Writers’ guild, under the auspices of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), has commiserated with the family of the literary scholar, creative writer and columnist, Professor Pius Adesanmi, who died on Sunday, March 10, 2019, on board the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 that crashed shortly after takeoff.
To this end, the association has dedicated 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 immortalisation. In the same PEN, Nigeria Centre, will be celebrating his life and times with a festival in Epe, Lagos, on Thursday, March 21, 2019.
In a tribute entitled “Pius Adesanmi in Life, Death and Vocation as Writer-scholar”, signed by ANA President, Denja Abdullahi, and General Secretary, Ofonime Inyang, ANA lamented that 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.”
The association, which observed that Prof Adesanmi’s intellectualism had witnessed unusual progression and stable productivity, a testament to his fertile intellect and global outlook, said that not only did he traverse different parts of the world to dispense with his scholarship, the central tissue of his career, especially lately, had 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 in 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 postdoctoral fellows to connect with the best of counsel and support from different parts of the world,” said the association.
Late Adesanmi, it will be recalled, presented 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?”
The late writer, ANA added, brought unusual verve to the theorising of literature, African studies and the ideas that have shaped the post-colonial understanding of the African continent.
Besides, “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 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 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.”
While nothing can be done to reverse Adesanmi’s demise, the association, sympathised with his family, friends and colleagues in Nigeria and at Carlton University, Canada, even as it enjoined ANA chapters to commiserate with the Kogi State chapter of the association over his loss, while also engage in activities that will immortalise him in readings, talks and literary activities dedicated to his memory.
In a related development, PEN Nigeria will be storming Epe, Lagos, for the 2019
World Poetry Day, dedicated to Prof Pius Adesanmi, with a special Poetry Festival.
The festival, whose theme is “What Poetry Is, What Poetry Is Not,” will hold at Michael Otedola College of Primary Education (MOCPED), Noforija, Epe, on Thursday, March 21, 2019, at 11 am.
Guest Poet is Reginald Chiedu Ofodile, lawyer, actor, compere, and internationally acclaimed novelist, playwright, poet, and essayist. Other guests include Tunji Sotimirin, Kayode Steve Adaramoye. Busola Kolade, and Ralph Akintan-Ralph
The highlights of the festival include poetry performances by individuals and groups, poetic presentations by members of the community; that is, students and staff – teaching and non-teaching, poetry recitation in indigenous language (mother tongue poetry). There will also be and presentations by seasoned poets and authors and a lecture on “What Poetry Is, What Poetry Is Not”. The interactive session on the theme of the event.”
Mr Folu Agoi, President, PEN Nigeria, said in a release, it would be another golden opportunity for members of the creative community to showcase their creativity and their products, including publications.
Authors who wish to donate books and other publications or materials for distribution to participants, particularly students, at the event are enjoined contact the President or any other member of the Executive Council (EXCO) of PEN Nigeria.
Late Prof. Adesanmi left a body of works that included fiction and nonfiction: The Wayfarer and Other Poems (2001), which won the ANA poetry Prize for that year; You’re not a Country, Africa (2011), and Naija no de Carry Last (2015).
Born in Isanlu in present Kogi State, Nigeria, Professor 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 a 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, which he joined in 2006, serving and rising to full professor of literature and African Studies till his demise in the Ethiopian Airline flight 302.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, a Candlelight Gathering was held at the Unity Fountain in Abuja in honour of the late Pius Adesanmi, organised by friends and well-wishers.
Among dignitaries present on the occasion were the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Senator Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West Senatorial district; Doctor Udenta O. Udenta, a reknown public intellectual; Aisha Yesufu, co-convener of the BringBackOurGirls (BBOG), among others.
Saraki, who never met Prof Adesanmi during his lifetime, said, though he was critical of him and the powers-that-be, he respected his quest for nation building. “We shared different views, and we must appreciate his talent. He had his views, and we must learn from some of them, and that is why I come here today to also pay tribute.
“I am also here to pay tribute to someone who was a good ambassador of this country. He was on his way for an engagement. We can ensure that his wife and his daughter know that their father and husband did not die in vain. I am here, on behalf of my family and friends to show my last respect to him,” he said.
Lending his voice to the tragedy, a literary colleague of his, Ogaga Ifowodo, who was shortlisted for the 2017 Nigeria Prize for Literature, said Adesanmi was an extraordinary, exemplary, consummate, author and critic, who put his knowledge at the service of Nigeria and the world of humanity. “It is a tragic and monumental loss. Likes of him don’t come along every day.” Barrister Ifowodo said.
A human rights lawyer and activist, Sam Amadi, also described him as a remarkable intellectual worthy to be valorised: “He was thoroughly intellectual and thoroughly practical. Like Gani said before he died, ‘Nigerians will know my worth when I die’. I think we will know more of Pius now that is no more,” Mr Amadi said.
Doctor Udenta O. Udenta told Daily Sun that late Adesanmi was one of the vibrant literary critics of this generation with the zeal of the critics of his generation and the ones before them: “He was meant to dominate for a long time. I interrogated some of his works in my just released critical work, Crisis of Theory in Nigeria. He will be missed by all.”