There cannot be a celebratory staleness of a man that has positively impacted his country with the instrumentality of his legal practice. Apparently, in acknowledgement of his contributions to the national development, President Muhammadu Buhari recently conferred the honor of the Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR) on him. Consequently, it is fitting and appropriate to celebrate Chief Oluwole Oladapo Olanipekun today, being his birthday, and always, for it is better to celebrate a person when he is still very much alive than to praise him posthumously.
Chief Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), one-time President of Nigeria Bar Association(NBA) ,and current Chairman, Body of Benchers, is a distinguished legal luminary who remains the light by which several groping legal feet are guided, having built many lawyers’ careers and projected them to the commanding to height of their enterprise. Going by his rich profile and accomplishments over the years, it is not out of place to describe this legal icon as a treasured heirloom to humanity.
Indeed, his superlative fame, based on his uncommon achievements, has assumed a very meteoric and epiphanic level, attributed to the sages in the crucible history of mankind. He is generally accepted and respected within the ranks and files of legal practitioners. There is no controverting the fact that, in legal firmament, Chief Olanipekun has a ubiquitous presence that cannot be undermined.
Clearly, he is a successful man. However, success has a burden. Success has its disadvantages. People like success, but some elements however hate a successful person. Maybe because it is said that success attracts jealousy and envy. It is therefore not much of a bother when some elements attempted to besmirch his image with various apocryphal stories of malice and jealousy! What else can better illustrate the saying that it is only a fruitful tree that people throw stones at?
I got to know Chief Olanipekun in 2002, twenty years ago when he was elected President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) at Mokola Cultural Centre in Ibadan, Oyo state. Our relationship blossomed when he was appointed Pro chancellor and Chairman of Council, University of Ibadan in 2009. We worked together.He has soft spot for me. He has since become my benefactor. I have taken my time to understudy him. And, without any fear of contradiction, I can testify to his awesome lifestyle.
Chief Olanipekun, to whom this tribute is dedicated, is one of those rare individuals whose genuine generosity of spirit, humility of a lamp, selfless and steadfast service to humanity almost defy description. He is a personification of patriotism who stands for whatever that is noble and honorable. He refrains from anything that can stain his spotless character.
To dress him in his full robes, he is regal, resplendent, rich and righteous, always conducting himself with a reputation to protect. He is a man of refreshing effervescent candour, not given to pretenses and frivolities. Clearly, this Chairman of Body of Benchers occupies a conspicuous space in the pantheon of patriots imbued with compassion and courage.
No sooner he completed his tenure as Chairman of Council in UI where he spent huge resources of his to uplift the institution than Ajayi Crowther University (ACU) appointed him in the same capacity. Recall that in UI, he facilitated the opening up of Ajibode campus, UI’s second phase with his personal contact with the then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Remember that he personally donated Ten Million Naira to the University in 2011 when the University was flooded. Do not forget that he built and donated a lecture theatre of 350 sitting capacity among other achievements.
Chief Olanipekun went to ACU and replicated all he did for UI, building the Vice Chancellor’s lodge, constructed roads and building in honor of his mother and wife. In his Ikere Ekiti hometown, this legal icon built and donated an ultra-modern church, Vicarage in honour of his father, hospital, computer laboratory and instituted Wole Olanipekun Scholarship Board through which numerous Nigerians, including this writer, have and are still benefitting. Many who would not have gone to school on account of their poor background are today graduates of different disciplines courtesy of Chief Olanipekun.
Recently too, a gigantic legal multi-purpose hall was commissioned in Abuja by President Buhari. Chief Olanipekun, along with many other lawyers was said to have contributed in no small measure to the actualization of the dream! But how can a single person do all of these without attracting attack, envy and jealousy of some of his colleagues who probably feel intimidated? They have been attacking him for being too audacious and successful. They always attempt to dent his image. They challenge him to a roadside brawl. Unfortunately, this Ikere Ekiti Chief is too refined to engage in fisticuffs with anybody. Too bad, here is Chief Olanipekun who does not know how to fight dirty! However, he is not a cook that will get baked in his own oven!
He doesn’t speak all the time. When he speaks, he speaks with a view to re-directing his compatriots to the path of patriotism. His is a voice of forthrightness, a voice of the voiceless. He promotes peace, equity and justice. He is very meticulous, methodical, sensitive and sensible, nice and noble, an ever fair and firm moralist of high social standing.
Respected and revered by his colleagues, Chief Olanipekun, even at over 70, remains dutiful and dedicated to his legal ministry with uncommon zeal and zest. In every place he is obligated to contribute, people will always feel the ambience associated with his presence. His gallantry and epiphany are simply contagious.
The like of Chief Olanipekun are rare to come by. God has a way of bringing special people like this once in a while. To this end, his eponymous figure, his awesome myth and meteoric greatness deserve celebration. To mark his 71st birthday anniversary therefore, let this quintessential gentleman who is very affectionate and generous, friendly and fearless rise wherever he is, reading this tribute, as we sing for him, 71 hymns from the Anglican Hymn book.
Born in Ikere Ekiti, Ekiti State on November 18, 1951, 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 Ilesa 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 of Students Representative Committee in 1971. In 1972, he gained admission to the 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 of 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 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; Sir. May your days be long in peace and prosperity.
Saanu (08034073427) writes from the University of Ibadan.