QUINTESSENTIAL PERSONAGE: A REVIEW OF THE METEORIC RISE OF A DYNAMIC ACADEMIC by Prof. A. L. Azeez

QUINTESSENTIAL PERSONAGE: A REVIEW OF THE METEORIC RISE OF A DYNAMIC ACADEMIC

By

Professor Adesina Lukumam Azeez

Dean, Faculty of Communication and Information Sciences, University of Ilorin

Title: The Meteoric Rise of a Dynamic Academic

Editors: Bello Lateef &Hafiz Akinde

Publisher/Printer: Creative Embassy Company

Year of Publication: 2022

Place of Publication: Lagos, Nigeria

Number of Pages:  144

Protocol

Distinguished audience, please permit me to begin the review of this book, which I will describe from the outset as didactic, by confessing that I should have been more suitable as a contributor to the book than the reviewer of the book. You might want to ask me: why? The explanation for this humble confession is that, although Professor Mahfouz Adebola Adedimeji, on whom this book dangles, is my friend, he has positively impacted and supported my journey in life as much as he has done for all the contributors that have given their magnanimous, inducing, and unpretentious testimonies in this book. Because I am perceived by many people as Professor Adedimeji’s friend, not knowing that he is indeed also my mentor, I decided to forgive the editors for not recognising me as one of them, and as a person who also has striking stories to tell about how Professor Mahfouz has genuinely held my hands as a guide in the phase of the journey of life I began when I joined the University of Ilorin in 2008.

It is a good coincidence that Professor Bayo Lawal, the Chairman of this occasion, is also here today. Professor Lawal is a doting father that has nurtured Professor Mahfouz and me on different platforms, and from different circumstances of genesis.  Just as people make a mistake of seeing Professor Mahfouz as my friend, there was a time that many people at the University of Ilorin held the erroneous notion that I was Professor Lawal’s friend, whereas he was actually, and he is still, a caring mentor. Appropriate time and opportunities to tell the world how I had grown under the kind tutelage and love I enjoyed from Professor Lawal are not yet here.  Today is for Professor Mahfouz, a quintessential personage. Therefore, I want to maximize the opportunity I have today to interpose the review of the book on Professor Mahfouz with the contribution I should have made to the book, as a person who has also benefited from the virtues, counsel, felicity, benignity/compassion and purity of a giant I am privileged to have as a friend. 

Permit me to introduce this review with Benjamin Franklin’s inspiring and ever-green quote, which I learnt for the first time from Professor Mahfouz, and which many contributors in this book echoed in providing pertinent backgrounds to the theme that runs through all the essays in this book. Franklin asserted thus:  ‘If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing.’ There is no doubt that Professor Mahfouz has done many remarkable things or has acted in many remarkable ways that deserve the monuments that are being preserved in the book we are presenting in his honour today.

When Professor Mahfouz was appointed the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of Ahman Pategi University, I wrote an article on the back page of Unilorin Bulletin to celebrate him. In the article, I used the Panopticon Metarphor to underscore the fact that we are all being watched not only by the omnipresent God, but also by everybody around us. We might not know that people around us are watching or observing our behaviour and our relationship with people.  We might not even know who among the people are observing.  But it is definite that we are under the eye of purposive inspectors – those who are inspecting not just for narcissism or mere voyeurism, but essentially for the purpose of coming in at the right time to reinforce our behaviour and relationship through appropriate reward and punishment – depending on whether or not our behaviour and pattern of relationship are appropriate and normal.  

The outpourings of the candid appraisals and appreciation of Professor Mahfouz’s rare personality, which run through all the essays in this book, reinforce or confirm the divine attributes and justice of all-seeing gaze that had observed, at close range, Professor Mahfouz’s behaviour, dedication to duty, standard of excellence and pattern of relationship, which, in their judgment, like any right-thinking individual, are normalised behaviour. So, I can confirm that the different perspectives of the exaltations or applauses of Professor Mahfouz, which sum up each article in this book, are not frivolous, pretentious, or empty praises that are just meant to deceive him or to make him self-important/self-conceited. They are, indeed, not just perceptions beclouded in overzealousness or blind adoration or obsession on the part of the contributors, but a verifiable reality of the quintessential personage of Professor Mahfouz.

Aristotle asserted  that truth is to say of ‘what is that it is and what is not that it is not’, and false is to say ‘what is that is not, or what is not that it is’. This book is who Mahfouz is. Behaviour is a mirror in which everyone displays his image. This book mirrors the true image of my friend and mentor. And as one of the contributors asserts in this book, ‘people are too wise to praise a man, unless they note in him some distinctive features of humility’. All the contributors in this book, by their accounts, had not only noted a particular distinctiveness of character and talent in Professor Mahfouz, they had also experienced it. Even though condemns praising people exceedingly, it does encourage doing that moderately if it will allow the person to do more and serve as motivation for others, as Haleemah Ahmad asserts in her article on page 55 of the book.

