Pius Adebola Adesanmi: A Full Life

Ayọ̀délé Ìbíyẹmí
3 min readMar 10, 2019

Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

-from Shakespeare’s Macbeth

The immortal Professor Pius Adesanmi

It is one thing to be rude and it is another for an event to come as a shock. The combination of the two words, often used by Nigerian journalists came alive when the entire world heard the news of Professor Pius Adesanmi’s death. As if mourning the sham of an election was not sad enough, death took Nigeria’s conscience in an ill-fated air crash. Tributes poured in and the more I read, the sadder I became. For a person who I never met physically, it was an unexpected sorrow. But you did not have to meet Adesanmi to love or respect him. He is near ubiquitous. He is mentoring Doctoral students in Legon today, and tomorrow, he is giving a keynote in the United States. He was always on the move. His management of Carleton University’s Center for African Studies is unparralled and his commitment to Africa is obvious.

Adesnmi is the bane of Nigeria’s ruling elite, sparing none. Satire was his turf and he perfected it. Unlike several other public commentators, he is neither belligerent nor combative. He is open minded and his position was always clear and unpatronizing. he was never ambivalent, he stood on the side of decency and common sense.

Adesanmi is perhaps more popular as the professor who comments on Nigeria but that is just a slice of his life. He is a thoroughbred professor who has written several essays on African literature. His work on Nigeria’s third generation writing is seminal and it is almost impossible to study that phase of Nigerian literature without citing Adesanmi. He was a master satirist and he brought the skill to his academic career. For young scholars, he was a role model as he had fun doing his work. He played with words and made it all look easy.

He has written books on Nigeria and Africa. Naija No Dey Carry Last is a collection of Facebook posts by him, insightful pieces of thought. You’re not a Country, Africa: A Personal History of the African Present is also a collection of essays that roused long rested debates that founding fathers of Africa had: Negritude, pan Africanism, Nationalism, Decolonisation. In an age when Libyans are selling Nigerians, Adesanmi comes in handy, as the conscience of the Black race, constantly reminding us of the conversations we should have. Such thoughts inspired his TedTalk which he titled Africa is the Forward the World Needs to Face. He is a true son of Africa as Nigeria is too small to contain his intellectual depth. This commitment to the continent becomes obvious when he dies on his way to an AU ECOSOC meeting.

Although he died at a young age, Adesanmi lived a full life. He laid a template for other thinkers to follow. He inspired many and mentored many. He will be remembered fondly as a thinker, doer and friend of all. With satire, he had us thinking while laughing at our own failed state. His posts gave us a silver lining in a very cloudy country but in this moment of loss, there is no silver lining in the cloud.

As if he knew of his impending death, his last Facebook post was a picture of him holdng his Canadian Passport, quoting the 9th and 10th verses of Psalm 139:

“If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”

Travel well, Professor. You are sorely missed.