I knew Pius/

The plane crash happened the same day I lost my dear Uncle CY to prostrate cancer. My phone was off all day till 4:00 p.m. when I switched it back on and opened my family Watsapp group page. On scrolling through, I read a sibling's post  about my uncle's death, I was devasted. As I kept scrolling through, I saw a post from a sibling reporting the Ethiopian airlines crash that killed all on board while on its way to Nairobi. My grief doubled as fear crept in; I have friends who are like family across East Africa. As I kept scrolling down, a sibling wrote that a Nigerian Professor in Canada called Pius Adesanmi was killed in the crash. I screamed.

I went online and verified that statement. How could it be? I was alone in a parked car, so I cried. Then I decided instead of typing, to record a Watsapp voice message for my siblings. I opened my mouth to record that message and what came out was, "I knew Pius. I knew Pius, I knew him." Realizing the absurdity in calling my siblings in the midst of our grief and talking first about a man I have never met, not even had as much as a personal telephone conversation with, instead of talking first about Uncle CY, I changed to saying "and I knew Uncle CY, I knew him." Again, realizing the absurdity in telling my siblings that I knew an Uncle who was close to all of us, I ended the message. I had become disoriented, and worried that my siblings might become concerned about my state of mental health at that time. Pius' death was too much to bear.

I have since realized that I am not alone in the deep distress being felt for Professor Adesanmi. He was loved. He had nothing to hide and nothing to prove. He was just Pius.  He was not afraid to live, to show himself, to boldly come out and state what he believed in and how he thought things should be done. He loved people and loved life. He wanted to be known, not for the sake of fame, but for the sake of deeply connecting with fellow human beings.

We were part of the Nigeria Village Square (NVS) Editorial Committee, we wrote for NVS and for Sahara reporters. At some point, we were both in African Studies in North America, and when in 2010 my book only made it to the shortlist of the Penguin Publishers Award for African Writing under the fiction category, Pius' book won the non-fiction category.

Pius was one of those people you thought would always, always be around for a long, long time. He was part of Nigeria and Nigeria was part of him. Nigeria cannot die, can it? So, why Pius? And why now? When he is most needed to keep the voice of truth aflame, and to guide younger ones in the direction of reasonable thinking.

But we will overcome, Pius always believed that we will, and we cannot disappoint him. He left enough of himself behind to show us the way and to hold our hands as we try to navigate our way to a beautiful Nigeria. We shall miss him, but he is in a better and safer place. God be with you, Pius, till we meet again.

Written by Chika Ezeanya-Esiobu PhD


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