The enigma named Prof. Akinlawon Ladipo Mabogunje, popularly known as A.L. Mabogunje will turn 87 years old on 18 October 2018. He is one of Nigeria’s silent heroes with intimidating credentials that the younger generation should emulate in terms of accomplishments at this period in history, when money has become the issue. First to be published by TERRIFIC HEADLINES was the rare achievements of another solid Nigerian, late Prof. Adebayo Adedeji who also recorded tremendous achievements, serving the United Nations as an Under Secretary General/Head of the Economic Commission for Africa after serving Nigeria meritoriously as Federal Minister of Economic Planning in the Gen. Yakubu Gowon administration.
Akin Mabogunje had his elementary education at the Holy Trinity School and the United Native African Church School in Kano (1935-1941) and Central School Mapo Ibadan in 1942. His secondary education was at the famous Ibadan Grammar School (1943-1948) His University education began in 1949 at the then University College, Ibadan where he earned a B.A General degree in Geography in 1953. Akin Mabogunje collected a Master’s and a Ph.D degree in Geography in 1958 and 1961 respectively. Professor Mabogunje (ALM) started his professional career as a lecturer at the University of Ibadan in 1958. This was a rare feat as he became a senior lecturer in 1964, and a professor of Geography in 1965, at the tender age of 34 years; and within seven years of his joining the University staff.
THE GLORIOUS DAYS: Those were the glorious days of the ivory towers when the Vice Chancellor of the University College, Ibadan, an affiliate of the University of London was ranked between 7 and 8 on the protocol list of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Those were days when lobbying had no place in the appointment of Vice Chancellors of universities. People in the class of AL Mabogunje were too neat to go on their knees for appointment as VCs; one of the strong reasons why universities sold their independence to bureaucrats such that Directors in Government Ministries and agencies; who can now summon a Vice Chancellor without any difficulty. Who dared summon personalities like Kenneth Mellanby, Kenneth Onwuka Dike, Thomas Adeoye Lambo, and Horatio Oritsejolomi-Thomas?
RECOGNITIONS: At the University of Ibadan, he was Head of Department of Geography (1972-1975); Dean Faculty of the Social Sciences (1968-1970) and Director, Planning Studies Programme (1972-1981). He was a member of Senate (1965-1981) and Chairman of many Senate and Council Committees where his contributions to the development of the University of Ibadan were enormous. A publication by the Nigerian Academy of Engineering records Prof. Mabogunje as follows: ‘’Professor Akin Mabogunje, Chairman of the Lagos Megacity Development Authority, was former Executive Chairman of the Development Policy Centre, Ibadan, Dean of the Faculty of the Social Sciences, Director of the Planning Studies Programme and Professor of Geography of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. ‘’Mabogunje has also served in a number of public sector positions in Nigeria. Notable among these are as Chairman of the Western State Forestry Commission (1968-74), Chairman, National Council for Management Development (1976-79), Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Ogun State University (1982-91), Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Nigerian National Merit Award Endowment fund (1989-94), Vice Chairman of the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure in the Office of the President (1986-91), Executive Chairman of the National Board for Community Banks (1991-1994), Chairman of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria from 2002, and Chancellor, Bells University of Technology. Mabogunje has published extensively especially in his field of urban and regional development.’’
Prof. Mabogunje is a the recipient of numerous honours both within and outside Nigeria. He is one very earliest recipients in 1980, of the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM), the highest national award for distinguished contribution to the academic and intellectual life of the country. He was also the recipient of the national honours of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON). He has been honoured with honorary doctorate degrees by the Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden (1973), Michigan State University, East Lansing (1976), University of Benin, Benin City (1995) and the Ogun State University, Ago-Iwoye (1996). He is the first African to be elected Foreign Associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences in 1999 and is the recipient of numerous research medals from international professional associations. Professionally, Mabogunje had been active within the international Geographical Union. After serving three terms as Vice President of that international organization, he was elected its President for the period 1980-84. At different times, he has been consultant to the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering.
