National Leader, All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has described Alhaji Karim Ayinla Babalola, popularly called KAB Olowu, who died on Wednesday in Lagos as one of the Africa’s oldest Olympians and a foremost athlete and Nigeria’s nationalist who gave his all to the country.
He said Papa Olowu represented Nigeria in many international sporting tournaments and brought back many important laurels, noting that the late Olympian was that “Nigerian sprinter and long jumper who was part of Nigeria’s first delegation to the 1950 British Empire Games in Auckland, New Zealand (now Commonwealth Games).”
APC national leader, in a tribute yesterday to late Olowu, who until his death was the Oloriebi (patriarch) of the Tinubu family, said the late KAB Olowu’s life exemplified the goodness in the Tinubu family name.
“Many of us in the family grew up under his watch and mentoring for which we remain eternally grateful. I particularly drank from his fountain of knowledge and wisdom,” Tinubu said.
The emotional tribute titled “Alhaji Karim Ayinla Babalola ‘KAB’ Olowu (OON) Foremost Athlete, Philanthropist and Nigeria’s Nationalist,” reads: “Alhaji Karim Ayinla Babalola (KAB) Olowu (OON) gave his all to Lagos, to Nigeria and to humanity. He was a foremost athlete who represented the country in many international sporting competitions and came back home with many important laurels. On Wednesday August 14 when he passed on to eternal glory, he was one of Africa’s oldest, if not the oldest Olympians.
“Baba KAB was a philanthropist, committed nationalist and devout Muslim. He worshipped Allah with all his heart. From what he had, he pleasurably gave to mankind. He was the (Oloriebi) patriarch of the Tinubu family, taking over from his parents B.M.S. Olowu and R.A. Olowu (nee Tinubu). He was the first grandson of Madam Tinubu and Saka Tinubu. As the Oloriebe of the family, Alhaji KAB’s life exemplified the goodness in the Tinubu family name. He appreciably lived that name. Many of us in the family grew up under his watch and mentoring for which we remain eternally grateful. I particularly drank from his fountain of knowledge and wisdom.
“KAB made immense contributions to Lagos. He served as the Chairman, Lagos State Sports Council. He was also the Chief Starter at the 1973 All-Africa Games held in Lagos, Nigeria. Papa served the country through athletics and in many other capacities. His sporting career began at St Paul’s Primary School, Breadfruit, Lagos where in 1936 he represented the school at the Empire Day Athletics in commemoration of the British Empire Day celebrated in Britain and her colonies before Nigeria’s independence in 1960. At CMS Grammar School in Lagos, he was the Sports Prefect during his time.
“After his athletics career, he worked in the Nigerian Prisons Service. But he never left his love for sports. He was already working as a civil servant before he won a Federal Government scholarship to study Physical Education in Loughborough College Leicestershire, England in 1952 from where he graduated in 1955. To give back to society, he set up the sports complex at the Nigerian Prison in Kirikiri, Lagos where he worked for some years. He also set up the then Prisons Athletics club, which produced many athletes for Nigeria. He was for several years a prominent member of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN).
“He believed in Nigeria and was irrevocably committed to her greatness. Even in his old age, he spoke and dreamt of Nigeria’s enduring greatness. The many laurels he won for the country and the honours he brought to Nigeria from many international tournaments are apt testimony to this immutable commitment to Nigeria.
“Papa’s laudable contributions in sports are worth recalling. He was that Nigerian sprinter and long jumper who was part of Nigeria’s first delegation to the 1950 British Empire Games in Auckland, New Zealand (now Commonwealth Games). He was among the first group of Nigerians to participate in the Olympic Games and was particularly at the 1952 Summer Olympics Games. At the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games held in Canada, he won silver medals in long jump and the 4 x 110 yards relay, becoming the first Nigerian athlete to win two medals at the Commonwealth Games.
“It was no surprise that as a result of these international sporting accomplishments, he became the first Nigerian to officiate at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica. He was Nigerian team manager to the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada. Later in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympics, he emerged the first Nigerian Olympic torch-bearer.
“Baba KAB would be sorely missed by family, friends, associates and all those who encountered him. My prayer is that Almighty Allah accept his soul and grant him Aljanna Fridaus. May He also imbue all of us in the Tinubu and Olowu families and indeed all those he left behind the strength to continue in his absence.”