Joel Babatola

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Babatola Ministerial Portrait.jpg

Chief Dr. Joel Ehinafe Babatola was an Ekiti renowned Educator, Community Leader, Politician, International Cooperator, Elder Statesman and accomplished Orator.

Early life and Education

Joel Ehinafe Babatola was born on 7th November 1918, at Ado Ekiti, present day Ekiti State of Nigeria.

He was educated at St. Paul's Anglican School, Ikole-Ekiti between 1928 and 1930, Emmanuel Anglican Primary School, Ado-Ekiti between 1931 and 1932 and Christ's School, Ado-Ekiti from 1932 to 1933. He was the School Secretary (a Prefect position) under the School Master (Principal) - Ven. Henry Dallimore in his final year.

He taught at Igede Baptist School as a pupil teacher for a year and then at Ikole. Some of his students at the Ikole included His Royal Majesty Oba Adetula Adeleye, the past Elekole of Ikole and Justice Jide Olatawura of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He was admitted as the best candidate all over Nigeria in the entrance examination into St. Andrew's College, Oyo in 1938 where he trained in the Senior Teachers Course and served as a Prefect in the final year while on his studies at Oyo in 1941.

After passing the Teacher Training Programme, he was deployed as a Teacher by the Anglican Educational Board to Christ's School, Ado-Ekiti in 1942. He served as a classroom teacher, a dinning hall master and later became the first Science Master of the School. Some of his pupils at Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti later became General Adeyinka Adebayo (Military Governor of Western State of Nigeria), Chief Samuel Asabia (a renowned Central Bank Deputy Governor in Nigeria), and Prof. Sam Aluko (a respected Nigerian Economist).

In 1946, he married his first wife, Felicia Adejoke Familoni and transferred his services from Ekiti Division to Abeokuta as a Teacher to pursue London Matriculation and other examinations for admission into the University.

Teacher Babatola with Principal Parker and other Teachers at Igbobi College, Lagos (1948(

He taught briefly at Igbobi College, Lagos in 1947/48 and was admitted into the University College, Ibadan in 1949. He completed his undergraduate studies for the award of the Bachelor's degree (English/Geography) of University of London in 1952 though the University award of the degree came much later. In his University days, he was one of the prize winners of the essay on the University endowment alongside the Emeritus Professor of History, Prof. J. F. Ade- Ajayi. He was also involved in the Awoist movement among his peers and promoted the cause of Egbe Omo Oduduwa that metamorphosed into Action Group.

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Working Life and Public Service

Upon completion of university education in 1952, Chief Joel Babatola was appointed as the new Principal of Ekiti Teacher’s Training College, Ikere-Ekiti in January, 1953 (the highest educational institution in Ekiti at the time).

In 1954, he was elected as a Councillor in Ado-Ekiti District Council and also appointed as the Chairman of Ado District Council Educational Board. His leadership role in Government accounted for many developmental and community projects across the region and major developments in Ado-Ekiti District Council. He introduced scholarships for indigent students as a Councilor and saw to equal opportunities for all Christians and Muslims in admissions to schools and colleges without discrimination.

Joel Babatola signing Oath of Office as Minister in Chief Awolowo Cabinet in 1957

In 1956, he was elected on the platform of Chief Obafemi Awolowo led Action Group as a Parliamentarian (legislator and member) of the Western House of Assembly in Ibadan. He later got appointed as a Parliamentary Secretary (Junior Minister) in the Cabinet of Chief Obafemi Awolowo Government in 1957 and served in Ministries of Justice (Customary Courts Division) and Local Government with Chief Rotimi WIlliams SAN, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs with Alhaji S.D. Adegbenro and the Cabinet Office of the Premier with the Leader of Government Business - Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He was a major defender of Government policies in the House as well as in the Media.

