A WELCOME ADDRESS ON THE VISITATION OF ICPC TO AFE BABALOLA UNIVERSITY, ADO-EKITI

BY

AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D

ON

WEDNESDAY, 28TH JULY, 2010.

The Distinguished Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), my Oga Honourable Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, CON;
The members of ICPC herein present,
Members of the 4th Estate of the realm herein present
Invited guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

I welcome you most sincerely, for finding time out of your busy schedule to visit this citadel of learning, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, a school which, within a very short period of existence (first one year) has been acknowledged by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, Ex-President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, National Universities Commission, Professors of high repute, members of the academia, law-makers, various people from different callings as well as the stakeholders as a benchmark, a model and reference point for other existing ad upcoming universities. All this within a period of one year!

If I may just go through the memory lane, it was in 1980 when, as a member of Transparency International a body that has its headquarters in Berlin and President Olusegun Obasanjo was the African Chapter Representative that I had to accompany him to attend seminars, lectures in Nigeria and outside Nigeria.

On becoming the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, one of the significant things he did as the Head of State was to bring Transparency into governance for purposes of wipening out corruption which has become so endemic and the bane of the society. To realize his aim and objective in this direction, he caused the National Assembly to enact the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission Act. It was the first time in the history of this nation that such a bold, courageous and decisive move would be made by any Head of State dead or alive in Nigeria. It was a highly commendable feat.

It is on record that when the ICPC Act was promulgated, some Nigerians surprisingly opposed it vehemently. Consequently, the State Government went ahead to institute an action at the Supreme Court to challenge the Act and to a large extent, its workability. High Calibre lawyers like late Chief Rotimi Williams was engaged by Ondo State Government. Interestingly, I was invited as amicus curiae (friend of the court) with the responsibility of making vital contribution either in support of the desirability of the ICPC Act or its total abrogation. I accepted the invitation and did extensive research. I subsequently filed a solid and comprehensive brief of argument before the Supreme Court in support of the Act.

I am pleased and glad today to inform you that it was my submissions made both in the said brief of argument together with the oral arguments I canvassed in the course of hearing the appeal that their Lordships (full court) relied upon in arriving at their final decision. The case has since been reported as Attorney General, Ondo State v. Attorney General Federation (2002) 9 NWLR (Pt. 772) 222.

THE ICPC

The ICPC has been extremely lucky. When it was established by President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, one of the most incorruptible and brilliant judges in Nigeria in the person of Honourable Justice Mustapha Akabi was made its pioneer Chairman. Everybody within and outside Nigeria applauded the wise decision of the Government.

But when Hon. Justice Akanbi left the ICPC, people were apprehensive about of who would succeed him as Chairman. The fear of the people was justified because such anti-corruption outfit must have a credible, honest, upright and incorruptible person as its Chairman. Simply put, a person of integrity must be appointed.

As God would have it, eventually Honourable Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola was made to replace Justice Mustapha Akanbi. Immediately, the news of His Lordship’s appointment was filtered out, the anxiety, apprehension and fear of Nigerians disappeared. Both the legal world and the generality of Nigerians rejoiced at his appointment. It was not surprising given the sterling qualities of His Lordship such as proven integrity, brilliance, honesty, God-fearing and incorruptibility. All these traits were exhibited by His Lordship before and after he retired as one of the most outstanding Judges of the Supreme Court.

Permit me to reproduce what I wrote about this unique personality in my autobiography titled: “Impossibility made Possible” at pages 60 and 61 thereof:

“His Younger brother, Yinka Ayoola, is a very simple, unassuming, calm, cool and soft-spoken man. He is clearly a man of extra-ordinary ability, very human and kind. He holds M.A. in English and LL.M from Oxford University. He is a practising Christian and a moralist. He would not like to appear for a person alleged to have committed murder or robbery. Where a bank sued a borrower, and the borrower came to us to defend him, Yinka Ayoola would not want to handle the case, and would ask the prospective client “Afterall you borrowed this money, why don’t you want to pay?”

