I still remember our last conversation. It was on the stairs of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Alausa. He told me he had read my article on garnishee proceedings in a business law journal and that he disagreed with some of the positions I took in the article.
I reminded him of the academic ‘fight’ on whether Land Use Act expropriate which was fought by Professors Jelili Omotola, Amos Utuama, and J. F. Fekumo. I challenged him to respond to the article. He promised to do so.
Then came the call. It was from Alex Mouka, the Chairman of the Lagos Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association. He wanted me to inform Ade Ipaye, the Attorney General that Babatola Apata was dead.
We met him in Law School. His brilliance was as robust as his physical stature (That’s how Obafemi Awolowo described FRA Williams). He was the champion from Unilorin. Every university worthy its name in Law School must have a champion. Gbolahan was the striker of TeamUnilag, with First Class to boot. Team UNN was divided between Cheluchi and Nonso. OOU had their champion in petite Muinat. Sola led the team from Great Ife. I’m not sure LASU and UI came with any champion. But I recall the champion from Ekpoma, Steve.
Babatola’s name was on the lips of every Ilorin student. He was their rock. And his name was APATA. His fame preceded him. A new friend from Ilorin who I just met told me proudly that if only one student was going to make First Class in Law School, it was going to be Tola Apata.
As it turned to out, our set became the only set in the history of the Law School to write the Bar Finals twice in the same year. No wonder we didn’t produce any First Class. It was a session of maddening failure. Maybe Onigegewura should write about that terrible incident. One day…)
Like every brilliant genius, Babatola was calm and unassuming. We became friends. Of course, you only need to meet him to become his friend. I met him again in Port Harcourt (the city named after Lewis Harcourt by someone who was seeking his goodwill). He was then an Associate in G. Elias. He flew in to Port Harcourt almost every week.
Tola was not a one-way traffic. He was an all-rounder. In spite of his busy schedule as a litigator per excellence, he had time for the Bar. He was the Secretary of the Lagos Bar and it was in the service of the Bar that he had the accident which eventually claimed his youthful life. What a life! So bright, So young.
Tallest òmò tree is the carver’s choice for Gangan drum. Best of petals is the prize for the bride. Fattest calf is the butcher’s pick. Tola, our finest advocate, was death’s choice.
Continue to Rest in Peace, Babatola Eyitayomi Apata (May 6, 1973 – March 18, 2014)