All roads will lead to Ilesa next Saturday January 26 as fiery petrel of Nigerian socialism of the mid-sixties, Ebino Topsy, the then Mr Ebenezer Babatope, joins the respectable club of septugenarians.
Journalist, historian, lawyer, university administrator, author, politician, and elderstatesman, Chief Ebenezer Babatope began to chart the path he was to tread later in life right from his primary school days.
Born to a respectable clergy man from Ilesa and a noble lady from Ekiti, Babatope was nurtured with the enterprising ruggedness of the Ijesa and the uncompromising courage and outspokenness of the Ekiti.
I doubt if there is any other combination tougher than the Ekiti-Ijesa combination. Not even Ijebu-Ijesa or the German-Jew.
And very early in life, Babatope had elected to give to Caesar what was Caesar’s and to God what was God’s. No preacher’s platitudes was to stand between him and his revolutionary zeal.
Naturally light attracts light. And when our paths did cross exactly forty seven (47) years ago at Ijebu Ode, youthful rascality and idealism instantly got us glued together.
Ebino Topsy and Lucky Star became pals. The friendship, formed in January 1966, led to my naming my second son Babatope and he, Ebino, wearing the Godfather toga.
We were together in the Black Nationalist Movement and several other black power organisations of the late 60s and 70s. We were criss-crossing the country’s vast landscape giving lectures and participating in seminars and debates.
A visionary of no mean order, Ebenezer was a co-founder of the populist Speakers Society, the publishers of the Lagoon Echo, easily the most fearless campus journal of its era in Nigeria.
It goes without saying that Ebino’s outspoken mouth and his turbulent pen, coupled with his restless legs, got him into trouble with the country’s successive military authorities such that the prisons and detention camps became his recreation centres.
However, Babatope’s talents, skills and experience as a great speaker, a leader with exceptional organisational ability, a students unionist, students affairs officer, Nigerian Tribune’s City Editor and a highly principled individual did not go unnoticed.
In 1978 when he was barely 35 years old, immortal Awo, Kiniwun Onibudo, eru jeje ina nla ti n dato lenu igbin, anointed him Director of Organisation for the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), easily the best organised party of all time in Nigeria’s history.
Ebenezer Babatope’s proved his mettle and gave an excellent account of himself. NO. WONDER HE LATER BECAME A MINISTER of the Federal Republic.
A nationalist, pan-Africanist, Nkrumahist and Awoist, Babatope travelled throughout Africa, marketing his socialist ideals.
A man of immense moral stature and great conviction, Ebenezer would stick to his guns no matter what.
Bold, courageous, daring and incorruptible, Babatope’s is a leader to follow to the battle field; a brother to call a brother; and a friend to trust and cherish.
As his numerous friends across the country join him in thanksgiving and praiseworship next Saturday, it is our prayer that Adiitu Olodumare will give him more years of meritorious service to his fatherland.
One great guy that would be very conspicuous with his unavoidable absence is our very own Bros Kanmi Isola Osobu, a foremost anti-corruption crusader, pan Africanist without equal and Nigeria’s first People’s Lawyer.
Ebino Petrol, here is Lucky Star wishing you Happy Birthday. It is our Year!
•High Chief Adeniyi wrote this piece on 16 January, 2013 in honour of Chief Ebenezer Babatope, then on his 70th birthday.