By Kolawole Igandan
There are individuals whose influence goes far beyond their considerable achievements and competencies. What unites these masters of conscience is the fact that they enlarge the reach and range of our social imagination by making a greater proportion of their life and times available to shape their society and so form the basis for a moral order.
This is so true of Wole Olanipekun, a man whose true significance may not be well appreciated except you are close to him by reasons of association. He is not a complex human being. He, in fact, is a thorough bred who has a unique capacity to keep the lid on the pressure cooker of Nigeria’s aspirations to achieve greatness.
Indeed, he is a man with views firmly formed on several matters, but you cannot also take away the fact that he is a man of strong character who can only join any organization to affect its policies and not be affected by it.
Wole Olanipekun’s name reverberates in legal quarters as a lawyer of first choice and an uncommon philanthropist, but a deeper and cursory look at his finest moments also reveals a man of charming and conciliatory mien but, if required, could move on to a prolonged vituperation against imperial hubris and power chauvinism and then switch over to an erudite philosophical and legalistic discourse.
As a change and reformative agent, Olanipekun breathed life into the activities of the NBA. It would remain in the annals of the association that Olanipekun made ground breaking reforms that have placed the association in enviable stead and made it gain respect at the International Bar Association (IBA)
His words: “I laid the foundation for the new NBA building in Lagos. We initiated so many things you are seeing in the NBA today. We started the Lawyers’ Insurance Scheme, we paid premium for lawyers. We established the Business Law Section and the Section on Legal Practice.
“We initiated and launched the NBA stamp and seal projects. The idea of NBA commenting on the state of the nation was my brain child which I introduced for the first time at our NEC meeting in Makurdi”.
He once described the many battles he had to fight as the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to insulate the bar from politics.
“I didn’t submit in to any government. Despite the fact that my friends, Kanu Agabi and Akin Olujinmi, were at different times the Attorneys – General of the Federation, I didn’t step into their offices privately except for official functions”, Olanipekun said.
“I didn’t collect any money from the Federal Government or any government throughout my two years in office. I wrote all my speeches myself and also prepared the communiqués of the NBA myself.
“My cabinet was inaugurated on a Friday. The Chairman of Onitsha branch, Barnabas Igwe, and his wife, Abigail, who were my supporters, just returned to Onitsha and were murdered; his wife carrying a six months old pregnancy.
“I was in Ilorin when I heard the news on radio. I quickly summoned a meeting of NBA officers and addressed a world press conference before immediately setting up a preliminary committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the dastardly act.
“The Committee came up with an unequivocal report that they were murdered by then-powers and principalities, and, as the President of the NBA, there was no hiding place for me.
“We did our internal investigation which also pointed at the same people. I went to then-President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and handed our report over to him and I mentioned the names of the alleged perpetrators, who were then in the corridors of power.
“Chief Obasanjo pleaded and assured us that government would hand over the report to the appropriate agency.
“I led a team of no fewer than 2,000 lawyers to Onitsha to give the couple a befitting burial. People confessed that they had never seen such a large contingent of lawyers before and we warned that nobody in government in Anambra State then should come near the place”
Olanipekun noted that he had had several brushes with government over his principled stand in matters of nation-building.
His words: “At some point, I became a persona non grata even at the Presidency. It was my executive that sold the idea of six years presidency to President Obasanjo but he rejected it. I was so surprised that, at the twilight of his second tenure in office, he started canvassing the idea without even acknowledging the NBA”.
Lean and intense, Olanipekun is endowed with remarkable presence. He is always resplendent in a modest but decent suit
Olanipekun is endowed with rural righteousness and once disclosed during an interview: “I don’t hide my nativity. I don’t pretend about where I come from and I don’t eclipse my origin. I am proud of what God has made out of me and why, in His infinite mercy, chose to locate me within a particular enclave and through a set of parents that I had.
“I began from my cradle in Ikere-Ekiti, Ekiti State with a loving and humble father, Pa Isaac Olanipekun, and my dear mother, Bosede Olanipekun, both of them of blessed memory. They were both loving and caring”.
An orator of extra ordinary brilliance and writer of considerable merit, Olanipekun has graced several academic functions as keynote speaker or guest lecturer. He has delivered lectures in several universities in the country and only recently was invited as guest lecturer at University of Oxford in United Kingdom.
No doubt, Olanipekun’s writings usually combine erudition with patriotism and have often created a stir among the intelligentsia and youths.
In the sphere of philanthropy, Olanipekun looms very large with his unquantifiable contributions to his community of Ikere Ekiti and Ekiti State where he doles out millions of naira in scholarship and grant to students in tertiary and post tertiary institutions.
An emotional Olanipekun once disclosed how some of his legatees and beneficiaries of his goodwill once walked up to him to tell him, “But for you, we won’t be where we are today. You sowed a seed into our lives and it has germinated today. We are managing our own businesses and we are also giving back to the society. This is what you taught us”.
His magnanimity knows no bound as many institutions in the country have been gifted with gigantic edifices solely built by him and his amiable wife, Princess Omolara Olanipekun, for the benefit of mankind.
Olanipekun has made a success of every venture he has ventured into but his greatest pride is his family. He is a successful father and husband who has left a exemplary path for his children to tread. His children are all lawyers with the first two donning the prestigious silk of Senior Advocates of Nigeria.