A touching life story of Emmanuel Babalola

Where There Is A Will, There Is A Way.

Today's story is a true life story of a Great Nigerian: Aare Afe Emmanuel Babalola: OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D, D.LL, D.Litt, FCI.Arb, FNIALS. A man who was determined to succeed against all odds.

He was born about 90 years ago.

Because his parents were illiterates, he doesn't know the exact year, month or date he was born.

He lived on the farm with his parents in a mud house, covered with thatch roof, where they used to sleep on banana leaves at night which they usually change after about 2 or 3 days, but he enjoyed it and indeed, he thought it was the best thing in life.

"We didn't bother about clothes. I was a young boy, I didn't wear clothes, of course, there were no shoes at that time."

"I thought and I prayed then, that one day, I will inherit part of my father's farm. I will inherit part of his cutlasses and hoes. That was my ambition."

But God had a different plan...

When he was about 7 or 8 years old, a Reverend Father came and pleaded with his father to send one of his children to school.

Since he was the eldest child, his father asked him to go to school which is how he left the farm house in 1937, to live in the town.

But then, it wasn't easy, as he had to walk about 5 kilometers everyday from his family house to Emmanuel Anglican Primary School, Okesha, Ado-Ekiti.

"I made sure that every Friday, I ran back to the farm to meet my parents and on Sunday night, I'll come back to the town to go to school."

That went on for about 7 years or so, although he didn't have interest in learning, because on the farm, he didn't have to bathe, he didn't have to change his clothes, he didn't have to clean his teeth. But in the school, he was made to do all these things under punishment, which he didn't find comfortable or enjoyable.

"I had no interest in learning. My mind was all the time on the farm where there is plenty of food that where wasting away."

However, something happened when he was in Standard III...

A new teacher who had been trained as a guardian and counsellor at St. Andrew's College, Oyo (now Emmanuel Alayande College of Education, Oyo) came to the school. Even at that time, St. Andrew's College was like a College of Education.

"The new teacher who was one of those who were specially trained in finding out the interest of each child or why a child was not doing well, found out that he was one of those who has the ability, but his mind was not interested in formal education.

The teacher then concentrated on a few of them including Afe Babalola; and at the end of the year, he found himself within the unit. So that motivated him and changed his mind. So in the next 2 - 3 years, he became more interested in school than farming.

By the time he left primary school in 1945, he was clearly the best in his class.

Due to his brilliance, after completing his primary school education, he was offered admission into Form III at Christ's School, Ado-Ekiti in 1945, but because he could not afford to pay 6 Pounds, he could not further his education, so he had to secure a job as teacher at St. Paul's School, Ikere-Ekiti.

From St. Paul's School, Ikere-Ekiti, he moved to Emmanuel School, Ado-Ekiti where he read and passed the (teachers) examinations that will qualify him for admission into St. Andrews College, Oyo, however, the interviewing board rejected his admission on account of age and experience.

It was at this point that, he met a man who used to order courseware from overseas to prepare himself for Cambridge Exams at home. It was through him, he knew it was possible to order courseware from home, train yourself and pass examinations overseas.

So, he took advice from the man and ordered coursewares from Wolsey Hall Oxford, one of the oldest homeschooling colleges in the world, founded by Joseph William Knipe in 1894 which offers courses for Primary, Secondary, IGCSE and A Level subjects to homeschoolers, similar to what is obtainable on the internet as e-learning.

For a course that should take him 6 years to complete, he chose to do it in 5 years.

He would read, prepare, write exams and send his answers by post to England where it would be marked, with necessary corrections and sent back in 14 days.

By 1950, he attempted both Cambridge School Certificate Exams (the equivalent of Senior School Certificate) and Cambridge Advanced Level Certificate Exams at home. Although he passed the exams, but he wasn't satisfied with his grade.

So he repeated the Advanced Level Exams to enable him prepare for university degree, and by 1953, he cleared all the 4 subjects at the advanced level, more than the 2 that is is required.

At that time, there were only 3 Nigerians who passed 4 subjects at one sitting in the Advanced Level Exams. The other 2 Nigerians were Igbos. It was a record then.

After passing his Advanced Level Exams, In 1953, he went further to prepare for a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics from the University of London, still studying from home.

In 1959, he obtained BSc in Economics, but still proceeded to study for his Bachelor of Law LL.B (Hons) still from University of London from home, which he completed in 1963, although he travelled to London to sit for his Bye Exams.

It is important to note that, it is on record that Afe Babalola never had a formal education in a school setting after completing his primary school education.

Legal Career & Achievements

After completing his law exams in London, in 1963, he was subsequently called to Bar as a member of the Lincoln’s Inn, London and registered as a member of the Bar of England and Wales.

Thereafter, he returned home to begin his legal practice as a litigation lawyer at the Chambers of Olu Ayoola in Ibadan until 1965, when he established his law firm: Afe Babalola & Co (Emmanuel Chambers) in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, South-West Nigeria.

His Chamber has since remained a reputable, leading law firm in Nigeria with offices in Ibadan, Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt and has produced over 1,500 legal practitioners including Judges and Attorney Generals.

