Glamour, colour, tributes as Afe Babalola celebrates 60 years at bar

*Obasanjo, Ooni, Oyebanji, others hail Afe Babalola

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, brimmed with joy and happiness in Ado Ekiti on Monday, July 10 as he led the distinguished gathering of eminent citizens of the world in a song to set the tone for the 60th call to bar ceremony of the legal luminary and Founder of Afe Babalola University, Aare Afe Babalola SAN.

The distinguished audience clapped, sang and danced to the song, “If you love Aare Afe Babalola, clap your hands, If you love Aare Afe Babalola, please dance” etc led by the Arole Oduduwa and frontline traditional ruler.

The gathering of the crème de la crème comprising members of the Bar and the Bench, legal academics, the royalty, the clergy, delegates from the University of London, delegates from King’s College, London, captains of industry and members of the diplomatic community was at the Alfa Belgore Hall of ABUAD for diamond jubilee.

The eminent dignitaries included Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Hassan Kukah; former Head of State, Gen Yakubu Gowon; former Secretary General, Commonwealth of Nations, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; Ekiti State Governor, Biodun Oyebanji; former Governor of Ekiti State, Segun Oni; and human right lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN).

Others included Catholic Bishop of Ekiti Diocese, Felix Ajakaye; former Minister of Justice, Akin Olujimi SAN; traditional rulers including the Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adejugbe, staff and students of ABUAD; and representatives of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olukayode Ariwoola; and the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Yakubu Maikyau.

Oba Ogunwusi said, “I celebrate Afe Babalola everyday on the throne of Oduduwa and I will continue to do so. Aare Afe Babalola has lived a fulfilled life”, he said, describing him as a great icon in view of his achievements, accomplishments, contributions to society and milk of kindness.

The monarch charged the gathering to take a cue from Afe Babalola’s contributions to society and humanity, querying, “How well have we contributed to society in our own little ways?”

Former president, Obasanjo, was not left out in the singing spree as he sang “Baba oo, baba oo, baba oo, Olorun da baba si fun wa” (meaning “May God preserve the life of baba for us”) to which he and Afe Babalola and as well other well-wishers danced to amid loud ovation.

Activities for the Diamond Anniversary which included a colloquium with the theme, “The future of constitutional democracy in Nigeria: Imperative of a new constitutional order”, a book launch whereby money realised from it is to be channeled towards the construction of ABUAD Museum and cutting of the anniversary cake were rounded off with a celebration dinner with fuji King Sunny Ade on the band stand where he entertained guests.

The planning committee for the Diamond Jubilee had stated that “Afe Babalola has trained over 1,000 lawyers and produced 25 SANs, including several Attorneys-General at the federal and state levels as well as judges up to the appellate courts”.

Olujimi, who led SANs produced at Afe Babalola’s Emmanuel Chambers to the occasion, paid glowing tributes to the eminent jurist, who he said was unrivaled in the area of cross-examination.

Afe Babalola’s children, in their tribute, titled, ‘celebrating our beloved dad – an icon and distinguished professional’, said, “We are very delighted to have the honour of celebrating with you on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of your call to the bar. This is indeed a landmark occasion for you and many of us as we celebrate your life and countless achievements.

“Our fondest memories revolve not just around the mundane daily activities but also the fascinating tales of your courtroom experiences and most memorable cases especially the ‘Aare Ona Kankanfo’ case.

“Your storytelling not only brought your cases to life but vividly recreated the nostalgia of the glory days of old and inspired many of us to find and pursue our own path in our respective professions,” the children said.

Obasanjo described Babalola as an icon who had contributed immensely to the development of the legal profession and the society at large, adding that his imprints would remained indelible.

The former president who recalled appointing Afe Babalola as the pro-chancellor and chairman of Governing Council of the University of Lagos, said his innovative ideas, hardwork and leadership qualities earned the university the ranking of the best in research and learning in the African continent.

“Before now, I was convinced that Aare’s place in the Hall of Fame is assured as one the men who can genuinely be described as benefactors of mankind for his enormous contributions and for making the world a happier place.”

Also, Ekiti State Governor, Oyebanji, described Afe Babalola as a special gift to Ekiti State, Nigeria and humanity, saying the actualization of the creation of the state was what provided an opportunity for him and all previous governors to become governors in the state at different times.

The governor said, “Daddy I congratulate you, thank you so much for what you are for humanity, thank you so much for providing platform for those that are hopeless to have hope, thank you daddy because I can stand here today as Governor of Ekiti State because of people like you.

“If we don’t have this state, I and all others that have been governors of this state will not have a platform to stand-in. So, on behalf of myself and all the governors before me, I say thank you sir”, Oyebanji said.

The fulfilled nonagenarian, Afe Babalola, expressed gratitude to the dignitaries, friends and family members who graced the events and as well the mentees, admirers and beneficiaries who put the events together.

He suggested that retired judges and respectable SANs should constitute tribunal judges.

Babalola said, “Our judiciary today needs a total overhaul and you cannot do it without a new constitution. I have about three cases myself in respect of matters arising from the university.

“For the past four years, these cases have been on. We have some judges here, the ther won’t be able to sit in their courts for many months because they are handling what they call election petitions.

“Election petitions should not be handled by sitting judges, they should be decided only by the committee set up consisting of senior advocates and retired judges. In that case, regular courts would not close down,” Babalola said.

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