Below is my tribute to my Grandfather (for his 80th birthday), shared for your enjoyment.
This tribute begins with a question. And that question is: “How many of you here have ever asked or been asked the question ‘Are you related to professor Mabogunje?’ or perhaps ‘Are you related to Akin?’ or even ‘Are you related to that Nigerian professor?’ Chances are that if you’ve ever had the good fortune to meet a Mabogunje other than my grandfather, you have asked this question. And if you are a Mabogunje yourself, then you’ve been asked it more times than you care to remember.
Now, if you are a paternal grandchild like me, your self- introductions are very predictable – and they may read something like mine:
Hello, my name is Damola Mabogunje. Yes, yes I am. No, no I’m his grandson.
Because my grandfather has successfully achieved something greater than the many accomplishments and awards that he has to his name. He has attained a status that every business covets; He has turned his name, into a brand. The bible says and I quote:
A GOOD name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving fervour rather than silver and gold.
and this is certainly the case with Professor Mabogunje. In 80 years, grandpa has not just built a life, raised a family, and excelled at his profession. He has also built a good name and a lasting reputation whose benefits are felt not just by his children, but by his children’s children as well. And if this is not a sign of a life well spent, then I don’t know what is.
It is perhaps true that I feel this way more so than the other grandchildren as ever since I was a child I have been likened to my grandfather. In primary school my nickname was “Prof.”, in secondary school, my nickname was “Prof.” yet again – and I am sure that if I were completing my higher education in Nigeria, (to draw on the words of Paul Coelho):
What happens twice, would surely have happened a third time.
Now, I have always felt that the purpose of a nickname is to convey some extra bit of information. Some piece of your identity that is not captured by your given names. So for me, grandpa is not just the father of my father, he is an integral piece of my identity as well – and for those of you Mabogunje’s who have not also been nicknamed “Prof.” I want to tell you that he is an integral piece of yours too!
Because every time you are asked that question, the question that begins this tribute, it is a testament to his contribution to your identity. It is the hallmark of his brand. But a brand is more than just an identity, it is an indelible mark on one’s character. It tells people not just who you are, but also what they can expect of you. So when people have asked me *that question* as they often do, and I have asserted in the affirmative, I know that I have also made a commitment. I have promised to be honest, to be honourable, to be principled, just and fair. But above all, I have promised to be dependable and to exceed expectations to the best of my ability.
Professor Akin Mabogunje is an icon for many, and a role model to boot. But for me, he his more than that. He is my brand. He is the standard that I strive to live up to.