By Shola Oshunkeye
He was a wordsmith of an uncommon hue. A highly imaginative literary alchemist who dazzled and impressed with the spoken and written words; a prophet of the pen fraternity who predicted the future using yesterday’s and today’s human experiences. He was a god of satire who employed humour, irony, exaggeration, even ridicule as an effective tool to scrutinise events in his fatherland, and shape opinions in his conversations with his countrymen and women. He was a restless social mobiliser who used his only weapon, the pen, to fight oppression, mis-governance and sundry stupidity of his country’s political elite.
Even hours before the grim reaper crawled eerily at his door and cruelly harvested him, through the ill-fated Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737, on Sunday, Pius Adesanmi, Nigerian-born Canadian professor, writer, literary critic, satirist and columnist, was still doing what he knew best: conversing with his compatriots.
For instance, at 1.39 a.m. on Saturday, March 9, 2019, about six-and-a-half hours to the commencement of voting in the governorship and state assemblies elections, Adesanmi took to his twitter handle, @pius_adesanmi, to talk to his people, employing sarcasm to warn social media commentators not to ‘murder’ the English language in reporting the elections.
These are the lines he tweeted:
“Folks, please, remember: “I cast my vote…” Any “I casted my vote” I see on my TL will be considered election violence. I reserve the right to defend myself.”
About the same time a day before, precisely at 1:21 a.m. on Friday, March 8. 2019, Adesanmi fired a salvo at the outgoing President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr. Bukola Abubakar Saraki, who was humiliated at the elections in his home state of Kwara; after spending almost half a billion naira per state, he reportedly claimed.
This was how Adesanmi, a god of satire, responded to him in a tweet:
“On d “ki lo tun ku ti o se” video I’ve just seen on @Ayourb‘s TL, there’s plenty Saraki still needs to do. He was heard on tape claiming to have spent N300m-400m per state x 36 states. That’s our money. How much of our money is he still safekeeping for us? He needs to return it.”
Still, the departed Professor was not done with the Senate President. Read another shot he fired at him on March 7, 2019 at 11.30 p.m.:
“Saraki will not dust his British passport & disappear into d night in London. No Nigerian big man can survive in civilization where they must live like u & I and obey d law irrespective of wealth. So, he is going to try to rapala back to APC & fight to be recycled in d system.”
If you thought Adesanmi was interested only in Nigeria’s political elite, then, you have a surprise coming your way. Precisely an hour before his last tweet on Saraki, on March 7, he had targeted the Nigeria Navy, querying the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, on why his men were not part of the security apparatus deployed for the elections.
Read him: “Chief of Defence Staff warns. Chief of Army Staff warns. Chief of Air Staff deploys fighter jets & warns. D only Nigerian President I’ve not heard from ahead of Saturday’s election is d Chief of Naval Staff. Where is he? Doesn’t he have subs & warships to deploy for d elections?” Question.
Now it is often said that writers are prophets of some sort; that they possess a hefty dose of clairvoyance. This may have found some truism in what is now being referred to as the late Prof. Adesanmi’s last testament-a post on his Facebook wall. Although the world may never know the exact context in which he used the bible verses, the quotation is now being widely reported as he foreseeing, and actually predicting his imminent departure from earth.
In what has turned to be his last post on his Facebook account, Adesanmi clutched his passport as he posted the words of Psalm 139, verses 9 and 10 on his wall. It reads:
“If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand lead me, and your right hand shall hold me – Psalm 139:9-10.”
An online portal, Concise News, went a step further to reel out the concordance interpretation of the verses, using the Matthew Henry’s Concise commentary. It reads:
“We cannot see God, but He can see us. The psalmist did not desire to go from the Lord. Whither can I go? In the most distant corners of the world, in heaven, or in hell, I cannot go out of thy reach. No veil can hide us from God; not the thickest darkness. No disguise can save any person or action from being seen in the true light by him. Secret haunts of sin are as open before God as the most open villanies. On the other hand, the believer cannot be removed from the supporting, comforting presence of his Almighty Friend. Should the persecutor take his life, his soul will the sooner ascend to heaven. The grave cannot separate his body from the love of his Saviour, who will raise it a glorious body. No outward circumstances can separate him from his Lord. While in the path of duty, he may be happy in any situation, by the exercise of faith, hope, and prayer.”
Flight 302 crashed, Sunday morning, six minutes after take-off. It had 149 passengers and eight crew members on board when it came down. It was flying from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, to Nairobi, Kenya.
With the confirmation of Adesanmi’s painful passing, Nigeria lost two illustrious sons in the tragic Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Another victim is Ibadan, Oyo State-born Ambassador Abiodun Bashua.
A retired career diplomat, Ambassador Bashua, 68, was until his sad end on Sunday, on contract with the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa, UNECA. A release by the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Sunday, announcing his tragic death, revealed that the late Bashua hailed from Lagos State but was born in Ibadan in 1951.
He joined the Nigerian Foreign Service in 1976, and served in different capacities, both at Headquarters and Foreign Missions such as Vienna, Austria; Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire and Tehran in Iran, among others.
A seasoned UN Expert, with extensive experience in several United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa, the late Ambassador Bashua joined the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur in 2009, and was appointed Deputy Joint Special Representative for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur in 2014 by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Interim Chairman of the Nigerian Community in Ethiopia, the departed diplomat also served as Secretary to the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Biography and career of Prof. Adesanmi (Wikipedia)
Born in Isanlu Isin, in Yagba East Local Government Area of Kogi State, Adesanmi, who died in yesterday’s Ethiopian Airlines plane crash, had a B.A. (first class honours) from the University of Ilorin in 1992; a Masters in French from the University of Ibadan in 1998, and a PhD in French Studies from the University of British Columbia in 2002.
From 2002 to 2005, he was Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University, United States of America. 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 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.
In 2015, he gave a TED talk titled: “Africa is the forward that the world needs to face”.
- The Wayfarer and Other Poems (Oracle Books, Lagos; 2001)
- You’re Not a Country, Africa (Penguin Books; 2011)
- Naija No Dey Carry Last (Parrésia Publishers; 2015)
In 2001, Adesanmi’s first book, The Wayfarer and Other Poems, won the Association of Nigerian Authors’ Poetry Prize.
In 2010, his book You’re not a Country, Africa (Penguin Books, 2011), a collection of essays, won the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing in the nonfiction category.
In 2017, Adesanmi was a recipient of Canada Bureau of International Education Leadership Award.