Monday, October 29, 2018 3:57 pm
On Saturday 27 October 2018, friends, professional colleagues, family members, captains of industry and others gathered at the Lagos home of a Senior Advocate of Niger and Editor-in-Chief, Supreme Court Reports, Layi Babatunde, who marked his 60th birthday.
It was a moment of reminiscences. His family members appreciated God for the life of their bread winner. His wife, Adejoke, thanked God that when he approached her over 30 years ago, she did not reject him. “I made the right choice and I have no reason whatsoever to regret it.” All the chidren had great words about their father who set their feet on the right path.
One of Babatunde’s friends, a medical doctor, added a humorous dimension to the eulogies. He said that all Babatunde’s childres were girls “until I advised him to be eating garlic and onions. After that, his wife was delivered of a boy”. The bitherday “boy” stopped in his tracks as he was pumping hands with guests. He looked back, still laughing, saying, “I won’t reveal why I sacked you as my family doctor!” Everyone bent double with glee.
Mr Idowu Obasa, one of the founders of TheNEWS, a product of Great Ife (university) added a political dimension to his tribute. He revealed the “subversive” activities of Babatunde, when in the beginning, the founders of the magazine were at sea on how to raise money. Babatunde, according to Obasa, helped. “He would have been arrested by Sani Abacha, but he covered his activities against that regime with his law profession.”
What could have made a lawyer who ought to be enjoying his cool money take such a suicidal path? The answer remains in the radical education drummed into the likes of Babatunde, Femi Falana, Obasa and others at Ife. Educated at Baptist Day School, Zaria; St Johns (now Rimi) College, Kaduna; Kwara State College of Technology, Babatunde studied Law at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). It was the spirit of not tolerating any oppression that made Babatunde offer to help.
Professor Wale Adebanwi, in a book he wrote on the organisation, entitled, Trials and Triumphs: The Story of The NEWS” narrated how Babatunde helped to finance the preview edition of the magazine. “In 1992, a team of journalists working with African Concord, a magazine in the titles of Concord newspapers published by business mogul, late Chief MKO Abiola, had done a story on the then Military President, Gen Ibrahim Babangida. The military government immediately proscribed the magazine and shut down its offices at Isolo, Lagos. Abiola had gone to apologize to Babangida, who in turn demanded apology from the journalists. Led by Bayo Onanuga(now Managing Director, NAN), the journalists included Dapo Olorunyomi (now Publisher Premium Times), Babafemi Ojudu(now SSA, Political Matters to President Muhammadu Buhari), Kunle Ajibade(Managing Editor, The News) and Seye Kehinde (Publisher, City People).
“Rather than apologize for their story, they all chose to resign from their employment. After their resignation, they teamed up to start their own magazine, (they later added TEMPO, A.M. News and PM News to their publications). They were however hamstrung by Finance. Babatunde was one of the investors that rose up to put money on the magazine.
“More troubling was that with a date set for the preview edition of the magazine, there was no money to print at Academy Press. But God is the founder of The NEWS. Just when the editors were becoming hopeless, a helping hand came. Mr Layi Babatunde, a young lawyer, now Senior Advocate, sauntered into The NEWS office at Ibiyemi. He came to visit his friend, Dapo Olorunyomi. Told by the despondent editors about the money problem, Layi, without any hesitation, agreed to help with the funding… With the publication of the preview, the group summoned a meeting of investors. The magazine was unveiled to them. Many in attendance appeared impressed. Onanuga recalled that investors’ money started rolling in.