In 1987, he became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the highest rank in the legal profession in Nigeria.

After reaching the pinnacle of Law Practice in Nigeria, he was offered the position of a judge, by Justice Oyemade who was then the President of The Court in the Defunct Western Region of Nigeria, but he rejected it, because he wanted to remain in active law practice.

As a solicitor and general advocate, he has handled over 10,600 court cases, many of which were landmark cases some of which could have scared away the cowardly.

Cases defended by him are points of reference in Nigeria Law Reports such as:

Decree No. 17 of 1984 and Removal of Judges, 2.8 Billion Pounds Enquiry, Alaafin & Ooni’s conflict, MKO Abiola Aare Ona Kankanfo Chieftaincy, Awolowo vs. Concord Press, Abiola & June 12 Case, 2003 Presidential Election & 45 cases handled for President Obasanjo & FGN.

He was also an Amicus Curiae in the Supreme Court of Nigeria in favour of I.C.P.C. Anti-Corruption Law where his submissions were relied upon for judgment.

His high net worth clients are: The World Bank, Shell, Mobil, Pan Ocean & Julius Berger.

He was a Presidential Nominee at the Sovereign National Conference and chaired its Revenue Allocation and Fiscal Federalism Committee

He was also offered the ministerial position of the Attorney General of The Federation twice, by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, but he also rejected it.

In 2001, he was appointed, Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the former President of Nigeria.

He held the position till 2008 during which he emerged as best Pro-Chancellor of Nigerian Universities consecutively in 2005 and 2006.

Awards and Recognitions of Aare Afe Babalola.

Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR).

Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).

Aare Bamofin of Yoruba Nation

The title was conferred on him in 2008 by His Royal Majesty, Alayeluwa Oba Dr. Lamidi Adeyemi II, the Alaafin of Oyo conferred in recognition of his legendary exploits in the legal practice and his fame that spread abroad beyond African shores and the Black Race.

The Alaafin in pronouncing him as Aare Bamofin decreed his preeminence as a Royal Highness and tribal legend. He was forbidden from prostrating to any man again, except God and was required to carry himself in the manner of a royalty.

European Business Assembly in Oxford UK.
Queen Victoria Commemorative Award at Socrates Award

Ekiti State University Award of LL. D (Honoris Causa) in 2002.

Best Pro-Chancellor award in 2005.

Winner of the Best Pro-Chancellor award in 2006.

Vice President, Rector of Europe, 2010.

Kogi State University Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) (D.Litt.) in 2012.

University of Lagos Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) in 2013.

University of Jos Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) in 2013.

Africa Man of the Year on Food Security in 2014.

Federal University of Technology, Akure Doctor of Management (Honoris Causa) in 2014.

The University of London Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) in 2015.

This award made Afe Babalola to belong to the elite class of honorary recipients of the degree of the University of London, having been preceded by only two Africans in the history of the University, Nelson Mandela and Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu.

This distinguished status and outstanding recognition was described by the Emeritus Prof Michael Omolewa, as: “a symbol of victory over all forces that hinder growth, a real demonstration of the point that one can make it to the very top by perseverance, and without the initial advantage of rich parents, powerful contact and connections, and even against all odds, the limitation of wealth and the disadvantage of place of birth or ethnic origins.

Inducted into the Africa Hall of Fame by the Advisory Board of the African Leadership Development Foundation, USA and UK in 2016.

Nigeria Defence Academy University, Kaduna Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa), In September 2017

The award is in appreciation of his “service to the nation and significant contributions to human development”.

In 2009, he established the popular Afe Babalola University to promote education in Nigeria and the university's College of law has at different times rated best in Nigeria.

In 2013, the university was ranked the second best private university in Nigeria and 17 of 136 universities in Nigeria.

Afe Babalola is rated among the Top 10 Richest Lawyers in Nigeria.

Highest Private Investor in Ekiti State.

He has an estimated net worth of $350 million

To say the least, Afe Emmanuel Babalola is a living legend.

Afe Babalola Quotes.

“No idea is stupid; it is better carried out than ignored.”

“The only change that can be a lasting change, that would change the world and change the people, is changing the mind of the youths.”

“When you are not disciplined, that is the end of your life. It is lack of discipline that causes all the problems.”

“If you want to run a university, you must be selfless and willing to serve.”

“If proprietors would learn from me, those who want to start up a university must be prepared to be personally involved with how things are run in the university.”

“Hard work does not kill; what kills is indolence.”

“My legacy is not in the buildings I have, not by the money in my account, but in these children, students of my school.”

The success story of the humble beginning, tortuous journey and legendary rise to pinnacle, of a giant and iconic legend; Aare Afe Emmanuel Babalola: OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D, D.LL, D.Litt, FCI.Arb, FNIALS., is one that will remain an inspiration for struggling Africans; that where there is a will, there is a way, God Being Our Helper.

The life of Afe Babalola teaches us that...

Some rejections are God's Divine Plan to redirect our life.

Where there is a will, there is a way.

Be Inspired...✍️

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  1. This is a heart touching story and at the same time an inspirational and motivational one. Kudus to this site for providing unforgettable gist