Pius Adesanmi: The Unforgettable

Pius Adesanmi

Following the demise of the 47-year old Nigerian-Canadian scholar, Prof. Pius Adebola Adesanmi, which hit the art community in Nigeria and beyond like a thunderstorm last Sunday, Yinka Olatunbosun relived the prophetic and humorous instances in the writings of the late Professor using vignettes as relics of a life well-lived

His last Facebook post which became viral after the news of his death spread like wildfire was receivedby friends and associates as a premonition. “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me,” he wrote before boarding what would be his last flight from Canada to Africa. Prof. Pius Adesanmi was one of the 157 aboard the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft operated by the Ethiopian Airlines which crashed at approximately six minutes after take-off.

It can be argued that there is no right-thinking person who will desire to die by a plane crash, certainly not a loving father nor a caring husband. The post could have been an expression of hope and faith in the protective powers of a supernatural being, given its biblical source. Still, it is no less than eerie, given the circumstances.

Just last year, Adesanmi survived a ghastly motor accident enroute Oyo, which almost cost his life. In his piece dedicated to the Germany-based Nigerian novelist, El-Nathan John, he recounted the grim moment of his traumatic experience.

“One thing that my car crash in July allowed me to assess and put in perspective is how much of my life I spend in airports and planes. From South Africa to Europe and the US, I cancelled nine lecture trips in a three-month span because I was in no physical condition to travel. I was also mentally exhausted, in physiotherapy, in the other trauma therapy Nigerians don’t like to talk about,” he wrote.

Adesanmi was not one to wallow in self-pity. While lamenting over the emergency response services in Nigeria drawn upon his near-death experience, he would also express gratitude for another chance to live. The socially committed writer relished the opportunity of intellectual fellowship with like minds. One of such being his meeting with the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka for a lecture in Dakar, Senegal.

He wrote: “After Kongi’s keynote lecture today, well, Africa’s great sage and his students shall not live by ideas, discourse and intellectual alone for into everything on earth is appointed a time, a time to eat and a time to unwind away from the whirl and buzz of the conference, a time for lunch and time to be with beautiful people.”

The global citizen is the author of Naija No DeyCarry Last , a collection of satirical essays. A first class graduate from the University of Ilorin, with Master’s degree in French from the University of Ibadan in 1998 and a P.hd in French Studies from the University of British Columbia in Canada, this scholar had been very vocal on socio-cultural and political space. He was a Professor of Literature and African studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada and the director of the University’s Institute of African Studies.

Sometimes, he was homesick. In spite of his vehement criticisms against the state of affairs in his home country, the patriotic poet was moved to write this on February 2 on his Facebook profile: “I am badly craving guguru oloyin( honey-coated popcorn ) from Garage Offa in Ilorin. Whether caramel or butter, obodo oyinbo (western) popcorn is inferior to ours.”

A true African, his impact on the literary scene is reflected through his decorated life. He won the inaugural Penguin prize for African Writing in the non-fiction category in 2010. He also received the Prestigious Canada Bureau of International Education Leadership Award in 2017.

A most-sought after international speaker, Prof. Adesanmi was at the conference organised by the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa in Dakar, Senegal where he couldn’t help but do a comparison of the infrastructural development in the host and his home country.

He wrote on his Facebook wall in December 2018: “Somewhere near you in Nigeria tomorrow, someone will cut a ribbon to launch a borehole or a shalanga (pit latrine)”. In fact, his remarks turned out to be a prophecy that was fulfilled when a celebrity turned politician launched a public toilet in Surulere, Lagosjust before the elections last month.

It is sad that the insightful author had died in a plane crash with no survivor. As for the art community and his devout readers, the best souvenir and undying legacies are found in his writings published in books, scholarly journals and the various online platforms.