From WOLE BALOGUN, Ado-Ekiti
A total number of 206 students of secondary schools, undergraduates and students of the Nigerian Law School had cause to smile on Saturday as they went home with cheques for their scholarship from Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN). They were full of appreciation to the former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), for rescuing them and keeping their hopes alive.
The Wole Olanipekun Scholarship Scheme (WOSS) started in 1996 to assist brilliant but indigent students marked 20 years this year. Atmosphere at Olanipekun’s residence, Iyaniwura Villa, in his native Ikere-Ekiti, was that of celebration of brilliance of the beneficiaries who scaled through the criteria set by the WOSS Board of Trustees.
WOSS was initially to assist students of Ikere-Ekiti but extended to students from other local government areas and states.
This year’s award was chaired by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof. Idowu Olayinka while the guest lecturer was Prof. Toyin Bamisaye of Ekiti State University. Others included Deputy Governor Dr. Kolapo Olusola; Ogoga of Ikere, Oba Adejimi Adu Alagbado; former deputy governor, Chief Abiodun Aluko; Commissioner for Education, Mr. Olajide Egunjobi; chairman, Ikere Local Government, Mr. Ola Alonge; House of Assembly member representing Ikere Constituency 1, Mr. Wale Ayeni and traditional chiefs of Ikere.
Chairman of the occasion, Olayinka extolled Olanipekun’s virtues as a generous and selfless individual whose love for education was legendary given his investment of time, energy and money in the sector. He noted that Olanipekun during his tenure as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of the university between 2009 and 2013 built an ultramodern Faculty of Law Lecture Theatre and never collected sitting allowances which he donated for endowment.
Describing Olanipekun as “a gift to humanity”, he said he was not surprised by the recent gesture of the eminent lawyer for building the Vice Chancellor’s Lodge at the Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo where he (Olanipekun) now serves as the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council.
Oba Alagbado urged the beneficiaries to justify the sponsor’s investment in them to encourage him to do more noting that scholarship on students should not be wasted.
The monarch recalled that five of his colleagues in primary school who were very brilliant could not continue their education because of lack of funds, while he (Oba Alagbado) had to stay at home for five years after his primary education before proceeding to secondary school because of financial difficulties. He described as a “special and rare gift to Ikere land.”
Olusola who described Olanipekun as a “leader and mentor” said the philanthropist had contributed immensely to the development of his hometown having projects in all the four major roads that lead into the town. He urged the beneficiaries to be diligent in their studies for them to become great in life like their benefactor who started from a humble beginning to attain national and international prominence in the law profession and philanthropy.
Egunjobi said Olanipekun should be emulated by all to sustain the education sector noting that education is the major industry in the state, which recently came tops in the National Examinations Council (NECO) exam.
Olanipekun said the scheme started from a humble beginning in 1996 and has been nurtured to assume a national outlook with students from other states benefiting from funds to assist them in their education. He pledged to continue to do more to give hope to the future generation by financing the scheme to assist the younger one realize their dreams and become great to benefit Nigeria and the world in the nearest future.
The former Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice in the old Ondo State said he was celebrating the landmark of 20 years of the scheme by distributing five customized exercise books to each pupil in primary schools in Ikere free of charge.
He stressed that education which was a great legacy in Western Nigeria must not be allowed to die regretting that “the sector is gradually dying, dehydrating and evaporating.
Ikere presently has 77 professors but the question is how do we produce more professors, more deputy governors, more governors and presidents? It is through investment in education.
“I want to appeal most profoundly to the beneficiaries of today that when you grow, look back to the less privileged and assist them. I appeal to you because government cannot do it all. The greatest thing you can be remembered for is not the wealth you accumulate but the lives you touch.”