On 18th March 2018, the Nigerian Bar Association, Lagos Branch will be rolling out drums to celebrate one of its own, Pa. Tunji Gomez who will be 90 years old on the surface of the earth. It is on this very day that it will be exactly four years that Mr. Babatola Apata, a former Secretary General of the Branch left our midst to the great beyond. While we celebrate the living, we must also celebrate and pray for the dead. There is no doubt that Mr. Apata died in the active service to the bar as he was involved in a motor accident which he miraculously survived when he was on his way to the NBA NEC meeting for the first quarter of that year 2014. He was later hospitalized and was recuperating when the angel of death came calling. He was eventually buried on 27th March 2014.
In THE BRIEFCASE, the monthly newsletter I ran during my tenure as the Publicity Secretary of the branch, I wrote in the Series 2 of the April Edition of that year under the caption, HA! APATA IS GONE:
“When our late Secretary General, Mr. Babatola Apata was on Thursday 27th March 2014 eventually lowered into the grave at Victoria Court Cemetery, Lekki, I could no longer resist the cloud of tears that had gathered in me. The tears started dropping and I said ‘So Apata is gone’. The demise of the young man was very painful to us in the sense that we had all expected him back in our midst having miraculously survived the accident in which he was involved. Nobody had expected that he would die but our hope was dashed when the sad news came that he had given up the ghost. I got to know him better when we found ourselves in the incumbent Executive Committee of Premier Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association. When Apata scanned and emailed to me the copy of the Aso Rock’s letter sacking Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the Governor of Central Bank, I wrote to commend him that ‘Mr. Apata you are truly THE ROCK’. When we later met one on one and I repeated the commendation, he began to laugh. “
“Apata was a brilliant young lawyer who was very knowledgeable in the knowledge of laws. One of the things I learnt from him is that if you cultivate the habit of buying a law report every week, it would not be difficult for you to stock your law library at ease. Apata used to buy a latest copy of the Nigerian Weekly Law Report (NWLR) every week .We have indeed lost a gem and a promising young lawyer in person of Babatola Sunday Eyitayomi Apata who undoubtedly died in active services to the bar. We have no choice when the Almighty God, the Giver and Taker of lives have taken decision which cannot be appealed against. Our prayers for him to the Good Lord is to put him among the saints and give the Bar , his wife and family the fortitude to bear the great loss.”
The floodgate of tribute that followed the departure of Tola Apata from the world was overwhelming. With the very short life he spent, he touched many lives in one way or the other. Many of his colleagues in both University of Ilorin and the Nigerian Law School testified to his brilliance. Apata was on top of his class. A colleague in Abuja said about Apata that whenever he had any problematic issue in the cause of litigation and immediately called him on phone to seek his advice and opinion, Apata would take his time to explain and instantly referred him to case authorities to further consult. Another classmate of his in University of Ilorin said he once got a particular brief from a client and he was at crossroads. Immediately he went to see Apata the way a sick man goes to see his doctor, Apata lectured him and reminded him of a particular course they did together at the undergraduate level, the said classmate’s problem was solved.
He was an epitome of a good husband who stood by his wife all the times when he was alive. Please listen to the part of the tribute by his lovely wife, Adeola , may the Good Lord continue to console her:
“..You touched every life you met positively, A great lover of children (I wish I bore you one), A great communicator, you had no barriers in friendship. Brave, Adventurous, Deep, Well cultured , vastly read, Dedicated Barrister, respectable and just so jovial, never bereft of appropriate proverbs for all situations, My backbone, My Guide, My Encyclopaedia, Atoka mi , Ore mi, Babatola Eyitayomi, you came, you saw and you conquered….”
Chief Wale Taiwo, another beneficiary of Apata’s friendship and brotherhood had this to say:
“Dear Tola, I cannot believe you are gone! You were a very good ‘aburo’ to me; always wanting to be around to lend a helping hand, not only on legal issues but on other social matters. You were a brilliant and hardworking; always wanting to share your knowledge of the law. My two daughters who are lawyers can never forget you as you mentored them from their University days through the Law School, making available to them necessary legal materials on topical issues which put them in good stead to excel. You were ever smiling, not wanting to hurt or offend anyone. As opposing counsel with me in a matter, you tenaciously made your points without being abusive or rude and coming out to tell me – ‘ohu ti e ko wa niyen’ (that is what you taught us) or ‘sorry sir. I was only doing my job’. As you rest your case finally, you can never be forgotten .It is not how long one lives but how well. You surely have left your footprints on the sands of time. You have done well. Sleep on, my beloved brother. Adieu!”
Is there any lesson for us all here? Do you want to be remembered for good or evil? In the book JULIUS CEASER written by the great Williams Shakespeare, when Mark Anthony took the corpse of Ceaser to the Romans and was addressing them one of the things he said was that “I am here to bury Ceaser but not to praise him, the evil men doth liveh after them”.
What do we want to be remembered for after we are no more? May the Good Lord continue to bless the soul of BABATOLA SUNDAY EYITAYOMI APATA!