I am glad to have known such a warrior up close; one of the greatest Generals, not in the Nigerian military service, but in the Nigerian emancipation revolutionary force, with purview for all black people, all minorities, all vulnerable people, and all humanity at large. Pius himself knew who he truly was; he knew his spiritual lineage.
It was a fairly easy decision for me to take, when I was asked by organisers of Pius Adesanmi’s candlelight vigil at Abuja, to allow Senator Bukola Saraki, who had just arrived, speak ahead of me. It was perhaps the quickest and easiest ‘NO!’ I ever said. I then quipped that Pius would never have agreed – for some political genuflecting at such an event. I wish I had had time to tell them more but things moved on swiftly. There is always the risk of such event being hijacked and devalued by ‘men of power’, who stood diametrically against the beliefs of the person being honoured in absentia, and then use such opportunities to, basically, say sweet nothings to gain cheap popularity.
I still got to chip in a few words, despite being constantly heckled by one of the organisers who may have been piqued by my refusal to step down for a moment for the outgoing Senate president. I just didn’t feel any need to revere anyone else at the death of an icon. Or is Pius dead? I don’t think so. And I said as much. Pius chose not to die. This friend of mine chose the path of global fame and immortality. Of the 157 people who went with that unfortunate crash, I could argue that he has been mourned the world over more than anyone else – although everyone is equally very important (even the children). I told the crowd that Pius stood for humanity, and as a thinking man, he understood clearly that his people, Nigerians, should not be where they are today on the scale of development and in the global food chain.
You see, many people read things and just do not get the message. Pius Adebola Adesanmi, in my view, expressed serious indignance at Nigeria’s deliberate, decisive and unpardonable underachievement, even if he wrote with uncommon humor. God forbid that anyone sees Pius as just a humorist, or a great satirist. He was a revolutionary; a Che Guevara with a pen or a laptop. Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1839) said the pen was mightier than a sword. So he was probably ahead of Che. I will return to this, for Pius confirmed that himself.
Adesanmi’s reach was global and contemporary. He rallied young and old behind him. He was perhaps the most compelling fisher of men who graced this patch of earth called Nigeria in recent times. He sought to draw something profound out of his readers. He wanted us to THINK. Unfortunately, we seem not to be wired for that. I am not sad. I only have fleeting moments of profound despair at the probability that Nigeria’s mediocrity saw the back of this great young man – and that he may have been sad that he didn’t achieve his heart’s desires for Nigeria in his lifetime. But the bell tolls for me too. I only still have panic attacks that Pius may have been scared to realise that he had attained such global importance and such pivotal centrality to the emancipation of his people in Nigeria, that fate decided it was all over for him at 47. Even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had a moment of despair as he was tortured and crucified, to the extent he shouted “Eli, Eli, lama sabachatani!?” (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?!).
But something tells me that Pius would have found another uniquely humorous and profoundly reflective moment in the final seconds as the Boeing plane lost control and headed for the earth. At that last moment on this sinful earth, I know that Pius would have found the courage to still be a philosopher, just as he was in the car accident which saw him being the sole survivor just a few months back. He would have composed a poem in his head, even as the ill-fated plane made contact with mother earth. Still, why did the heavens need Pius so badly?
With the influence he wielded, and the impact he had on so many lives, he died a hero, and if he had lived in old Grecian times, or just a few centuries back in this same Nigeria, they would have had nighttime stories about him, as a legend, as a ranking god, to be remembered, revered, worshipped, even carved out in effigies.
Tise, his daughter has only been thrust onto the path of greatness at such a tender age. She can never be a mediocre daughter of a great man. Ditto Mrs Pius Adesanmi can no longer be the quiet wife of a departed warrior. She has a lot of lectures to now give. The world will want to know her insights into a man so great, so affective, so global in impact; a man who was ready to sacrifice more and more for humanity to the extent that he sacrificed his very life. Pius’ mum in Isanlu, I don’t know how she will cope with this. I just don’t. It will be tough to make this rapid transition, but again the path that my brother Pius chose, is the path of greatness, and immortality. And that path chose him, and dragged everyone truly close to Pius along that same narrow trail. With the influence he wielded, and the impact he had on so many lives, he died a hero, and if he had lived in old Grecian times, or just a few centuries back in this same Nigeria, they would have had nighttime stories about him, as a legend, as a ranking god, to be remembered, revered, worshipped, even carved out in effigies. That was the path he chose; a path of international recognition and unforgettability.
