Babatunji Olowofoyeku

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Babatunji Olowofoyeku
Chief Babatunji Olowofoyeku.jpg
Attorney General of Western Region, Nigeria
In office
26 September 1963 – 15 January 1966
Personal details
Born 21 May 1917
Ilesha, Osun State
Died 26 March 2003
Political party NCNC, NNDP
Children 13 sons, 4 daughters
Profession Lawyer, politician
Religion Christian

Chief Babatunji Olowofoyeku, OFR, SAN (21 May 1917 – 26 March 2003) was a Nigerian politician, educationist, lawyer and leader, a Yoruba and native of Ilesha in Osun State of Nigeria, whose political career started in the mid-1950s. He had a distinguished education and career, hence his full accolades as follows: Chief Babatunji Olowofoyeku, BA (Hons), LLB (Hons) London, OFR, SAN.

Early years, 1917–1932[edit]

Olowofoyeku grew up as the last born of a traditional extended family in Ilesha. His father had died a few months just before he was born. He had a powerful drive to succeed in spite of daunting challenges of growing up under the old British Colonial System with all its artificial barriers. It was not an easy task, but with a good education obtained through determination and hard work combined with honesty and integrity, he discovered that there are no actual barriers created by men that could not be overcome.

Chief Olowofoyeku's early life was an unusual journey of high academic achievements even without a father figure. His remarkable successes were attributed to the presence of a nurturing mother who raised him well, alone by herself from infancy with his three-year older sister. His mother, though uneducated was quick to realise the value of a good education, therefore she encouraged her only son to excel in school. She enrolled him at the early age of 5 at Otapete Methodist School (1922) and it was there that he got baptised in the Methodist Church in 1924 and assumed the Christian name "Daniel".

It was in school at Otapete Methodist that Olowofoyeku first met a new classmate, Tai Solarin, then known as Augustus Solarin. That was the beginning of a lifelong friendship that later brought them together again as colleagues at St. Andrew's College, Oyo (1936–1942). Solarin admitted that he was radically changed by Olowofoyeku's final essay in which he made the observation that some of the colonialists were ignorant, and not well-prepared for the duties they were assigned, and therefore had no business running the lives of Nigerians. For this essay, he was punished for his audacity in challenging the status quo, and was suspended from college in his final academic year. He however sat for and passed the final teacher's examination as an external student a year later.

He would later drop the middle name "Daniel" as protest against his perceived oppression by the colonial authorities.

Educational career, 1932–1949[edit]

Olowofoyeku chose to become a teacher because of the general belief that teaching was a most rewarding career among the educated elitists of the time. In 1932, he accepted a starting position as a pupil teacher at Otapete Methodist School, his alma mater, and subsequently had a brilliant four-year career.

To further his education and become a professional teacher, he in 1935 applied for admission and was accepted at St. Andrew's College, Oyo, for the freshman class of 1936, to train and earn a teaching certificate. With a burning desire for an education and zeal to succeed and not disappoint his family, he attended St. Andrew's College from 1936 until October 1942.

Olowofoyeku then taught at Oduduwa College from October 1942 until 1943, a considerably short stint. The students he trained included Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN) who later became the Attorney General of Nigeria during the second republic.

Methodist Boys High School, Lagos, was Olowofoyeku's next career opportunity. From 1943 until January 1947, he was the Latin teacher, and notable among his students were the likes of Professor Olu Odumosu and Chief Adeola Odeku, who later became a very prominent Nigerian lawyer.

His first appointment as Principal was at Western Boys High School, Benin, from January 1947 until December 1948. It was during this tenure in 1948 that he took and passed the External Intermediate BA degree of the University of London by studying through a correspondence course.

He then moved to Ijebu-Ode to take up an appointment as the 3rd Principal of Olu-Iwa College (which changed its name to Adeola Odutola College[1][2] in 1964) serving from January 1949 until December 1949.

