Joel Ehinafe Babatola

Joel Babatola
Dr. Ehinafe Joel Babatola. Photo: Ancestry Hub

Joel Ehinafe Babatola; Adhrent of Awoism who before his death in 2014 at the age of 96 became the oldest surviving disciple of Obafemi Awolowo. Babatola was the Principal of a Teacher Training College at Usi from 1970 to 1971. When Awolowo died in 1985, Babatola was  was invited by Olurin who was governor to write a funeral oration. Babatola  wrote the funeral oration, entitled “Deathless Awolowo”. Before his passing in 2014, Babatola became the Olora of Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, and was Vice-President of the Yoruba Council of Elders.


Action Group Politics

When Chief Awolowo was the leader of lire opposition at the centre, Ladoke Akintola succeeded him as Premier. He wanted to become the President of Action Group, to displace Awolowo. That ambition created problems. The Federal Government supported him, but that was not enough to help him implement Awo’s programmes. He and Remi Fani-Kayode did not enjoy the confidence of the people of the West. The confidence they enjoyed was in Osun area.  But in Ondo Province which included Ekiti, Babatola organized Awolowo’s party. He was writing articles in the Nigeria Tribune under the pen name of “Lawson”. That helped in his opposition of Akintola’s party.

During the shadow election into the House of Assembly in 1955, Babatola was a candidate. His opponent was Abiodun; a member of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroun (NCNC) from Ado.  Babatola had over 15,000 votes while Abiodun had 11,000 hence Babatola was returned elected.  From 1956 to 1959, he was in the House of Assembly. In 1956, as an Assemblyman, he made a speech which Chief Awolowo was much appreciative of. When Awolowo was going to the centre of Nigerian government in 1959, he made arrangement that Babatola should become a minister.

Commissioner under military government

In 1971 when military Governor Oluwole Rotimi was going to form his cabinet, he confided in the civilians in the ministries, particularly with the Permanent Secretary in the Governor’s Office. They supplied the governor with names of some nominees which Babatola was among. They advised the governor to write him to discuss with him personally. So, Babatola received a letter from the Permanent Secretary that the governor wanted to see him. In September he was sworn in as the Commissioner of Works and Transport.

When there was a cabinet reshuffle, Babatola was posted to the Ministry of Trade and Co-operatives. Then, two of his colleagues, Prince Aderemi and another commissioner said the Co-operative Bank should be merged with the National Bank evisaging a strong bank wll be formed. The proposal was accepted by the governor, but, being a co-operator, Babatola counseled  against the merger believing having only one bank would impede industrial and commercial progress. Ladoke Akintola as Premier  had earlier on attempted the same but the Cooperative Bank had the court disapprove the merger. in the heat of the arguments, Governor Rotimi asked Babatola to proceed on leave and had Aderemi oversee his ministry.

Breakaway from Awolowo

Babatola was a member of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). He defected to the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). There was an arrangement for election, members of the party were to apply to be elected to any post. But the UPN governors conspired that they wanted to continue and their posts should be contested for. This did not go down well with Awolowo. Those who wanted to be governors in Ondo and Oyo went into conclave and said they were not going to give financial support.  When Awolowo said the governors should be returned and their posts should not be contested for, Babatola’s group threatened not to support them. So, they broke away. They decided to join the other party. Babatola had no plan to contest for positions. In principle he remained an Awoist[i].

[i] The NATION, September 10, 2014

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer