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Pius Adesanmi (1972 to 2019)

Posted On: Fri 15 Mar 2019 By TCR NEWS | THE NATION NG

HIS last column, published in Nigerian Tribune on the day he died, gave an insight into how he lived. Writing in his column called “Injury Time,” Pius Adesanmi said in a piece titled “An Archaeology of Nigeria”:  ”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 centuries. 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.”


Adesanmi’s tragic death in an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash on March 10 ended a pulsating life. He was 47.  A Nigerian –born Canadian academic, he was a Professor of Literature and African Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and the director of the university’s Institute of African Studies. He joined the university in 2006.  Adesanmi was on his way to an African Union conference in Nairobi, Kenya, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed soon after take-off from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board. Another Nigerian, Ambassador Abiodun Bashua, a former Joint Special Representative for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, Sudan, was one of the fatalities.


Carleton University said in a tribute: “The contributions of Pius Adesanmi to Carleton are immeasurable…He was a scholar and teacher of the highest calibre who left a deep imprint on Carleton.” Born in Isanlu in Kogi State, Adesanmi graduated from University of Ilorin with a first class BA degree in 1992. He earned a Master’s degree in French from University of Ibadan   in 1998, and a PhD in French Studies from the University of British Colombia, Canada, in 2002.


Adesanmi was a Fellow of the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA) from 1993 to 1997 and of the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) in 1998 and 2000. From 2002 to 2005, he was Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Pennsylvania State University, USA.


Though Adesanmi was a dual citizen of Nigeria and Canada, he was deeply concerned about the state of Nigeria and regularly criticised the country’s leaders. Adesanmi was popular on Twitter for his hard-hitting tweets on poor leadership in Nigeria.


As a columnist, his writings were also published online in Premium Times and Sahara Reporters, and his views had a wide reach. A profile said: “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 September 2015, his scathing column on the decision of the Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, to take an underage wife generated substantial conversation on the matter, and even got the response of the Emir who responded to Adesanmi by name.”


His writings promoted him. Adesanmi’s first book, in 2001, The Wayfarer and Other Poems, won the Association of Nigerian Authors’ Poetry Prize. His collection of essays, You’re not a Country, in 2010won the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing in the nonfiction category. He published Naija No Dey Carry Last, a collection of satirical essays, in 2015.  In 2017, Adesanmi was a recipient of Canada Bureau of International Education Leadership Award.


Adesanmi, in 2015, gave a Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talk titled “Africa is the forward that the world needs to face.” This underlined his recognition as a man of ideas. TED is a forum “for engaging, charismatic speakers whose talks expose new ideas that are supported by concrete evidence and are relevant to a broad, international audience.”


His final moments symbolised his internationalism and interest in Africa’s development.  Also on board the ill-fated flight were people of 19 different nationalities. He was a passionate campaigner for human progress.

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