*A confounding marvel incomparable
From Mary Onyali
I went to Ado-Ekiti with a team. I returned with a life long lesson to be who I am in humility and simplicity while I sustain the high values that society has placed on my hands. One thing remains my psalm, Aare Afe Babalola (SAN). At the end of it all, he gave our project the seed fund of N10million with which we planted the Ruth Ogbeifo-Balofin weightlifting development centre in Offa, Kwara State.
We needed to visit the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on advocacy visit for the Basic Olive Opportunity Sports Training (BOOST), Aare opened his contacts and followed up until he delivered it. While we were with him briefing him, he had to call the architects of the 400-bed Afe Babalola University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Ado Ekiti to make room for a sports recovery unit. Today, the hospital is real and active. Only an enigma with confounding energy incomparable in this generation like Aare Afe Babalola could have done this.
I congratulate you daddy! Like the Yemi Osinbajo, the erudite Professor of Law who assists our nation’s President, Muhammadu Buhari said, the hospital will help in stopping Nigerians from seeking medical treatments abroad.
I saw the architectural design. I had the rare privilege of sharing the dream before the sod was turned. I saw the marvellous pictures and I could only scream higher than the decibels when we won that rare bronze Olympic medal which we celebrated more than the gold medallists.
Professor Isaac Adewole, the outstanding Health minister volunteered: “Nigerians spend multi-billion Naira on overseas medical trips annually, revealing that the hospital, which he described as a masterpiece will fill the gap and enhance healthcare delivery in the country.” What else can an untrained person (in medicine) like me say?
Aare Afe Babalola (SAN) in a frank manner taught our team lesson of doggedly gearing “a single vision and love for humanity which if you do like I will always do, will become a watershed in the history of the nation.
Ever since the day I met this 84 year old legal legend, that was his age then, I am still struggling to remain the same. It takes a man with especial vision and large heart for his nation and people to do all these he is doing. My prayers and wishes remains taller than the entire mountains in Ekiti.
I was proud of the exploits made by the institution in the areas of teaching their students legendary culture of Africanity. You are greeted with warmth, respect and appreciation by every student. I mean every student. They will greet you. Something tells you this is a different Africa when you enter there. Their quality of entrepreneurship and academics is just excellent. When he told us in his small cosy office that he was going to deliver the teaching hospital with the speed faster than my African sprints record, I knew the spirit he was and he did. He is amazing.”
I feel so excited and extremely happy with the ABUAD’s founder, Aare Afe Babalola (SAN).
People will fail you but keep your eyes on focus: Aare from day one kept a faith in us. He gave us the University as our sports science centre. He supervised our signing the Memorandum of Understanding but warned us, “draw a big dream, pursue it with a firm focus but don’t wait for big donations. When I started this university I did a launching where many Nigerians promised as much as one million dollars. Many of them did not pay a dime up to now.”
Yet, he promised us N10million. He fulfilled it and we have proudly invested it. We have products that have emerged. Some of them won medals at the last National Youth Games in Ilorin not knowing it was the money Aare Afe Babalola (SAN) gave us that gave them a life for tomorrow.
“This university is known by NUC as the pride of this nation. We have surpassed our targets in just seven years. We are deliberately changing the education system of this country and we are proud that we are meeting our vision”, he said.
Vice Chancellor: When we were preparing for Barcelona 92. Our Chef D’Mission was a Prof known as Michael Olufemi Ajisafe. He is the Vice Chancellor of the great Afe Babalola University. He was Africa’s first science Professor. If I fail to acknowledge his many salient and visible roles in charging us to be like Aare Afe Babalola
(SAN), for establishing a world class sports project, I would be sanctioned.
I was a girl in his hands. I grew and matured. I retired from sports. I found myself in his enclave in Ado-Ekiti. He would go up and down like a million times from his fifth storey office of his just to ensure we get all we can from the most wonderful family called Afe Babalola University.
Finish line: If Aare Afe Babalola’s immense contributions in the development of key sectors of humanity like law practise, education (I also read of his University of Lagos exploits as Pro Chancellor), and now, the Teaching Hospital, I have promised myself, I will recharge and return medals for this country from the sands of that University. In two years, our first fully trained student shall attend ABUAD on 100% scholarship. It is my dream. Don’t stop me. You can’t stop me. This is another medal I dream like the man who mentored me to a new level of patriotism to our fatherland.
I thank God I drank from the deep well of knowledge and humanity in you, Aare gbogbo agbaye (hope my Yoruba is correct).
Chief Mary Onyali (MFR) was the first Nigerian to do five consecutive Olympics. She is Executive Director (Technical) Nigeria Sports Development Fund Inc (NSDFI) in Abuja