At the candlelight vigil, even my mic stopped working. My thoughts were constantly interrupted. I could have taken umbrage but I didn’t. Pius sought me out. He mentioned me in his column even before I took profound notice of his writings. It was his speech at the Afenifere Renewal Group meeting in 2011, which he titled “Ti Oluwa Ni Ile”. He mentioned my name more than twice as he described ‘Omoluabi-hood’. He probably saw something in poor, humble me. It was through Pius I first heard of Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, who would later bring us into direct contact at her 50th birthday anniversary. On that day it felt like I was with a long-lost brother as we chatted away. Pius was always happy. He cracked me up constantly. We couldn’t find enough time that day. Pius promised to stay in touch and he did. He asked that I visit him in Canada but that was not to be.
Did Pius have a premonition of his passing? He had his birthday about two weeks before this incidence. Even after the birthday, he found cause to still celebrate. He took beautiful pictures and shared on Facebook. I recall wondering then why he was doing that, for a fleeting moment. Then on the D-Day, he shared that Bible verse – an unusual action as he couldn’t be described as overly religious. The article that was published in his column in Tribune on that day spoke of his frustrations when he said he wrote and strove to get Nigeria to work, though it seemed everything was futile. He concluded that he hoped in hundreds of years from now archaeologists will discover some of his writings and admit that at least one person thought profoundly of the liberation of Nigeria; that we did not all go to sleep with our brains in one direction. Did he have premonitions?
I am glad to have known such a warrior up close; one of the greatest Generals, not in the Nigerian military service, but in the Nigerian emancipation revolutionary force, with purview for all black people, all minorities, all vulnerable people, and all humanity at large. Pius himself knew who he truly was; he knew his spiritual lineage. I believe he conversed at night with some higher deities who drew him to their ranks. Hear him in the same speech, which he titled ‘Ti Oluwa Ni Ile”:
“I am sure you all know the story of Atunda in Yoruba mythology: the servant of the Orisa Nla who rebelled against slavery and servitude, rolled a boulder over his slave master, and broke him to pieces. The shattered god became multiple gods and deities in a cosmological process of renewal. By opening his eyes and looking within, Atunda answered Bob Marley’s question: are you satisfied with the life you are living? Atunda was not satisfied with the life he was living, he was not satisfied with his situation, hence his foundational rebellion. This explains why Wole Soyinka and Funso Aiyejina have argued that in Atunda the Yoruba gave the world the first revolutionary, the first iconoclast, the first progressive agitator, the first subject in history who resisted and rejected oppression, the first agent of change and rebirth. Aiyejina even considers Atunda the predecessor of Che Guevara, Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey, Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, and Eduardo Mondlane. Atunda snatched order from the jaws of primordial chaos.”
The only way I can console myself is to believe that Pius is still here, watching us. Like the mothers of twins say in Yorubaland, when they have a Taiye and could not save the Kehinde at childbirth, or vice versa, Pius only ‘traveled’. After all, we shall meet someday. All of us. Pius lives on.
File up Pius, as you must have already done, behind and in the middle of these all-time greats. For you rebelled against slavery and servitude, you answered Bob Marley’s question for your people and resisted the dehumanisation on our behalf, even when you were clearly comfortable. Yes, you are a revolutionary, an iconoclast, a progressive agitator, an agent of change and rebirth. Your struggle is about how we can snatch order from the jaws of primordial chaos, especially in Nigeria.
Pius does not need our tears. He does not need mere flowery words. As we are wont, we shall soon forget him if we take that route. His rampant interventions and manner of departure says only one thing; NEVER FORGET ME. First Pius needs a monument all over Nigeria – in as many communities as are ready to accept him. We can come together and fund this. Then we must understand that his manner of departure suggests strongly that this should be a point of turnaround for Nigeria. What are we doing to ensure his ideas for Nigeria come to reality? What are we doing to ensure we carry the torch and that Pius’ country of birth stops being the global example of everything bad – poverty, inequality, filth, chaos, tribal warfare, religious bigotry, hunger, waste, irresponsible governments, intellectual mediocrity? This is the serious question. If we do nothing, then we would have let Pius down, and he will haunt us.
Coming back to earth, Pius’ type of personality is known in human resources as a Resource Investigator. His ability to draw inferences and bring ideas from far and near for his people’s benefit is legendary. Resource Investigators (of which I am one) never get tired of bringing information to their people about how things should work. They see through the process of implementation of ideas. They are often irrepressible. So his writings should never be seen as mere literary work, for in the middle of his prose and poetry, are engineering ideas, economic and financial ideas, sociopsychological pointers and so on. All we have to do is read him with our inner eyes.
The reader will notice that I switched from past to present tense. The only way I can console myself is to believe that Pius is still here, watching us. Like the mothers of twins say in Yorubaland, when they have a Taiye and could not save the Kehinde at childbirth, or vice versa, Pius only ‘traveled’. After all, we shall meet someday. All of us. Pius lives on. The onus is now on us. Like a true royal – in mind and in contribution to humanity – Pius departed. Long live Pius. What a pious soul.