each student who studies agriculture at ABUAD receives 250,000 Naira seed capital after graduation. This is one commendable idea that could be bought by other universities in Nigeria. Great institutions of learning the world over have been shaped largely by the vision and foresight of the founders.
Developing Character, Leadership and Human Capital Development: Geniuses are not created by God in sufficient quantities. A few years ago, I bantered with an elderly friend that remarkable development would have taken place had we conscientiously chosen people who would represent us in every sphere of activity; not government alone. I asked hypothetically: How would Ado-Ekiti local government look like today had Baba Afe Babalola had been begged 20 years ago to be the chairman. Easily, the type of miracles happening in ABUAD would have been replicated. How would Baba Akin Mabogunje’s local government look like had he also been begged to be chairman when he was very agile? And how would the Senate of the Federal Republic have fared had we begged 20 of the likes of Prof. Akin Oyebode to be in the Senate? The records of ABUAD indicate that the decay in the nation’s educational system, and the decision of the founder, in realization of the fact that no government can singly fund the education sub-sector in Nigeria. It is for this reason of funding that officials of tertiary institution in the Western World besiege Nigeria periodically to recruit parents for overseas institutions. It could be inferred that fees paid by foreign students serve as a buffer for funding of universities abroad. Aare Afe Babalola is a stickler for standard and discipline Babalola, a self-made man believes strongly that nothing is impossible. Indeed, his autobiography is aptly titled ‘’Impossibility Made Possible.’’
GIANT STRIDES IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION: Afe Babalola & Co. (Emmanuel Chambers) was founded in the year 1965 by a then relatively young legal practitioner now known as Aare Afe Babalola, SAN, a leading legal luminary and foremost practitioner. Since its inception, Emmanuel Chambers has provided legal advice and representation to a long list of individual and corporate clients as well as to governments and sovereign institutions. Versed in various dispute-resolution outlets and armed with four in-house Silks and scores of competent legal practitioners, Emmanuel Chambers remains poised to blaze the trail in the practice of law.Founder/Principal Partner, Afe Babalola & Co, Emmanuel Chambers, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN); Doctor of Letters (LL.D); Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR), and Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), former Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of the University of Lagos, Nigeria; the immediate past Chairman of the Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, winner of the Best Pro-Chancellor award in 2005 and 2006, winner of Queen Victoria Commemorative Award at Socrates Award of European Business Assembly in Oxford UK; member of the Rector of Europe, October, 2007; Vice President, Rector of Europe, 2010; and Honorary Professor of International University.
AS A PATRIOT & A THOROUGH PROFESSIONAL: Afe Babalola is easily the chief protagonist in the creation of Ekiti State. He and a few others clamoured for the creation of the state, in which he engaged all his faculties to ensure victory.’’ His interests in humanity are very well reflected on the website of ABUAD: ‘’Philanthropist — Helping the poor is my always my greatest joy. “I am happy when I give” Afe Babalola University has come to reform the system. As a legal practitioner of note, Afe Babalola has trained more than 2, 500 lawyers, including 15 Senior Advocates, some of who later became Judges and Attorneys-General of the Federation An advocate par excellence, Aare Afe Babalola has made outstanding contributions to the development of Nigerian Law and Jurisprudence through advocacy in Court. This is evident from the celebrated cases which he has handled and the notable personalities and corporate bodies who constitute his clientele. He has to his credit several legal books, namely, Injunctions and Enforcement of Orders; Law and Practice of Evidence in Nigeria; (Ed.); Enforcement of Judgments; and Election Law and Practice, etc. All of which have contributed immensely to the promotion of legal education and practice in Nigeria.
He has also authored over 200 legal and non-legal articles contained in law books and journals some of which works he had delivered as lectures at various events. Aare Afe Babalola was 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 for 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. A Patron of several law student societies, legal institutions, and corporate bodies, Aare Afe Babalola’s Emmanuel Chambers has produced the largest number of Senior Advocates from any Chambers in the country, several judges of thee Nigerian Judiciary, and Attorneys-General. His experience and number of years in uninterrupted legal practice have equipped him with versatility in many areas of law. He is a consultant to several conglomerates, the Federal Government of Nigeria, and the World Bank. Aare Babalola attained the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on 25th February, 1987, alongside Anthony Mogbo, Aliyu Salman, and J.O. Okpoko.
