Bar and Bench Watch ICON: EMMANUEL AFE BABALOLA, SAN
For being a legal luminary of repute, locally and internationally and for lighting a candle in the darkness of humanity to drive back enervating ignorance and liberate minds from the shackles of lack and superstition; for deploying the instrumentality of law and the judicial process to leverage society and sustain peace in Nigeria, Africa and beyond, Chief Aare Afe Babalola, CON, OFR, SAN, is this week’s Bar and Bench Icon.
Chief Babalola was born in 1929, in Ekiti State and grew up in very humble settings. He attended Emmanuel Primary School, Ado Ekiti.
After his primary education, he engaged in private studies because he could not afford school fees for secondary school. He later obtained the A’Level certificate of London University before he proceeded to London School of Economics where he received a bachelor’s degree in Economics. He worked briefly at the Central Bank of Nigeria before he left to the University of London where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Law. In 1963, he was called to the English bar, the same year he became a member of Lincoln’s Inn, London.
Afe Babalola began his career at Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, in the then Western Nigeria as a litigation lawyer with Olu Ayoola and Co, law firm. In 1965, after two years of legal practice, he established his own law firm, Afe Babalola and Co. (Emmanuel Chambers). In 1987, he became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the highest rank in Legal profession in Nigeria. He has had a very successful law practice and had trained over 700 lawyers.
In 2001, he was appointed, Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He held the position till 2008 during which he emerged as best Pro-Chancellor of Nigerian Universities consecutively in 2005 and 2006.
In 2009, he established Afe Babalola University to promote education in Nigeria and the university’s College of Law has, at different times, been rated the best in Nigeria. In 2013, the university was ranked the second best private university in Nigeria and 17 of 136 universities in Nigeria.
He is the father to Bolanle Austen-Peters and Michael Opeyemi Babalola.