Early legal career, 1948–1963[edit]

In the defence of a lawsuit initiated against him in 1948, he found himself actually researching and providing detailed instructions to his defence attorney (lawyer) to fight the case in court. When the case was finally decided in his favour, he was so excited about the outcome that he decided to change career and enter the legal profession. He therefore applied and gained admission into the famous London School of Economics (LSE) to study law. He departed from the shores of Nigeria in December 1949 on board an ocean liner sailing along the westbound coast of Africa to the UK. He took and passed the LLB (Bachelor of Laws) in June 1952. He passed the English Bar exams, and almost immediately was invited to the Bar association (Inner Temple). He was in fact the first Ijesha man called to the English Bar.[3]

Returning to Nigeria just before Christmas in 1952, he established his first law practice in Ekotedo Road, an old historic business entertainment district in Ibadan, the then-largest city in West Africa.

His legal practice was most distinguished by the high calibre lawyers who were associated with and started with his law firm. The long list included Chief Olu Ayoola, Chief 'Tunji Ogunbiyi, Chief Bamidele Aiku (SAN), Mr. Justice Kayode Eso, a most notable judge of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, as well as his own nephew, Justice Abayomi Olowofoyeku.

Political career, 1952–1966[edit]

Chief Babatunji Olowofoyeku had arrived on the scene of nationalistic political activism by Nigerians in London during his student days. Having had a first hand experience with the social injustices and powerlessness associated with his prejudicial treatment as a student at St. Andrew's College, he was determined to find the right political platform to fight against the system that created it. Urged by the nationalistic teachings of Herbert Macaulay, he became acquainted with Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, leader of the NCNC, through Chief Odeleye Fadahunsi, another Ijesha elder visiting London.

Chief Babatunji Olowofoyeku started his active political career after he returned to Nigeria in 1952. He joined the NCNC and became an executive member of NCNC under Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe in 1954. He was elected as chairman of Ilesha Urban District Council (IUDC) in 1956, and in the same year won his election to the Western House of Assembly by a landslide majority even without mounting a serious campaign.

During this tenure, he sought to modernise Ilesha to the standards he had witnessed in London City Council (now London County Council) during his studies abroad. And his notable accomplishments in Ilesha included installation of pipe-borne water, electricity, market development, town planning, road constructions, sanitation and council staff welfare.

He was a member of the NCNC delegates' team to the Nigerian Constitutional Conferences in London of 1957 and 1958, the objectives of which were to seek Nigeria's Independence from Britain. He was also elected into the Western House of Assembly in 1956 on the platform of the NCNC representing Ilesha Central Constituency. Olowofoyeku was a member of the NCNC Committee on Africa and Foreign Affairs. He also headed the NCNC Legal Defence Committee comprising Chief Richard Akinjide, Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, Kehinde Sofola, Tunji Ogunbiyi and others.

Olowofoyeku was a distinguished opposition House member even though not a member of Action Group (Nigeria) (AG), the ruling party of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Chief Awolowo's favourable assessment of the political abilities of Olowofoyeku was that: "He [Olowofoyeku] had a good sense of justice and belief in democracy".[4][5]

Crisis in Western Nigeria, 1959–1966[edit]

Before the 1959 General Elections into Federal Parliament that preceded the declaration of Nigeria's independence from Britain in 1960, Chief Obafemi Awolowo the national leader of the Action Group (AG) had vacated his post as Premier of the West to seek the elective office of Prime Minister at the Federal House of Assembly. Unfortunately, he did not win a majority of the votes needed and so he became the leader of Opposition at the Federal level. Because of a feud which had developed between him and his Party Deputy, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola,[6] now Premier of the Western Region, Chief Awolowo attempted to expel Akintola from the party and remove him from office as Premier of the West, intending to replace him with Alhaji Soroye Adegbenro.

During a subsequent debate in the Western House of Assembly on 25 May 1962, a free-for-all fight broke out among the legislators. The entire NCNC legislators present were active participants, backing Akintola's breakaway faction.[7] This was of major national importance and consequently, the Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa intervened declaring a "State of Emergency" in the Western Region for 6 months. He appointed Chief Majekodunmi as Administrator.

At the expiration of the 6-month "State of Emergency", Akintola's faction with tacit support from the Sardauna of Sokoto and the NPC in the North now united under the assumed name, the United Peoples Party (UPP) and forged an alliance with the NCNC legislators to form a new Government for Western Nigeria.

