In every generation, there is always an ‘Avatar’ specifically made by God to help humanity, nature and to reshape the destinies of many.
In the old Jew, Jesus Christ was one. Nelson Mandela, who fought against Apartheid and was imprisoned because of his people for 27 years, also qualified. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who introduced free education for the children of the poor to be educated, was eminently qualified to be rated as one.
Today in African continent, among the living legends who could be tagged with this quintessential nomenclature, is Aare Afe Babalola (SAN).
Chief Babalola is a man of many beneficial parts. He is an accomplished lawyer with over 50 lawyers on his payroll at Emmanuel Chambers in Ibadan. He is a founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti’(ABUAD), the fastest growing university in Africa. He is a farmer, with his university having the biggest farm in the country, where over 1,000 workers derive their means of livelihood monthly.
Most exhilarating and impactful was his seemingly unsurpassable philanthropic gesture that had touched many lives; the old, the rich, the young and the poor. His philanthropy is borderless. He is one of those few men who believe that you can give money to someone who is richer. This underscored his exquisite personality and his down-to-earth disposition to issues.
Taking aggregate of these sterling qualities, the African Union ECOSSOC considered him as eminently apt to be conferred with the Award titled: ‘African Role Model and African Union Ambassadorial Leadership, to further stimulate his role modeling stride that is resonating across Africa like a bush fire in the harmattan.
To remove all vestiges of misgivings and set the record in an unblemished fashion that the award was not partial, AU ECOSSOC was not the first continental body to garland this Icon with award. A couple of years ago, All African Students’ Union (AASU) decorated him with a leadership award. This signposted that people were taking cognisance of his far reaching contributions to launch Africa on the world map.
A letter dated August 2, 2019, conveying this lofty award proposal to this Pan-Africanist par excellence, was signed by Nigerian Representative/Chairperson, Committee on Social Affairs and Health on the Board of AU ECOSSOC, Dr Tunji John Asaolu.
Asaolu said myriad of factors were put into account before considering Afe Babalola for the plum award. In actual fact, AU is not known to give to flippancy or compromise standard under any guise being a responsible umbrella union for all African nations. And any of its affiliate or ancillary bodies used to embrace this inbuilt and long standing tradition in dealing with the populace.
Asaolu said garlanding Afe Babalola as an African Ambassador was long overdue. The AU chief added that the Lawyer’s prowess in academics through scholarship awards to the poor students, his quest for Africa to achieve Food Security status to banish famine, empowerment programmes for the vulnerable population and the giant and unpralleled achievements of ABUAD within the last nine years have made this legend a household name across Africa and all these needed to be appreciated to send a signal that doing good to humanity, is profitable and rewarding.
The AU boss appraised the exploits of ABUAD within the short period of its establishment and saluted the eminent Lawyer for giving Africa a university that had adopted the models of Havard, Cambridge and Oxford universities as its modules. With this, he said African university will be ranked among the best 100 universities within the next one decade on the webometric ranking.
Asaolu added that Chief Afe Babalola has been working in tandem with the AU Agenda 2063, which was to banish poverty and Illiteracy, uplift standard of living of the African population, remove diseases off the African radar, stem the tide of trafficking and Illegal Immigrants, reduce crime rate, attain stable economic stability and other negative indices, by his contributions in all spheres of human lives.
He said the fact that many of the students from ABUAD had won international and continental awards for being too exceptional in academics indicated that Africa is gradually coming to the centre stage as a powerful force that will shake the world, in no distant time.
Again, most remarkable was the breakthrough recorded by ABUAD’s two years old Are Babalola Teaching Hospital in open heart surgery a couple of months ago. This is setting a pace and giving a ray of hope that medical tourism that was gulping and draining over three billion dollars from African annually will soon be permanently arrested.
“The AU was aware of these iconic contributions and Ambassadorial award is meant to stimulate you to do more and to serve as role modeling and inspiration to the coming generations,” Asaolu said.
In his humble reply to the proposed award, Afe Babalola retorted :” I specially thank you for the beautiful things you said about my humble self and our University, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, ABUAD on our modest efforts to institutionalise quality and functional education and ensure that Nigeria regains its lost glory in education.
“We are looking forward to receiving your team on our serene campus. This will afford you the opportunity to see physically the ultra-modern buildings, the well laid-out campus, the beautiful lawns laid with attractive flowers, the modern equipments in the colleges of Law, Medicine, Sciences, Engineering, Social Management Sciences, the modern multi-system hospital, Postgraduate College, halls of residence, the planetarium and our agricultural enterprise farms all of which have been described by Nigeria University Commission(NUC) as “a model, benchmark and reference point” and endorsed by UNESCO as “A world-class of institution of higher education.”
Babalola said he was happy that he and AU ECOSSOC have a common ground when it comes to youth development. He said as a matter of fact, ABUAD won the UNESCO chair in entrepreneurship earlier in the year while IITA, IFAD and Africa Rice are equally partnering with us on youth empowerment.
“At the end of your visit to the university, the farms, multi-system hospital, planetarium and the ventures, we are in the view that you will agree that ABUAD is the birthplace of educational renaissance in Nigeria”, Babalola said.
.Salami, a media consultant and publisher, writes from Ado-Ekiti.