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Why We’ll Never Stop Celebrating Aare Afe Babalola, Says ABBW Founder, Kayegbo

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Chief Ogunniyi Solomon Morakinyo, popularly known as Kayegbo, is a journalist, publisher, tourism and entertainment promoter, among others.

He is also a consumate historian, the initiator of Afe Babalola Day and founder of Afe Babalola Beneficiaries Worldwide, ABBW. In this interview, he bares his mind on Aare Afe Babalola, the ABBW, and his passions, among other issues. Excerpts:*

What informed your attraction to Aare Afe Babalola, SAN?

Aare Afe Babalola, SAN, OFR, CON, is a living legend, a true pan-Africanist and benefactor of humanity. He is an icon of value, an erudite legal icon, foremost legal luminary, pre-eminent educationist and humanitarian extra-ordinary. He is an unparalleled philanthropist, whose happiest moment is when others around him are happy.

Aare Babalola has brought honour and dignity to Ekiti State, the South-West geo-political zone, and Nigeria by his establishment of a world-class university, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, ABUAD; and a multi-system teaching hospital, the ABUAD Teachings Hospital, ABUADTH, in Ekiti State.

Apart from the Ekiti State government, his university is the highest employer of labour in the state till now.

Aare Babalola founded ABUAD in 2009, and the university was named the best private university in Nigeria in the 2018 world university ranking. Also, ABUAD is the fastest growing private university in Africa.

Till date, Aare Babalola remains the highest tax payer in Ekiti State, and has been, even right from the old Ondo State. His farm, ABUAD Farms in Ado-Ekiti is bigger than many towns in Nigeria.
This great man use his powerful connection to ensure that Ekiti State was created among others, on October 1st, 1996 by the then Head of State, late General Sani Abacha.
Need i remind you that ABUAD was also ranked second Best University in Nigeria, among all federal, state and private universities and polytechnics, numbering about 278; while his multi-system teaching hospital, ABUADTH, equipped with latest the teaching equipment was described by Nigeria’s honourable Minister of Health as the best he has seen in this part of the world, which is aimed at putting an end to medical tourism in the country.
ABUAD was registered in November, 2009 and in his capacity as the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, between 2001 and 2007, he successfully reformed the university, which was ranked number one university in Nigeria.
He also won the best Pro-Chancellor Award from the National University Commission, NUC. ABUAD’s College of Law was acknowledged as the best College of Law in West Africa by the NUC; while the College of Engineering was described by the Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, as the template for engineering education in the country. The legal luminary has won global awards in London and USA.
The great man played significant role in the establishment of Ondo State University, now Ekiti State University and the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti.
His contributions in making the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti a model are on record for posterity. He is a man who has spent the better part of his life developing and promoting education at all levels.

In his 61 years of legal practice, Aare Babalola has trained, nurtured and assisted over 3,000 lawyers, 14 of who are now Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs; while others have been and are Attorneys-General among others.

He has bagged notable awards locally, nationally and internationally. And just recently, he was conferred with the African Role Model and the African Union Agenda 2063 Awards by the African Union Economic Social-Cultural Council.
He also bagged ‘A Peace Time Hero’ Award and Ekiti Parapo ‘Patriot’ Award, during the 2018/2019 Ekiti Parapo Festival. He bagged the 2019 Obafemi Awolowo Leadership Prize.

The organizers of Ekiti Peace Day on World Peace Day in 2019, named him the Ekiti Man of the Millennium, in recognition of his pivotal contributions to education and community development in Ekiti State, more than any individual in history.
The Aare Babalola that I know is a practical agriculture expert and a trail blazer in the health sector. He is a pride to Ekiti State, the Yoruba race and Nigeria as a whole. He remains a role model to our generation, and even generations yet unborn.
The reforms in ABUAD cut across curriculum development, practice-based learning, funding, teaching, research, entrepreneurial
and vocational skills. In just 12 years of its existence, ABUAD has been recognized by the NUC as “a model, benchmark and reference point for other universities,” and also “the pride of university education in the country.”

Can you expantaite on what you have benefitted from Aare Afe Babalola?

Life is all about give and take; to whom much is given, much is also expected. My mentor, my hero, and my supporter is Aare Afe Babalola. I will forever be grateful to him for what I derived from him.
He invested money in my life 25 years ago, to help me build my media outfit, and that investment helped shape who I am today.

What have you done to repay his investment in you quarter of a century ago?

I enlisted the help of some people I know who had also benefited from his benevolence in order to repay him for his human development, and together we worked to raise money for what is today known as the Afe Babalola Hall of Fame and Gardens, located at the base of the popular Oke Agbonna, in Okemesi, Ekiti State, South-West, Nigeria.
Names of contributors to the legacy projects at the Hall of Fame and Gardens are now inscribed on marble at the Hall of Fame at the Hillside, Okemesi-Ekiti.

Why Afe Babalola Hall of Fame and Garden project?

Afe Babalola Hall of Fame and Garden is my initiative, a veritable tourist centre, dedicated to honour a living legend, the philanthropist of our time and founder/Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, ABUAD. Aare Afe Babalola, my benefactor, for his exemplary contribution to the development of humanity.

Would you be kind enough to give na insight into what the Safe Babalola Hall of Fame and Gardens is like?

