Nigeria: More Tears, Encomiums for Adesanmi

Pius Adesanmi.

The gloom that traversed the social media space on Sunday afternoon was yet to fade away yesterday as Nigerians and citizens of the world reacted to the death of Prof. Pius Adesanmi, one of the 157 onboard the ill-fated Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737MAX that crashed close to the Addis Ababa airport.

A professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, Adesanmi was on his way to a meeting of the African Union's Economic, Social, and Cultural Council in Nairobi. He lived with his family in Canada and held a Canadian passport.

As encomiums poured, a heartrending picture almost broke the internet, which showed the moment, Adesanmi's wife, Muyiwa, broke the news of her father's death to young Tise in their base in Canada.

The young Adesamni, holding a pen, stared on blankly at the portrait of his father's picture, engraved on it his last post on Facebook: "If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me," as if in a strange foreboding.

Earlier in 2013, in a literary exercise, Adesanmi had wrote a draft epitaph for his future tombstone: "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."

It was a mixture of courage and heartbreak as the moment of truth was relayed by the widow Tise.

Akintunde Akinleye, a Nigerian academia and journalist in Canada, captured the heartbreaking moment thus in a Facebook post: "When Tise wished you an angelic goodbye, Prof... A courageous woman, your friend, your wife held back all her pains... to break this news to Tise! I am so humbled by this courage!!!!"

Tommorow, a group of Nigerians will hold a candlelight gathering for Adesamni at the Unity Fountain, Abuja from 4:00p.m. to 7:00p.m. tagged 'Memoralising Pius Adesanmi: The Power of the Civic Space.'

The university community in Carleton was also devastated by the sudden death of Adesanmi, director of its Institute of African Studies and a remarkable writer, poet and political commentator, who was celebrated for his eloquence and fearlessness in speaking truth to power.

His award-winning book - "You're Not a Country Africa: A Personal History of the African Present - was groundbreaking. As one of the most important minds of the African diaspora, he inspired his Carleton colleagues with his brilliance and cemented his close ties to faculty, staff and students with his kindness, thoughtfulness, enthusiasm and unforgettable laugh.

"Pius Adesanmi was a towering figure in African and post-colonial scholarship and his sudden loss is a tragedy. Some of the students have been hanging around the makeshift memorial at the Institute all day. They can't believe he is gone. Pius lived well. He affected a lot of people. He made time for his students. He listened and believed in them," said Benoit-Antoine Bacon, president and vice-chancellor of Carleton University. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and all those who knew and loved him, and with everyone who suffered loss in the tragic crash in Ethiopia."

A member of the university community, Pauline Rankin, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), said: "The contributions of Pius Adesanmi to Carleton are immeasurable. He worked tirelessly to build the 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 the highest calibre who leaves a deep imprint on Carleton."

Rankin added that FASS colleagues at Carleton would hold tributes "to chronicle his pivotal role in building African Studies, his reputation as a global public intellectual, his celebrated scholarship and his mentorship of students.

"Today, however, I am remembering his warmth and friendliness, his booming laugh, his enthusiasm for his work and his deep dedication to Carleton. He is irreplaceable in our faculty and in our hearts."

Adesanmi, a member of the Department of English Language and Literature, joined Carleton in 2006 after rejecting offers from Princeton and a number of other American universities. He quickly made his mark on the campus and was an integral part of the groundswell that led to founding the Institute of African Studies.

"But what was truly amazing was the impact he had in Africa," said former FASS dean, John Osborne. "Through his writing and blogging, he reached an audience . . . in the millions in his home country Nigeria and beyond, becoming one of the most avidly read commentators on contemporary life and politics on the continent."

Adesanmi obtained a first class honours degree in French Studies from the University of Ilorin, a master's degree in French Studies from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and a PhD in French Studies from the University of British Columbia. He was a specialist of francophone and anglophone African and Black Diasporic literatures, politics and cultures.

His portfolio of keynote lectures included appearances on such prestigious platforms as the Stanford Forum for African Studies, the Africa Talks Series of the London School of Economics, the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation's annual lecture series, the Vanderbilt History Seminar, the International Leadership Platform of the University of Johannesburg, the African Unity for Renaissance Series of the Africa Institute of South Africa, and the annual talk series of the Academy of Science of South Africa.

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