"Off to Nairobi" Pius Adesanmi's final journey – A Tribute by Kayode Ogundamisi

“Off to Nairobi in the morning for a week Baba. I hope you have left Nigeria. Sadly, I am not transiting trough London this time” that was Pius’s last message to me on the direct message section of the social media platform twitter, announcing his trip to East Africa shortly before boarding his Canadian leg on a journey of no return.

My good friend flew safely for over 13 hours from Canada to Ethiopia only to make his final destination along with his fellow passengers on a short flight from Ethiopia to Kenya. We lost our Pius Adesanmi and 156 other passengers on the Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes after Ethiopian. We pray for their family, friends and loved ones.

When my friend sent the first set of his message from Canada, I was asleep far asleep in the United Kingdom due to the time difference, that is the routine myself and Pius have adopted over the years. At the insistence of Pius, when I am travelling, I drop a line to him, when he’s travelling, he drops a line.

One evening Pius called, he was angry and he wasn’t going to hide his angst. “Kilo man se iwo ati Sowore, ema lo si Nigeria eni sofun eyan, Olorun maje ka ri ko se dada" This was a reference to myself and Omoyele Sowore just showing up in Nigeria without letting friends and family know. Pius was of the opinion we took unnecessary risks and should at least let him know. I got the message and made it a point of duty to always inform him about my itinerary.

Pius kept to his side of the bargain I get numerous messages from Pius “Baba I am in Accra” “Baba I just landed Johannesburg” “Baba I am in Lagos”. We would then go on to have video calls, (for some reason Pius preferred seeing you face to face to having a conversation) it could be WhatsApp video call, his favourite was the Facebook video messenger. Before penning this, I looked at the series of missed calls from Pius and a lot of video calls, I can’t believe we sometimes spent hours talking about everything but that everything connected to our Country of birth Nigeria.

Pius Adesanmi was my gossip mate, whatever gossip we had about individuals is always connected to Nigeria, he had no time for trivial conversations, Pius would want an explanation about individuals, it is the usual question “Ba wo ni ore wa se wa se beyen?” (Can you explain the behaviour of our friend?) Pisu wants explanations on how individuals behave and his expectations on how Nigeria should be, be it friends in government, our activist friends or his fellow writers, Pius is always at a loss why people misbehave.

I have never seen Pius shaken until he had a road accident in Nigeria in 2018, when he recovered, he almost gave up on Nigeria, not because he could have died but because of the consequences of the lack of emergency services on the weak in Nigeria. He went off social media to recuperate, when we spoke on phone during his recovery period I had a feeling it was over for Pius and Nigeria, I was too scared to ask him so each conversation we spoke about family and life, we ponder about returning home to live permanently in Nigeria, he was pleased I remarried and always make fun about the new opportunity for me to add weight’ “Madam a ti e ma po ata si e lenu, wa leran leti”. (Madam will feed you well so at least you will add some weight).

When Pius joined me on twitter and saw the volume of attacks I get, I assured him he can’t attract the same negative comments I get, he’s the Professor and his language is mainly sweet satire and polite. Shockingly, polite Pius got his first barrage of attacks from the Nigerian twitter space.

Pius was on a WhatsApp call to me, “Baba ibo leti ri awon omo buruku beyen?” (Where did you get all the stubborn people on social media) he could not understand the rude, uncouth culture on the Nigerian twitter space, with time he got used to it. Pius who was King on Facebook gathered a lot of fans on twitter, he was respected by most. Even when he jokingly says to me “your Buhareedeen people don come o” you can just get the sense of wanting the best for everyone.

Pius fights every corner, when the trolls came after Kadaria Ahmed our mutual friend and a popular female Nigerian journalist, Pius was on phone to me in Nigeria, angry and upset, he felt friends were not doing enough to defend Kadaria, he was pretty upset. “Baba if we let this people get away with bullying Kadaria our daughters are not safe” that was Pius for you.

Pius loved Nigeria, he loved Africa.

When I once complained about him exposing his private home to the world, he emphasised how our love for our Country can sometimes stop us from being human, showcasing his good family was a coping mechanism for his numerous absences. Our loved ones bear the pain of our absence, Pius tried to bring his family to the world, tried to make them part of his journey, his sacrifice for our homeland, his family was accessible to his social media friends, if you are on Facebook you have to know Pius’s routine with his young daughter Tife and his wife in Canada, who does not know about his aged mother Mama Adesanmi? Pius loved his family, he cherished his relationships. He showcased them. They have lost a good father, a great husband, a loving Uncle, a pleasant brother and a loyal son. Nigeria and Africa lost a good man. He fought for good governance, justice and equality, he wanted the ideal for Nigeria.

Pius followed up his twitter message to me with a WhatsApp message “On my way to airport. Will call you after check in”

“I am having trouble boarding in Toronto”

Pius how I wish the trouble you had in Toronto made it impossible for you to board that flight. I am still waiting for that phone call. I thank you for your friendship, your laughter, your comradeship. It is a pity we will no longer have that meeting with our other friend. Your love for your Country, your community and humanity speak volume, friends are rallying round and celebrating you, the ruling elites in our country may not have recognised your efforts but the people of Nigeria recognise your love and sacrifice for Nigeria. Thank you, Baba,! Keep that laughter till we meet again.