Tribute to Wale Babalakin at 60

FOR those of us who knew Wale (Babalakin) at school – Government College Ibadan(GCI), the positive outcome, his life is playing out is not unexpected, an accident or a coincidence! This is because everything has been ordained before the foundation of the world! My association with Wale predated our meeting at GCI where we were both Griersons i.e members of Grier House. Unknown to both of us we were also students of Sacred Heart Private School – Ring Road Ibadan,then one of the major ‘ajebota’ primary schools in Ibadan! My classmates at ‘Sacred Heart’ includedTola Ajala, Segun Koya andBiyiOlokoamong others. Wale was our senior at ‘Sacred Heart’ but we did not meet again until I gained admission to Government College Ibadan in 1973. Be that as it may, Wale’s dad and mine – now late – were friendsto the extent that he – Justice Bola Babalakin, CON, CFR, JSC (Rtd.) – then a successful legal practitioner in Ibadan represented my father’s interest in legal matters.

Wale gained admission to GCI in 1971 and with other boys from ‘ajebota’ and ‘ajepaki’ primary schools commenced a five-year sojourn within the confines of that great institution of learning. GCI was a model secondary school for boys in the then Western Region/State and the school was known for excellent academic and moral standards. GCI also had a solid reputation. Indeed in our days, most boys who graduated from primary schools desired to attend GCI. Nevertheless, GCI would qualify as an ‘equalizer’ for the school does not discriminate about one’s background in instilling discipline into its students. For instance you all have portions of grass to cut with the ‘oja agba’ cutlass on a regular basis, eat together at the dining hall at different times in the course of the day lateness to which your food may be ‘passed away’! even if you’re the son of the president of governor as well as serve prescribed punishment for any act of misdemeanor.

Wale was among the youngest in Grier House for the1971 intake. The others, if my memory serves me right included Wole Adebayo an Economist and a businessman as well as Femi Olutoye – retired air commodore and medical doctor. However, he (Wale) shocked everyone by coming first at the ‘house test’ organized for his set and by so doing claimed the Banjo’s prize for 1971! It is apposite to say something about the ‘house test’ in order to put his feat in proper perspective. Every ‘common entrance’ intake into class one GCI is assigned a house and in my time there were five houses to wit:  Carr, Field, Grier, Powell and Swanston. Once you are assigned a house, the next important assignment of your school life is to be given a school teacher – teur – whose responsibility it is to properly integrate you into your school family, coach you with respect to GCI customs, mores and traditions as well as prepare you for the ‘house test’. Wale’s teur was Taiwo Ogunbunmi now late and he coached him so well that he ‘dusted’ all comers at the ‘house test’ organized for his class! Undoubtedly this was no mean feat.

Wale’s five years at GCI was quite eventful and over the years has written and spoken about different anti social behaviors he engaged in, Nevertheless it must be stated in clear and categorical terms that the grace of God never departed from him,because God, being omniscient knew even thenhow beneficial his life was going to be for humanity! He sat for the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) in 1975 and though GCI result was generally good that year, he performed below average. Methinks that was the ‘shock treatment’ he needed to turn a new leaf. He definitely came to ‘his own’ and from then on became ‘unconquerable’.He left GCI for the Ibadan Polytechnic from where he gained admission to the university of Lagos to study Law and was subsequently called into the Nigerian Bar in 1981. Subsequently he earned his Master’s and Doctorate degrees at the Cambridge University and he could jolly well have remained abroad because most people do not know that Wale is also a British citizen having being born in the United Kingdom!It is not for nothing that his other name is ‘Olatokunbo’!It is noteworthy that Wale became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 2002, thus becoming the second GCI Old Boy to attain the enviable rank, among legal practitioners.

After his education at Cambridge, he chose to return to his fatherland in order to contribute his own quota toward its development. He served his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program and after a year’s tutelage at Chief Rotimi Williams’s Chambers, took the bold step to establish his law firm –Babalakin& Co in the ‘heart’of Lagos. In the over 30 years that the firm has been in existence it has been of great blessing to humanity. Additionally, Wale has made giant strides in the area of business, culminating in the private public partnership (PPP) arrangement he put together for the rehabilitation of the burnt Ikeja Airport now known as Murtala Muhammed Airport 2(MMA-2). Undoubtedly, this is a major achievement considering the fact the no other individual or organization has been able to pull off similar feat ever since. Furthermore, it is in the area of philantrophythat Wale in my opinion has made the greatest impact yet quite conservativeabout discussing it. In the first instance, inspite of his personal avowal not to join any social club, he chose to become a member of Sigma Club because of its philanthropic ideals.

Sigma Club is a social and philanthropic organization founded in 1950 by undergraduates of the university of Ibadan. Unknown to him (Wale) the first Sigma Chief i.e. old Chief Nelson Olojede and the second Sigma chiefi.e old Chief (Professor) Eugene Olufemi Odunjo were GCI Old Boys.Besides one of the founding fathers of Sigma Club i.e. the late Ambassador Leslie Harriman and the oldest living old Sigmite i.e.Kabiyesi,Alayeluwa (Oba),Major – General Olufemi Olutoye, the Alani of Ido-Ani Kingdom are also GCI Old Boys. Nevertheless, since Wale joined Sigma Club in 2006, he and his friend and co – Sigmite – Professor Gbolahan Elias, SAN, qualify as the greatest benefactors of the Club and its sister organization the Sigma Educational Foundation. In concluding, I must state that GCI has been blessed in having Wale as an Old Boy.

This is because about two years ago he was elected National President of the GCI Old Boys Association and he has certainly deployedhis financial wherewithal to ensuring that Government College Ibadan is restored to the glorious days we knew of and we all are proud of. Twenty-Five years ago and in commemoration of his Thirty-fifth birthday, the public relationsoutfit I worked for then and which he helped to bring to fruition, organized a lecture in his honor.  However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic the celebration this year is likely to be subdued. Nevertheless, once the pandemic is over I expect the drums to start rolling at least for the next one year! Some birthdays of some individuals cannot be celebrated in one day!

It only remains for me to wish him a happy birthday and many more years of distinguished service to humanity.

  • Olumideko, a public relations practitioner wrote from Ibadan.

 

 

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