The iconic Chief Afe Babalola, CON, OFR, SAN, the founder of the world-famous Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti(ABUAD) is a 21st-century world statesman, Pan-Africanist and the foremost Nigerian legal luminary and extraordinary philanthropist whose success story is one of the greatest fortunes of our contemporary times.
The son of Madam Abigail Ajayi Babalola (nee Oshunkunle) and Pa Joshua Adubiaro Babalola of Ilotin quarters, Odo, Ado-Ekiti, Chief Afe Babalola was born and bred without a silver spoon but he has greatness thrust upon him and he has a pedigree of noble birth. He is a native of Ado-Ekiti, the capital of Ekiti State, south-western Nigeria.
He attended Emmanuel Primary School, Ado Ekiti as a classmate of Dr Christopher Kolade and other eminent Nigerians. He did not attend any secondary school but enrolled for the Senior Cambridge School Certificate examination by a private study from Wolsey Hall, Oxford, UK.
He later obtained the A ‘Level certificate of London University before he proceeded to London School of Economics where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Economics. He worked briefly at the Central Bank of Nigeria before he left for the University of London where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Law.
In 1963, he was called to the England bar, the same year he became a member of Lincoln’s Inn, London.
As fate would have it, Afe Babalola began his career at Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, Western Nigeria as a litigation lawyer in Olu Ayoola and Co, law firm. In 1965, after two years of legal practice, he established his own law firm, Afe Babalola and Co. (Emmanuel Chambers). In 1987, he became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the highest rank in the Legal profession in Nigeria.
In 2000, he was appointed, Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the former President of Nigeria. He held the position till 2008 during which he emerged as best Pro-Chancellor of Nigerian Universities consecutively in 2005 and 2006. In 2009, he established Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti(ABUAD) to promote education in Nigeria and the university’s College of law has at different times rated best in Nigeria. In 2013, the university was ranked the second best private university in Nigeria and 17 of 136 universities in Nigeria.
He was described by the Governor of Ondo State, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu as a moulder and builder of future leaders as well as a philanthropist of repute during the 5th convocation ceremony of the institution in October 2017. He is the father to Folashade Alli, Bolanle Austen-Peters Gboyega Babalola and Michael Opeyemi Babalola and other children, grandchildren and extended family members.
In 2008, Aare Afe Babalola wrote his autobiography, Impossibility made possible (350 pages) which he wrote: “This book is a story of how, when and where I was born, the primitive beliefs of the time and the multifarious problems that I had to encounter. Briefly, it is a story of events most of which my children find difficult to believe…the book emphasizes the critical importance and the undoubted usefulness of good education as a veritable tool for the decisive transformation of a person into a useful material for oneself and society at large”.
Chief Afe Babalola traced his paternal lineage to the Olotin chieftaincy family of Ilotin, Odo Ado in Ado-Ekiti. According to him: “Olotin is a chieftaincy title for Ilotin family under the native and customary law of Ado-Ekiti.” The following is the list of Olotin gathered from the elders, were: Olotin Gbo-igi, Olotin Asigbala, Olotin Adesua, Olotin Ogunbiyi, Olotin Ajayi, Olotin Osaloni…”From the book, it was deduced that Olotin Adesua was the father of Olotin Ogunbiyi, Olotin Ogunbiyi was the father of Babalola (Afe’s father), Olotin Ajayi and Osaloni.
His genealogical research which covers at least four hundred years show that his paternal roots came from Idofin compound in Idofin Street, Odo Ado quarters of Ado-Ekiti to Ilotin in Ado-Ekiti’s ancestral home.
From his maternal lineage root, Madam Abigail Ajayi Babalola (Afe Babalola’s mother) was the daughter of Pa Oshunkunle, a warrior and a popular farmer who hailed from Ile Asha in Idofin, Ado-Ekiti. His father was Odofin Aripin Omolore. The name of her paternal grandfather is Apata Pari of Shogun Abosoju of Irona quarters (Ado-Ekiti). He was also called Shaji.
“Apata Pari (Shaji) was a warrior’s name usually given to a warrior comparable only to an impregnable mountain. When Apata died many bullets were removed from his body.