He was the leader of the Ado-Ekiti Egbe Aiyetoro that pioneered the creation of Ado Grammar School and the appointment of Dr. Archdeacon Dapo Ajayi as the first Principal in 1959. This was part of several community projects that he facilitated its sitting. He played a vital role in the campaign for the construction of the Ureje Waterworks which could have been cited elsewhere. He was committed to developing Ado District Council as a political Centre point in Ekiti Division.

Nigeria went for electioneering campaigns and elections in 1958/59 to aspire and determine the leadership of the incoming central government. Chief Awolowo aspired to provide the required leadership and the party mapped out strategies to capture the electorate in the length and breath of the country. Chief Babatola was assigned to the Adamama Province to stimulate party supporters there. He lead a successful campaign in that part of the region despite his inability to speak Hausa. He employed the services of interpreters and made an unprecedented inroad into the region, after surviving attacks on his convoy from members of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and their thugs. He was commended by Chief Awolowo after the election as he proceeded to become the Leader of Opposition for helping the party to gain electoral victory in the Province, one of the few places where Action Group was able to get support in the North.

In 1959, he was appointed the Minister of Home Affairs and Information under Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola. Part of his duties included overseeing the Police, Fire Services, Prisons and other allied matters in Western Nigeria. His efforts led to improved prison and fire services and introduction of permit for drivers with cases of impounded licenses. He took charge of the completion and launch of the first broadcasting and television services in Africa sub Saharan namely WNBC and WNTV amongst others. He used the press and visits to the House and various constituencies to promote the image of Chief Awolowo and government programmes under the leadership of Chief Akintola. He was a very tough and prolific critic of political leaders who attempt to condemn or undermine government policies of the Action Group and its leadership.

Joel Babatola receiving instrument of Office from Governor as a Minister in Chief Akintola Cabinet in 1959

He chaired the plan and implementation of 1960 Independence Celebration in Western Nigeria across districts, towns and schools on region wide basis and the official celebration at Ibadan, the capital of Western Nigeria where he prominently featured Chief Awolowo who was Leader of Opposition in Central Government but sidelined though he got befitting attention at home. However, in raising the toga of Awolowo above the Premier Akintola, he was reassigned the portfolio of Minister of Labour in the Cabinet of Chief S.L. Akintola in 1961. This was part of measures to whittle down influences of pro-Awolowo followers in government due to the Awolowo-Akintola intra-party conflicts. Babatola supported the leadership and views of Chief Awolowo in government.

During the period of Awolowo-Akintola Crisis, Chief Babatola played significant roles alongside Agunbiade Bamise (Organizing Secretary) and others to mobilize party men and women as delegates to support Awolowo against Akintola at the inconclusive Jos Convention. He also participated actively in mobilizing Parliamentarians supporting the cause of Chief Awolowo in the House prior to its invasion by police in support of Akintola with teargas and batons. He was severally alleged of unfounded allegations in coordinating resistance against Akintola’s government and placed under house arrest and restrictions order.

In 1963, by a proclamation of the new Governor, Chief Fadahunsi, he lost his cabinet position as a Minister after rejecting Chief Akintola’s offer to switch sides and serve as the Minister of Education or Agriculture in his cabinet. However, he continued to serve as a party spokesman for Action Group with Bola Ige and was a prolific writer with pseudo names known to Bisi Onabanjo and the Editorial Board of Nigerian Tribute. Though he was not frame up for treasonable felony trial, he faced official intimidations and escaped assassins bullet during attacks on his residence and ambush on the road.

Babatola continued to serve as a leader within the party alliances formed with opposition (UPGA) penultimate to conduct of the 1964/65 elections. He undertook underground roles to mobilize supporters of Chief Awolowo from dispersing or losing hope in various parts of Ekiti Division. He also visited Chief Awolowo in prison and was close to the family at Ibadan to give required support on party coordination locally and region wide.