SPECIALITIES: At the professional level, Professor Mabogunje was Editor of the Nigerian Geographical Journal (1962-65); Editor, Oxford University Press series on studies on the Development of African Resources; President, Nigeria Geographical Association (1972-1982); Vice-President, Nigerian Ecological Society (1973-79); President, National Council Population Activities (1986-1992); and Executive Chairman, Development Policy Centre, Ibadan (1996-2000). At the National level, he had served in various capacities both in the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy. He was a member of the Western Nigerian Economic Advisory Council (1967-71); Member, Federal Public Service Review Commission (1972-74); Consultant, National Census Board (1973-74); Chairman, Nigerian Council for Management Development (1976-79); Consultant, Federal Capital Development Authority (1976-84); Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Ogun State University, Ago-Iwoye (1982-91); Member, Board of Directorate of DFRRI (1986-1993); Member, Board of Trustees Nigerian National Merit Award Endowment Fund (1983-1989) later Chairman of the Fund (1989-94) and Executive Chairman of the National Board for Community Banks (1991-94).
In the private sector, he served as a member of the Board of Directors, Nigerian Agricultural Products Co. Ltd. (1975-76); Vice-Chairman, PAI Association International (Nig.) (1974-1989); Vice-Chairman, Board of Directors Pi, International Co. Ltd. (1990-date); Chairman, Board of Directors, Fountain Publications (1990-date); Member, Board of Directors, Shonny Investments and Properties Ltd. (1994-date) and Chairman Board of Directors, First Interstate Merchant Bank (Nig.) Ltd. (1995-date). At the international level, Professor Mabogunje has also held many important positions either as a member, Chairman or President of about a dozen organizations. Among the most notable ones are being Vice-President of the International Geographical Union (IGU) (1980-1992), an organization of which he later became the First African to be President (1980-1984). He was also Vice-President, Governing Council for Pan African Institute for Development (1972-78); Vice-President, Governing Council for PanAfrican Institute for Development, Douala Cameroon (1978-1984); Chairman, International Committee for Overcoming Hunger in the 1990s (1988-1994); Visiting Research Fellow, World Bank, 1990; Member, Executive Committee, Senior African Leadership Forum (1992-date); Adviser to the Secretary General, United Nations Second Conference on Human Settlements (1994-1999).
AS FATHER OF GEOGRAPHY IN NIGERIA: A publication by the Akinlawon Mabogunje and the cartography of honour and achievements Ibadan School of Geography and Public Policy records Mabogunje thus: ‘’This distinguished scholar the ‘father’ of Geography and one of the ‘fathers’ of the Social Sciences in Nigeria, is the recipient of about 20 Honours in various academic, professional and administrative fields both at the national and international levels. In act, he started collecting these honours very early in his professional career. He was the prize winner in Geography, University College, Ibadan (1950/51 and 1951/52); he received the David Livingstone Centennial Gold Medal, awarded by the American Geographical Society for distinguished contribution to the geography of Africa (1972); Honorary D.Sc. (Economics) Stockholm School of Economics Sweden (1973); Hon. D. Litt, Michigan State University, USA (1978); Nigerian National Order of Merit Award (NNOM) (1980); Fellow of the University College London (1981), Fellow of the Nigerian Geographical Association (1984); Recipient of the Grand Medaille of the French Geographical Society (1993); Recipient of the Gold Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (1994); Hon. D.Sc. University of Benin (1995); Hon. D.Sc. Ogun State University (1996); Distinguished Africanist Award of the African Studies Association of the USA (1997); UNCHS Scroll of Honour for outstanding contribution to Human Settlements development (1998); and Foreign Association of the United State’s National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C (1999).
HARD WORK & DILIGENCE: All these honours were recorded through hard work and diligence. These qualities are aptly demonstrated by his intimidating array of publications in the four decades between 1958. His C.V records 25 major books wither through single or multiple authorship and more than 100 journal article and chapters of books. Some of his most notable and enduring publications include such books as Yoruba Towns (1962); Urbanization in Nigeria (1968); Cities and Social Order (19740; Shelter Provision in Developing Countries (1978); the Development Process: A Spatial Perspective 1st and 2nd Edition (1980 and 1989 respectively); Geography and the Dilemma of Rural Development in Africa (1981) and State of the Earth: Contemporary Geographic Perspectives (1997). As for journal articles or book chapters one cannot but mention a few as System Approach to Rural-Urban Migration (1970); Manufacturing and the Geography of Development in Tropical Africa (1973); Towards an Urban Policy for Nigeria (1975); Growth Poles and Growth Centres in Regional Development of Nigerian (1978); The Dilemma of Rural Development in Africa (1981); A New Paradigm for Urban Development (1992); The Environmental Challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa (1995); and Preparing African Cities for the Bond Market (1998).
