It is no longer news that Pius Adebola Adesanmi and 156 others (including another eminent Nigerian, Ambassador Abiodun Bashua) died on 10th March 2019 in the ill-fated Ethiopian Airline Flight ET 302 that took off from Addis-Ababa Ethiopia and bound for Nairobi Kenya.
Since the tragic incident, there have been almost endless rains of eulogies and tributes on Pius Adesanmi. Even those who never met him nor ever had opportunity to read any of his writings are now aware that there was a great Nigerian by the name Pius Adesanmi.
I have always loved good writings and thus inevitably became one of his many disciples. In this modern world of the Network Society, discipleship need not be physical as technology has torn all veils imposed by time and space.
As a student of the Nigerian literary school, I can safely say that Pius was one of the brightest. He combined high intellect and sagacious street credibility with extraordinary ease. Beyond his intellect, which was globally acclaimed, Adebola was an Omoluabi who carried his cerebral-ness with candour and humility even when criticizing others.
One can imagine with nostalgia the educational, family, communal, social, and religious elements that have been perfectly mixed in a man to have produced the fine Professor that we all adored. From a middle class family of a school principal father and a class teacher mother, Pius must have had a self-rebirth to have evolved a global brand and well-sought-after speaker.
In search of better opportunities, after excellent academic laurels in Nigeria, life took him to North America where he distinguished himself as a member of the Arts and Social Sciences Faculty of Carleton University, Canada. His Vice-Chancellor referred to him as ‘a towering figure’ and his Dean said his contributions ‘are immeasurable’ as he ‘worked tirelessly to build Institute of African Studies, to share his boundless passion for African literature and to connect with and support students. He was a scholar and teacher of highest calibre who leaves a deep imprint on Carleton’, and that ‘his loss is a tragedy’ in the Carleton Community.
Beyond the talents and other innate gifts with which Pius was endowed, what I personally found stunning about him was his patriotism and sense of commitment to Nigeria and the Nigerian Project. In recent times, almost every ambitious Nigerian of my generation is committed to escaping from Nigeria by all means. Canada has been one of the most attractive destinations to many especially for the welfarist and developmental opportunities that she provides for those with young families.
For many, all they could see and smell here is hopelessness, hence the alluring temptation to join the emigration bandwagon. The derision that many have developed for Nigeria is so serious that they would rather embark on suicidal journeys just to enter Europe in search of better lives via the Sahara desert or in ramshackle boats off the coast of Libya. To this desperate class, it does not really matter if they perish in the course of such misadventures! After all, all die na die and something must kill a man! Can one really blame anyone?
Now, to find Pius Adesanmi, who had successfully escaped as it were from all the challenges characteristic of our society, and had secured Canadian citizenship for himself and his immediate family, who remained genuinely committed to Nigeria beyond mere rhetoric is the height of patriotism. The pleasures of Canadian Palace did not make him forget his roots and he was a good ambassador of Nigeria at every point in time.
Pius was not one to sing; ‘awa ti g’oke odo, k’afara o to ja…’ (…we have crossed the bridge before the bridge collapsed…). Rather he remained committed to Nigeria; he did not spare the Pen and expressed serious concern on almost all issues of national importance, even if recondite. Adebola just wanted a Nigeria that works; devoid of mediocrity and corruption. He used his intellect as a force of social engineering and to campaign for national re-birth. Pius hated the fact that many Nigerians live in abject poverty unlike some privileged others who live daily to multiply poverty and derive excitement elixir from watching the misery of fellow citizens.
In times like this, it is always important to ask ourselves pertinent questions about life. What is life after all? In my humble view, life is an almost indescribable phenomenon that we all daily strive to define through the way we live with fellow men and express ourselves. It is not so simple and can be far more delicately complex. Nevertheless, some people have succeeded in understanding life and knowing how to live life, and of course, how not to live it. Pius was one of the very few. While he was not perfect and had his challenges, he was able to figure out how to live and to enjoy life to the fullest. He always listened to the voice that directed him to speak out against the evil of mediocrity. He was a prophet who saw the future, even his death. He had written his own epitaph: ‘Here lies Pius Adesanmi who tried as much as he could to put his talent in the service of humanity and flew away home one bright morning when his work was over.’
For those of us who are still on this side of the divide, let us earnestly ask ourselves, how should one live? Is it by committing sheepishly to the rat-race of mutual rivalry for acquisition of material things with insane relish? Is it by living flamboyantly at the expense of the State so that other citizens may die? Is it by inflating government contracts, receiving kick-backs or through many of the variants of corruption that we have become daily accustomed to in Nigeria? It is an opportune time to ask ourselves what our collective national philosophy is. What do we want to remember as a Nation and what do we want to forget? What do we want to be remembered for as individuals?
As a people, we need to deconstruct our inordinate avarice. It is high time we chose another god as our collective unbridled love for Mammon can only lead us to the core of Hell. Nations prosper or fail as a result of the aggregate actions of her citizens. We all must be deliberately committed to making Nigeria work through our actions, and cannot just continue to believe or wish prosperity and development into reality. A Nigerian football coach, when interviewed by Journalists after a poor debut at an international competition was alleged to have stated that; ‘We shall wobble and fumble to the final.’ Coincidentally, Nigeria was lucky not only to have wobbled to the final but to have eventually clinched the cup. Unfortunately, developmental status is never acquired by nations through happenstance. No nation succeeds, improves her GDP or gets to the final when it is left to just wobbling and fumbling.
At this time, we all need to be a Pius Adesanmi (patriotic) everywhere we find ourselves. We must live and die for humanity as we all must someday (unknown) pass from the earth and its toiling only to be remembered by what we have done. For Pius, the final bell tolled on the bright morning of Sunday 10th March 2019, and he will forever be remembered for his patriotism to Nigeria and contributions to humanity.
He had foreboded that he wrote ‘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.’ What is more, by his last Facebook post of Psalm 139:9-10, it is safe to say that Pius already saw a Land whose Architect and Builder was God whose right hand will continue to hold him.
I honestly do not think we should mourn Pius, rather we should celebrate his life and times. Truth be told, no amount of sermon can be sufficient to comfort Pius’ loved ones particularly his aged mother, wife and his beautiful daughter, Tishe. The grief of Pius’ death will not just disappear at the sound of any sweet words of consolation. The pain will always be there but would gradually wane with time. Time relieve all pains no matter how severe.
However, at every time the pain of Pius’ loss is felt, it should be placed side by side on an imaginary scale with the fact that he lived an impactful life and died a great man. The result will always assuage the feeling. Much as we will all sorely miss Pius, it is beyond doubt that he lived a great and impactful life and I dare say it is it better to live and die a Pius Adesanmi than live a Methuselah of no moment. Therefore for Pius, the strive is o’er, the battle done; the victory of life is won and the song of eternal triumph has begun: Alleluia!
Aikomo is a Legal Practitioner.