Ending Poverty: The Olanipekun template

Ever before the recent #endsars protest which reverberated across the country, with the youth ventilating their anger against unemployment, poverty, harassment, corruption and oppression, Chief Oluwole Oladapo Olanipekun, Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR), and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) had been warning, like other discerning compatriots, that Nigeria sits on a gunpowder. Each time this writer suggests the idea of celebrating him on his birthday, which is November 18 of every year, Chief Olanipekun will discourage the idea, saying “I don’t want to expose myself to the raging pressure in the society. There is too much poverty, bitterness and anger in the land”.

Hear him, “Nigeria is in a mess. I know the amount of requests for financial assistance that comes to my table every day from different parts of the country. People are in abject poverty. There are no job opportunities. There are so many intelligent graduates who have become frustrated on account of unemployment. Except we deceive ourselves, no one is safe in this country, only a few people can sleep with their two eyes closed. The bitterness is so deep. The sore in the country has become cancerous. We need a radical surgery to extract it”.

However, in what looks like his own contribution towards tackling the social menace, Chief Olanipekun last Saturday, November 14, announced what he called “Wole Olanipekun Foundation” (WOF), established to provide succour for the society, alleviate the plight of underprivileged, bring relief to the indigent, extend helping hands to the needy, make life much easier to the aged and widows as well as assisting the youth to find their feet. According to the legal luminary, “WOF will commence on a humble note from Ikere Ekiti, the nativity of mine before this year runs out, with a special programme styled WOF Youth Empowerment Scheme geared towards supporting entrepreneurship developments among our teeming youth”. He hinted that 300 youths will be given a grant between now and 2021, while another 100 young persons will be added before the year 2022, as they would be given a non-interest yielding loan to be determined by the management team. This legal icon also announced the ad-hoc interim management team with a renowned banker, Prince Feyi Ogoji as the Chairman.

The new WOF which has been registered is an addition to the Wole Olanipekun Scholarship Award which began in 1996 with 413 individuals benefiting from inception to date. The scholarship which has gulped several millions of naira from the pocket of the proprietor has produced medical doctors, lawyers, engineers, and various graduates from various disciplines across the country.

It is on record that Chief Olanipekun is renowned for his passion to assist humanity with his resources. He is indeed a man with a large heart whose source of joy is in the fulfilment and accomplishment of other people. With his kind heartedness, this cheerful giver shows love where there is hatred. He radiates hope in the face of hopelessness. And, where there is darkness, Chief Olanipekun represents an enduring illumination.

His philosophy about life is found in the words of Martin Luther King who declared that “an individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity”. Giving expression to this altruistic maxim, Chief Olanipekun has indeed carved a niche for himself in terms of benefaction and humanitarianism.

Unlike some solipsistic bourgeoisie in the country who prefer laying up treasures for their family members alone to lifting the needy, Chief Olanipekun believes that when God has blessed an individual, such a person must remain a channel of blessings unto others. This is what he practises. It is true that he does not have all the money in the world, but he believes in assisting the poor and less privileged with his little resources.

Listen to him “I reiterate what I have always said, that is, no man in history has ever been remembered by the extent and depth of the wealth he accumulated while on earth,  but on how he impacted positively on lives and humanity while alive. To me, the very essence of every religion is to do well to others. All of us will die one day or another, and no one will be buried with his earthly acquisitions. You can only glorify God through what you do to your fellow human beings. I have chosen the path of selflessness because I spend from God’s pocket, no going back because it is my own way of spreading the gospel”.

Interestingly, no law makes it madamus that the rich must assist the poor, but morality commands that the strong should build up the weak. However, it is not everyone who is gifted with the spirit of giving. Indeed, you cannot mandate philanthropy. It has to come from within, and when it does, it is deeply satisfying. Ironically, there are many people who are far richer than Chief Olanipekun, but who may not be able to point to those that they have assisted in life. They are stingy and they are proud of the reputation. Fear of poverty makes them miserly. They probably do not know that when they spend, God will send. The Bible puts it better, in Proverbs 11:24,  saying “there is one who scatters, yet increases more, and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty”

His is a story of humanity and humility. Chief Olanipekun remains a man of social conscience; a man of influence and affluence. We can’t forget so soon all he did at the University of Ibadan between 2009 and 2013 when he was the Pro Chancellor and Chairman of Council. Honestly, If I had all he personally spent for the betterment of the system, I may probably stop working for the rest of my life! How can Ajayi Crowther University as well forget the imprimatur of an advocate extraordinaire? The lawyers in Ilorin and Ekiti as well as Lagos will continually be grateful to Chief Olanipekun for his phenomenal philanthropy among other people and places he has extended his assistance to.

A legal genius of considerable proportions whose life revolves round hard work, honesty, humility and humanitarianism, Chief Olanipekun is indeed a gift to humanity. His huge intellectual savvy, uncompromising sense of justice, uncommon courage and steely grit in defence of rule of law and justice are sufficient grounds for public adulation. Clearly, one can easily pay back the loan of gold, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind. This is the dilemma of those of us who have benefitted from Chief Olanipekun’s magnanimity: we can’t stop celebrating him even if he says stop.

He doesn’t believe in setting aside a particular day for one’s birthday as he believes everyday is one’s birthday. However, officially, today is his birthday, having been born on 18th November, 1959 in Ikere Ekiti in Ekiti state. The collective prayer however is that God should continue to prolong his life in peace and prosperity. May he live much longer before he becomes an ancestor.

Saanu, the Media Assistant to the Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan sent this piece through sundaysaanu@gmail.com



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