According to him, “My mother told me that she learnt that her grandmother came from Ijero to Ado-Ekiti and got married to Akogun Abusoju Ogun. The name of her grandfather was Akogun Abusoju Ogun…The list is not exhaustive. Apata, my grandfather was the only one born by Eye Yemuye for Akogun Abusoju Ogun. Apata’s mother came from Ijero-Ekiti. I was informed that Apata’s mother also had children in Ijero before coming to Ado-Ekiti.”(Afe Babalola, Autobiography, Impossibility Made Possible, page 10-11)
The Ajero of Ijero Kingdom is essentially Ekiti paramount royalty and one of the sixteen beaded crowned Kings of Ekiti confederacy kingdoms of old who are direct Prince of Olofin Oduduwa, the progenitor of Yoruba race from Ile-Ife, the cradle and source of the Yoruba race. The Ajero of Ijero Kingdom has a long history in Yoruba land, south-west Nigeria as a first-class monarch and fourth direct descendant Prince of Oduduwa. It is a tribute to the ancestors and honour to the descendants that nobility flows in the family blood and lineage from generation to generation.
Chief Afe Babalola concluded in his Autobiography about his maternal lineage that “Apata’s mother was the daughter of Owa-Jero, one-time Ajero of Ijero-Ekiti. There was a native custom in those days. The custom was that when the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti was performing Iwemo, the Ajero would give one of his beautiful daughters to the Ewi of Ado to marry. In those days, my father’s mother who hailed from Ijero and who was a daughter of the then Ajero had another sister who was born by Ajero.
During one of such festivals called Iwemo, the Ajero gave his daughter to the reigning Ewi as a wife. The woman gave birth to a son called Adewumi. Adewumi later became the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti. He was a fair-complexioned Oba. It was Adewumi Agunsoye that gave birth to Prince Adegoke Adewumi.”
Chief Afe Babalola has given us an engrossing and splendid account of his life in his autobiography. A life of inspiring ancestry life, career and accomplishments in the words of Chief Dare Babarinsa, founding editor of TELL Magazine,…”This is an inspiring and passionate parable of perseverance, told with self-deprecating candour and shocking simplicity by one of Africa’s grand men of modern jurisprudence.”…
If I may ask, how is Chief Afe Babalola is a descendant of Ajero Agbeleja? Ajero Agbeleja was the reigning Ajero of Ijero-Ekiti from 1821 to 1866, a period of 45 years and the second-longest reign of any Ajero in history, he was the father of Ajero Aderuku Arojojoye 1, who reigned in the Ijero Kingdom from 1916 to 1930. Oba Ali Atewogboye was the traditional monarch (Ewi)of Ado-Ekiti who reigned from 1836 to 1886, a period of 50 years and he married a princess of a reigning Ajero who was the mother of Oba Adewunmi Agunsoye, the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti who reigned from 1910 to 1937.
The Afe Babalola’s maternal family tree, however, indicates that he has the most links of her Ijero maternal roots with Ewi Adewumi Agunsoye, the prince of Ewi Ali Atewogboye whose mother was a princess of Agbeleja like Mummy Helena Fatoregun Doherty (nee Agbeleja), one of the pioneers of Christianity in Ekiti land in 1894 and mother of Mr Josiah Henryson Doherty, the prince merchant of old Lagos and one of the greatest philanthropist in Nigeria history.
Traditionally, Aare Afe Babalola’s maternal root and heritage have been closely linked with Ajero of Ijero but we are delighted to find records in Ijero history that he had strong links to Ajero Agbeleja, the great grandfather of the incumbent Owa Ajero of Ijero, HRM Oba Adebayo Adewole, Arojojoye II.
I hope these findings will hopefully strengthening family ties in our Ekiti communities and ancestral roots, in particular, to further celebrate the life of Aare Afe Babalola anytime he visits Ijero-Ekiti soil.
Like the former President Barack Obama of the United States whose father was an African from Kenya and the 35th United States President John F. Kennedy whose great-grandparents has roots in Ireland, they are proud of their roots. The Kennedy family emigrated to the United States in the midst of the Irish famine of 1848 and eventually settled in Boston, Massachusetts. JFK had visited Dungan’s town in Ireland because his relatives had shared the Kennedy name there, but ultimately his roots lie deeper in Limerick through his mother’s side.
In tracing Ijero maternal roots of Ewi Adewunmi Agunsoye (1910-1937)and Aare Afe Babalola’s maternal roots to the royal throne of Ajero of the Ijero Kingdom in his autobiography, we should cling to the reigns Ajero Agbeleja (1821 -1866) and Ewi Ali Atewogboye (1836-1886)as a chronological time of history when there was relative peace in Ekiti land before Ekiti Parapo (Kiriji)war when communities and connectivity were strengthening in Ekiti land.
We thank God for the life of Aare Afe Babalola; his life story is a living inspiration not only for Ekiti people or Nigerians but to all humanity. As a scion of Ajero of Ijero Kingdom, Ijero is proud to be a branch of the roots in this living legend and ancestor’s heritage.