Afe Babalola: Africa’s hope for the future
The world stood still for the frontline legal icon and proponent of quality education, Aare Afe Babalola, SAN and his University, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), when the duo were celebrated in far-away Johannesburg, South Africa, on March 25, 2015 for their significant contributions to education in Africa.
Whereas Babalola was inducted into the African Leadership Hall of Fame for pioneering Academic excellence and innovation in Africa’s tertiary education system, his six-year old university was celebrated and given an award for its exceptional standard of quality education in Africa at an impressive ceremony presided over by the Hon. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, the Chair of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, Inc.
Some past notable Honourees before Babalola are Hifikepunye Pohamba, former President of Namibia, Jakaya Kiwete, former President of Tanzania, Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Federal Republic of Liberia as well as John Kufor, former President of Ghana.
Babalola and ABUAD’s nomination for these double international honours is predicated on his successful practice as a legal practitioner in the last 53 years on the one hand and the unprecedented educational landmarks achieved by his University, ABUAD, which former Presidents, NUC and other stakeholders have publicly acknowledged and which UNESCO described as “a world class institution of Higher Education” on the other.
In a January 25, 2016 letter announcing the honours, Dr. Ken Giami, the Editor-in-Chief/CEO of the African Leadership Magazine, said: “the Board in its approval noted that as a frontline Educationist, Mentor and Leader, you (Babalola) have pioneered a legendary precedence in Africa’s formal education and academic landscape for which you should be commended.”
Speaking at the Award ceremony, Giami described the assemblage as the “celebration of leadership and achievement, the celebration of the communal hospitality, the celebration of friendship and the cultural exchanges that can only be described as African as well as a celebration of the progress being made in the education sector on Africa – the cradle of civilisation and learning”.
He, however, lamented that this initial upward educational steps notwithstanding, the education sector in Africa, like most other sectors, soon began to take a nosedive characterised by rot, ignorance and decay. Regretfully, this caustic narrative still continues today in most African societies.
Giami was to later brighten up the night when he signaled that despite this disconsolate picture, there are men like Babalola, individuals who have invested heavily in developing qualitative higher learning on the continent, and institutions like ABUAD that have pioneered and led the way for innovation and excellence in education on the continent.
Said he: “The importance of high quality leadership in sub-Saharan Africa cannot be overstated, therefore the efforts of those leaders who rise above constraints to develop their communities, lift people out of poverty, and pave the way for future prosperity and success should be recognised and celebrated”.
He added: “We want to particularly recognise the contributions of one man who continues to pioneer and inspire innovation in the education sector, Aare Afe Babalola, Founder of the Afe Babalola University, Nigeria, as he steps in to the African Leadership Magazine’s Hall of Fame by his investiture today”.
By this honour, Giami said Babalola has become a member of the African Education Dream Team, the continent’s best hope for the future and urged him to continue to break boundaries in the quest for better knowledge and in the service of our people.
In his acceptance speech, Babalola described his investiture into the African Leadership Hall of Fame as another memorable achievement in his eventful journey through life, bearing in mind his humble beginnings as a Farm boy whose only ambition was to inherit and work on his parents’ farm at Alayegbe.
He thanked the U.S. Georgia Legislative Black Caucus and leadership of African Leadership Magazine for acknowledging what he and his University have been doing to entrench quality and functional education with the utmost aim of ensuring that Nigeria regains its lost glory in Education.
Olofintila, ABUAD’s Head of Corporate Affairs, wrote from Ado-Ekiti.