Babalakin Erinjogunola at 64: a tribute

By Steve Omolale

While to some individuals, life is really not worth a dime because of the situation they find or put themselves, it is worth a billion pounds to others. Those who achieved success did so by a combination of several factors, just as those who did not were hindered by several factors.

For cerebral lawyer, philanthropist, billionaire businessman and Chairman of Resort Group, Dr. Bolanle Olawale Babalakin (SAN), whose birthday is today, success is earned because he believes in the golden words of American television personality, Oprah Winfrey, that “You become what you believe.”

Despite his privileged background as the scion of the highly distinguished jurist of no mean repute, the retired late Honourable Justice Bolarinwa Oyegoke Babalakin, formerly of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Babalakin achieved success by dint of hard work and unparalleled commitment to his beliefs. He has been unwavering in the path he decided to follow right from his formative years.

According to the pioneer female aviation guru, Amelia Earhart, “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” And the tenacity this Gbongan, Osun State-born Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) embraced right from the beginning has brought him to his present highest level in all his endeavours.

A man of many parts, Babalakin, who is affectionately referred to as BOB by his friends, admirers, professional colleagues and employees, has made his indelible marks in all the sectors of the economy he ventured into despite the vicissitudes of life. Be it the law profession where he earned a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree at the world-class University of Cambridge on the eve of his 26th birthday and the prestigious Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) title, real estate, aviation, construction, hospitality and other sectors, he has displayed uncommon qualities and brilliance that made him excel in all.

Babalakin has followed the words of the legendary Mother Teresa who said, ” I alone can not change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” He has, indeed, created many ripples with his wealth and such ripples can be felt by a large number of Nigerians who have drunk and are still drinking from his tap of philanthropy, which has been running ceaselessly for several years now. With his strong belief in giving back to the society, his philanthropic gestures luminescence many ethnic, religious and political spaces.

For instance, desirous to give sound education to brilliant but indigent students, Babalakin runs a scholarship scheme under which many Nigerian youths have been and are being trained at home and abroad. He also once donated an 80-bed hostel to the University of Ilorin in the name of his late dad; treated over 20,000 Nigerians with various eye defects in Zaria and Owo, his late mother’s birth place in Ondo State; donated a 500-seater auditorium to the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Ogun State, in memory of his mother and built a 4,00-seater Bola Babalakin Auditorium in Gbongan, among several others.

Even the thousands of Nigerians he employed in his various firms are not left out in his spirited efforts to ensure that whoever comes in contact with him is well taken care of. In fact, notwithstanding whether you still work for him or not, he takes pleasure in extending a helping hand to everyone, especially his ex-workers. For instance and on a personal note, despite the fact that I had exited his Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) since 2018, he has compassionately extended his helping hands to me on several occasions. Be it during the funerals of both my mother and my mother-in-law, when he gave huge financial support and condolence letters, which he personally signed, or during the wedding ceremony of my first daughter, herself a lawyer, or when one of my daughters secured admission to one of the universities to study medicine and surgery, which his bossom friend and Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Ishaq Oloyede, a man of his words, facilitated, Babalakin equally gave huge financial assistance. Many other individuals have similar stories like me to tell about him. These are proofs that his tap of kindness never runs dry.

For a man who does not take a ‘No’ for an answer, his blossoming law firm, one of the best in sub-Saharan Africa with over 70 lawyers, including many SANs, in its Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt offices, which he founded after a short stint with the renowned legal juggernaut and his mentor, the late Chief Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams (a. k.a. Timi the Law) is still doing fantastically well today. The law firm has also produced many judges who are still serving in various courts in the land till date.

Babalakin as a strong believer in the rule of law has had to face many legal battles over some of his businesses, battles he has all won. Having built the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal Two (MMA2), the first successful Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in the country where many hurdles were placed on his path, he has displayed resilience and the focus of a lion in his many battles over the project. He did not have it easy either over the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway project, initially awarded to one of his firms, Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited, and the former Federal Secretariat Complex, Ikoyi, two projects that gulped billions of naira of his hard-earned money without any return on investment. All the billions of naira in damages awarded him by courts of competent jurisdiction over the projects have also not been paid till date.

However, Babalakin never allowed all these hurdles to discourage him in his efforts to contribute his quota to the development of his country. And to demonstrate this, he selflessly served as the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council, University of Lagos (his alma mater) and the University of Maiduguri; Chairman, Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Federal Universities in Nigeria; Chairman, Implementation Monitoring Committee of the Agreements Between the Federal Government and the Various Unions in the Universities, including the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and others and Chairman, Federal Government Committee to Re-negotiate the 2009 Agreement Between the Federal Government and the University Unions, among many national assignments too numerous to mention here.

Born on July 1, 1960, Babalakin, as a committed family man and devout Muslim, is happily married to his friend and heart-throb, Olugholahan, also a distinguished lawyer and daughter of retired Honourable Justice and Mrs. Y. A. Jinadu of blessed memory and they are blessed with accomplished children.
Erinjogunola Baba o, as you celebrate the beginning of another new year today, may you receive whatever you ask Almighty Allah for, find whatever you seek from Him and fulfil whatever you wish. Happy birthday Sir!

*Chief Omolale, a journalist and media consultant, sent in this piece from Lagos.

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