Right inside the garden, which is aimed to be an internal tourist centre, that will in due course attract local, national and international tourists, you will see pavilions built by admirers of Ààrẹ Babalola. Prominent among these is the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, His Royal Majesty, Oba Dr Rufus Adeyemo Adejugbe VIP Pavilion; there are also other pavilions built by lace and mini pavilions built by the Asiwaju Okemesiland, Chief Samuel Bolarinde; Yeye Otunba Dr. Titi Oyejola, and Dr. Femi Alabi.
Others include: mini-chalets for tourists, donated by Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, popularly known as MOB, CON; Olawale Fapounda, SAN; and Village Kitchen, built by MOBIZ Caterers, to cater to the culinary needs of tourists and visitors alike to the garden.

In front of the Afe Babalola Hall of Fame, sits a bust of Baba Afe, on which you can read his modest achievements and citation on marble.
Inside the garden, there is children’s playing arena, equipped with kiddies’ entertainment and play gadgets, donated by Rev. Dr. Gbemisola Olukoya Danielle, the founder of Cecemee Care Foundation, based in United Kingdom.

Are there other contributors to the Safe Babalola Hall of Fame and Garden?

Afe Babalola Hall of Fame and Garden was built from donations from ABBW, including the initiator, the Amuludun of Okemesi-Ekiti, Chief Morakinyo, aka Kayegbo, and publisher of Kayegbo International Magazine.
It would not be out of place to acknowledge other contributors, who made garden a reality and what it is today, and they include: the late Oliyin of Iyin-Ekiti, His Royal Majesty, Oba Justice John Ademola Ajakaiye, who was the pioneer President of ABBW between 2013 and 2017.
There are also other who have contributed and were part of Afe Babalola Days since it’s inception in 2013, bad include: ABUAD’s first Vice Chancellor, Prof. Michael Ajisafe; the incumbent VC, Prof. Smaranda Olarinde; ABUAD lecturers; Adebayo Adenipekun, SAN; Lucas Daramola, SAN; Mr. Isiaka Iyadunni; Her Excellencies Erelu Bisi Fayemi and Prof. Modupe Adeola Adelabu; Amb. Eniola Ajayi and Erelu Engr. Kemi Josephine Elebute-Halle.
Others are: the Odoba of Ado-Ekiti, High Chief Alex Olu-Ajayi; the Iya Ewe of Jerusla Church, Primate Funke Babayemi; the Eyesorun of Ado-Ekiti, Eyesorun Bosede Adejugbe; Olori Apalufin Bosede Omotoyinbo; the Owa Ooye of Okemesi-Ekiti, Oba Michael Gbadebo Adedeji, and his chiefs, who installed Baba Afe and his wife as Jagunmolu and Yeye Jagunmolu Atuluse of Okemesiland in 2018.
Others include Arole Oduduwa, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife; the late Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi; His Royal Majesty, Alayeluwa Oba Dr. Adejugbe, the Ewi Ado-Ekiti; His Royal Highness, the Olojudo of Ido-Ekiti, Oba Ilori Faboro; His Royal Highness, the Olojudo-Ile of Ido-Ile-Ekiti, Oba Aderemi Obaleye; His Royal Highness, the Onitaji of Itaji-Ekiti, Oba Alhaji Idowu Adamo Babalola; His Royal Highness, the Oluomo of Omuo-Ekiti, Oba Noah Omonigbehin; His Royal Highness, the Ajero of Ijero-Ekiti, Oba Joseph Adewole Adebayo; and His Royal Highness, the late Ologotun of Ogotun-Ekiti, Oba Samuel Oyebade. Contributors to the annual Afe Babalola Days are: Chief Mrs. Joke Adebayo Chukwumah; Barr. Tunde Ola-Olorun; Dr. Femi Alabi; Aare and Yeye Aare Akorewolu of Ado Ekiti, Chief and Chief Mrs. Oluwole Orungbe.
Playing their fatherly roles and contributing to the modest successes recorded by the ABBW are the incumbent
Chairman of Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers, His Royal Highness, the Onisan of Isan-Ekiti, Oba Gabriel Adejuwon; and former Chairman of the Council, His Royal Highness, the Oloye of Oye-Ekiti, Oba Sir Oluwole Ademolaju.
Some of those who have bagged Afe Babalola Awards for their contributions to Afe Babalola Days include the incumbent governor of Ekiti State, His Excellency Biodun Oyebanji; former governor of Ekiti State, His Excellency, Asiwaju Olusegun Oni; Prof. Abiodun Ojo; Balogun Akin Osuntokun; Senator Biodun Olujimi; Senator Bamidele; and Hon. Biodun Omoleye.
Others include Chief Dare Babarinsa; Hon. Steve Olusola Fatoba MHR; Aare Kunle Olajide; and Prof. Tunde Adeniran, among others.
From the entrance of the Hall of Fame and Gardens, you will climb 79 steps to Kayegbo Hillside Resort, where you will find the Cenotaph of World Legends; as well as the Altar of Solution Prayer Centre for all Nations, which I personally bankrolled to add value to the garden.
The Afe Babalola Hall of Fame and Gardens is not very far from the two main roads leading to the top of Agbonna Hills, Okemesi-Ekiti. You can go straight to the garden from the Owa Ooye palace.

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