Olanipekun: A life of service and sacrifice at 65
If indeed, part of the reasons for human pilgrimage on the surface of the earth is to live, to love and to leave legacies, then, those who exceptionally carry out these obligations, not only deserve celebration and appreciation, but merit veneration for they are fine arts of the Creator.
Those who do not live only for themselves, but live to make life more bearable for others, by becoming , distributors of God’s goodness. Those who are altruistic in nature, showing concerns for the welfare of others, are those regarded as “the salt of the earth and the light of the world”, helping the less privileged, assisting the poor, giving hope to the hopeless and bringing joy to the melancholy.
Indeed, these people are often rare to come by. They are special breed. They are who , German politician, Gustav Stresemann describes as “great men of a nation, reaching out to all mankind. They are unifying, not divisive,internationally conciliating and still great nationally”. Certainly, admiration of these great men, living or dead, naturally evokes imitation of them, hence, the need to regularly celebrate them.
However, one of such great men in Nigeria today, undoubtedly, is Chief Oluwole Oladapo Olanipekun, Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR), and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who turns 65 years old today, having been born in Ikere Ekiti, Ekiti State on November 17, 1951. It is public knowledge that Chief Olanipekun’s life is that of service to God and humanity, as well as , sacrifice towards making life more bearable for others. Obviously, when years back, Mahatma Gandhi asserted that “a man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow men”, the philosopher was certainly referring to the like of Chief Olanipekun whose devotion to the betterment of others has become legendary.
Recently, a friend of his, at the University of Ibadan brought a case of an indigent Law graduate who could not go to Law School due to financial constraint to the attention of Chief Olanipekun. Without considering the religious inclination of the graduate who is a Muslim and without knowing his parents, this great man, full of the milk of human kindness resolved the problem. He simply directed his Scholarship Scheme to accommodate the Law graduate. Wole Olanipekun Scholarship Scheme will be 20 years in existence this month. Hundreds of students whose educational career would have terminated mid-stream are today graduates of various disciplines courtesy of charitableness of this soft-spoken legal colossus.
Clearly, his humility and philanthropic humanism are so much unparalleled in this part of the world where obscene display of wealth and class haughtiness is the crass second nature of moneybags. Chief Olanipekun, whose slender physical frame disguises the giant strides recorded in life, is an astute professional, a towering role model, a phenomenal philanthropist, blessed with a jumbo heart and robust giving spirit.
Trite, it may seem to those who are familiar with his story, but the truth remains that when this illustrious son of Ekiti state was the Pro Chancellor and Chairman of Council, University of Ibadan (2009-2013), the dominant narrative was that of selflessness, service, benefaction and sacrifice -all towards making the university better, greater and richer than he met it. Chief Olanipekun simply changed the face of the university during his chairmanship tenure with his quiet kindness making loud impact across the campus. He never collected sitting allowances running into several millions of Naira, rather, he instituted Scholarship Scheme for the brilliant students in Law, Medicine and Computer Science. When the flood ravaged the University in 2011, Chief Olanipekun made the highest personal donation of N10 million for the amelioration of the loss. Before the expiration of his tenure also, he built a 400 sitting-capacity lecture theatre and donated it to the Faculty of Law at Ajibode, UI second phase.
Today,amazingly though, this humble and humane kind-hearted legal luminary is replicating the same good story of benevolence at Ajayi Crowther University (ACU), Oyo , where he recently built a multimillion Naira Vice Chancellor’s lodge. Along with his charming wife, Lara, Chief Olanipekun who was appointed Pro Chancellor and Chairman Council of the 11-year old University in November 2014 said he was touched that the VC had no residence conducive for habitation. What was available to the VC, according to him, “was a rickety bungalow constructed for the Principal of St. Andrews College built over 100 years ago, consisting of a bedroom and one sitting room.
