Nonexistence is not merely a function of not being born or nothingness. It indicates an individual whose sojourn through time is not noteworthy. However, comparatively small individual spaces of relevance may be, no man is born empty. We are embodiments of potentials deposited in us by the Creator for the benefit of humanity. Being rescued from nonexistence then portends an act of escape from hitherto hapless circumstances which could have inhibited one’s relevance in life.
Is there a rescue dimension to the making of a prominent Nigerian like Aare Afe Babalola? A 90-year-old sagacious and distinguished personality, he is a foremost legal icon of his generation with international clout. He is a traditional chief and a holder of the prestigious national honours of the Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) and Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON). It is interesting to note that he is a self-made man whose story of rescue from nonexistence should be a timeless nudge for younger generations.
The founder of Afe Babalola & Co. (a.k.a. Emmanuel Chambers) which is reputed as one of the leading law firms in Nigeria, Afe Babalola was called to the Bar in England in 1963. He is a member of the Lincoln’s Inn, London, a registered member of the Bar of England and Wales and a distinguished member of the Nigerian Bar. He was admitted into the Nigerian Inner Bar as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1987.
Aare Afe Babalola has been in practice for about 50 years and is an active uninterrupted member of the Nigeria Bar Association and International Bar Association (IBA). He is a Fellow of reputable institutes and also a member of the Body of Benchers, the highest legal body in Nigeria.
In the educational domain, Afe Babalola was the pro-chancellor and chairman of the governing council of the University of Lagos from 2001 to 2007 and one time chairman of the Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities. He is the founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State (ABUAD).
His life and profession is graced by outstanding contributions to the development of Nigerian Law and Jurisprudence through advocacy in court. He has to his credit several legal books and authored over 200 legal and non-legal articles contained in law books and journals all of which have contributed immensely to the promotion of legal education and practice in Nigeria.
Aare Afe Babalola has trained several judges and attorneys-general, over 300 lawyers and produced 14 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (the largest number from any chambers in Nigeria). His experience and number of years in legal practice have equipped him with versatility in many areas of law. He is a consultant to several conglomerates, the Federal Government of Nigeria, companies and the World Bank.
Afe Babalola is an administrator of repute and is actively involved in both domestic and international arbitration. The first African to be conferred with Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) of the University of London in 2015, he is the winner of Queen Victoria Commemorative Award at Socrates Award of European Business Assembly in Oxford, United Kingdom. He was conferred with the Congressional Commendation of the US Georgia Legislative Black Caucus and inducted into the African Hall of Fame by the Advisory Board of the African Leadership Development Foundation, Inc. USA, and African Leadership (UK) Limited in 2016. At 90, AAB is strong with eyes which see without aid and a voice clear as a whistle, blown from a silent valley.
It is interesting to note that all he had in the formal education system was a primary school education. He attended Emmanuel Primary School, Ado-Ekiti, where he obtained a standard six certificate. That was the end of his formal education.
The chances of making it in life in Nigeria with a mere primary school leaving certificate is slim, but here is a man who obtained all his educational qualifications through private study and correspondences. His attempt at further study could best be described in contemporary times as Distance Education (DE), howbeit, not structured and systematically delivered as it is today.
The Afe Babalola rescue from nonexistence is an inspiration that should bail the younger generation out of the haplessness and frustration many face in their pursuit of university education. The university admission gridlock is so overwhelming that the best of brains may be thrown into nonexistence if such do not embrace the opportunity DE affords. Being a viable alternative to the conventional mode of educational delivery, DE is ‘the rescue’ from nonexistence for admission seekers who may slip into nothingness if they do not get tertiary education.
Nigeria is blessed to have Aare Afe Babalola as an icon of hope. He is, indeed, a proof that the four walls can be circumvented and meaning can still be added to life.
*Olajide, Communications Officer, University of Ibadan Distance Learning Centre, wrote through firstname.lastname@example.org