Mabogunje: The passing of a remarkable scholarly icon

DDG Weekly Column

Mabogunje: The passing of a remarkable scholarly icon

Mabogunje was not just a national hero, his international reputation helped him to make Nigeria and Africa proud in the international community

Distinguished Humanities Professor, Toyin Falola, Premium Times, August 5, 2022

The passing on, last Thursday, August 4, of a foremost African geographer and development expert, Professor Akinlawon Mabogunje, at the ripe age of 90 will undoubtedly leave a huge gap in Nigerian and Africa’s intellectual community. As the opening quote from influential Humanities scholar, Toyin Falola, alluded, Mabogunje’s influence went far beyond the shores of Nigeria and even Africa to roam around the entire globe, testified to by the serial laurels and awards of distinction that he won. He worked right till old age, dutifully attending to scholarly matters in his Bodija, Ibadan office. One of his landmark achievements is his clinching in 2017 of the Vautrin Lud Prize, the highest possible prize that any geographer can win, which is also regarded as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

Mabogunje was not only an outstanding scholar, he was also a policy maker, policy advisor as well as a practitioner of human development, especially in the areas of poverty alleviation and urban development. One of his key projects in this area is the community governance experiment at Awe, Oyo State where he put into practice some of his pet intellectual ideas woven around the OPTICOM (Optimum Community) model. This writer cannot confirm the source of this model which gained ascendancy during the premiership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the Western Region. The idea could have been suggested to Awolowo by Mabogunje, who was an influential member of the politicians’ think-tank. It could also be that the idea came from Awolowo and was popularised immensely and theorised by Mabogunje. Either way, Mabogunje will be long remembered for his achievements and contributions in this area.