In essence, I am quick to agree with Barrister Ilias Agboola, in the summary of his thrilling foreword on page 12 of this book that the essence of the book is to ostensibly ‘elicit deliberate positive attitudes that enable the society to birth many more exemplars like Professor Mahfouz’, and to ‘also encourage him to work harder in his service of God and humanity. In his conscious or unconscious efforts, Professor Mahfouz has bestowed on many people, especially the contributors of the 42 articles in this book, including me, the great gift, which is a multidimensional, immutable and imitable example. Honest efforts like this can never be lost. This is the law that governs human activity. In my own judgment, therefore, this book is the worldly gain of being good, pious, compassionate, humane, humble, which are all part of the virtues that make up the quintessential personage of Professor Mahfouz. The heavenly profit of being virtuous, as all the contributors in this book have testified from different perspectives, is, by our human logic and God’s covenant, sure. ‘Whoever does good does so to his own benefit; and whoever does evil will suffer its consequence. Your Lord does no wrong to His servants’ (Q4:46).  On this earth and hereafter, the only reward of virtue is virtue.

As I have said, this book contains 42 articles that testify, illustrate and confirm the different and uncommon dimensions of the humanity and merit in the young man we are celebrating for didactic purpose with this book. You might not appreciate the import of the main theme that runs through the 42 articles if I fail to give a summary of the whole essays. So, permit me to quickly present a summary of how a few of the contributors present and adulate the strength of character that stands Professor Mahfouz out, and how he has been part of all that he has met in life.

Dr Fahm, in the first article on the revelation of the portrait of Professor Mahfouz as a believer, notes that he is the light, through the multitude of the sermonising columns he has written and the kindling sparks that ignite the conscious Muslims into the remembrance of his source. The second article, captivatingly entitled ‘The Humble Gem’ by Abdulhafees Daud, eulogises Professor Mahfouz’s gentility and humility, which, to him, is second to none. Dr Abdulhameed Badmas, in the 3rd article, entitled ‘A Worthy Role Model’, appreciates Professor Mahfouz’s impact on his moral and intellectual development. The author also adores how Professor Mahfouz is able to combine moral uprightness with intellectual brilliance- the two vital traits rarely found together in people.

The next article, with another captivating title, ‘Marvelous Mahfouz’, marvels at Professor Mahfouz’s literary dexterity. Abdullahi Abdullateef, in this article, is creative in adding meaning of quintessence to the seven letters of the first name of the quintessential professor.  Dr Abdulmuminu Alawiye in the 5th article acknowledges Professor Mahfouz’s penmanship, which he asserts reflects his characteristic striking mode of expression. Professor Abdulrazaq Oniye in the next article experiences and presents Professor Mahfouz as a gifted scorer who knows how to convert brilliant passes into memorable goals. I did not understand this analogy until I read Oniye’s interpretation about how people identify Professor Mahfouz as a good human with great capital investments, which he uses to better the lots of many people.

Adedimeji Quayyim Abdul Afeez presents Professor Mahfouz as awesomeness wrapped in human foils. Afeez glowingly presents  his uncle on page 41  as ‘a maverick, a beam radiating in its fullest glory and a source of unending inspiration to many’. The 8th article, with a creative title, is a narration of the conversation the contributor had with Professor Mahfouz, which has remained as an unforgettable life therapy. ‘Professor Mahfouz: A Man of Many Virtues’, which is the next article, is  very intriguing to me. Bello Lateef Adekunle in the article asserts that all that have given one testimony or the other about Professor Mahfouz have indeed dealt directly with him through the piety he has demonstrated to them; have travelled with him on a journey by which they are shown his good character. Lateef demonstrates genuine euphoria when he describes the quintessential man as a willing advisor, mentor, motivator and cheerleader. Barrister Chima Osuji in his article entitled ‘The Humanity I Know in Professor Mahfouz’ describes Professor  Mahfouz on page 50 as a ‘manifestation of the awesomeness of humanity’. He further presents Professor Mahfouz as a good natured, pious, down-to-earth, generous, simple, catalytic, emotionally intelligent, sophisticated  and all-round scholar. Professor Mahfouz is described as a moral compass and a standard-bearer.