On this point his elder brother in his book “50 years at the Bar” said:-

“From the performances at our weekly conference of lawyers, I was able to assess the progress, ability and aptitude of each lawyer. I must mention two who were among the best, namely my brother, Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola who is presently a judge of the Court of Appeal, Nigeria. He was a brilliant lawyer with a strong moralist bent. Sometimes, he would come to me and say after going through a brief allotted to him ‘The defence of our client is good in law, but why shouldn’t he pay the debt which he appears, law apart, to owe? And I would retort’ We, as lawyers are concerned with his defence as a matter of law: we still felt not too bright about the brief, I would take it and allocate it to some other under-study. Another brilliant lawyer was Afe BAbalola (he is now a Senior Advocate of Nigeria). He was (and still is) very hard working. A lover of legal analysis, he usually saw through fine points which others did not see”.

He is a very resourceful man. He excelled in the appellate courts. He saw very fine points which were decisive in any case which he appeared. His judgments which can be found in Law reports show that he belongs to the topmost class of English and Commonwealth Judges.

Today, ICPC has come to stay and stay for good in the overall interest of this Nation, Nigeria. It is my joy as a person and millions of Nigerian home and abroad that the ICPC has lived to our expectations by imbibing the view, aspirations and hope of Nigerians collectively since its inception. I pray that it will continue to grow from strength to strength. Amen.

If the truth must be told in an unequivocal term, what is lacking in our country is discipline within the rank and file of our society. Indiscipline coupled by bad leadership over the years has remained the bane of our existence as a “Nation”. People – both in power and outside the corridors of power are simply not contended with what they have. Greed and unabashed desire and desperation to acquire more and more even at the expense of the less-privileged have entrenched corruption beyond our imagination. All these lead inexorably to the devaluation of virtually everything Nigerians with far reaching effects on major sectors including educational sector.

The said development propelled me to take a bold decision which led to the establishment of this institution of higher learning – to serve as a model and indeed, a benchmark for University education in Nigeria especially and humanity in general. My Lord, ladies and gentlemen, what you are seeing today is a product of that decision. My decision was founded in faith; faith inspires confidence, invigorates energy and energises determination. Faith never fails.

I invite you to go round the premises of this citadel of learning and see things for yourselves. In this University, the atmosphere is very peaceful and very conducive to learning, the structures are second to none, the equipment and facilities in all our structures are the latest. Both teachers and students live on campus. The usual ills associated with Nigerian Universities such as indiscipline, cultism, hooliganism and outright brigandage are non-existent here. We have code of dressing and conduct for teachers and students.

For the records, each of our colleges is manned by experience and accomplished Professors as it was in those days. All the courses allowed so far by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) are being run by qualified and able lecturers. Happily enough, the NUC has acknowledged the quality of the equipment and space available and have now granted additional programmes which are;

[1]    COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING
[2]    COLLEGE OF HEALTH SCIENCES
[3]    COLLEGE OF ARTS AND HUMANITIES
[4]    COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES
[5]    COLLEGE OF EDUCATION

The upper limit of the age of students admitted in the first year is 22 and we do not allow transfer from other institutions. We are creating a new culture of learning and character. I would urge you to see and briefly interact with some of them. We have purchased 300 hectares of land adjacent to our University to enable us expand our agric farm into dairy farming, animal husbandry and irrigated farming. We have on ground 165 acres of maize farm. We have planted 7,000 special mangoes trees. We will begin to export the fruits in the next three years. We have also planted 3,000 plantain suckers.

It is significant to say that this University is not established for profit making. It is a charitable institution registered as a guaranteed company. This will enable the institution to plough back any revenue accruing to the University. This is exactly what great universities like Harvard, Stanford and others do.

Our mission is to change the face of education by example. It is because you appreciate what we are doing that you are here. We salute you for this kind gesture.

To end this address, I wish to borrow the language of Ex-President Obasanjo where he said;

“Happy to be here to be able to see at first hand a unique sample of private university with finesse, purpose, commitment, and self sacrifice by the proprietor. More like this will change the panorama of tertiary institution and education in Nigeria. It is a model to emulate.”

Once again, I thank the Chairman and his team for this visit. Thank you and God bless.

Thank you and God bless.

AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D

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