Babalakin: Caring amidst persecution
SIR: That Dr. B. O. Babalakin, fondly referred to by his colleagues in the office and friends as BOB, sponsored an eye treatment programme in Zaria, Kaduna State, on the platform of the Ramotu Ibironke Foundation (a foundation named after his late mother) to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the reign of the Emir of Zaria, Alhaji (Dr) Shehu Idris, was no surprise to me.
Down memory lane, I met BOB fortuitously, during my youth corps service at an hotel in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. His humility was most attractive. He spoke very kindly to us at the reception.
After our youth service, Dr. Babalakin sponsored my friend named Wale to the University of Leeds in England for a postgraduate programme in Business Administration. He also offered him employment in Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited, but did not insist that Wale work for him.
At a stage, Babalakin sponsored 47 students in schools abroad and only about seven of them were well-known to him. He sponsored over 200 students in various Nigerian universities.
He did similar eye programmes in his hometown, Gbongan in Osun State and Owo in Ondo State. Babalakin made significant contributions to the education sector. He built an 80-bed hostel at the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) in honour of his father, Justice B. O. Babalakin, a retired Supreme Court Justice. He also built a 500-capacity auditorium at the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, in the memory of his mother.
Dr. Babalakin’s days as the pro-chancellor of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) and the chairman of the Committee of Pro-chancellors remain indelible. He changed the perception that the appointment of pro-chancellors is purely political and is meant to massage the ego of prominent citizens. He showed that a pro-chancellor must have vision and genuine commitment to the development of education.
His ingenuity provided electricity to UNIMAID and ensured an average of 20 hours supply daily without recourse to generator. To BOB’s credit, and among about 50 projects, the university’s library was upgraded. He provided counterpart funding for the project and contributed to the development of the university’s College of Medicine.
He did all these without collecting the allowances due to him. For him, Nigerians need to make sacrifices to reposition the education sector.
For a man who has done this much to better the society, I am at a loss as to why he was the target of so much persecution. Yet, while undergoing personal and financial crises, he still found it in his heart to assist others. He was charged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on allegations that have been proved to be baseless. EFCC declared him wanted 30 minutes after speaking with the commission’s agents. This could only have been designed to embarrass him.
In addition, the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) waged a callous war against him under the guise that his companies were indebted to some banks. AMCON tried to take over his assets in a manner that the courts described as an abuse of the judicial process. I salute Dr .Babalakin’s rare courage, conviction and charity. If more rich people toe his path, we will all be better for it.
• Shola Adeyeye,
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