As the erudite lawyer and astute businessman, Dr. Bolanle Olawale Babalakin (SAN), turns 58 today, many people may just be wondering what has been the driving force behind this man, who has been consistent in whatever he believes in, courageous in the face of obviously insurmountable challenges, persistent in his approach to everything, unperturbed by the vicissitudes of life and unshaken by the turbulence that appears on his way to the top, just as they appear to every man still living on planet earth.
By no little measure, Babalakin, who is a man of many parts and has been very successful in all, is acting according to the golden words of Mark Caine, who said, “The first step towards success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.”
Despite his privileged background as the son of a distinguished and incorruptible jurist of no mean repute, this Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) refused to be a captive of the environment in which he found himself. His focus has always been on attaining success in all endeavours, all on his own.
While many of his contemporaries with similar privileged background and pedigree way back became captives of their immediate environment and were busy pursuing inanities, getting pleasured in the warm arms of girls of various shades, dancing wild discos, drinking beer and popping champagne in the ancient city of Ibadan where he was born, Babalakin’s attention, right from the word go, was fully focused on achieving success and this he proudly did. According to the words of Vaibhav Shah, “Whenever you see a successful person, you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices to reach them.” Therefore, only a few people know the private sacrifices this philanthropist of note made to achieve success, but everybody is today seeing the glories and drinking from the fountain of his success.
For Babalakin, who can be best described as an amazing personality because of the energy with which he pursues whatever he believes in, equipping himself with quality education at an early age was the first step to an eventful life. To demonstrate this, he obtained his Ph.D on the eve of his 26th birthday at the world-class University of Cambridge, having earlier attended the prestigious University of Lagos (UNILAG) for his first degree in Law, where he is today the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council. He is the first alumnus to occupy this exalted position. And, indeed, his 58 years on earth have been very eventful.
Affectionately referred to as BOB by his employees, professional colleagues, friends and admirers, Babalakin, who is also the Chairman of the Resort Group and who has interests in litigation and dispute resolution, real estate, infrastructure development, construction and transportation (aviation and roads), as well as philanthropy, has persistently and consistently pursed those interests with the focus of an eagle and the vigour of a lion. Rather than waning, his zeal for perfection in all that he does or you do for him knows no bounds. He does not accept 99.9 per cent as a pass mark; it must be 100 per cent or nothing less. This we can confidently attest to, having worked for him for several years now.
His fledging law firm, Babalakin and Co., with over 60 lawyers in its Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt offices, which he established after a short stint with the renowned legal luminary and his mentor, the late Chief Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams (a.k.a. Timi the Law), has produced many Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) and judges, who are doing well today.
As a successful businessman of no mean repute in a hostile and non-receptive clime like ours, Babalakin has been severally subjected to all manner of intimidation and harassment, but he has always triumphed and come out stronger on each occasion. Undeterred, he has always followed the postulation of the great scientist, Albert Einstein, who says, “The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.”
His staunch and legendary belief in the rule of law and an orderly society where everything must work perfectly has seen him fighting several legal battles with strong forces over some of his various multi-billion naira investments, such as the first privately-funded Public-Private Partnership (PPP) airport terminal in West Africa, the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal Two (MMA2), built and operated by his Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), a pioneering idea, which many of his traducers have not been able to replicate anywhere in the country till date.
His resilience has also seen him engage in legal battles over the unjustly cancelled Lagos-Ibadan Expressway concession, which was awarded to one of his firms, Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited (BHSL) and the Federal Secretariat Complex, Ikoyi, Lagos, also awarded to another of his firms, Resort International Limited (RIL), among others. In all these and other legal battles, Babalakin has always triumphed over the conspiracies of a few, leading to the award of several billions of naira damages in his favour by courts of competent jurisdiction. Sadly, these damages have not been paid till date.
His philanthropy, which knows no ethnic, religious or political boundary luminescence many segments of the society immensely because he believes in giving back. His good gestures are clearly visible in the education and health sectors of the society, among others. For instance, Babalakin runs an elaborate scholarship scheme under which many Nigerian youths have been trained, and are still being trained home and abroad; donated an 80-bed hostel to the University of Ilorin in the name of his father, the Honourable Justice Bolarinwa Oyegoke Babalakin (rtd); treated over 20,000 Nigerians with various eye diseases in Zaria and Owo (Ondo State); donated a 500-seater auditorium to the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, in memory of his late mother and has just opened a 4,000-seater Bola Babalakin Auditorium in his Gbongan hometown in Osun State, among several others.
Babalakin’s unquenchable thirst for and commitment to scholarship has seen this cerebral lawyer serving the nation in various capacities to help reform the education sector without drawing any allowance or stipend for his selfless service. Among some of these are: Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council, University of Maiduguri; Chairman, Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Federal Universities in Nigeria; Chairman, Implementation Monitoring Committee of the Agreements entered into between the Federal Government and the various unions of Nigerian Universities, including the Academic Union of Universities (ASUU) and others; Chairman, Federal Government Committee to Re-negotiate the 2009 Agreement between the Government and the University Unions and currently, the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council, UNILAG.
As a committed family man, Babalakin is married to his heart-throb, Olugbolahan, a lawyer and daughter of Honourable Justice and the late Mrs. Y.A. Jinadu. They are blessed with children.
Indeed, Babalakin’s life is packed full of achievements and on this his special day, we wish him a happy birthday. Many happy returns our dear Erinjogunola, Baba o!
*Omolale and Olaosun are on the Media Team of the Resort Group.