By BAYO OJO, SAN
It gives me great joy to join numerous well-wishers and admirers in celebrating my friend of over four decades, the quintessential and celebrated lawyer and iconic Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, OFR, LL.D. A great man of manifest distinction, a foremost community leader and enabler of human and societal development, and a remarkable Nigerian patriot.
It was Alfred Adler, the Austrian medical doctor renowned for his holistic theory of personality, psychopathology and psychotherapy, who rightly observed that ‘’men of genius are admired, men of wealth are envied, men of power are feared, but only men of character are trusted.’’ All over the world, particularly in advanced climes, men of intellect and people who in the true sense of the word are noble and honourable in thoughts and deeds, are highly venerated far above men of means and wealth. This implies that nobility of character is a more valuable and dignifying asset than other material assets. It is this category of men that my friend, the man of the moment belongs.
On this special day, therefore, I celebrate him as my distinguished brother and good friend, who attains the glorious milestone of 70 through the divine Grace of God. I have known and related very closely with Chief Olanipekun since I met him at the University of Lagos in 1974 when I was in my first year. He was then in his final year. Nothing in his mien then would have made anyone realise that he had been the President of the University of Lagos Students Union (ULSU) the previous year. He was a very fashionable person who wore the in vogue high plankform shoes on bell bottom trousers and nice dress shirts as the Alfa Chief. That was how the President of the great Alpha Club of the University was known then. Our relationship continued very robustly thereafter as professional colleagues in our personal exertions, triumphs, collective struggles and commitment to the building of a good Nigerian society through the deepening of the frontiers of the of the legal profession, and the general advancement and growth our great country.
He is indisputably a pride of his generation, an illustrious son of Ekiti his home state and Nigeria in general, who could be rightly said to be one of the most accomplished, most distinguished and most celebrated Nigerian professionals of this era, and a veritable role model to the coming generation.
A personable gentleman of esteemed and enviable pedigree who possesses high social capital, Chief Olanipekun rose through dint of hard work and commitment to excellence to the zenith of his career as a remarkable legal practitioner with élan, admired gravitas and a behemothic status.
He has shone, and is still shining brightly like a radiant star in the Nigerian legal firmament. Generally considered as someone with a sound mind who has attained high public reckoning like no other, he is one with courage of conviction, forthrightness, consuming passion and uncommon commitment to professionalism and the safeguarding of the public good through the instrumentality of the law.
As a leader, he possesses outstanding leadership and organizational skills, as well as an endearing elevated mind that is given to deep-thinking. These great attributes were very evident when he served as President and I as General-Secretary respectively of the Ilorin Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in 1986. He is one whose drive for excellence and impact is unparalleled. His record as the leader of the largest Bar Association in Africa still stands as a reference point almost two decades after.
In his private and professional life, Chief Wole Olanipekun’s imprint on the sands of time is indelible. For what God has enabled him to achieve in his advocacy of law and crusade for an egalitarian Nigerian society, as well as in promoting civil liberty, human dignity and in making life truly meaningful for the ordinary folks, he belongs to the realm and league of great men.
On the Nigerian legal arena, Chief Olanipekun stands out like a colossus. He is a man whose mind and orientation have been rightly framed and well-cultivated for the role God has crafted him to play on the stage of life. He is a man of high attainments and national recognition. He became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1991 at the very young age of 39 years (the youngest in his conferment year), the same year he was appointed as the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Ondo State. It is noteworthy that four of his children have become very successful legal practitioners in their own rights (two of them, Dapo and Bode are Senior Advocates).
He became the President of the Nigerian Bar Association in 2002, Vice President Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) in 2003; Life Bencher in 2007; served as Member, Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee; Member, Council of Legal Education; Member, Council of International Bar Association; Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies; Fellow, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. The Supreme Court of Nigeria has invited him on many occasions as Amicus Curiae. He was appointed as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council of the University of Ibadan in 2006.
During his tenure, he not only donated his statutory allowances to the institution by way of scholarship, he went on to build and donate to the Faculty of Law a 420-seater fully equipped and furnished Auditorium. He later became Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council of Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, and is currently the Chancellor of Bamidele Olumilua University of Education, Science and Technology, (BOUESTI), Ikere-Ekiti among other notable appointments and calls to national service. His legacies of career and personal attainments will continue to be worthy references.
On a general note, Chief Olanipekun, the Asiwaju of Ikere Ekiti’s record of contributions as an agent of community and national development, and as one who is strongly and positively committed to noble causes, shaping and influencing socio-political and economic transformation trajectory of the country, is legendary.
Some of the very notable social development interventions and contributions he has made include: donation of top-rate health care facilities worth millions of naira to his community; several scholarships annually to Law School students as well as in other higher institutions in the last twenty five years and ICT facilities to a number of schools in his home state and across the country.
As one who has high reverence for God and acknowledges His enabling Grace upon his life, he has made remarkable contributions to the promotion of his faith, which includes the building and donation of a 1, 600-capacity worship Centre to the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, Ikere Ekiti.
This birthday tribute cannot in any way sufficiently capture the essence of Chief Wole Olanipekun. This is because, his personality, status and impacts are bigger than what one can squeeze into few paragraphs.
As the drumbeats of celebration fill the air and his friends, associates and admirers toast in celebrating a worthy son of Ekiti and a remarkable Nigerian patriot, I congratulate him as a dear brother and an esteemed friend for stepping nobly into the league of septuagenarians. It is my fervent prayer that God Almighty will bless him with length of days, peace, joy and all-round fulfilment.
Presido, happy birthday!
Chief Bayo Ojo, SAN, CON is a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice