Beneath his youthful frame is an ebullient personality and distinguished intellectual, who combines a rare academic capability with administrative and organisational wizardry.
But in the manifestation of all these virtues and gifts, the Director-General, Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC), Prof. Tunde Babawale, in the last three decades of public life, has built a vast retinue of friends and associates cutting across all strata of society.
And in recognition of his modest contribution, especially to scholarship and development generally, a committee of friends, last Saturday in Lagos, hosted a public lecture and book presentation in honour of Babawale who clocked 50 on October 4.
Expectedly, the occasion held at the Mutipurpose Hall C of the University of Lagos drew dignitaries particularly from the academia, culture community, political class, and corporate world.
Chaired by Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), other guests included Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko; Oba Dokun Abolarin, Orangun of Oke-Ila; Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola was represented by Adeleke Ipaye; Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Olusegun Runsewe; representatives of heads of parastatals under Culture and Tourism Ministry as well as officials of cultural groups and bodies including President, Art Galleries Association of Nigeria (AGAN), Chief Frank Okonta and Mrs. Chinwe Abara of the NCAC among others.
From the academia were Prof. Alaba Ogunsanwo; Prof. Siyan Oyeweso; Prof. Dele Layiwola; Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye; Prof Funmi Adewunmi; Babawale’s predecessors at CBAAC: Profs Union Edebiri and Duro Oni; Odia Ofeimun; Kunle Ajibade; Dr. Akin Alao; Dr. Koya Ogen and Dr. Gbemisola Remi Adeoti. The list is inexhaustible. Members of National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) entertained the gathering with a drama sketch.
In his address, Dr. Babalakin described Babawale as a man having attained the age of 50. His words, “At 50, you are entitled to be called a man. But you (Babawale) are also a much- organised man as well as a man of decision. Your choice of a lecture; Making Democracy A Way of Life is a reflection of your deep sense of belonging and feeling for your country. It is relevant to our 13th year of democracy as a nation and a reminder that we require a very active participation of all to make democracy a way of life.”
Babalakin who bemoaned longer years of military rule in the past also noted that the Nigerian nation slowed down in development as a result of failure by leaders to pay attention to merit. He blamed the military for condoning mediocrity and successive governments for shunning several requests by the academic through ASUU.
While delivering the lecture, Vice-Chancellor, Igbinedon University, Okada, Edo State, Prof. Osaghae hinted among others that Democracy is a learning process, which has no ending. For democracy to endure, Osaghae insisted, people must not only be willing to participate, but must be ready to exercise and sustain their civic culture.
According to him, democracy and development are two sides of the same coin; hence people must participate actively and make it work.
In order to ensure that Democracy becomes a way of life, Prof Osaghae observed among others that “Citizens must have a say in the governance process, not only in electing political office holders, but also holding them to account through processes that are equitable, transparent and responsive”.
He admonished Nigerians to generally take democracy as a way of life.
“Democracy as a way of life hinges on the realisation and consciousness of citizens and the groups they belong to, the state exists to serve their collective interest and it is governed in a manner that makes this possible,” he added.
As a demonstration of love for Babawale, a collection of 23 Essays in his honour (written by friends and associates) was presented during the ceremony. The book, which raked in a substantial sum from the guests was reviewed by Prof. Isaac Olawale Albert of the University of Ibadan.
The Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko at the occasion said Nigeria has qualified citizens in all sectors that could turn around the fortune of the country.
He said it was however important that the country identified its challenges and go ahead to put the round peg in the round hole.
The governor noted that the way Babawale had re-positioned CBAAC and turned it to a first class cultural and art centre that is being sought all over the world convinced him and confirmed that Nigeria possessed the right human capital to transform it.
For Mrs. Chinwe Abara of the National Council of Arts and Culture, “Babawale is our own and has distinguished himself in his dealing concerning arts and culture, more grace to his power”
Dr. Akin Alao, Associate Professor of History, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said "Babawale is riding on the history of time, which his commitment and hard work to all that he set for himself to do, has placed him. At 50, though he has records of many achievements, but this is just the start of another journey to greater height!”
Born on the 4th of October, 1961, at Inisa-Oshogho, in Osun State, South West Nigeria, Tunde Babawale had his post-primary education at Inisa Grammar School, Inisa, Osun state, from 1973-1977. As an undergraduate at the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) from 1977 to 1985, Babawale distinguished himself as a versatile academic having to his credit two prestigious academic honours: Scholar, University of Ife, 1983-84, and Departmental Scholarship Grant for Best Graduate overall performance, of the Department of International Relations, 1983/84 session.
His twenty-seven year career dedicated to teaching, research and scholarship started during his National Youth Service 1981-82 as a teacher at the Government Secondary School, Numan, Adamawa State. He was subsequently appointed as an Assistant Lecturer at the Adeyemi College of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, in 1985, where he made significant contributions to the development of his department in particular and the institution in general. In 1991, he was appointed Lecturer Grade 1 by the University of Lagos, where he got to the peak of his academic career with his appointment as Professor of Political Economy in 2002. He was the founding, and until recently Managing Editor of the reputable UNILAG Journal of Politics. He was voted the Best Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Lagos, by the students in a University conducted survey, for the 2003/2004 academic session. Professor Babawale is a member of many learned and academic associations and societies, some of which include: Nigerian Political Science Association (NPSA), Historical Society of Nigeria, and the Third World Forum, Nigerian Network.
After twenty-four years of distinguished scholarship, he was invited in August 2006 by the Federal Government of Nigeria to serve the nation as Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization, Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Federal Republic of Nigeria. In the last five years of his appointment, Babawale has transformed the thirty-three year-old Centre into a world class art and culture agency with international appeal and global reckoning.