To say that the Proprietor, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), is passionate about education is to say the least. He does not just love education; he has sponsored the education of many less privileged Nigerians. Besides, he has been on the council of many universities until he established ABUAD.
Now 80, Babalola, who started out in life as a teacher, has gone back to the classroom as a lecturer in his own university. He had ventured into the law profession after some years of teaching in some secondary schools. He even became a vice-principal before he ventured into the law profession. But today, Babalola is now back in the classroom where he teaches courses in Law of Evidence and Leadership in ABUAD.
Our correspondent had visited him for an interview in commemoration of his 80th birthday. But rather than acceding to the request for a birthday interview, the education enthusiast said he could only talk about education.
“I’m not celebrating any birthday. Let’s talk about education, the future of our nation,” he said.
But during the interview our correspondent discovered that the prominent lawyer, apart from administering the institution and his thriving law firm, also engages in teaching. The following morning our correspondent visited the institution to see the legal luminary in class teaching his students.
As a rule, no student comes late to the class because there is no justification for lateness. The lecture room is just a stone throw away from their hostel. But Babalola, the lecturer travels about 20 kilometres to the university. He arrives the campus by 7.30am, spends about 20 minutes at the main gate monitoring movement into the varsity.
After this routine last Wednesday, he went straight to his class where the students were already waiting for him. After the normal salutation, Babalola, introduced his topic on Law of Evidence. His class started by 8am.
The soft spoken lawyer class was not dull as he intermittently asked them questions amidst jokes.
Babalola said that teaching was not new to him as he had taught before both in the secondary school and at the Institute of Advance Legal Studies. Though the class was lively, Babalola did not condone indiscipline. Any student caught disrupting the class or was found not concentrating in class was asked to stand at the back of the class throughout the duration of the lecture.
During the lecture witnessed by our correspondent, Babalola narrated how he won the long-drawn legal battle which led to the removal of the former Olugbo, Prince Adebanjo Mafimisebi from the throne after about 24 years. According to him, his mastery of the Law of Evidence helped him to win the case.
Babalola told the students that he was able to get an intelligence report and the Morgan Report, which he said, the court relied upon to arrive at its judgment.
Apart from teaching, he runs the university and his thriving law firms from the institution.
The octogenarian, who said he did not know the exact date he was born, said that most of his mates were older than the age he adopted.
Babalola said he decided to teach after some of the university students persuaded him to do so.
“Some of the students came to me from our College of Law that I should teach them and I took up the challenge by taking them some courses including Law of Evidence, which is a very difficult course in law,” he said.
Some of his students who spoke with our correspondent said though jovial in class, Babalola would not condone laziness in any of his students.
“You cannot come to his class late. He is a disciplinarian but he loves you when you are serious and live by the rule,” one of them said.
Babalola added that apart from law, the university also exposed the students to entrepreneurial education and agriculture.
“Our students are taught entrepreneurial studies and agriculture as a way of encouraging them to develop interest in agriculture and to be self-reliant. This is the way I think universities should affect their communities,” he said.
But at 80, Babalola is still as active as ever. His day is not complete if he has not visited his farm. “After my day’s work in the university, I make sure I go to the farm. I do this daily because it has therapeutic effect on me. I don’t need sleeping pills to sleep after going through the rough terrain in the farm,” he said.
He said that ABUAD had begun to have positive impacts on the host community in the area of employment generation and food supply.
– The Punch