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Tribute to my mentor: Aare Afe Babalola’s 55 Years @ The Bar


“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage”-Anias Nim


A time honoured and tested saying has it that, “hard work, pays” this find true meaning in the strings of successes recorded in the life’s trajectory of legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola, SAN, as he marks his 55 years of active legal practice. In contemporary time, not many will be able to mentally capture or understand the ferocious obstacles he waded through to attain this enviable position in the legal profession and especially in the inner Bar. It is all the same interesting to note that though Aare could be called “an accidental lawyer” on account of the fact that legal profession was not his first choice, he had qualified as an economist before plunging into law. A preeminent lawyer with enduring legacies for all seasons on account of his boundless hard working nature, it is not speculative as the fact speaks for itself as lawyers are wont to say.


His life is intriguing and engaging. He is erudite, advocate par excellence, loyal, committed and fearless. His undeniable achievements and contributions to the profession and practice have enhanced legal jurisprudence in Nigeria. Matter of fact, had he continued as an Economist it is no exaggeration that he would have made a success of it as whatever; he touches easily turns to gold. The account of his achievements in all spheres which he straddles with relative ease: Law, Education, Agriculture and Philanthropy have validated the fact that he is simply a genius. A gifted and an A-rated individual, his breath continually impact humanity for good.


Reading through his life’s story, I couldn’t help but reflect deeply about man’s capacity to roll back life’s difficult obstacles by a combination of factors such as by dint of hard work, perseverance, daring risk taking, burning determination and focus. The birth of Aare Afe Babalola was not comely at all. Born poor and into extreme poverty, he realised that for him to amount to anything in life, he was bound to fight his way through and he has been doing that ever since.


He commenced his legal training in 1963 at Ayoola and Co and within a short period, moved on to start Emmanuel Chambers in a windowless garage and as he stated in his memoir, “Impossibility Made Possible”, the chamber was sparely furnished with, a second-hand imperial manual type-writer. He commenced his practice in the ancient city of Ibadan whereas his contemporaries flooded larger cities. He was simply focused and determined within his first decade of practice, he had broken even. A visionary leader, he toiled until he broke even and has since remained at the top as a top notch lawyer courted by the high and might. This happened because of his willingness to pay the price for greatness.


A legal titan, juggernaut and knight of immense illumination, affectionately hailed Aare and Kabiyesi by all and sundry, the short for his traditional title of Aare Bamofin, a title conferred on him by the Paramount ruler of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, the Alafin of Oyo Kingdom, on account of his daring contribution to the law profession. A gadfly and well decorated legal colossus who has handled and triumphed in several cases which has become “landmark cases”. Discernibly, Aare is not a man that does things in half measures or with tepidity; he goes all out with all resourcefulness, diligence, fearlessness, commitment and knowledge of the issues at stake. He enjoys the profession and lives it; he oozes law in almost all he does.


Lion hearted and yet caring, his avowed devotion to the rule of law and a stable society informs his unyieldingness in the legal process. It is said that his preparations for legal briefs is rigorous. He doesn’t compartmentalise cases, his belief is that once briefed by a client, he should fire on all cylinders. That is his philosophy and that has helped him tremendously ever since his call to the bar and is a winning formula for all young wigs. His story is all the more intriguing because he didn’t have the luxury of formal education. Through private study, he obtained the degree in Economics and with unexpected disappointment in his bid for a scholarship for an advanced degree in Economics; he quickly enrolled by private study for a degree in Law from the University of London as an eternal candidate. He passed and had to journey to the United Kingdom for his mandatory stay at the Inn.


From the dawn of his legal practice till now it is not in doubt that he is a titan at the bar. His winning formula in life is discernibly “can do” ethos. He declined invitation to ascend the bench. His chamber has produced over a thousand lawyers. Many of whom have gone on to excel with his support. He made the silk in 1986 and twelve others from within his chamber have attained the prestigious rank as well. Many others have gone on to become judges, academics, and attorney-general. He himself declined the offer of being made the Attorney-General of the Federation thrice but made nominations. He is a conqueror and detailed lawyer with superb depth of the professionalism.


ALSO READ: Aare Afe Babalola: Appraising His Record Breaking Exploits in University Transformation


Over time, his prodigious contribution to law and humanity continues to marvel lots of people but upon close observation, one should, especially the growing up generation ought to learn from him what makes him tick but unfortunately such a possibility might be missed because of our notoriety and dearth of record. It is my humble opinion that this manner of fecund mind and life ought to be academically probed for the purpose of distilling nuggets for the next generation. This is the task before us-all and this is a validation to the sayings of Field Marshal Ferdinand who once said, “The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire”.

Congratulations to Aare Afe Babalola on the occasion of his 55th year at the Bar.


Rotimi Opeyeoluwa teaches in the Department of International Relations & Diplomacy of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti.

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