Interview with Bolanle Olawale Babalakin (1971)



In the exclusive interview with Dr Bolanle Olawale Babalakin SAN, OFR; he had this to say about GCI, "GCI is like Cambridge University where the best minds are gathered together in a small University town and are prepared to create their dreams. The experiences at GCI gave one the
confidence and impetus for life’s challenges". Find out more about the pre-GCI, GCI and post-GCI life of this distinguished Old Boy.

Why did you choose to attend GCI?
I must confess that I never intended to attend GCI. I had applied to many schools as was the practice then – Government College, Igbobi College, Ayetoro Comprehensive High School, and in those days interview spanned a number of days and you had to live in the school for the duration of the interview. I was offered admission to all the secondary schools where I applied, so I had to make a choice.
I was fascinated by the environment of Ayetoro Comprehensive High School. I mentioned this to my father and he promptly told me that I needed guidance and that his favourite protégés, late Segun Ojutalayo and Prof. Toye Ogunbode both attended GCI. Within 72 hours, these “heroes” called to advise me that I was bound to cherish attending GCI. I remain grateful to my father, Prof. Ogunbode and Mr Segun Ojutalayo for guiding me right. I wonder what life would have been if I had attended any other institution than the school “built on the rock”.

What was your first impression of GCI?
I was barely 10 years old when I started at GCI and it was not easy to leave home. I remember that my mother found it difficult to let go of my hand when the time came for parents of newly admitted students to leave the school premises. She held on firmly to me and as I was about to burst into tears, a huge figure walked in and said to her, “I will take care of him, mama; you can go”. The “giant”, by my youthful perception turned out to be Abdulganiyu Ola Oyekana, a Lower Six student who was the Head of my House – Grier House.
He kept his word and took care of me. By the hand of fate, I am also playing the same role to some of his children today. The School Principal then was Chief J.B. Ojo, 1968 – 1974.

Some memorable events?
My memories at GCI are phenomenal. I was an unruly student and felt the brunt of the disciplinary regime of the school authorities. I was completely indifferent to my studies, thus a regular candidate for House Punishment, School Punishment and House Detention. These strict disciplinary measures later played a great role in developing my personality.

What is your most lasting impression?
My contemporaries will have great memories of Mr Olusanya who combined Woodwork teaching with historical anecdotes. I remember a particular incident when, in class, I made a remark which he found unacceptable and he said “Babalakin, nje omo Bola ko n’iyen?” meaning “Babalakin, is that not the son of Bola?”, “I will give you 10 strokes of the cane and when you tell Bola, he’ll ask you why not 12 strokes?” True enough, my father said exactly that when I told him. The one kilometer walk to and from the workshop gave us ample time to discuss what had happened during the day.
Generally, I was considered unserious and near irredeemable. But there were some teachers who felt that if my energies were properly channeled I could be an outstanding student. One of them was the late Mr Komolafe, the Agriculture Teacher. He said if I could come first in the House Test of 1974 why not in the whole class? I am grateful to him as his statement was a prophecy which came true.

What sporting activities were you involved in at GCI?
I was so fragile that I could not really participate in the more physical sports. I could only play football. The cricket bats were too heavy for me but I also played hockey, table tennis and I captained the junior team of Grier House in 1973.

What was the boarding house like?
We were two in a room. Grier-Field House block was conducive. We had big windows for good ventilation and there were no mosquito nets. It was airy and comfortable. Lavatories were regularly inspected and the bush lavatory was an experience. Of course, snakes and scorpions were also regular company. I killed 6 scorpions during my stay at GCI – they didn’t scare us anymore.

How did GCI guide your future?
GCI was a training ground for life. We were taught that hard work has rewards, indolence attracts punishment and aspiring to any height in life was consistent with your privileged education. I remember that I found it difficult laying my bed in school. This led to regular confiscation of my mattress. After exhausting my pocket money paying confiscation fees, I learned to sleep on the bare bed and spring with only my blanket on it. But my blanket was also confiscated after some time so I slept on the bare spring. This experience proved useful when during the Gen. Sanni Abacha regime I was incarcerated. GCI had prepared me for survival in severe conditions!

What is GCI to you?
GCI as conceived by the founding fathers was supposed to attract the best students all over the country, challenge and propel them to greatness in life. To me, GCI is like Cambridge University where the best minds are gathered together in a small University town and are prepared to create their dreams. The experiences at GCI gave one the confidence and impetus for life’s challenges.

What are you engaged in now?
I am actively involved in my legal practice and I hope we would be able to lift the quality of legal practice in Nigeria towards the attainment of justice for all.
In business, I am involved in feasible developmental projects for which I require the support of every Nigerian. These include development of airports, hotels around Nigeria and the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
While thanking God for what I have achieved so far, I find it difficult to accept that I’ve done excessively well. We must judge ourselves not by other people’s standards but against the background of the opportunities that we had. One of the great opportunities I had was attending GCI. Therefore, I feel that could still do a lot more.
In a developing nation, those who have opportunities must consistently use them for national development. Six gentlemen helped to turn South Korea from a third world country to the developed Nation it is today.

A word for the boys still in School
GCI Old Boys remain committed to your welfare. My Class Set has a scholarship scheme for GCI.

... for the Old Boys
It is my desire that in the near future, Old Boys will begin charity at home by transforming GCI to the institution that it was set up to be.

…for the GCIOBA National Executive Committee
The way forward is for the Old Boys to take over the management of the school or through a private initiative headed by an Old Boy who understands the tradition of the school. Of course, this has to be thoroughly thought through.

…. Excerpts from GCIOBA Lagos Branch 2015 programme.

Dr Bolanle Olawale Babalakin, SAN, OFR, is a GCIOBA National Merit Award Winner (2008), past Chairman of GCIOBA Lagos Branch and a staunch member of the 1971 Set. This Legal Practitioner majors in Litigation, Arbitration and Alternative Dispute Resolution, Real Estate and Construction Energy, and Extractive Sector Project Finance.


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