Dare Lasisi in his own article experiences the quintessential man we are honouring with the documents in this book as humble and as a symbol of peace, fairness, kindness, justice, intellectualism and freedom for the oppressed souls. Likewise, Fateemah Ibrahim eulogises Professor Mahfouz’s spirit of perseverance, which she says he demonstrated in his 7 years of waiting for the fruit of the womb. Fateemah furthers confirms Professor Mahfouz as a strong pillar to many of his mentees. Folorunsho Fatai in the 13th article praises Professor Mahfouz’s commitment, diligence, and excellence he always brings into whatever he does. Fatai fancies his tenacity,  simplicity  and humility. Fatai is indeed genuinely magnanimous with his description of Professor Mahfouz on page 57 as ‘a man with a restless questing spirit, a razor-blade intellect and fastidious principle’. According to him, ‘Professor Adedimeji is not just a leader who takes people to where they want to go, he is a great leader who takes people to where they do not necessarily want to go, but ought to be. Overall, Professor Adedimeji is the quintessence of a true mentor who helps his mentees to claim a space in the galaxy of their ideas-rightfully, ethically, respectfully, and honourably’.  

The assertion that he is a leader who takes people to where they do not necessarily want to go reminds me of how he enticingly prodded me to join him in the back column of the Unilorin Bulletin, even when I thought I did not have the will to get myself into the very demanding regular practice. I knew I had the talent, as a well- trained journalist, his argument that, even as a trained journalist, I needed to hone my skills and demonstrate to the world by constantly making use of it, overwhelmed and won me. I must confess that his push made me a renowned individual within and outside the campus of the University of Ilorin.

Thus, Hafiz Akinde in the 15th article lends credence to how the awesome man with a handsome stature in a regularly well-trimmed beard has made many people better individuals. This is supported in the 27th article in the book when Mubarak Oladosu declares that he has helped a lot of people meet their full potentials. In the same vein, Olanrewaju AbdGafar Remilekun affirms Professor Mahfouz’s propensity for guiding people from nothing to something. I am a living witness to this inclination. To Hafiz, Professor Mahfouz has a very likeable and magnetic personality, which always reflects in his writing.  

It is fascinating that Idowu Folayemi, someone with a different religious belief, declares that Professor Mahfouz is not a religious bigot. According to her, Professor Mahfouz respects boundary. This I can testify to because he respects my religious views as a Sufi which he is not. In all our interactions, which are very regular, he has never tried to condemn what I believe in or to win me over to what he believes in. He guides but never pokes, condemns or debates ideas to offend.  This is why Ikemefuna Mba in his article concludes that Professor Mahfouz has incredibly left a lasting impression on him. To him, he is pragmatic because he is versed in pragmatism. Professor Mahfouz, to Ilesanmi Olumide Brillow, in the 23rd article, has a calm mien. He is not used to blowing his trumpet. He leaves that for people who identify his inimitable personality and talents to do that for him. 

Youthful in appearance, Professor Mahfouz is cerebral in perspectives. No wonder he has the emotional intelligence to know how not to offend the sensitivity of his friends and students. Very level-headed, as one of his PhD students, Dr Mohammed Sokoto, states in the 26th article in this book. Again, Mohammed Sokoto affirms that Professor Mahfouz values relationship without personal prejudices.  According to Olarenwaju Remilekun, in the 29th article, Professor Mahfouz is an inimitable mentor. To Olaolu Ismail in his homage to ‘a dynamic teacher’, Professor Mahfouz has an inimitable strength of character that enables him resist the misuse of power for potential and material benefit.  To buttress this assertion, Olatayo Ishola presents Professor Mahfouz as having a great moral rectitude, with noble mien, easy-going nature and oratorical power.

The foregoing enthralling descriptions of Professor Mahfouz are the recurring decimals that run through all the 42 articles in this book. As all the articles have the same highest common denominators,  I might not need to recap all of them. Meanwhile, Barrister Ilias does a very good job in his foreword by giving an overview of how all the authors of the article in this book summarily describe the quintessential personage in Professor  Mahfouz. According to the writer, Professor Mahfouz is an intellectual colossus, a moral compass with an impeccable character, a living legend, a man of several parts, a man of many virtues, a gifted being, an unassuming personality, a dazzling spectacle to behold, a personality that has great passion for service.

One of the great virtues that resonate loudly in all the articles in this book is Professor Mahfouz’s humility. The humblest individual exerts some influence. No doubt, Professor Mahfouz, as testified to by all the articles in this book, has influenced many people for good. He has indeed achieved greatness at his very youthful age. If a man’s greatness can be measured by his enemies, as Don Platt said, then Professor Mahfouz will definitely have many enemies. We can only pray and that God Almighty will not forsake him because he has never forsaken his Creator. If charitable acts are the stepping stone to Heaven, and if the voice of the people is the voice of God, in spite of certain human frailty or imperfection he might have since he is not a caricature or an angel, but which should not have a place in this book of celebration, then, Professor Mahfouz should be celebrating that he will be God’s favorite in Heaven.

Lo! Those who believe and do good works along with their demonstration of their belief in Allah, theirs are the Gardens of paradise for welcome (Q18: 107).

