The Pro-chancellor of the University of Lagos, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), has said true greatness can be measured by an individual’s integrity and the ability to positively affect the lives of the people around him.
Babalakin spoke in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, at the 90th birthday ceremony of an exceptional lawyer and industrialist, Chief Olatunde Ayinla Abudu.
Abudu’s biography, titled: “Sowing The Industrial Mustard Seed,” written by Prof. Omololu Soyombo, was also presented to the public at the event.
Babalakin, who was the book reviewer, described it as “an encyclopaedia of successful business principles”, adding that it contained theoretical and practical knowledge and must be read by every business school in Nigeria.
The pro-chancellor and lawyer said he was particularly thrilled that Abudu realized early in life that there was substantial difference between business ownership and business management, adding that if the book had been written 20 years earlier, a lot of businesses would not have folded up.
Speaking on Abudu’s character, Babalakin described him as “a man of integrity, an exceptional scholar, a great family man, a brilliant and foresighted lawyer, a remarkably resourceful person, a phenomenal entrepreneur, a knowledgeable man of industry, a relentless giver and the most charitable person you can ever imagine.”
He said Abudu’s practice as a solicitor was characterized by so much honesty and great integrity that his clients started appointing him to various boards, including those of AGIP, Bank of America and West African Portland Cement.
Commenting on Abudu’s admiration for his principal at Abeokuta Grammar School, Rev. Oludotun Ransome Kuti, for his discipline, education and fairness as contained in the book, Babalakin said: “You can see that there were great schools in the Old Western Region. They were schools and not mere classrooms. Schools are institutions with traditions and culture. In modern days, I hear ‘oh I’ve built 30 schools’ and the likes, but all they have built are classrooms and not schools. It takes a while for a classroom to become a school.
“One of the saddest events in Nigeria’s life was 1979, when free education was declared in Western Nigeria without the resources to fund it. There is nothing wrong with free education, I support it but if I have to choose between quality education and free education, I will choose the former.
“For example, my alma mater, Government College Ibadan (GCI), which used to have 100 students per class now has 2,000 students, without any increase in infrastructure. This prompted a writer to say that this misguided egalitarianism should be the subject of a UNESCO investigation on how education was destroyed in this area.”
On Abudu’s foray into industrialization, Babalakin noted that even as a student, the industrialist, who graduated with a distinction from Wartburg College in Iowa, United States, was buying houses and renting them out, thereby making money from real estate.
He added that when Abudu returned to Nigeria and realized that Abeokuta’s economy was depressed, he started setting up companies in the town and ended up becoming a “phenomenal employer”.
Abudu’s companies, which are all functional, include Midland Gas Cylinder, Metoxide Nigeria Ltd, Apex Paints Limited, Architectural Products Limited, Midland Rolling Mills, Industrial Products International Limited, Midland Galvanising Products Limited and Organic Chemical Industry.
Abudu also built the Saje Hospital to meet the medical needs of his people and voluntarily gave it to the Ogun State College of Medicine later for the education of medical doctors.
Regretting that Chief Abudu shied away from politics, Babalakin said: “We cannot have the most gifted people shying away from politics. The most painful thing in this world is to be subject to a powerful mediocre. He has the power to destroy you but he has no knowledge to understand what you are saying.”
Babalakin ended the review with the following words: “According to Margaret Thatcher, the desire to win is born in most of us. The will to win is a matter of training. The manner of winning is a matter of honour. Chief had the desire to win; he trained himself to win and won honourably.”
Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, was represented at the event by his deputy, Yetunde Onanuga.
Also in attendance were former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo; Osile of Oke-Ona Egba, Oba Adedapo Tejuoso; Justice Bola Ajibola; Chief Ayo Adebanjo; former Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga; his wife; Senator Femi Okurounmu; Prof. Ajao Adelekan; and Dr G. Soyoye, among others.