Chief Akintola returned on 1 January 1963 as the new Premier of the West and Fani-Kayode as his deputy. Chief Olowofoyeku was first appointed Minister of Education[8] replacing Dr Sanya Onabamiro. Tom Egbe, a Mid- Westerner was appointed Attorney General largely due to the strong support from the Federal Finance Minister, Chief Festus Okotie-Ebo. However, after the creation of the Mid-Western State in July 1963, Egbe became Attorney General for the new Mid-West state and Chief Olowofoyeku was installed the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Western Region from 26 September 1963. Chief Olowofoyeku was also at the same time appointed a Queen's Counsel (QC) by the British Government, as recognition of his official legal duties to the Commonwealth.

Because of constant internal political strife within the NCNC and because of great under-representation of the West in the character and composition of the federal cabinet, Olowofoyeku and other Western Nigeria NCNC members in the legislature decided to align themselves with Akintola into the newly formed Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) in 1964. Olowofoyeku's constituents in Ilesha were angry and viewed this move suspiciously and most unfavorably. Consequently, his previously staunch support among them quickly vanished. The NCNC and AG now formed a new national alliance, UPGA (United Progressive Grand Alliance) against the ruling NPC/NNDP alliance.[9] When election time came around December 1965,[10] it was payback time. It was chaos and pandemonium all over the country, particularly in the West and most especially in Ilesha. Olowofoyeku escaped an assassin's bullet by a few inches during a campaign rally near Ilesha.[11]

At the end, the ruling parties were declared winners of an election that most observers saw as rigged in favour of the incumbent. This election was indeed the beginning of violent electioneering in the annals of Nigerian history. There were wanton killings and arson was rampant. It became hazardous to walk the streets in broad daylight. This was a perfect setting for the 15 January 1966 coup that imposed martial law and thereby restored public order.

1966 military coup[edit]

In the aftermath of the December 1965 elections, there was a bloody military coup on 15 January 1966, establishing a National Military Government. This coup that toppled the first democratically elected Federal Government of Sir Tafawa Balewa also ended the political careers of most of the politicians of the first republic. The Prime Minister was assassinated with his Finance Minister, Chief Okotie-Ebo. Also assassinated were the Premier of the North, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and the Premier of the West, Chief S.L. Akintola.

After this coup that assassinated the Premier of the Western Region, Chief S. L. Akintola, the Military Government then went after all the surviving political leaders including Chief Olowofoyeku and Chief Fani-Kayode. Other politicians were arrested and detained. Chief Olowofoyeku was arrested and taken into custody by the Military Government on 30 January 1966 and detained for six months. He was first detained at Agodi in Ibadan and later transferred to KiriKiri in Lagos. He was allowed very limited family visitation rights throughout his political incarceration at KiriKiri.

Chief Olowofoyeku was released after the second counter coup on 29 July 1966 that was carried out by soldiers of Northern Nigerian extraction who replaced the old military regime of Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi. This Coup D'état was led by a northerner, Col. Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma who plotted the counter coup on behalf of Northern Nigerian soldiers that installed Lt Col. Yakubu Gowon, (a young, intelligent 32-year-old officer) as the second Military Head of State to power in 1966. This second coup finally led to the Nigeria-Biafran Civil War of 1966–1970. Over 1 million civilians, mostly of Ibo extraction died in the fratricidal duel motivated more by greed, reprisals and revenge against Igbo soldiers. After being set free to go home, and having learnt a hard lesson from his experience, Chief Olowofoyeku vowed never to get involved in partisan politics again.

By the time the Nigerian Civil War broke out on 6 July 1967 over the secession of the South-eastern Region of Nigeria desiring to become Biafra, as a separate nation, Olowofoyeku was no longer involved in politics, and was in fact temporarily out of the country. Within weeks of his release in July 1966, he had left Nigeria and departed for Paris, France, to seek rest and refuge.