PROLIFIC WRITER – SOCIETAL VALUES: This aspect of the contributions of Aare Afe Babalola to national development tallies which the campaign on family values being championed and promoted by Terrific Headlines and associate channels. Aare Afe Babalola, in spite of his very tight schedule wrote a column for the Nigerian Tribune newspaper. He has wisely continued to impart knowledge through his writings posted on ABUAD’s website. One of these is captioned: JUSTICE: LOSS OF PUBLIC CONFIDENCE – LAWYERS ALONE NOT TO BLAME (4) is very interesting and reveals the rot in the society: ‘ He argues that: it cannot be denied that just like every aspect of human existence, our values have been eroded by numerous factors the most prominent being the attitude “of anything goes” by which many have come to believe that just about anything can be achieved in Nigeria by less than honest or honourable means with great assurance that there will be no attendant legal consequences. This can be seen in most aspects of our national life and a prominent example was the last collapse of some banks owing to large scale mismanagement and corrupt practices. Unfortunately, this attitude extends even to judicial proceedings in numerous forms such as bribery, threats of violence, and even actual violence. As I did two weeks ago, I will refer to some personal experiences.
WELCOMING, ARTICULATE & THOROUGH – UNAFRAID TO AIR HIS VIEWS: Chief Afe Babalola once queried the pattern of award of SANs, arguing that the processes are flawed and open to abuse. He said: ‘’The problem here is that without knowing it, this practice of appointing 15 out of the several that are qualified has led to corruption, sectionalism and favouritism and corner-cutting by some junior lawyers, thereby lowering the standard of practice in the country. ‘’That practice has unwittingly led to the “man-know-man” syndrome and other extraneous influences where those who appoint Legal Practitioners to SAN-ship tend to favour those they know ahead of those they don’t know very well. Nigeria should copy England where the idea of the silk (SAN title), the equivalent of QC in England was borrowed from root, stem and branch. From time immemorial in England, no matter the number that qualify in a particular year, be it 60 or 70, all of them would be appointed, leaving no room for any backlog. ‘’Nigeria must do the needful in this regard if it must not be left behind. His words: “The practice in those days was that successful Legal Practitioners are invited for appointments on the Bench. Now, the standard I met then is not the standard any more. ‘’Only 10 years after my arrival, I was invited to the Bench by Hon. Justice Oyemade, the Chief Judge of Western Region. ‘’I told him I still needed some money of my own. ‘’You know the impression then was that when you go to the Bench, you will be corrupt”.
ON EDUCATION: NIGERIA FALLS SHORT OF UNESCO’s RECOMMENDED BUDGET: Speaking in an interview with Guardian newspapers, Babalola said: ‘’Funding is the major problem of both federal and state universities and to some extent private universities. However, the effect of the poor funding is more pronounced with state universities. Here is a country where each successive government, for political reasons, promises free education and worse still recently promises free food. Honestly, no conscientious government would promise university free education in the present-day Nigeria. ‘’Let us face the reality and inform the public that university education is an expensive enterprise. ‘’Anybody who decides to raise a child ought to know that he has a duty to provide food and support the education of the child. ‘’There are different levels of education but when I talk of education, I mean quality and functional education in an institution with conducive environment for learning, modern equipment for learning, modern laboratories and trained and committed teachers. It is common knowledge that UNESCO had directed that every country should vote at least 26 per cent of its budget for education. The question is: ‘’how much does Nigeria vote for education? My research shows that in 2012, Nigeria ranked last in a survey carried out in 70 countries with only 8.4 per cent of the budget for education. Ghana was first with 31 percent of the budget for education.’’
REPORTERS DELIGHT: Aare Afe Babalola is a reporters’ delight. Over 30 years ago at the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State, BCOS, Ibadan; on the news desk, current affairs or editorial sessions, whoever was detailed to compile reports on controversial matters, seeking the position of the law on any issue, and other trending matters knew where to be and the personality to consult. He presents his opinions in a most luminous manner.
I remember very well an edition of PANORAMA – a weekly current affairs magazine programme handled by Kayode Adedire of the BCOS era. The topic was: ‘’Should a person be able to terminate his/her own life? Baba Afe gave an answer in the affirmative and went ahead to logically and very convincingly prove his points. Sometime in the late 1980s, Aare Afe Babalola directed one of his numerous juniors to handle a legal assignment/obligation for me. When the assignment was completed, I went to Baba, prostrated to him, and requested to know my bills. He asked: ‘’How much do you have to give me; how much can you give me? What Aare Afe Babalola actually meant was that he did a pro-bono job for an inconsequential person like me. And in truth, how much would I have paid? This has been Aare Afe Babalola’s disposition; doing good to all manner of people in a quiet manner as if his survival depends on just doing so.