“To redress the appalling situation, therefore, Chief and his wife donated a well-fenced Wole and Lara Olanipekun Vice Chancellor’s lodge, complemented with a chapel, library, bedrooms for adults, children’s rooms, guest rooms, among others. The university , owned by the Supra Diocesan Board (West), Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is no longer the same with the intervention of a man of benignity. There are so many instances of sacrificial donations and financial assistance that he would not want mentioned for he likes noiseless kindliness.
His courage is respectable. His carriage is admirable just as his gait is prestigious. Chief Olanipekun, while leading the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) as its President in 2001 once politely confronted the then President Olusegun Obasanjo over national issues to the admiration of other lawyers. Yet, heaven did not fall! In the build-up to the 2015 general elections, Chief Olanipekun, in a day, represented two opposing interests in two different courts without rocking the boat. Hear him, “I was at the Code of Conduct of Tribunal in the morning in a suit involving Bola Tinubu, Jonathan’s election petition was stood down till about 2p.m. and immediately I finished addressing the CCT on Tinubu’s matter, I had to go and change for Jonathan’s matter. Jonathan would dare not ask me why I was defending his political foe.”
How else is a great man described? A lawyers’ lawyer who is a Counsel to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua commands both adoration and emulation without demanding them. The modest legal mind whose temper constitutes the template for enviable conduct effortlessly earns good reputation through achievement of monumental feats and cultivation of super human accretions.
Socially, Chief could be gay and gregarious, but when it comes to his legal practice, he is tough-minded, thorough, strong-willed and self-possessed. However, behind the facade of the forthright man is an exemplary personality with heart of gold. Having studied him so much over the years, this writer who has benefitted immensely from his unpretentious goodness of nature is of the opinion that Chief Olanipekun’s rigorous originality, self-assuredness and perpetual preparedness pave ways for his outstanding successes.
At 65, Chief Olanipekun is essentially puritanical in his indulgence, prudent in his conduct and eternally transparent in his dealings. He has thus become an approximation of what an ideal family man should be: God fearing, compact and contented. As all his four children are lawyers, with the eldest, Dr. Oladapo Olumide Olanipekun, being the youngest Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Olanipekun’s wealth is obviously reflective in his children.
A paladin of moral rectitude, this birthday man certainly deserves all the honour for his humility chastises the arrogance of these immoderate times. Driven by class, elegance, style and brilliance and most importantly, modesty, Chief Olanipekun remains a cerebral and experiential professional in jurisprudential matters. His arguments are breath- taking in its range and reach, and his delivery magisterial and compelling as his imprints are phenomenal. In the legal profession today, he is a role model whose mien, oratory power and forensic dexterity are emulated and copied by many, including his mates.
As he marks 65 years of existence in life today, one can only pray that God should continue to prolong his life in peace and prosperity for the benefit of humanity.
Born in Ikere Ekiti, Ekiti State on November 18, 1951, Chief Olanipekun attended Amonye Grammar School, Ikere Ekiti between 1965 and 1969 where he obtained the West African School Certificate (WASC). His academic brilliance informed his appointment as the Senior Prefect. He proceeded to Ilesha Grammar School in 1970 from where he obtained the Higher School Certificate (HSC) in 1971.
At Ilesha Grammar School, the young Olanipekun manifested his innate leadership qualities, thus becoming the Editor-in -Chief of the school magazine (The Spike). He was also the chairman, Students Representative Committee in 1971. In 1972, he gained admission into University of Lagos where he bagged the Bachelor of Law degree in 1975. As light drawing moths, Olanipekun attracted many friends and admirers with his enchanting brilliancy which led to this election as the Secretary-General, Students’ Union between 1973 and 1974.
He attended the Nigerian Law School, Lagos from 1975 and 1976 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1976. He was a junior counsel in the Messrs Oniyangi & Co Ilorin between 1977 and 1979. In 1980, he became the Principal Partner of Messrs Wole Olanipekun & Co.
Perhaps one can only remind Chief Olanipekun of what God says concerning him and his like in the book of Isaiah 3:10, “Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds”. Happy birthday Chief.
Saanu is with the Directorate of Public Communication , University of Ibada, can be reached at (08059436919) email@example.com