After losing his position in government, he decided to return to his profession as a School Teacher at St. Peter's College, Akure, since he was a family man with dependents and huge responsibilities. He however sought transfer as a Senior Teacher to Ibadan and was posted to Ibadan Grammar School where he served as the Vice-Principal under the famed Ven. Emmanuel Alayande. He later became Acting Principal of the school until 1968. He lived in the school premises to avoid attacks from political thugs until the military took over in January 1966. Some of his prominent students at the school includes Chief Olusegun Agagu (a one time Governor of Ondo State) and Barrister Rotimi Shodimu (former Registrar of University of Lagos).

During the short period of the administration of Lt. Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, Chief Babatola served as his confidential adviser and consultant on major government policies and programmes. The Principal Secretary to Fajuyi, Mr. Babatunde and one of the Permanent Secretaries, Mr. J.M. Akinola was the go between in bringing officials files of the Governor to be treated by Babatola when required. This helped the administration of Fajuyi to record landmark legacies in restoring peace and order into the region within the shortest time possible or imagined. These are part of legacies of the Fajuyi administration where he played unknown vital roles to the public in that era.

In 1968, he was appointed Principal of All Saints Teachers College, Ushi Ekiti where he served meritoriously until he went on a leave of absence penultimate to his retirement from teaching service when he was appointed as a Commissioner (representing Ekiti Division) in the Military Government of Western State of Nigeria by Brigadier General Oluwole Rotimi. He held the portfolio of Works and Transport and later Trade and Cooperatives between 1971 and 1974.

Part of his accomplishment in office was the completion and commencement of operations of Asejire water dam and many other water schemes across Western Nigeria, coordination of government efforts to attract investors and kickstart the business interest, expansion and distribution system of the newly constructed Ewekoro Cement Factory and the construction of water works project in towns with laying of pipe borne water in urban and rural centres for provision of water facilities to citizens. He launched the highway code for road users and saw to the tarring of roads and provision of public amenities in Ibadan and other parts of Western State. He was able to use government intervention to stabilize cooperative movement in the state and to inject funds into their businesses to assist members and avoid sudden collapse.

Joel Babatola (R) seated by Military Governor - Brig. Gen. Oluwole Rotimi among Commissioners of Western State in 1971

In 1974, Chief Babatola resigned from the Government with the aim to participate in politics as a founding member of the Awolowo Group which later manifested into a political party known as the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He became the Caucus leader of Ekiti people in the UPN between 1978 and 1982. He hosted several leadership meeting and delegates conferences at his residence at Ajitadidun Estate, Ado-Ekiti and Chief Awolowo visited him on several occasions while on tour of Ekiti and Ondo Divisions.

He led the 1980 Group of Ekiti leaders to champion the creation of Ekiti State before Committee set up for state creation by the National Assembly and wrote most of the papers presented by the delegations, though the agitation was unsuccessful until it was organized afresh by a group of Ekiti Obas, former technocrats and personalities led by Chief Deji Fasuan, a retired Permanent Secretary and Economist with the state created by Abacha military junta in 1996.

In the wake of political crisis in 1982, Babatola accepted to lead the Omoboriowo Faction of the UPN to agitate against distasteful and perceived discriminatory government policies. The group later opposed the re-election bid of Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin as Governor of Ondo State and fielded Chief Akin Omoboriowo. When it was perceived that the efforts of the group was jeopardized at all level of party shadow elections and machineries for a proper review, he led the group to join National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the bid to wrestle power and seek protection of Federal night against attacks from the state government.

Babatola lost his palatial mansion and personal residence to flame of arsons attack in the wake of 1983 political imbroglio and agitations against FEDECO pronouncement of election results of Chief Akin Omoboriowo as Governor of Ondo State which was annulled by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He escaped by whiskers assassins attempts on his life by thugs and all efforts to implicate him in political assassinations failed. Even the petitions submitted to successive military administration to imprison him for unfounded and frivolous charges were all in vain.

He served as the Chairman or member of various Board of Governors of schools, colleges and higher institutions in Western Nigeria. He also served on the Management and Governing Board of corporations and industries such as Ikeja Textile Mill Plc, Ondo State Housing Corporation, Ondo State and Ekiti Provincial Cooperatives Federations and the Opopogbooro Community Bank (Ado-Ekiti).

