Human life is full of ifs. Whether in the primordial or contemporary time, the world of man has never been devoid of ifs. As a matter of fact, no historian can present any positive or negative aspect of human history to the world and tag it as genuine, without back-grounding it with a variety of ifs. Thus, it can be concluded that no aspect of the world history can find its way into the natural archive of human life without wearing a toga of ifs. The entire life of Justice Tijani Bolarinwa Oyegoke Babalakin, Jsc. CON, whose demise was announced penultimate Saturday, December 4, 2021, was a vivid testimony to this assertion.
If, by definition, a school is said to be a means of acquiring meaningful education with which to groom men and women of worthy templates for others to emulate, then, it is the learned people, rather than erected structures, that should be semantically called school. Any structure named a school today can be redesigned to serve other purposes tomorrow. Knowledge is the father of education which takes its permanent abode in the living soul of man. That is why the combination of brains and minds, in the personalities of
Knowledgeable people, continues to be remarkable showcase like a notable mark of identity on the rock of time.
One of the immediate effects of the announced demise of Hon. Justice Bolarinwa Babalakin, penultimate Saturday, (December 4, 2021) was the recall of the unforgettable memory of the very first University ever established in the world. The University which was established in Spain, by the Muslim Arabs of Umayyad dynasty, in the early 9th century, was named University of Cordoba. That University preceded today’s Al-azhar University in Cairo, Egypt; Qarawiyyin University in Fez, Morocco and Zaytuniyyah University in Tunis, Tunisia. It should not be forgotten that all the three Universities just mentioned above are the oldest Universities in the entire world today, as each of them is well above 1000 years in age despite being offshoots of the University of Cordoba.
The Touch Bearer
Although Justice Babalakin was not strictly in the sphere of academic line, as customized in Nigeria, nevertheless,
that retired, indefatigable Justice of Nigerian Supreme Court, stood out vertically as a major touch-bearer of the traits of the University of Cordoba. Immediately that University was established, a thoughtfully scribbled inscription was conspicuously placed at its main entrance. The inscription which signaled a beaming light aimed at brightening the dark tunnel of human life read as follows:
“The world is actively sustained by four formidable pillars: The Wisdom of the Learned; the justice of the righteous, the prayers of the pious and the valor of the brave”.
Look closely at the contents of that inscription, once again, and you will clearly see the practicability of each key word, therein, in the life of Justice Babalakin.
The inscription is not just instructive on what is called decency per excellence in the life of man; it also symbolizes what University education should be as against what it has now become globally.
It was that inscription that inspired the late Justice Babalakin to adopt the lifestyle that became the glowing light with which some distinguished people around him, near and far, could walk comfortably through the thorny paths of life without much blemish.
Being the very first University of its type in human history, the University Cordoba was principally established to refine the nature of man, at a time when Europe was writhing ceaselessly in a dream of vanity and gallivanting arrogantly in the euphoria of blatant ignorance. The primary aim of the founders of that University was to make it the compass with which human beings could easily find their rightly guided ways, with ecstasy of delight, while peregrinating around, in their life’s odyssey.
When that University came into existence, it was not left to scholarship alone. The inscription mentioned above, which was placed at its main entrance, at that time, simply summarized the purpose that University education should serve in human life.
Perhaps, without the periodic emergence of very few distinguished people like Justice Babalakin, in history, the world would have permanently consigned the real purpose of establishing the University of Cordoba to the rubbles of unpublished history. And, the subsequent remnants of that University, which are theoretically called Universities in most parts of the world today, would not have come into existence, at all, to play the silhouette role that now mostly fetches the meal ticket called certificate.
Reversal of History
Meanwhile, with the unfortunate extinction to which the University of Cordoba was subjected, by the savage European Crusaders, after its existence for a couple of centuries, it became manifest that the illumination in the lighthouse of the world was beginning to turn into virtually an impenetrable fog. And, today, except for a few foresighted people like Justice Babalakin, most of those who are claiming to be educated can only see the world through the dark guggle of human vanity, thereby confirming that in truth, the hood can never make the Monk.
Two of a Kind
It was after practically adopting the contents of the glorious inscription placed at the entrance of the University of Cordoba that Justice Bolarinwa Babalakin, in his crave for a befitting lifestyle, incidentally met a man with similar aim and determination. That man was Justice Mustapha Adebayo Akanbi, CFR, an erstwhile President of Nigeria’s Court of Appeal, who became his inseparable bosom friend.
Even in their prime years, as frontline learned men of the Bar, and later, of the Bench, in Nigeria, their common identity, wherever they appeared together in public, often reminded people of the uncommon function of a pair of scissors in the life of man.
It should be recalled that what makes a pair of scissors uncommonly functional is the ingenuous knot that joins the two blades of that unique tool together. None of those two blades can unilaterally function at any time and at any place, without beckoning to the other for a joint action. That shared identity happily became a heritage for the children of both signposts.
Although Justice Akanbi eventually preceded Justice Babalakin in death, the two great men practically demonstrated their naturally endowed prowess by leaving behind a legacy that will become an indelible footprint on the sands of time.
A Nostalgic Reflection
When Justice Babalakin’s first son, Dr. Wale Babalakin, SAN, was nostalgically recalling his father’s principled nature, at Gbongan, Osun State, last Monday, he emotionally revealed his late father refusal to accept a $250,000 job after his retirement. For people who are ready to learn constructively, from the templates of sages, that revelation was heavily pregnant with meanings.
The late Justice Babalakin had told his son, shortly after his retirement in 1991, that he would rather engage in free philanthropic services than take up another paid job after retirement, no matter how attractive any job could be, remuneratively.
When that rare gesture is compared with Justice Akanbi’s voluntary retirement in 1999 after which he was offered another federal job as the pioneer Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and other Miscellaneous Offences which he first turned down before he was overwhelmed by irresistible pressure, it will become clearer why the duo of the great men were a similitude of a pair of scissors. Yet after serving the first tenure of five years, he (JusticeAkanbi) refused to accept extension of service even when the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo personally mounted another round of pressure on him. Like Justice Babalakin, Justice Akanbi would rather dedicate the rest of his life to service to humanity in which he passionately did until his demise in 2018. These were men of virtue and value who gratefully parted with this ephemeral world after walking the tight roap of the Ifs of life and after grooming thousands of others, directly and indirectly, by the same principle.
Webster’s Axiomatic Rumination
In his rumination as a versatile intellectual and an American Statesman of note, once put his thoughts together in form of a poem as follows:
“If we work marble, it will perish; if we work upon brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples, they will crumble into dust; but if we work upon immortal minds and instill in them, just principles; we are then engraving that upon tablets which no time can efface, but will brighten to all eternity”.
Like other great men, Justice Babalakin has passed through this world just once. He has done any good that came his way without expectation of any reward from any mortal being any thought of coming back into the world one day. That is a school from which rightly guided men and women of today should learn a lesson. The extent of the lesson you can learn from that exemplary template is up to you. But remember that one day it will be your turn to bid this world bye forever. The Message column hereby joins millions of groups and individuals in praying the Almighty Allah to repose Baba Babalakin’s soul as well as that of his bosom friend in eternal bliss and divinely sanctify their rear loins. Amin.
Inna liLlah wa inna ilayhi raji‘un!
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