For Pa Gabriel Babatunde Ladipo, Saturday January 21, 2023 is yet another special day, yet another day to celebrate fulfillment, joy, happiness and good health, as he turns 97 on earth.
For the children and relatives, it’s yet another day to roll out the drums to celebrate a soul that, despite his age, is still impacting meaningfully on humanity through various means, which includes, but not limited to sports, education, management and counseling.
As an educationist, the former Principal of the Government Technical Training School (GTTS), Ilorin has produced numerous personalities, especially in technical education, who are today making waves in the society. He was Principal of GTTS between 1967 and 1974. He was the first Black man to head GTTS.
Pa Ladipo was also the Head of Department of Technical Education, Kaduna State Polytechnic, and the Head of Department, Kwara State College of Education (Technical) between 1980 and 1986.
For him, no giving nation or society can advance beyond what its educational system offers. He is an advocate of Technical Education.
He advised government to adopt Technical Education, which according to him, is an educational foundation aimed at providing appropriate education for all children according to their ability and attitude. He recommended for the adoption of a post-primary education, a comprehensive system whose course of study should cover not only academic subjects, but wide enough to cater for the whole range of human abilities and aptitude, with particular emphasis on agriculture training (including domestic science), as well as pre-vocational and pre-technical training (including commercial).
According to him, technical education develops an individual in the use of hands, the brain and the mind. It enables an individual to develop problem solving techniques; it develops an individual to be an independent thinker and to be able to act independently, particularly in solving problems.
In management and counseling, Pa Ladipo has shaped and given meaning to the lives of numerous individuals through advises and monitoring. He is no doubt, an umbrella that has continued to provide shelter for many, a soothing balm, and an encyclopedia of knowledge about life, from which many are tapping from.
And in sports, at 97, Pa Ladipo is still a sportsman, as he plays scrabble every day, despite his age.
He has made tremendous impact in sports as an athlete, coach, referee, trainer, handler, organizer, instructor, administrator and mobilizer. His footprints are still crystal clear in sports development in states like Lagos, Kaduna, Kano, his own state, Kwara and others. He was the architect of the construction of the Kwara State Stadium Complex, Ilorin.
The government of General Yakubu Gowon in 1967, created 12 states in Nigeria, to ensure effectiveness in administration, especially at the grassroots, with Kwara state been one of the states.
A Military Administrator, late Col. David Lasisi Bamigboye was appointed as the first Governor. And despite been confronted with numerous priority of administering developmental initiatives of infrastructure and amenities associated with governance, the then Col. David Lasisi Bamigboye-led administration accommodated sports promotion and development within its programmes. The responsibility of sports development then rested on the shoulders of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. The Ministry constituted the Sports Promotion Committee in 1968, and the Committee was chaired by Pa Ladipo. The Committee later metamorphosed into the Kwara State Sports Council, with Pa Ladipo as its first Chairman.
Pa Ladipo it was, who championed the acquisition of land at Oko-Erin, along the then Oyo bye-pass, for the construction of the Kwara State Stadium Complex.
He also led a delegation that included officials of the Kwara State Ministry of Works to tour Europe in search of a model for the proposed stadium.
Pa Ladipo was in 1956, the Chairman, Lagos District Table Tennis Association, and was also the coach of the table tennis national team. In 1957, he was in Kano state as coach in table tennis and football referee, as well as trainer.
Between 1957 and 1958, he was table tennis coach in Kaduna, referees trainer, table tennis club owner, and was involved in athletics’ officiating.
Between 1958 and 1964, he was a table tennis coach in Ilorin, Kwara state, and he combined that with been the Chairman and trainer, and a football referee.
Pa Ladipo retired as a Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) Badged Referee in 1967 in Kano, when he was coaching table tennis then. He was also training referees then. Between 1967 and 1974, he was appointed as the Chairman, Kwara State Sports Promotion Committee, later, Chairman, Sports Council Committee, and Chairman, Kwara Stadium Development Committee.
He was a member of the National Sports Commission, Chairman, All Nigeria Technical School Sports, and was a member of the All Africa Games in 1972.
Between 1974 and 1980, he was back in Kaduna, where he played badminton, and at the same time, Chairman and trainer, football referees, as he also led teams to NIPOGA and NATCEGA within that period.
Pa Ladi[po was Chairman, Scrabble Association in Kwara state, Chairman of Sports Association Chairmen, as well as Adviser and trainer, Kwara Football Referees Council.
The list is endless.
At 97, Pa Ladipo is still agile, sharp, plays scrabble, and can tell a story of many years with great precision, including quoting dates and time. Tomorrow, Saturday January 21, 2023, Pa Gabriel Babtunde Ladipo will be 97. A great man indeed.