Government, says Aare Afe Babalola: ‘’ must also continue to pay attention to the urgent need to tackle poverty. As disclosed above, the environment in which children grow up or in which their schools are located plays some part in their moral development and whatever disciplinary issues they may pose later in life. ‘’Tackling poverty will also ensure that more children are not forced to grow up before their time. ‘’Their parents will also not be forced by economic stress to relegate to the background, issues pertaining to the upbringing of their children. ‘’Parents on their part must bring about a change in their attitude to the moral training of their children. The home must be made conducive for such training. A child who is raised in dysfunctional home can hardly be expected to receive the best of moral training. Nothing will be achieved where emphasis is placed on academic training alone without commensurate attention to moral upbringing.’’
AFE BABALOLA WORRIED ABOUT EROSION OF SOCIETAL ETHICS He added: ‘’Every society is defined largely by the ethics which overtime have been accepted by its people. I am not here concerned with a scholastic definition of ethics. I am for the purpose of the subject of this discussion concerned with those values such as selflessness, honesty, hard-work, humility etc which are meant to guide members of virtually all societies in their everyday lives and which as I have said earlier ultimately define that society. Nigeria is no exception to this concept. Given my age I can say that I have experienced life in Nigeria at almost every pivotal aspect of its development as a Nation. ‘’I can therefore attest to the fact at the very beginning, Nigerians largely epitomized the best of virtues and that perhaps the same can still be said even today of the vast majority of Nigerians who daily strive to eke a living through various honest endeavours.’’ – ABUAD
THE WAY OUT: Elsewhere, in a treatise, the legal luminary submitted that: The approach to solving the problem must be multi-faceted. It must involve all stakeholders. ‘’As Njoroge wrote again: “…discipline involves all stakeholders, programmes as well as personality and school climate. Charlton and David (1993) assert that if there is no proper family environment social differences and learners are from disadvantaged social areas; this could lead to bad discipline and negative results academically. However, if the family background is not good, different social classes are present in the school, school is located in a socially disadvantaged area and there is bad influence of peer groups it will have a negative effect on discipline so academic achievement will also be negatively affected.“ ABUAD
CONFRONTING SOCIAL & CRIMINAL ILLS – A HUGE CHALLENGE: In another development, Aare Afe Babalola posited that: ‘’Government must reappraise its attitude and policy to issues bothering on education. In this regard, the Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Prohibition Act, 2016; otherwise known as the Sexual Harassment Act is a very welcome development. The Act criminalises and punishes acts of sexual harassment in educational institutions in Nigeria. There should also be increased funding of the educational sector as with better pay teachers and other stakeholders in the sector will be motivated to carry out their jobs effectively and with zeal rather than in a perfunctory manner. Such increased funding will also ensure that schools are better equipped to impart learning. As overcrowded classrooms have been identified as one of the factors causing teachers to lose control of the classrooms, better funding will ensure that there are more classrooms to accommodate students. A situation in which 50 or more students will be assigned to a classroom will be avoided. There must also be an improvement in the teacher student ratio. Assigning few teachers to a huge student population only contributes to the problem. ABUAD
PERSONAL EXPERIENCES – ATTEMPTS TO BRIBE AARE AFE BABALOLA TO PERVERT THE CAUSE OF JUSTICE How to reform the society is a cause for bother at this decisive point in human history. Afe Babalola, relating his experience revealed that: ‘’Some decades ago, I was involved in a prominent case at Ila-Orangun. Given the proximity of the place to Osogbo, I decided to pass the night on some occasions in Osogbo before proceeding to Court the following day. On one of such nights I was informed by the Hotel Manager that I had some visitors who turned out to be the opponents of my clients in the matter in Court. Not only was their visit to me strange, but stranger still was the fact that they came with a bag filled with currency which they offered to me to secure my “assistance” in the case as according to them they were worried at the turn the case was taking in Court. I rejected their offer and asked the Hotel Manager to summon the Police to have them arrested. After much pleading, I allowed them to leave with their bag of money. The following morning I was surprised to meet a huge party made up of supporters of my client on the outskirts of the town who were jubilating that the other side was unable to bribe me!
