Olanipekun: A life of kindness
One can pay back the loan of gold, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind, particularly those who are extraordinarily kind. Therefore, there cannot be a celebratory staleness regarding his selfless contributions to the society, for his, is a life that touches the lives of many others. This perhaps, explains the consistent celebration of Chief Oluwole Oladapo Olanipekun, Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who is a year older today.
Chief Olanipekun, a great man who carries greatness lightly, is certainly among the men of immense means in Nigeria specially gifted with the spirit of benevolence. While those who are familiar with his narratives may be nodding in agreement with this postulation, clearly thousands of families who have benefited from the immenseness of his philanthropy will be struggling to be counted for this patrician-looking man remains a rainbow in many people’s cloud.
Having witnessed many ‘‘miracles’’ he performed while he was the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council at the University of Ibadan (UI), between 2009 and 2013, this writer is shocked by the fact that Olanipekun is repeating the same benefaction at Ajayi Crowther University where he is the current council chairman. Since 2014 when he was so appointed, he has assisted the university with many magnificent structures and fantastic projects that have greatly lifted the faith-based university. For instance, Olanipekun, together with his wife, Lara, donated a multimillion-Naira Vice Chancellor’s Lodge to the university which the Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi described as ‘‘a rare donation from an individual.’’ This same chief who is Asiwaju of Ikere-Ekiti has also assisted the university in building and roofing a hall. Recently, about 13 projects, costing over N300 million have been commissioned, courtesy of the managerial acumen of this legal luminary whose preoccupation is the betterment of the society.
For the sake of recollection, all he is contributing to Ajayi Crowther University today are similar to many legacies he left behind in UI. It is on record that he got substantial amount of money from the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to open up the second phase of UI at Ajibode. He made a personal donation of Ten Million Naira to UI in the wake of the flood disaster in Ibadan in 2011. He built and donated a gigantic Law Lecture Theatre at Ajibode. These are only a few among his notable deeds of substance.
More strikingly, about 22 years ago, Olanipekun established the Wole Olanipekun Scholarship Scheme through which many indigent students have been able to achieve their academic dreams. From secondary schools to higher institutions of learning, students all over Nigeria have been benefitting immensely from the wealth of Olanipekun, and this has evidently made him a beacon and blistering light in usually impossible tunnels.
It was against this background that I asked him for an interview to commemorate his birthday this year. Shockingly, Olanipekun refused. He told me that he believed “every day is a birthday,” therefore there was no need for that. But I insisted that, given his huge generosity to the society, he must be celebrated. Chief stuck to his gun even as I devised plots to catch him unawares. What did I do? I stormed his office in Lagos and I was very lucky to meet him. Dazed by my determination, he couldn’t resist me any longer. He wanted to know why I deemed it necessary to write about him. I put it back to him that his contributions to the society were newsworthy. He then fixed a gaze at me as I picked my pen to jot every word that would proceed from his mouth.
“Do you know that I have got to a stage that I feel it is unnecessary to be talking about all these things?” he asked, as I surreptitiously admired his expensive wrist watch and other accessories he wore! “Sunday, many people, even in my legal profession, are envious and angry at what God has done with my life. They don’t know me. They blackmail me because they don’t understand the grace of God upon my life. Look at my office address, God’s House, where I stay, God’s Grace Villa. I am astonished by what they write about me. Out of envy, they are working round the clock to tarnish my image.’’
Olanipekun further revealed: ‘‘I take this legal profession as a ministry. I don’t mix my profession with any other thing. No politics, no business, no contract. And I will never compromise the integrity of my clients. I will never compromise the interest of justice. My clients cut across all strata of society. But if I defended you yesterday and you won, and I am defending your opponents tomorrow, you will now be insulting me because you want to monopolise my service. Law is not practised that way.’’
When asked why he is so much given to philanthropy, he replied ‘‘I am appreciating God by engaging myself in assisting institutions and individuals. When God has blessed you, you want to key into humanitarianism and charitable services, after all, God says “I will bless you so that you will be a blessing unto others”. God has blessed me, therefore I should be able to bless others. God’s blessings are never meant to be monopolised by any beneficiary.”
Naturally, Olanipekun is a refined gentleman who believes that forgiveness frees while bitterness binds. This is well conveyed in his comportment. He neither bluffs nor brags about his importance and greatness, just as he is always found in a whirl of work. According to him, when I leave my office, I go to my house. I belong to Ikoyi Club, but I hardly go there. I have sports kits, I don’t use them. It is my work I face all the time.” Olanipekun that I know, in all of these years of his stainless and selfless services to humanity, treats everyone with politeness, including those who are rude to him, not because they are nice, but because he is.
Obviously, he is a fellow who does things that count, but doesn’t stop to count them. For instance, this writer is aware of a story of an ingrate law graduate who was recommended by the Head of Department for financial assistance. The indigent but brilliant graduate wanted to go to Law School in Abuja, but had no money. Olanipekun paid for his wig and gown, air ticket to Abuja and school fees. Sadly, the young man disappeared from the radar after completing his legal training, failing to come back for gratitude. Yet this act of ingratitude has never stopped this legal colossus from assisting people thereafter.
However, as opposed to the young man who ran away from his benefactor, one Izuchukwu Oziogu and another Blessing Osato who were both unknown to Olanipekun, but benefitted from his Scholarship Scheme wrote via e-mail, thanking the legal luminary for assisting them to become lawyers. According to Oziogu ‘‘in a world where the norm is to think of one’s family, tribe, religion, colour as the case may be, I was amazed at the generosity of a learned silk, Chief Olanipekun who sought to ensure that I achieve my dream of being called to the Nigerian Bar. I am eternally grateful.’’
Ozato on her own part, confessed that it was God who used Olanipekun for her enrollment at the Law School, saying she would never forget Olanipekun’s benevolence to her. Again, one Adebayo M. Muftau who claimed to be the father of Miss Sherifat Adebayo expressed the same sentiments, thanking Olanipekun for sending his daughter to school, yet the Asiwaju of Ikere Ekiti never knew all these beneficiaries from Adams.
Who then says Olanipekun does not deserve regular celebration on account of his immeasurable benefactions to the society? If those who owe us nothing, gave us nothing, how poor we would be! Life, according to Helen Keller, is exciting business, and most exciting when it is lived for others. Let those who see no good in what Olanipekun does go to their village and raise army of educated youth. Assisting the needy is an engagement that has brought this brilliant legal mind plaudits and popularity in copious quantities. Certainly, if we have more of Olanipekuns in our society, life will be more bearable.
Saanu wrote from the University of Ibadan.