Tribute: Pius Adesanmi in life, death and vocation as a writer-scholar – ANA




Death came visiting the Nigerian writing house yet again. This time it left with a pricy catch in the person of Pius Adesanmi, literary star, critic, essayist, columnist, teacher, poet, and foremost intellectual. In an ill-fated plane tragedy in Ethiopia yesterday (10 March 2019), the life and career of a brilliant scholar took flight in a whim of air, machine failure, and breathlessness. The odium of death left a bitter memory yet again in the collective psyche of Nigerian writers at home and abroad. A leading light in the academe and a bountiful testament to the tenacity of the Nigerian education and its literary arm even in the face of many deprivations, Professor Pius Adesanmi is undoubtedly light gone dim and a future melting into eternity. To lose a man of letters like Pius Adesanmi is to come to an unavoidable void. Nigerian writers are wailing inconsolably because Pius was indeed a man of outstanding words/worlds and a master of his game.

Born in Isanlu in present Kogi State, Nigeria, Professor Pius Adesanmi had his education in many schools, graduated into post-secondary education at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State where he graduated top of his class with a first-class degree in French in 1992, a Master degree in French from the University of an Ibadan followed in 1998 and a PhD in French Studies from the University of British Columbia in 2002. His graduate studies abroad culminated in a high flying academic career in universities in the United States and Canada, first as an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania and later Carlton University, Ottawa, Canada that he joined in 2006, serving and rising to full professor of literature and African Studies till his demise in the Ethiopian Airline flight 302.

Prof Adesanmi’s intellectualism has witnessed unusual progression and stable productivity undoubtedly a function of his fertile intellect, fecund mind and global outlook. Not only has he traversed different parts of the world to dispense with his scholarship but the central tissue of his career especially lately has been devoted to the nurture of African doctoral scholars to understand the dynamics of the global intellectual rubrics while also improving the quality of postgraduate education especially in the humanities on the continent. This new role left him with the choice of regular travels to host training sessions and workshops in universities in different parts of the continent in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria among other places. With the support of colleagues and mentees he established the African Doctoral Lounge, an online interactive forum that engages postgrads and provides much-needed network space for postgraduate students and post-doctoral fellows to connect with the best of counsel and support from different parts of the world. A keen watcher of the development of the African academe and an astute contributor to the sustainable popularity of the Nigerian literary environment, Prof. Pius Adesanmi delivered the keynote address for the annual convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) held in Uyo, Akwa  Ibom State  in 2012 where he spoke on “ What Does ( Nigerian) Literature Secure?”

A devoted writer and author of many books and articles in all genres of literature including The Wayfarer and Other Poems (2001), which won the ANA poetry Prize for that year, You’re not a Country, Africa (2011), Naija no de Carry Last (2015) but particularly also an ardent literary critic and assessor of the outputs of the literary establishment. Pius Adesanmi as he was fondly called within the writers circles here in Nigeria and abroad brought unusual verve to the theorizing of literature, African studies and the ideas that have shaped the post-colonial understanding of the African continent. His oeuvre parades piquant intersection on African literature in addition to a scribal tome honouring his avowed literary activism. He was brave in his views and wrote with the heart of a writer risking all to register the the urge of his muse. Notably urbane, calculated and cerebral, Pius Adesanmi leaves a big bag of accolades, literary works, awards but much more, a teeming population of adherents and mentees who saw in him a father figure and one that is willing and able to steer them to the land of intellectual success. Most notably conscious of his mortality, Adesanmi is known to have committed to living for the moment as may well be seen in his last post, (that may well be taken as his epitaph) before boarding the ill-fated flight.

ANA mourns Prof. Pius Adesanmi. Nigerian writers are deeply pained by this most untimely and unanticipated passage. The global community of African scholars sorely feels the pangs of this painful exit of a friend, colleague and comrade. While nothing can be done to reverse this chapter of the book of Pius’s life, and in the most equanimous acceptance of divine will over all else, the Association of Nigerian Authors sympathizes with his family, friends and colleagues here and at Carlton and enjoins ANA chapters to commiserate with our sister chapter in Kogi over this loss while also in our usual tradition of strength in the face of adversity engage in activities that will immortalize him in readings, talks and literary activities dedicated to his memory. ANA shall in this direction further dedicate the forthcoming ANA/AE-FUNAI Conference on Literary Criticism with the theme “Nigeria’s Literary Criticism in an Expanding Space of Creative Writing and Digital Production in the 21st Century”, scheduled for 2-3 July, 2019, to his memory in addition to other steps towards his immortalization in the future.

Adieu, Pius Adesanmi!

This tribute was signed by the President of ANA, Denja ABDULLAHI, and his General Secretary, Ofonime Inyang

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