Some years later, I was involved in another land matter which in those days were a veritable source of revenue for lawyers. At the time of briefing my client asked to know what I would do to ensure that he did not lose the case. I assured him that I would do my best within the confines of the law to secure his interest. His response was “What if the parties on the other side all die?” I dismissed this question as nothing more than the misguided comments of man frustrated at having to litigate over something that he felt was rightfully his. I turned out to be wrong. Not too long after the matter began, the Principal party on the other side died. When another member of the family of the deceased party was brought in to substitute him, he too died not too long after. A third member of the family brought in again after that also died! After this third death, even the Judge began to ask questions and eventually the matter was abandoned as all parties became wary of the seeming fixation of death on the parties. ABUAD
‘’In more recent times I was briefed by a prominent politician to represent him in a matter which threatened to cut short his then just blossoming political career. He told me expressly that he just needed my clout by putting up an appearance for him in court as according to him he had already been assured of victory by the Judge in charge of the case. This experience is similar to one in which a well-known society figure had falsely obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars from a former member of the last military regime on the premise that I requested for the said amount as my fees for representing him. Not only had I not met with him, I had also never discussed with anybody, the possibility of representing the retired military official. In another recent development, a court registrar was convicted of soliciting and receiving bribes from an accused person standing trial before the Court to which she was assigned as Registrar. She had deceived the accused person into believing that the Judge had requested the bribe. Luckily for the Judge, who incidentally was and is still acknowledged today as one of the shining lights of the Judiciary, nothing was found even remotely suggesting that he had knowledge of or had approved of the scheme of his Registrar.’’ ABUAD
Afe Babalola made allusions to these developments on record ‘’to show the role played by clients themselves in contributing to the malaise affecting our justice delivery system. The win at all costs attitude encourages many to employ all manner of unscrupulous means to achieve their own ends without reference to the lawyer. A situation in which litigants believe that bribery of the opposing lawyer or the Judge is the way out is not one that will augur well for anyone. Sadly it IS attempts like this that fuel the insinuations or unfounded allegations that some Judges had been bribed. It is for example not impossible that the accused person who gave money to the Court Registrar would have confided in some confidants that he had already bribed the Judge who as stated earlier was totally in the dark about the criminal conduct of his registrar. Thus before laying the blame entirely at the doorsteps of Lawyers and Judges, a society must firstly undertake scrutiny of which or what values are still held dear or sacrosanct by its members. Like a popular musician once sang: “If you want to change the world, take a look at yourself and make that change’’ All these postulations are available on the website of ABUAD as resource materials that are read by of Afe Babalola University, ABUAD community.
THE HOME FRONT Yeye Aare Modupe Babalola complements the efforts of her husband. She is described as ‘’a charming, unassuming, beautiful, hard-working and brilliant lady. The marriage is blessed with many children who have excelled academically and professionally, in fact they hold higher degrees from world class universities including Harvard. She was a Librarian at the Polytechnic, Ibadan from where she retired to devote her time to taking care of her family and to her private business. She is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ABUAD Ventures, Chairperson, ABUAD Integrated Resources and the Vice-President, Board of Trustees of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD).
HONOURS & AWARDS Aare Afe Babalola was nominated for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize award. In March 2017, the Norwegian Nobel Committee accepted the nomination of Aare Emmanuel Afe Babalola for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017. 318 candidates were registered for consideration for the Prize. He won the Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership Awards 2018. Taking aggregate of these sterling qualities, the African Union ECOSSOC Award titled: ‘African Role Model and African Union Ambassadorial Leadership. Babalola is the Africa Man of the Year on Food Security and has just been conferred with an award Doctor of Management (Honoris Causa) at the just concluded Convocation Ceremony of the Federal University of Technology, Akure. He holds degrees from several Universities like Ekiti State University for the award of LL.D (hc) in 2002, LL.D of University of London, LL.D of University Lagos, LL.D University of Jos, LL.D of Federal University of Technology, Akure, LL.D, Kogi State University, etc. The first Africa to be conferred with Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) of the University of London in 2015. Winner of Queen Victoria Commemorative Award at Socrates Award of European Business Assembly in Oxford UK. He won the African Award in Education 2011, African Man of the Year in Food Security, 2014. He was conferred with the Congressional Commendation of the US Georgia Legislative Black Caucus and inducted into the African Hall of Fame by the Advisory Board of the African Leadership Development Foundation, Inc. USA, and African Leadership (UK) Limited in 2016.