On 10 March 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 between Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, crashed, killing 149 passengers and eight crew members aboard.
One of those passengers was Pius Adesanmi, a Nigerian-born Canadian professor, writer and literary critic, satirist, and columnist. He is the author of Naija No Dey Carry Last, a collection of satirical essays.
The African Union confirmed he was on the flight. He was traveling from Canada to Nairobi to attend the AU ECOSOCC meeting, representing the African diaspora.
Adesanmi was born in Isanlu, in Yagba East Local Government area of Kogi State, Nigeria. He had a BA (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, USA. In 2006, he joined Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada as a Professor of literature and African studies. Until his death, he was director of the Institute of 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.
“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 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.”
“The contributions of Pius Adesnami to Carleton are immeasurable,” said Pauline Rankin, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. “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.”
For many years, Adesanmi has been a regular columnist for Premium Times and Sahara Reporters. His writings are often satiric, focusing on the absurd in the Nigerian social and political system. His targets often include 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 2017, Adesanmi was a recipient of Canada Bureau of International Education Leadership Award.
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 2001, Adesanmi’s first book, The Wayfarer and Other Poems, won the Association of Nigerian Authors’ Poetry Prize.
Pius Adesanmi was frequently speaking in universities around the world and especially in Africa about the place of Africa and Africans in the world. He was an inspiration to many young dreamers.
He is survived by a daughter and wife.