By YUSUF MOHAMMED
Nigeria has lost a gem in the person of Pius Adesanmi, a Nigerian-born Canadian professor, writer, literary critic, satirist, and columnist. He was the author of “Naija No Dey Carry Last” a collection of satirical essays.
He died on March 10 2019, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed shortly after take-off.
Since the time of his death, Nigerians across ethnic and political divide have been eulogizing him. His detractors are also part of his praise singers. Unfortunately he is not alive to witness these high praises.
On national issues, many Nigerians looked up to him as he was never biased. He expressed his views based on his conscience. The situation of the country today, needs more voices of reason. Sadly, we have lost a very important one.
Irrespective of religion, ethnic or political divide, Adesanmi lent his voice to anyone he felt was being oppressed. When hundreds of female students were abducted from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State in 2014, he lent his voice to the “Bring Back Our Girls” group, advocating for the release of the girls.
He was also vocal in demanding for the release of the leader for the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheik El-Zakzaky. A man he had never met.
That was how large his heart was. Apart from using social media platforms for his advocacy, he made use of his columns, mainly for Sahara Reporters and Premium Times to advocate for social justice.
Adesanmi was a native of Isanlu in Yagba East Local Government area of Kogi State. He has a BA (first class honours) from the University of Ilorin 1992, a Masters in French from the University of Bristish Columbia in 2002.
From 2002 to 2005, he was Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University, USA.
In 2006, he joined Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada as a Professor of literature and African studies. He has also been a Fellow of the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA) from 1993 to 1997, as well as of the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) in 1998 and 2000. For many years, Adesanmi was a regular columnist for Premium Times and Sahara Reporters. His writings were often satiric, focusing on the absurd in the Nigerian social and political system.
His targets often included politicians, pastors, and other relevant public figures. In 2015, he gave a TED talk titled “Africa is the forward that the world needs to face”.
Irrespective of whose ox was gored, he spoke his mind on national issues. As a result of his views, he earned many fans. He also had critics on the other side of the divide who were uncomfortable with his words. He ruffled a few feathers, but it was all for the love of the country. Many of them seem to appreciate some of his views now that he is no more.
According to Gimba Kakanda, a social commentator and columnist, some people who said harsh things about him due to his views are now saying flattering things about him. He wrote on twitter, “I’m going to write about this when I’m done mourning. I read some flattering things some folks wrote in honour of Prof., and I had to return to the harshest things they said about his criticism of the government. They called him names for simply asking for a better country.”
In the concluding paragraph of Adesanmi’s last article, it seemed like he had a premonition of his death. He sounded like one who had given up hope on Nigeria but wished that his writings would be useful to archaeologists in the future.
He wrote: “I have drawn this profile not because I have hope for change. Sadly, I think our people have been psychologically defeated and have come to accept and love these things about Nigeria. They turn on whoever tries to awaken them. Nigeria’s irresponsible rulers have us where they want us. I write basically these days for the purposes of archaeology. A thousand years from now, archaeologists would be interested in how some people called Nigerians lived in the 20th and 21st century. If they dig and excavate, I am hoping that fragments of my writing survive to point them to the fact that not all of them accepted to live as slaves of the most irresponsible rulers of their era.”
A former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka also made mention of the late professor on twitter. Although he never met him, he said, “Their spirits are united against bad governance.”
“Pius Adesamni ‘s open letter to me during the Anambra Governorship elections remain a torch and staff in my march through politics and governance. We never met in person (and will never) but our spirits are united in the quest to break the cycle of poor governance,” he said.
Nigerians are not alone in mourning Adesanmi as he left a mark wherever he went. As a result, the “entire Carleton community” in Candana “is grieving.
Speaking on behalf of Carleton University where Adesanmi was a professor in English Language and Literature Department, Benoit-Antione Bacon President and Vice-Chancellor expressed “The entire Carleton community is grieving the tragic death of Prof. Pius Adesanmi, a towering figure in African and post-colonial scholarship. Our thoughts are with all those who knew and loved Prof. Adesanmi and with everyone who suffered loss in that tragic crash in Ethiopia.”
It is the wish of every Nigerian who wishes the country well, that the words of Adesanmi would spark the brains of Nigerians, especially the youth, in order for them to hold government accountable for a better country.