Wednesday, August 10, 2022

USA Africa Dialogue Series - A Requiem to Professor Akin L. Mabogunje

A Requiem to Professor Akin L. Mabogunje: An Epitome of Diligence (Proverbs 22:29:


"Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men" (Proverbs 22:29, KJV).


The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 22:29 summarizes my tribute to a proclaimed national and international heroa man of dignity and intelligence, my mentor and academic father, Professor Akin Mabogunje, Father of African Geography, a genius of unquestionable versatility, and an intellectually talented man of global commendation.

As one of the products of Professor Mabogunje, spanning half a century now, right from my undergraduate days through my PhD degree, and even as I climbed the ladder of promotion from Graduate Assistant to Professor of Geography, and now  Retired, much of my journey were under his tutelage and watchful eye of Baba Mabogunje. think I could say without mincing words that I know the caliber and person of this great man. I am aware of his intellectual weight, as well as his social impact of a global magnitude. It would not be too much, then, to say that this great mind deserves a place of prominence in any conversation of relevance to the Geography of Africa and to the world of Geography as a whole. 


For me, it would be an exercise in futility to start itemizing Professor Mabogunje's various contributions to the field of Geography, let alone his contributions to scholarship in general, an already well-tracked tenure. Rather, I would address my tribute to the human aspect of Professor Akin Mabogunje. In the language of the Judeo-Christian homily, I would humbly say, "Let his work speak for him!"


As an undergraduate student of his in the 1960s and his graduate student in the early 1970s and, of course, a junior staff under him for almost all of my professional career, Professor Mabogunje knew me and my seriousness - not only for my unflinching academic commitment, but also for my uncompromising faith as a born-again Christian. While many in his rank would poke fun and look down at the so-called "SU" folks, he never did so to me. He worked with me with due respect and dignity – no abuses, no insults, no assaults, no inconvenient jokes, and certainly, no harassment that has become a known sickening culture in our once revered academy. Professor Mabogunje was like a father to my husband and I. Even after he retired from the Department, our conversations continued, his mentorship unwaning, and his commitment to encouraging me was never found wantingEven myself, having retired from active service, our relationship remained strong, undistracted and undiluted. Professor, Daddy Mabogunje had been indeed a family man, a father, and a father figure to many, not just in Nigeria but across the global landscape


This is not what intellectual knowledge carves out for anyone. It takes integrity, commitment to one's spouse, one's children, and a love for other people to be able to hold one's family together with love and care, and yet, have the time to be present in other people's lives. I have benefitted from Professor Mabogunje both intellectually and socially and for this, I am eternally grateful to a Geographer cum Educator, Teacher and Mentor.


In fact, literally and figuratively, this wonderful man 'promoted' my son, David Tolu Afolayan, an Architect, drawn into the world of GIS technology – a tool, that show-cases the versatility of Geography, the Mother of All Sciences, of which the Father of us all in the field, Baba Mabogunje, spearheaded to the very end. No wonder, he threw his whole weight behind David, wielding his political and social connections to align him with the right personalities nationally and internationally, including university dons, governors, political juggernauts, past presidents and many other stakeholders. David, himself, attested to this, in:


Of no greater joy and hope is my recollections of the varied avenues Professor Mabogunje afforded my husband and myself to minister the love of Christ to him. This, he graciously accepted each time we ministered to him. This gives us glimpses of the glorious 'aspatial', celestial environment he would be now, mapping heaven, as a place of blissful repose that he yearned and got prepared for, akin to the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7-8:


"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing."


Also, the 'last' interview he granted The Nigerian Tribune, January 10, 2021, bears credence to his preparedness, quoting his response to the statement: 


"God is the author of life, and He alone determines when a man's exit is due…"


"Yes, that is true. But one of the things that determines in a slow way is your ability to continue to fight. … For me, there will be home call someday. I think I have done my best for my generation. All I am waiting for is to be called to the great beyond." ( What other witnesses does one need other than to thank God for a life well-spent and congratulate him on a new one as the genius picks up the pen of glory and starts to map out the geography of the heavenlies.


Therefore, we say: Adieu, Prof. Father Akinlawon Mabogunje, till the resurrection morning reserved for all saints, those who are saved by Grace Alone and have waited eagerly for their calls "to the great beyond."


Rev. & Rev. Prof. Ademolaami & Adejumoke Afolayan.


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