By Jimoh Babatunde
Late Professor Akin Mabongunje has been described a passionate promoter of the need for a balance between development and the environment.
In a tribute to the scholar, yesterday, the President of Africa Development Bank,AfDB, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said late Prof. Mabongunje contributed immensely to the knowledge and understanding of urbanization, spatial economic development, and critical role of rural infrastructure development in reducing rural-urban migration.
Adesina said his name was name is synonymous with geography, and he was globally respected in the field.
“Known as the ‘father of geography in Nigeria’, Prof. Mabogunje for decades advised state, regional, and Federal governments with the power of his ideas to support balanced economic growth models that consider the environment and people’s wellbeing.
“He was passionate about geography with spiritual fervency, seeing it as an opportunity to serve God in managing land, people and all that dwell on it.
“As Prof. Mabogunje said when he was awarded the Vaudrin Lud Prize “the totality of the environment is what geography means to me.’’
He added that Magboginje was “a passionate promoter of the need for a balance between development and the environment. “Prof. Mabogunje said “nature is now showing that man cannot go beyond certain boundaries.
“Our pollution has shown us the limits to which we can go. The environment is now more important than it was before.’’
While noting that Nigeria, Africa, and the world have lost a great intellectual giant, Adesina described him as a man of many firsts.
” He was the first Nigerian professor in geography. He was the first
African to be elected to the globally prestigious United States National Academy of Sciences, as a Foreign Associate. A prodigious writer, his work and contributions got him elected as President of the International Geographical Union and he was the first African to hold the position.
“He was awarded the Vaudrin Lud Prize, the highest global distinction in geography, widely considered as the ‘Nobel Prize in Geography’ for his immense contributions.”
The AfDB’s boss added “Prof. Mabogunje was exceptional and extremely brilliant, becoming a full Professor at the University of Ibadan at the age of 34 years, just seven years after earning his doctorate degree.”
Adesina noted that Mabogunje’s contributions to Africa’s development were immense. Adesina noted that he was the Vice-President,
Governing Council for Pan African Institute for Development (1972-78); 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).
“He helped to chart a path for national recognition of professional academic excellence in
Nigeria and was a Member of the National Merit Award Endowment Fund (1983-89) and Chairman of the Fund (1989-1994).
Adesina in the tribute said despite being such an intellectual giant, Professor Mabogunje was incredibly humble.
“He related with me as if we were contemporaries.
“I treasured sharing the same name ‘Akin’ with him, and he was always calling me ‘Namesake’. I will greatly miss the precious moments we spoke; he always encouraged me to keep on being an ‘Akin’ (a warrior and conqueror).
“Namesake, Professor, you were truly an ‘Akin’: you used your very sharp brain to fight wars on underdevelopment and you conquered many knowledge territories, in Nigeria, Africa and globally.
Your legacy is indelible.
“With your passing, Nigeria has lost a great mind, a jewel, an intellectual colossus, an exemplary human being, a great role model, and a national patriot who made Nigeria and Africa so proud.
Adesina prayed that God comfort his loving family.
“Sleep well, ‘Namesake, Professor’! May your soul rest in peace.”