The founder of the Afe Babalola University in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, Aare Afe Babalola, has become the third recipient of the Obafemi Awolowo Leadership Award 2018, after Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, and one-time president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki.ADVERTISING

Babalola, who was given the award at a ceremony at Harbour Point on Victoria Island, Lagos, on Wednesday, was selected “for exuding excellence in leadership qualities,” which the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, the organisers of the award, considered similar to the qualities of the late Obafemi Awolowo.

In her address, the Executive Director of the foundation, Ambassador Olatokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu, said Babalola’s contribution to human capital development through education was worthy of  commendation and emulation.

“After four long years, we are gathered to honour our 2018 awardee, Aare Afe Babalola, a man who is not only eminently worthy of this honour but also who coincidentally shares many traits with Chief Obafemi Awolowo in his journey to greatness.

“Like Awo, he (Babalola) rose from humble beginnings and had to overcome formidable odds to acquire education.

“He has impacted the lives of many through mentorship, scholarships and various philanthropic initiatives. He is a foremost advocate of human capital development, especially through education. He is an unrelenting proponent of political restructuring or federalism in Nigeria. We are proud to welcome him into the illustrious company of Awo Prize awardees,” Awolowo-Dosumu said.

The Chairman, Board of Trustee of the foundation, Gen Yakubu Gowon, describe the award as “a celebration of the 110th birthday of Awolowo.”

Gowon said, “Evidently, his (Awolowo’s) noble virtues and high ideals of integrity, selflessness, public spiritedness, philanthropy and strict self-discipline, as well as the pursuit of excellence in leadership and good governance easily put him in the pantheon of great historical figures.”

On his part, the Chairman of the prize selection committee,  Chief Emeka Anyaoku, said, “Awolowo has been aptly described as the best President Nigeria never had and his accomplishments have remained most admirable aspects of Nigeria’s history.”

Expressing his gratitude to family and friends for the honour, particularly former President Olusegun Obasanjo for recommending him for the award, Babalola urged people in leadership to tackle the challenges facing the country.

While delivering his lecture titled, ‘Awoism and the Unending Search for Transformational Leadership in Nigeria: Political, economic, educational and Social Challenges’, Babalola said, “Those opposing restructuring should know that it is not a call for disunity but a call for the return of true federalism. The earlier we do this the sooner we will begin to experience economic development.”

Copyright PUNCH.