Afe Babalola (SAN) has emerged the winner of the 2018 Obafemi Awolowo Leadership Prize announced at a ceremony held in Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos.
Afe Babalola was announced as the winner of the award by Chief Emeka Anyaoku, who is also the Chairman of the Selection Committee of the Obafemi Awolowo Leadership Award.
The Founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD) and winner of the Zik Prize in Leadership for 2013 also become the third African to win the distinguished Obafemi Awolowo Leadership Prize (2018) after former South African President, Thambo Mbeki and Nigeria’s Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, won the Prize in 2014 and 2012 respectively.
Chief Anyaoku said that the Prize has not been awarded since Thabo Mbeki won it home in 2014 because “there was no individual in Africa among nominees worthy to be honoured with the Award in the last for years because none met the criteria spelt out to justify their candidacy for the honour”.
According to him, the Obafemi Awolowo Leadership Prize is for individuals who have demonstrated the attributes of political strategy, education, integrity, caring for the welfare of the masses, consistency policies and courage among several others for which the late Premier of Western Region was well-known, stressing that it was only Babalola who was found worthy as an individual among the current nominees to receive the Award.
In his words:
“Afe Babalola has distinguished himself in the provision of quality education just like the sage, advocacy for the masses through legal intervention and other means to deserve the Award.”
Accepting the award, Afe Babalola thanked Anyaoku-led Award Selection Committee for taking note of his modest contributions through his various humanitarian programmes and for nominating him for the famous Obafemi Awolowo Leadership Prize for Year 2018.
He said his modest contributions to the educational landscape of the country is a dream come true and expressed happiness that this is happening in his life time, pointing out that his decision to set up a university was informed by his experience during his seven-year stint as the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council at the University of Lagos during, which time he was able to see, first hand and bare-facedly, the decay and rot in our educational system.
Together with his colleagues in UNILAG, he recalled that they were able to do the little they could do then as a result of which the university was not only voted the best in the country then, Babalola was twice voted the Best Pro-Chancellor. But because he did not believe that was enough and to prove a point, he sold choice properties in Lagos, Abuja, and United Kingdom as well as in the United States to establish ABUAD as a leader in quality and functional education and to show Nigerians how a university should be run and how it should not be run.
He noted with relish that the rich, luxuriant and commendable things Anyaoku said about him have equally been noticed by reputable universities and organisations round the world which has since honoured him severally.
A great admirer of the late sage, Afe Babalola said the only legacy he could bequeath to this generation of Nigerians and those coming behind lies in quality, functional and reformatory education that will produce all-round graduates that will be job creators and not job seekers.
Emphasizing that the Award is not only an honour, but a catalyst that will propel him to do more in his service to humanity, Babalola called on well-meaning Nigerians to join him in the crusade of institutionalising quality and functional education in Nigeria, stressing that “like I keep saying, I want Nigerians to imbibe the spirit of giving. ABUAD is all about giving back to the society to make it better than I had met it”.