It is on record that he held every position of public trust with dignity and without blemish or indictments.

Community Service

He was a role model in the community. He contributed tirelessly to the uplift and promotion of the stool of Ewi of Ado-Ekiti among his peers and senior Ekiti Obas and served as a major reference point in many Chieftaincy enquiries as an expert in Chieftaincy matters and customary laws since he served in the colonial government. He served as the Honorary Secretary of Ado-Ekiti Kingmakers in selection of the Ewi’s successor and was a pillar of the Ado-Ekiti Development Council in building the old Ado-Ekiti town hall among others.

Chief Babatola addressing a group of International Cooperators during an ICA Conference in West Africa

He served as the President of Cooperative Federation of Nigeria and Chairman of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) West African Region and a member of Board of Directors of International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) for few years. He contributed immensely to the growth and development of cooperative education and membership drive in West Africa and Nigeria in the 1980s. pushing for official recognition of African Cooperatives and their participation in local, national and internatiomal affairs through promoting amendments to Cooperative laws and participation in ICA affairs. He became the first Black African elected to ICA Board in 1981 at Montreal, Canada.

He was acknowledged as one of the major writers of speeches, government and party policies, a public presenter and an accomplished orator. This eventually led to his writing the funeral oration of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1987 which was presented by General Adetunji Olurin titled AWO: THE DEATHLESS. Public records and personal knowledge of Chief Babatola was heralded in the Nigerian Tribune where Ayekooto column championed by Chief Bisi Onabanjo describes Chief Babatola as the only Minister in the Awolowo/Akintola regime that was absolved from detention and imprisonment by the military in the First and Second Republic in account of his incorruptibility and personal integrity. Indeed he lived a life of Servicé to the community and his people.

He was installed as the Olugbaye of Igbaye, a chieftain of Ewi of Ado-Ekiti in 1960 and he renounced the title in 1970 when he was elected and installed as the Olora of Ado-Ekiti. He died at the ripe age of 96 years old in November, 2014. He is survived by 24 children including Dr. Francis Opeyemi Babatola MBBS (Medicine) PhD, Professor Olatunji Babatola PhD (Geography), Dr. Jadesola Tai Babatola PhD (History and International Studies) and many grandchildren and great grand children.

Personal Accomplishments and Honours

Chief Joel Ehinafe Babatola has several accomplishments to his credits as a scholar, educator, politician and a public figure. He was an award winner as a young student and a teacher. He was the first Ado-Ekiti born graduate Teacher and School Principal and equally the first Ado-Ekiti indigene to reach the status of a Parliamentarian (Legislator), a Minister and a State Commissioner.

He was committed to serving humanity in his public life and to be a beacon of hope at all times. His life in the service to the church gave him opportunity to become the pioneer and de facto Baba Ijo of All Saints Church, Opopogbooro, Ado-Ekiti and the Baba Egbe of Egbe Ibukun in the church.

Inauguration of Chief Babatola by Governor Fayemi as the Chairman of the Ekiti State Elders Advisory Council in 2012

He lived a life of service and modesty as a politician, educator, cooperator and a farmer. He received several accolades and honours in recognition for his public service and the most prestigious was the award of Doctor of Business Administration from a University in Staton, Tampa, Florida, USA in 1998 in recognition of his contributions to Cooperative development in Nigeria and West Africa. He received State Merit Award of Western State of Nigeria, Ondo State of Nigeria and Ekiti State of Nigeria at different times in his lifetime.

He was the President of the famed St. Andrews College of Oyo Old Students Association (SACOBA), the Patron of Ekiti Council of Elders, Chairman of the then Ekiti State Elders Advisory Council to the Government of Dr. Kayode Fayemi and the Deputy President of Yoruba Council of Elders until his demise in 2014.



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