At the international level, Mabogunje has consulted for such varied organizations as the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development in Geneva; International Council for Scientific Unions; the International Labour Organization (ILO); the Population Council, New York; the African Studies Association; UNCHS; UNDP and UNESCO, among others. He is widely regarded as a promoter in the academic field and a renowned national and international scholar, that the Social Science Academy of Nigeria found him worthy of being awarded its Fellowship.
STRONG VIEWS: NAN reports of the reading session on the book entitled “Against the Run of Play: How an Incumbent President was defeated in Nigeria’’ organised by the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP) quotes Mabogunje, as asserting that: ‘’Nigerians have destroyed the basic institutions where leaders ought to be trained. The don, who also said proper governance was absent at even the local level, added: “Where do we go from here as a country. We don’t know how to make our leaders, we don’t even have a local government in Nigeria; we should be looking at this as a bigger problem in the country.’’ In yet another treatise titled: ‘We The People’, Mabogunje asserted that: ‘’ In governance terms, therefore, democracy is not just about how representatives are chosen. ‘’More importantly, it is about how the citizens are regarded in the decision-making process – whether they are believed to be individually the equal of those making decisions and have the freedom to accept or reject any decisions made on their behalf or whether they are inferior beings on whom any decisions can be imposed. ‘’Accountabiliity of elected representatives to those who elected them at each level of government and not to any other body however highly placed is thus central to the operations of a democratic system.’’
He continued: ‘’It is through such accountability which, especially at the local government level is expected to be made directly to the people, that much of the temptations to corruption can be checked. This is why a critical feature of local democracy in America is the Town Meeting. This is an annual affair in which elected representatives in a local government area meet with their electorate to report back on their achievements during the year and present them with their budget and tax proposal for the following year for their approval. This is why Alexis de Tocqueville, the earliest scholar of American democracy, noted that such “local assemblies of citizens constitute the strength of free nations”. He went on as follows: “Town meetings are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they bring it within the people’s reach; they teach men how to use and how to enjoy democracy…..In the township (or local government) the people are the only source of power; but in no stage of government does the body of citizens exercise a more immediate influence. In America, the people are the master whose exigencies demand obedience to the utmost limits of possibility…..Yet, without power and independence, a town (or local government) may contain good subjects, but it can have no active citizens’’
TRIBUTES: Toyin Falola, in his compilation titled: ‘Akin Mabogunje: The Geography of An Icon In Multiple Cities, stated that: ‘’…the works and contributions of this wonderful scholar-cum-policy adviser can never be lost. They have spoken, and will always speak, for him. They are forever stored in treasure troves of the books he has written, the policies he has advocated, and other causes he has championed. ‘’They are the everlasting cities he has built and founded line upon line, stone upon stone, idea upon ideas, one labour of love after the other. ’’ Kano, Ibadan, London, Sweden, Benin, Michigan, Chicago, Paris, Ohio, Dubai, New York, Lagos, South Africa, Istanbul, South Africa, Washington D.C., Ile-Ife…. The life of Professor Mabogunje is spread out in a vast landscape that spans through multiple cities. His work, as an African scholar amidst a multitude of other be-ings, has been a perennial engagement with city-ing our cities, infusing them with the unlimitedness and vivacious cosmopolitanism of ideas, culture, and experiences.’’
Tunji Olaopa, in his treatise titled: ‘Akinlawon Mabogunje and the Cartography of Honour’ published in the Sun Newspaper’ stated that ‘’In April 2017, Professor Akinlawon Ladipo Mabogunje was elected into the hallowed hall of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences! This is not just another award or induction into just any other professional or scholarly association. To understand the magnitude of this recognition, first consider those who have gone ahead of Professor Mabogunje: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alexander Graham Bell, Margret Mead, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Aaron Copeland, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, John Maynard Keynes, Akira Kurosawa, Nelson Mandela, Jürgen Habermas, Anthony Giddens, Michael Mann, and many more. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1780, and is made up of 4,900 fellows and more than 600 foreign honorary members—Philosophers, statesmen, intellectuals, inventors, Nobel laureates, outstanding academia, innovators, thinkers and world-historic figures. And now Professor Mabogunje, geographer extraordinaire, has entered into this 237-year old revered chamber.’’
TERRIFIC HEADLINES celebrates this great Nigeria and wishes that the growing generation would emulate this erudite scholar and wonderful enigma. We wish Prof. Akin Mabogunje many more years of useful service to our dear country, even in his old age as he clocks age 87 years next week. We should be proud of Baba Akin Mabogunje as a ‘MADE IN NIGERIA PRODUCT’