Activists Honour Popular Writer, Pius Adesanmi with Candlelight Gathering

Activists Honour Popular Writer, Pius Adesanmi with Candlelight Gathering

Activists, friends and admirers are putting final touches to elaborate plans, to honour Popular Writer and Social Critic, Pius Adesanmi, professor of Literary Studies at Carleton University, Canada, who was killed along with 149 passengers and 8 crew members in the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crash in the early hours of Sunday Top

Activists, friends and admirers are putting final touches to elaborate plans, to honour Popular Writer and Social Critic, Pius Adesanmi, professor of Literary Studies at Carleton University, Canada, who was killed along with 149 passengers and 8 crew members in the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crash in the early hours of Sunday

Top on the list is a candlelight gathering which is scheduled to hold at the Unity Fountain, Abuja between 4 – 7 pm on Wednesday, March 13th, 2019. It will feature tributes, book reading, poetry rendition and music. Arrangements are on to get sky lanterns, banners, sound system and black T-shirts embossed with Adesanmi’s face for the event.

The group is already thinking about endowing a char and a Journalism award in his honour. Another event is being planned for the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park, Ojota in Lagos on Saturday, March 16th. Activists based in other cities are also likely to replicate this event.

Carleton University where he lectured, described Adesanmi’s death as shocking and devastating. The university community also paid glowing tributes to a man that has contributed a lot to the institution.

The statement read: “The Carleton community is shocked and devastated to learn of the death of Prof. Pius Adesanmi, who was among the 18 Canadians killed in today’s crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet at the Addis Ababa airport.”

“Global Affairs Canada has confirmed that Adesanmi is among the victims.”

“Pius was a towering figure in African and post-colonial scholarship and his sudden loss is a tragedy,” said Benoit-Antoine Bacon, president and vice-chancellor.”

“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.”

“The contributions of Pius Adesanmi to Carleton are immeasurable,” said Pauline Rankin, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

The university continued in the statement, “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.”

“A further tribute about Adesanmi’s leadership and many contributions to the Carleton community will be shared as soon as possible.”

Until his death, Adesanmi was a Professor of Literature and African Studies at the Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

On Monday colleagues, students and friends of Pius Adesanmi gathered at Carleton University’s Institute of African Studies Monday to share stories and weep for the Nigerian-born professor and writer who headed the institute.

Students and colleagues streamed into the institute to sign a book of condolences and to comfort each other. Beside the book was a photo of Adesanmi with his seemingly prescient final Facebook post, written at the airport while he waited to board the flight to Nairobi.

The post quoted Psalm 139:9-10: “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”

Nduka Otiono, an assistant professor at the Institute of African Studies, who has known Adesanmi since they were graduate students at the University of Ibadan, said the book of condolences had become a gathering place for those mourning his death.

“We set up a small shrine here to invoke his spirit,” said Otiono. “We are happy we have been able to do this because it has become like a hub. It lights up the hallway as you come in.”

Adesanmi, a scholar of African Literature, a poet, satirist and avid blogger, was remembered for his influential research and writing as well as his ebullience, warm hugs and laugh. His door was always open to students.

“Pius was a personality that you couldn’t encounter and forget,” said Otiono.

“He was a wordsmith and he deployed his resources in the various communities where he operated,” said Otiono. “For him, it wasn’t enough to be holed up in the library in an ivory tower.”

Adesanmi was a longtime columnist for Nigerian newspapers. His often wrote satirical columns sometimes targeted at Nigerian politicians and public figures. He was a sought-after speaker and a widely followed public intellectual. He wrote frequently on the social media and had a large following.

Decky Kobongi, who teaches at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, visited the Institute of African Studies on Monday.

“As a friend and a colleague, it is very tough,” he said. “I have been crying since yesterday. I couldn’t not go to my work today because it is just difficult. I came here to be with other members of the Carleton community through this time and to share memories of Pius.”

“Student have been coming here. Most of them are in tears because it is just a big loss, not only for them, but for all of the Carleton community.”

Chuks Imahiagbe, who heads the Nigerian Canadian Association, called Adesanmi’s death “a colossal loss for our community. He is a shining star in our community.”

About a year ago, Adesanmi had survived a fatal car crash in Nigeria.

Otiono said his friend’s final Facebook posting, with a picture of him sitting in the airport and quoting Psalm 139 had upset many “because it looked as if he had a premonition of what was going to happen. It was so disturbing.”

“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,” Carleton posted on its website.

“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.

What was “truly amazing,” said former Faculty of Arts and social sciences dean John Osborne, was the impact he had on Africa.

“Through his writing and blogging, he reached an audience … in the millions in his native Nigeria and beyond, becoming one of the most avidly read commentators on contemporary life and politics on the continent.”

Adesanmi, one of the country’s most brilliant literary experts, was born on February 27th, 1972 in Isanlu, in Yagba East Local Government area of Kogi State, Nigeria. He earned a BA (first-class honours) from the University of Ilorin in 1992, a Master’s degree in French from the University of Ibadan in 1998, and a PhD in French Studies from the University of British Columbia, 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 the Pennsylvania State University, USA. In 2006, he joined Carleton University, in Ottawa, Canada, as a Professor of Literature and African Studies.  Until his demise, he was the director of the university’s Institute of African Studies.

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.

In 2015, he gave a TED talk titled “Africa is the forward that the world needs to face“.

In one of his most compelling pieces on the utter contempt for philosophy, intellection and critical thought by the Nigerian elite, he argues:  “Few Nigerians understand that our chaos, our urban rot and rural decay, our decrepit roads, hospitals, and Universities, our power failures and water shortages, and our fuel scarcity are collective consequences of our wanton embrace of the unthought and unreflected society.”

“Since we inherited this dilapidated contraption from the British, we have made not a single attempt to philosophize the Nigerian project through sustained critical thought. The price is always very heavy when a people develop a collective hostility to philosophy.”

Continuing, he says, “Dubai, London, Paris, and all the other destinations that Nigerians adore and desire are all outward manifestations of something called modernity. Democracy, law and order, urban planning and regulation are all features of modernity. Innovation and science and technology are equally features of modernity.”

“Nigerians see the end product but they have absolute contempt for the road which led the advanced world to the glittering modernity that they desire. They do not know that more than two hundred years of philosophy, writing, and critical thought went into the conceptualization of what they see and admire in the advanced world today.”

“They do not know that modernity and its gloss exist today because a long line of thinkers in Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe produced philosophies which became the bedrock of what we see and call modernity today. Google the period covered by the Renaissance and the Enlightenment for an idea of how many centuries of philosophy produced the cities you admire in Europe and America today,” he contends.

Adesanmi died on March 10, 2019, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi crashed shortly after take-off. He was on his way to an African Union conference.

His books include The Wayfarer and Other Poems published by Oracle Books, Lagos in  2001, You’re Not a Country, Africa by Penguin Books in 2011 and Naija No Dey Carry Last by Parrésia Publishers in 2015.

In 2001, Adesanmi’s first book, The Wayfarer and Other Poems, won the Association of Nigerian Authors’ (ANA) Poetry Prize. In 2010, his book You’re not a Country, Africa, 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.

Perhaps he was trying to warn us about his impending death with his last post on facebook: “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me –  Psalm 139:9-10,” Adesanmi had signed off.

He was survived by his wife, Muyiwa and two daughters – Damilare and Oluwatise.

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