Saturday comment1

Simbo Olorunfemi pays tribute to Pius Adesanmi, an academic, writer and humanist

I never met Pius. In the flesh. Stunning. He was a part, in a way, of the generation of the ‘Ibadan School’ who burst onto the scene in the 90s. Chiedu, Ama, Uche, Afam, Nduka, Wale and others. We were all friends. But I never met Pius then. But as success and fame catapulted him into greater reckoning, even before the age of social media, I wondered how we never met, seeing we had so many mutual friends in the same community.

Perhaps, it had to do with my abrupt drift away from the community of writers then. Perhaps we did meet at one of the conferences. Perhaps, we had met and I just could not recollect. Perhaps…

Who knows? Who cares? We met here. We became friends here. We shared the same world here. We shared ideas here. We laid bare our minds here. We became friends here. It never occurred to me to even find out if we had ever met. We were going to meet, anyway.

With Pius, you soon became an Egbon, Aburo, Friend, Brother or whatever else. So rather than lash his koboko in the glare of the public, he will come inbox to ask questions. He will come inbox for fellowship.

We were going to meet anyway.

You found a kindred spirit in Pius simply on account of the quality of your mind. Once he sees a hint of brilliance, gifting, patriotism, the good heart, community spirit, or whatever else, he will sniff you out. You are now a part of his circle. He begins to point the torch in different directions for you. He begins to open the doors. He brings the young ones under his wing. He begins to mentor. He begins to push, to get you to sit up, to aspire, to aim higher.

We never met. We were going to meet anyway.

When I received his invitation to join the closed group – African Doctoral Lounge, I wondered why he felt I ought to be a part. Even as I have half a leg in the world of intellectuals, I have struggled with the difficulties and choking nature of university education in Nigeria and was on the verge of giving up.

But the moment Pius got to know I was on a PhD programme, it became a personal project for him. “How far? I have to see your Chapter 2 by June!” He had warned me. He had told me he was going to be on my neck until I finished it. He was not ready for any stories – ASUU or no ASUU. He will simply come into your inbox and scream – “Simbo, Simbo, Simbo”.

He had said I had to come for the Pan-African Doctoral Academy (PADA) at the University of Ghana he had been instrumental in setting up to help prepare the new generation of scholars. As I missed one training programme, he would remind me. I will promise to make the next.

I finally applied late last year and was chosen to be a part of the January programme. We never met. We were now going to meet. Finally. I didn’t mention it to him. He was the one who brought it up, someday, close to the commencement of the programme. I told him I was in! “When were you going to tell me?” he asked, excited.

But then. The programme was for two weeks. I assumed he would be in for the two weeks. He must have thought I would be in for the two weeks. As the first week began to fade away, he came inbox with – “Simbo, Simbo, Simbo”. I assured him I would be in Accra on Sunday. He would have left, he said!

We never met. Were we not going to meet again?

“Our enemies have won”, he said.

Perhaps, for the moment, I thought.

We were going to meet anyway.

June, he said.

We never met. We were going to meet anyway.

Then, yesterday.

How can?

How can a life which gave so much of himself for the sake others, for the sake of the continent, when he did not even have to, be so cruelly harvested?

Only on Friday, you added more people as Admin members of the African Doctoral Lounge in view of the increase in the number of members, prospective ones and the attendant workload. If only we knew.

The other time I was thanking God for your full recovery and strength to be able to travel again. But you said you were yet to attain full recovery and that embarking on these journeys was not quite what your doctor wanted and that when I see you in Ghana, I will get to see your legs.

But you had to be in Ghana to keep the programme going. You had to be in Germany, sometime back, for the sake of another brother. I am sure, as you struggled over this trip, you must have been motivated by the desire to push yourself harder for the sake of Africa.

If I had known you were only going to be in Ghana for a week, I could have booked the flight to come in a day earlier. If only the airline had not abruptly moved the flight from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. which later became 9.30 p.m., perhaps I might have met you in Accra.

We never met. We were going to meet anyway.

Our enemies might assume a win. But they will be mistaken to run with such an assumption.

We never met, but we met.

Pius was a gift to generations. His writing, intellect, humanity, sense of humanity and the duty of care he exercised over people, Nigeria, the continent and even further is beyond compare.

He has taken on fresh wings. Now, he can fly, free, unhindered, impacting generations unborn with his words and work. He lives.

We never met, but we met.

 Olorunfemi works for Hoofbeatdotcom, a Nigerian Communications Consultancy and publisher of Africa Enterprise