This book, in its enthralling style, will definitely make every reader wish they could be like Professor Mahfouz in piety, strength of character and talents. This is what the book has done for me while reading it in preparation for this review. So, I must commend the editors for assembling 42 contributors, who, by any standard, are themselves literarily dexterous. The way each of them presents their relational experiences with Professor Mahfouz gives me goose pimples so to say with the excitement that almost all of them are alumni of the University of Ilorin.  

But as inspiring as it is, as lucid as it is, in its smooth, simple but correct expressions, it has a few errors that are identified across the book. Such errors are mechanical and lexical in nature. First, there are inconsistencies in the use of the British and American spellings on many pages of the book. It might be a minor mechanical issue, but I know Professor Lawal is very fastidious about this. At the beginning of my the column on the Podium, he  called on several occasions to draw my attention to the unacceptability of such inconsistencies.  For instance, realised is inconstantly spelt as realized on pages 91, paragraph 3, line 5, and on page 97,  but spelt correctly in British format on page 109, last paragraph, line 2, and also on page 89. Recognize and utilize are also seen as being spelt inconsistently in American and British spellings in some other places.

Second, there is an error of subject-verb agreement on page 56, paragraph 3, line 6. It is always tricky to use the appropriate verb when the construction – one of – is used as the head word in a sentence. Also, some hidden faulty parallelism errors are committed on page 90, paragraph 3, line 3 and 4;  and on page 23. This is also usually a tricky unintentional violation of syntactic principles of comma splice while a general misuse of comma is also abundant in this book. Comma, if not properly used, either by omission or by being superfluous, can contaminate the semantic significance of a sentence. Thus, we should note such errors, for instance, on page 99, paragraph 2, line 3; page 23; page 27, paragraph 3; on page 40, paragraph 1, line 9 as well.   

Mechanically, 1990s should not be with an apostrophe. Wrong use of a parallel tense also occurs on page 121, paragraph 1, line 5 when the past tense of handle should have been used to go with taught that precedes it. Besides, the book title – The Gods are not to Blame- on page 104, last paragraph, line 5, is supposed to be either italicized or quoted.  There is also a printer’s devil working on page 31 where society is spelt as sciety. It is an omission of proofreading. The use of at or in to precede office and university is also a thorny usage that only Professor Lawal can give a verdict on.  I cannot close my eyes to the error of referring to my Department as Department of Mass Communications on page 107,  line 4 and 5, last paragraph.  There is no s marker for communication as a field of study. Although the book reads smoothly as a unified theme, I would have loved that the articles in the book are chapterised to make it better organised and easier for reference.

More importantly, too, I would have loved that the title of the book reads as either The Merit in a Man, or The Quintessential Personage, rather than The Meteoric Rise of a Dynamic Academic. This is because the book is not essentially on how Professor Mahfouz rose to the enviable height he is occupying today. Rather, the contents of the book essentially extol/praise the virtues of a man who has impacted many lives. 

In spite of all these pardonable mechanical and lexical errors, this compendium is a classic. Even though the book does not have any element of suspense, readers will not want to put it down until they read the whole 42 articles. This was what happened to me while reading the book in preparation for this review. The secret behind this irresistibility is the concrete narration of stories that are compelling about how the authors experienced Professor Mahfouz. Like I said at the outset, the book is not fictional but very didactic. As you read on, you will continue to evaluate yourself whether or not you are in the same class of moral rectitude with Professor Mahfouz, and the wish of becoming like him will continue to flash your mind. The taste of the pudding is in the eating. I have tasted this pudding of the celebration and inspiration for a symbol of quintessential personage. It tastes well. It is far from praise-singing. I therefore recommend the book for all and sundry to provide us a template we can copy to make us attain the greatest height in our relationships with people and in our desire for success, achievement and acceptability in this world and the hereafter.

Let me end this review by stressing that ‘If you have anything really valuable to contribute to the world it will come through the expression of your own personality, that single spark of divinity that sets you off and makes you different from every other living creature’. Professor Mahfouz has that spark of divinity and moral purity that sets him off and makes him different from many others. This is why he is being presented through this book to the world as a model we can all aspire to be like.             

Before I take my seat, permit me to also introduce to you a book, which Professor Mahfouz has again recently released from the harbor of his prolific intellectual dexterity. This is one of the reasons why one of his mentees referred to him as a linguistic aficionado/fanatic. The book is captivatingly and symbolically entitled as Doses of Grammar: Amazing Grammar Pills for English Usage Ills.  Not long after the release of the book, I had some bouts of grammatical malaria. I took some of the doses as prescribed in the book, and I can confidently tell you that the doses worked like magic. So, please grab a copy for any form of grammatical ailment you might have.

Thank you for listening to me.