“Before My Very Eyes” for Mahfouz Adedimeji – By Olatayo Murtala Ishola

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One of the books I enjoyed reading was: “Before My Very Eyes” a collection of Essays in honour of Wole Soyinka by his Mentees, Friends and Associates, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. I read that book as far back as mid-90s, and its lessons and letters were never lost on me.
Today, I would borrow the book’s title to describe my encounters with one of UNILORIN’s finest, the newly appointed Vice Chancellor of the Ahman Pategi University, Prof. Mahfouz Adedimeji; a thoroughbred Professor of Pragmatics whom I have known for 23 years since my university days in the prestigious University of Ilorin, and watched his career trajectory from Graduate Assistant to a fully-fledged Professor, and now Vice-Chancellor. I knew him as an accomplished writer, author, preacher, public speaker, and a veritable administrator and technocrat.
I first became acquainted with Brother Mahfouz (as we fondly called him) through his writings; tidbits of poetry on Islam and morals written in superfluous, rhyming prose and unique handwriting. They were pasted on the board of Campus Crescent Press Club (a Press Club he founded, which I later became its Editor-in-chief in my final year). Then came praying behind him at the UNILORIN mini campus mosque, and listening to his sermons as the Naib’l Amir. Brother Mahfouz would regale us with beautiful anecdotes without being loquacious. He was such a marvelous speaker one could never get bored with.
As a passionate and budding economist who loved Islam, great writings and orations, it wasn’t long before I gravitated towards him and chose him as my mentor. And I would say that Brother Mahfouz has excelled in that role exceedingly well. I will give instances.
I was in my final year in 2001/2002 when Brother Mahfouz returned to UNILORIN for his Masters. I was going to contest an election as the Director General of the Faculty, and I asked him to pen a “blurb” which I was going to print on my posters. After exhorting me to keep my head above water if I eventually won, because “Politics is not only corrupt, it is corruptible”, he wrote what I would describe as the most beautiful inscription any “politician” could have on his poster. He described me in words that still lifts my confidence and spirit up till today. I won that election with a landslide.
Brother Mahfouz was a great motivator. I couldn’t have done what I did in my final year if not for his encouragements and positive push. Combining academics, political office, roles as Editor-In-Chief Campus Crecent, and Deputy E-In-C at the MSS, were such herculean tasks, but with a diligent and focused mentor to look up to, Allah made me excel.
When he got his first lecturing job at LAUTECH Ogbomosho, I visited him, passed the night and left the following day. He was one of the three Referees I penciled down their names at my place of work to write on my character. He visited me in Lafia in 2006 before he traveled to the United States as a Fulbright Scholar, and he was at my wedding in 2008 in Lagos.
We broke the barrier of virtual communication and met physically in 2019 in Abuja. I was going to present his gift I brought from Hajj to him, and we hit it off where we left off 11 years earlier. Brother Mahfouz is such a great conversationalist and he still remained his ebullient and charismatic self.
With all sense of humility and detachment from claiming to be clairvoyant, I had always “known” that Brother Mahfouz would get to the pinnacle of his career in a record time. He was brilliant, consistent, and imbued with awesome qualities that you can’t help but admire. So, when I heard yesterday that he was appointed as the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of the new Ahman Pategi University, I felt a confirmation of my longstanding observation. A good thing is obvious to many eyes!
Here’s a hearty cheers and congratulations to the finest, most deserving, marvelous Mahfouz, as he attains the post of Vice-Chancellor.
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