Later legal career, 1967–2003[edit]

On his return to Nigeria late in 1967, Olowofoyeku moved to Lagos and re-opened his law practice in Western House on the highly commercial Broad Street near the Lagos High Court. He continued to practice law for many years, during which time he was one of the first 20 to be appointed as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (the equivalent of the Queen's Counsel in the UK).[12] He was one of the first 20 to be so appointed in the country.

Despite being approached by Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1979 to come and join his new Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Olowofoyeku declined and retained his historic decision to avoid politics at all cost.

With the passage of time and as the years drew on, his strength began to wane and so he relocated his legal practice to his home in Victoria Island, Lagos. In the twilight of his life, although disabled by a stroke that robbed him of speech and his physical strength in his right extremities, his keen mind was always active as ever.


Chief Olowofoyeku was married, and had 17 children (13 sons and 4 daughters) most of whom are all self-made professionals in their own right. He has many grandchildren and several great grandchildren.


  • Segun Olowofoyeku. Medical Doctor, USA
  • Akin Olowofoyeku. Professor, USA
  • Moji Olowofoyeku (d.) RIP
  • Folu Olowofoyeku. Civil/ Structural Engineer, USA
  • Toby Olowofoyeku. Music Producer, musician, USA
  • Dapo Olowofoyeku. Actor, Nigeria
  • Jumoke Olowofoyeku (d.) RIP
  • Chief Supo Olowofoyeku. IT Consultant, businessman, UK
  • Olumide Olowofoyeku (d.) Lawyer. RIP
  • Kole Olowofoyeku. Businessman, IT Developer, Pastor, Nigeria
  • Ayo Olowofoyeku. Politician, Architect, businessman, Nigeria
  • Bimbo Olowofoyeku. Professor of Law, Software Developer, Pastor, UK
  • Funmi Olowofoyeku. French Teacher, République du Bénin
  • Femi Olowofoyeku. Lecturer, Teacher, Church Leader, UK
  • Folarin Olowofoyeku. Architect, Nigeria
  • Bolaji Olowofoyeku. Lawyer, Nigeria
  • Folake Olowofoyeku. Musician, actress, model, USA

Final days, 2003[edit]

On 26 March 2003 at the age of 85, Chief Babatunji Olowofoyeku died. His funeral which lasted several days was held partly in the High Court in Lagos (a special honour for his legal career), at his main residence in Victoria Island and at his two homes in Ilesha.

His life story, educational, legal and political career are detailed in his autobiography: Lynn Olisa, A Great Advocate and Gentleman: Chief Babatunji Olowofoyeku, Lagos, Nigeria, Nelson Publishers Ltd, 1997[13]


  1. ^ "The Biography of T Adeola Odutola" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 October 2006. Retrieved 20 November 2015. 
  2. ^ "Olowofoyeku, Principal of Adeola Odutola College 1948–1949". Retrieved 23 August 2008. 
  3. ^ Lynn Olisa, A Great Advocate and Gentleman: Chief Babatunji Olowofoyeku, Lagos, Nigeria, Nelson Publishers Ltd, 1997
  4. ^ "Outstanding politicians outside Action Group, 'The Egbe Afenifere’". Retrieved 23 August 2008. 
  5. ^ "Outstanding politicians outside Action Group, 'The Egbe Afenifere’". Retrieved 23 August 2008. 
  6. ^ Chief Samuel Akintola, 23 August 2008
  7. ^ "Nigeria, Ibadan Politics". Retrieved 23 August 2008. 
  8. ^ "Ijesas Network". Archived from the original on 21 August 2008. Retrieved 23 August 2008. 
  9. ^ Nigerian Political Parties, by Richard L. Sklar. Retrieved 23 August 2008. 
  10. ^ "Strategies for Curbing Electoral Malpractices and Violence in Nigeria". Archived from the original on 16 October 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2008. 
  11. ^ "Attempted Murder of Chief Olowofoyeku". Retrieved 23 August 2008. 
  12. ^ "Senior Advocates of Nigeria". Retrieved 23 August 2008. 
  13. ^ "Dr Lynn Olisa, Best Book Written: Chief Babatunji Olowofoyeku". Retrieved 23 August 2008. 

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