Olanipekun: When Philanthropy Becomes a Way of Life

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Raheem Akingbolu pays tribute to former President of Nigerian Bar Association, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, who clocked 65 recently, and whose life has been dedicated to giving back to a society that has, in turn, given him so much

To Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), a former President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), life appears to be meaningless if one fails to touch lives. In the last 20 years, the story of how the legal luminary is impacting the society through philanthropic gestures has become like an obsession. In many ways, the Ikere-Ekiti-born lawyer has proved that life is not only about amassing wealth but leaving a resounding legacy.

Olanipekun’s humanitarian gesture, which began 20 years ago through a
scholarship scheme in the ancient town of Ikere Ekiti, has spread to
various communities and institutions of learning. At the beginning,
the scholarship scheme began like a child’s play but today it has seen
to the educational development of hundreds of students, who are now
successful in their various fields of endeavour.

Beyond touching the lives of his kith and kin, he has taken it up a notch by moving beyond community development to donation of structures to schools and professional bodies. For instance, few years ago, the lawyer in his magnanimity donated a well furnished Bar Centre to the Nigeria Bar Association, Ikere Chapter. To go with the centre was a multimedia platform, generator and air-conditioners. He moved further by paying practicing fees for the lawyers in the branch for three
years.

At the Ikere State Specialist Hospital, Olanipekun built and equipped a health care facility in memory of his late mother, Madam Lydia Abosede Olanipekun. It is as a result of this that the general hospital now enjoys the full status of a teaching hospital as it was recently accredited by the Nigeria Medical Council for housemanship. He gave the facility a life of its own by providing ambulance,
engaging five staff, including a cleaner, gardener and nurses with the promise that he would pay their salary for a year.

As a demonstration of his adherence to the Christian faith, the legal icon built and donated a vicarage to the Anglican Church on Ado Ekiti road in Ikere Ekiti in memory of his late father. Bearing in mind the place of information and communication technology in today’s school curriculum, Olanipekun, who was installed the Asiwaju (leader) of Ikere Ekiti, had few years ago moved to his alma mater, Amoye Grammar School, Ikere Ekiti where he donated an ICT centre for the students.

Maybe by coincidence, his footprints are today felt on all the roads leading to Ikere Ekiti. On Igbara Odo road, there is the Olanipekun Bar Centre; on Ise road is the Specialist Hospital where he built a ward in memory of his late mother, while Ado and Akure roads house the Vicarage and the ICT centre respectively.

Outside Ikere Ekiti, Olanipekun has also sowed the seed of giving. Few
months ago, he changed the fortune of the Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, by inaugurating a befitting Vice-Chancellor’s Lodge for the institution. For eleven years, the institution’s vice-chancellors had been housed in a somewhat rickety bungalow built for the principal of the then St. Andrews College over 100 years ago. In a country, where funding has remained a burden for private institutions, the gesture was considered a good step towards solving one of the challenges facing the schools.

Prior to this, he had donated N10 million to the University of Ibadan,
where he was once a Pro-Chancellor to reduce the effect of the flood
disaster that wreak havoc in Ibadan at the time.

To Olanipekun, education is the only weapon with which poverty could be crushed. It was reported that during his tenure in UI as the Council Chairman, he never collected his statutory allowances which ran into several millions of naira. Rather, he directed that the money be given as scholarships to students in Law, Medicine and Computer Science faculties. He also donated to the university a 350-capacity
lecture theatre. In return, the University honoured him with a honourary doctoral degree of Law (LL.D). As if that was not enough, he was also honoured by the Federal Government with the award of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, OFR, in 2012.

However, all these did not go unnoticed as well-meaning organisations have continued to shower him with awards and chieftaincy titles. The latest was the award of excellence recently bestowed on him by the NBA, Ikere Branch, during the association’s maiden End of Year Award Dinner, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the legal profession. Two others, Ola Olanipekun (SAN), an Abuja based lawyer and Mrs. Funmi Falana, wife of Lagos radical lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, were equally honoured.

According to the vice-chairman of the professional body, who also doubles as chairman organising committee of the chapter, Barrister Oludayo Olorunfemi, the legal giant was not considered for the award for his contribution to the body of law alone but also for his contribution to humanity.

“Chief Olanipekun is a colossus and a gift to humanity and the best
way to appreciate such a man is to honour him. To me, if one successful man from every community could rise up and contribute to their communities the way Chief Olanipekun is doing, the society would be better for it. Our decision to recognise him goes beyond his gargantuan contribution to the growth of legal profession in Nigeria but also as a result of his huge contributions to humanity, ” Olorunfemi explained.

Meanwhile, the NBA’s award was like a tip of the iceberg, when
compared with the honour bestowed on him recently by his community. At
the Ikere Day 2016, the Ogoga of Ikere, Oba Adejimi Adu, conferred the
honorary chieftaincy title of the Asiwaju (the leader) of Ikere on
Olanipekun and his wife, Princess Lara, as Yeye Asiwaju.
Oba Adu, who conferred four hereditary chieftaincy and five honorary
titles on his subjects, said the honourees had proved to be people of
integrity.

His words: “It is the usual practice when there’s a milestone, you bestow honours on those you believe are worthy of it. In July, we clocked one year in the saddle as the Ogoga of Ikere Kingdom. We were supposed to have conferred the honours then, but since Ikere Day celebration was close, we decided to wait and do them together. It is a milestone in our journey of life on the throne and in Yoruba land. We dig down into people’s backgrounds, personalities and their standings in the society to check their integrity before conferring chieftaincy titles on them. An honouree should be someone with
compassion and philanthropic attributes as well.”

Continuing, the monarch added: “So, today, we made Chief Wole Olanipekun, who already has so many titles, the Asiwaju of Ikere Kingdom. Indeed, he was the Mayegun of Ikere, but because of the qualities we found in him, we gave him the Asiwaju of Ikere Kingdom. That’s the leader, the one in front, the head. He is highly worthy of that title.”

Born in Ikere Ekiti, Ekiti State, on November 18, 1951, Chief Olanipekun attended Amoye 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. 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 firm of Messrs Oniyangi and Co, in Ilorin, between 1977 and 1979. In 1980, he became the Principal Partner of Messrs Wole Olanipekun and Co. As this legal icon clocks 65 few weeks ago, it is obvious that the revered lawyer will be pleased with himself that he has indeed given back to the society that nurtured him.