Emmanuel Afe Babalola, farmer, author, teacher, philanthropist and advocate of many laudable causes, is a colossus of the Nigerian Bar and a giant of universal relevance. He has transcended personal and circumstantial barriers to become a formidable force in his primary calling of forensic advocacy and other disciplines. He is one of Africa’s biggest farmers and the Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, ABUAD, which he founded in 2009, has become one of the fastest growing private tertiary institutions on the continent. He has been honoured in many countries and in 2015 became the first African alumnus of the University of London to be conferred with an honourary doctorate degree in Law of the world-class university.
Babalola, was born in Ado-Ekiti, circa 1930 (like his friend Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Babalola is not sure of the exact date of his birth). He attended Emmanuel Anglican Primary School, Ado-Ekiti where he obtained his first school leaving certificate in 1945. Restless and precocious, the two years he spent in the teacher training college only whetted his ferocious appetite for knowledge. From that point on, there was no stopping him. He soon obtained the Teacher Grade Two certificate by home studies and proceeded to obtain Cambridge Certificate also by home studies. By 1954 he obtained his General Certificate of Education, Advanced Level, with which he gained admission to study for a bachelor degree in Economics of the University of London as an external student. He later proceeded to the United Kingdom where he bagged a degree in Law of the University of London also as an external student and was enrolled as a solicitor and advocate at the prestigious Lincoln Inn, London in 1963.
Babalola was a counsel at the Olu Ayoola and Company chambers from 1963 until he established his Emmanuel Chambers in 1965. Since then, he has embraced his destiny as a lion of the Nigerian Bar, featuring in many historic cases involving individuals and the government. Throughout all these years, he also served as a prodigious contributors to newspapers. He has authored many law books and contributed to hundreds of many international law journals. His enthralling autobiography, Impossibility Made Possible, remains an enduring masterpiece. He also served for many years as a lecturer at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Lagos and the Centre for African Law Development, Lagos.
Babalola involvement with education has been long and productive. He was made the Chairman of the Federal Polytechnics, Ado-Ekiti, in 1983 by President Shehu Shagari. He played a pivotal role in getting the institution moved from Akure, Ondo State, to Ado-Ekiti in 1983. In 2001, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of the University of Lagos, Unilag. He later became chairman of the committee of Pro-Chancellors. He was instrumental in upgrading the profile of the university, contributing immensely to the eradication of cultism on the campus and bringing stability to the university calendar by ensuring minimal disruptions through industrial strikes by teachers and other unions.
Babalola was conferred with the prestigious laurel of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 1987, the highest honour for any practicing lawyer in Nigeria. When he established ABUAD in 2009, it was the zenith of his personal contribution to higher education in Nigeria. In 2013, the university was ranked the second best private university in Nigeria. The university has now up a vast College of Medicine that is expected to be a showpiece for the continent.
As a philanthropist, he has donated edifices to many institutions, including an auditorium for each of Unilag, U.I, and the Federal Polytechnics, Ado Ekiti.
His Emmanuel Chambers is one of the largest law firms in Nigeria and has many judges, SANs, and top lawyers have passed through its portal. In 2005 and 2006, he won the best Pro-Chancellor Award in Nigeria. He is the winner of the Queen Victoria Commemorative Award of Socrates of the European Business Assembly, which was presented at Oxford University, in the United Kingdom. He is a member of the Rector of Europe and was made the vice-president of the group in 2010. Babalola also has the biggest private farm in Ekiti State which includes private lakes rearing millions of fishes.