Founder and President of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, ABUAD, Ekiti State, Aare Afe Babalola, has described former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, as the best President Nigeria ever had.
Babalola said Obasanjo, who had the rare opportunity to lead the nation thrice, as Military Head of State in the late 70s and elected President from 1999 to 2007, was “a very energetic, strong-willed, and stubborn person.
“He is difficult to persuade, but he is a progressive man. He never became a Professor, but he knows better than most professors. He is a highly talented man and is the best President Nigeria ever had.”
The senior lawyer further said it was Obasanjo’s efforts in support of UNESCO during his tenure that helped in repositioning education in the country.
Aare Babalola made the remarks while receiving members of the Yoruba Patriots Group, who nominated him to be their patron.
Speaking about the objectives of the group, its Publicity Secretary, Segun Adewale, who harped on restructuring of Nigeria, said: “The Yoruba Patriots Group was formed in 2005 by progressive Yoruba people, who desire progress and unity for the nation.
“We felt that the way the Yoruba nation is being relegated to the background within the commonwealth of Nigeria is not acceptable.
“What we intend to do is a legacy that would survive us. And to do this we are consulting with established Yoruba men, who love the nation and who have the knowledge and have made serious sacrifices to make Yoruba number one in the world.
“Aare Afe Babalola is one of them. This is why we consult with him to get a template that will make Yoruba the most economically-developed nation in Africa.
“We are working together with all other stakeholders— the South-West governors, other pan-Yoruba groups such as Afenifere and others— to achieve this. It is when we work together that we can achieve a rapid, systematic and sustainable development.
“The meeting with Aare Babalola has been very successful and he has accepted to be our Grand Patron.”
Speaking on the group’s agenda, Aare Babalola said: “I support the agenda of the Yoruba Patriots that we want to have our rightful place in the comity of nation’s in the country.” The kind of restructuring that is needed in Nigeria is one that would give autonomy for each ethnic nationalities to manage itself in all areas of economy, education, power and others with the exception of geographical expression.
Aare Babalola also commented on the choice of two lawyers from his chamber as SAN recently: “ I am very happy that two out of 29 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN, are from my chamber. That makes 19 of the SANS in my chamber and it is a record that would be very difficult to match any were. It shows that if juniors understudy their seniors and are not in a hurry, they can make it. My advice is don’t be in an hurry to go and start a kingdom.”
He went down memory lane to explain his long years of rapport with former President Obasanjo: “The path of myself and Obasanjo crossed when he introduced zero party representation system as military Head of State. My people then chose me to represent them. And I agreed to represent them even though I wasn’t a politician.
‘’But some politician who felt that if I went to represent my people, it would affect their chance, went to court to say that I should be disqualified because I haven’t paid my tax.
“And I had an obsession at that time of over paying my tax in advance, so that if at the end of auditing, I had overpaid, I had some money repaid to me.
“I challenged them at the court because that was an attack on my integrity. So, I eventually won the case and my name was sent to Obasanjo as the qualified person to represent my people.
‘’Obasanjo in spite of that chose the politician and I went back to my practice as a lawyer. That incident prevented me from dabbling into the murky waters of Nigerian politics.
“Obasanjo left office and years after, there was an allegation by late Senator Olusola Saraki that about N2.8 billion pounds and put it in his own bank then. The students then we’re angry and protested in Lagos. So, a panel of inquiry was set up to investigate the allegation. I was asked to defend the Federal Government at the court and Obasanjo was invited to give evidence as a former Head of State. And we met at the court where I cross-examined him. That was when he met me physically and recognised that I was the same man whose name was sent to him at the time.
“ Later, Obasanjo was sued for writing a book called :” is not my will’. He called me to defend him and that was how our age long rapport began. We got closer and closer until 2009 when he was to be President and was sued again by several others, Olu Falae, Buhari and others and he invited me and I won the cases for him.
“He later attempted to make me Attorney General of the nation but I turned the offer down. But when he invited me to come clean up the rot in education system at the University of Lagos, as Pro-chancellor, I accepted but with a condition not to get all the emoluments. I served selflessly and was awarded best Pro-chancellor for two terms that I served there.
The quality of education we offer is akin to that given in London, U.S and other Canada among others. Where we charge N1 million, these countries charge N17 million and N5 million. That is why our university is the best alternative to overseas schooling, “ he said.