It’s not as if we could tell death how to do his job or that we could pause time. Some of us are given the gift of living so that in our existence others might find their meaning and joy.

Prof. Pius Adesanmi is one of Africa’s brightest essayists and writers, a Nigerian of note. He has left us a trail to follow, and a goal to pursue.

His love for Africa

At least for those of us who care about this Africanness, what it means to be black and from Africa, we know where to fix our gaze. Because stars like these never die but rather they live on in our hearts.

He loved Africa and we all knew; her proverbs; the folklore; her oral tradition. He spoke like one who had the years of a thousand ancients as feathers to his cap.

A professor of English and African studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. In his Ted Euston talk about the centrality of the human agency, you’d understand how significant his embodiment of his stories have been.

Family and friends confirmed Prof Pius was on the Ethiopian Airline Boeing 737, after escaping death by motor accident in 2018, . The plane crashed on the 10th of March, 2019. Death was determined to reap! We have lost an Icon but we are not mourning from a place of total loss. His words are forever etched in our hearts and minds.

His final post online has traveled far, giving us another final glimpse of his humanity.

It reads:

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

Only someone like Prof. Pius could have bowed out in such grand style.

His legacy is tightly woven into his thoughts about Africa as expressed in one of his titles. “Africa you are not a country.”

Penguin Random house, his publisher describes his book:

In his wide-ranging collection of essays, Pius Adesanmi explores what Africa means to him as an African. And as a citizen of the world. Adesanmi grapples with the complexity and contradictions of this vast continent. He zooms in most closely on Nigeria, the country of his birth. The inspiration for the title of the collection, You’re Not a Country, Africa, comes from a line of poetry: ‘You are not a country Africa, you are a concept, fashioned in our minds, each to each’.

The Africa fashioned in our minds – with our fears and our dreams – is the Africa that the reader will encounter in these essays. Through narratives and political and cultural reflections, Pius Adesanmi approaches the meaning of Africa from the perspective that you never actually define Africa: rather, it defines you in various contexts and for various people.

In this groundbreaking collection of essays Pius Adesanmi tries to unravel what it is that Africa means to him as an African, and by extension to all those who inhabit this continent of extremes. This is a question that exercised some of the continent’s finest minds in the twentieth century, but which pan-Africanism, Negritude, nationalism, decolonisation and all the other projects through which Africans sought to restore their humanity ultimately failed to answer. Criss-crossing the continent, Pius Adesanmi engages with the enigma that is Africa in an attempt to make meaning of this question for all twenty-first century Africans.

Adieu Pius Adesanmi

Pius Adesanmi, a literary and cultural critic, was born in Nigeria and lived most of his life in Ottawa, Canada, where he taught literature and African studies at Carleton University.

He was one of Nigeria’s major intellectuals and wrote two weekly columns for the influential Sahara Reporters and NEXT newspaper. His first book, The Wayfarer and Other Poems, won the Association of Nigerian Authors’ Poetry Prize in 2001.

He has given us a signal. May Africa’s words rise on the wings of his legacy and may our stories never die.