On February 18th, 2019 at about 6pm in Ottawa, I had a loaded conversation with Pius. Half in Yoruba and half in English, he said, “Bayo, mi o ro wipe mo ma make up to 50 years. As if to buttress his point and mock me with the premonition of his death, Pius repeated this to me in English language. “Bayo, the way I am feeling nowadays I might not make it up to the age of 50. My son was within hearing distance. I reverted back to the Yoruba language. I questioned Pius, asking him why he will nurse such silly thoughts.
Thereafter, I dismissed what appeared to be just a passing morbid moment as we changed the subject to the usual concerns about Africa, its potentials and its many unfulfilled promises. We also discussed our appreciation for and devotion to Canada, the country we both dearly love. We often wished many developing countries could emulate Canada’s love and respect for human capital development.
Looking back now, I think that Pius might have had a premonition of what was coming in the next few weeks. As I later found out and as reported in the editorial in the Washington Post, Pius had playfully penned his own epitaph in 2013. He wrote: “Here lies Pius Adesanmi, who tried as much as he could to put his talent in the service of humanity and flew away home one bright morning when his work was over.”
My friend, Pius Adebola Adesanmi was a like a meteor let loose from a comet and landed in Yagba land in Kogi state, Nigeria. Without doubt he used his 47 years sojourn on earth to create the effect of a star, lived a life full of his message, and left in a hurry before we could make sense of it all.
Our paths first crossed over two decades ago at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. We continued our friendship in Canada and lived together as students at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. So, you might understand, I would struggle to present our shared memories in less than 5 minutes. However, we can all agree that Pius was a good man. I know he had mentored and touched many lives. For me, I will confidently say that he was instrumental to my modest success. Where do I start or end if I had to tell my story about how Pius positively impacted my life?
I would assume you all know that Pius detested bad governance. So, you will not be surprised if I confess to you that after we completed our respective studies at UBC, Pius encouraged me to seek for an internship position at the International Criminal Court, ICC, in the Hague.
He wanted me to work where people who perpetrated bad governance are held accountable for their actions. He said to me and I quote: “Bayo, you know, ICC is not only a good place for you to start your career, it will also be comforting for me to have a friend working with a Court where individuals that drove me out of my continent could be held accountable for crimes against humanity.” That was how I went to the Hague – by the way, not as a person indicted by the ICC, but as an Intern. And Pius went to teach at Pen State University in the USA.
By the time he moved to Carleton University, this angel called Pius that God assigned beside me guided me when I applied into the Canadian public service and soon, we were both back in Ottawa. He had a good heart. He was a good husband to his wife, Muyiwa and a good Dad to his lovely daughters, Oluwadamilare and OluwaTise. Many of you might not know, he was also a good cook. I am not suggesting that he was a better cook than his wife, and certainly not mine, but he was better than me. Since he was good at it, I left any cooking chores to him through the time we lived together as students at UBC.
Time will not permit me to go into more detail about many of his good deeds. As a messenger for humanity in the public space, he has left his footprints everywhere for posterity.
According to Gary Keller: Life is a question and how we live it is our answer. Pius lived a life that answers many questions. His life was his message. His pen was his weapon. It appears that he even used his pen to mock death by posting verses from Psalm 139 on his Facebook page a few minutes before the plane crash that took his life. It also seems that as a Pan-Africanist, he chose to embrace His maker on the African continent, specifically in Ethiopia, an African country that was never colonised since Italy’s occupation there never led to an enduring colonial government. Pius embraced Africa in complete pure form. Naija no dey carry last!
Muyiwa, Damilare and Tise, may God uphold you. Mama Adesanmi, eku oro omo. Oluwa aduro tiyin. To Pius’ siblings, extended family and his other friends and colleagues, Ojo ajina si ara won o. Pius has done his best for mankind and had left us behind to continue his good work.
As we celebrate his life, we should not forget that the only fitting tribute to his memory is to do our best for humanity. Je continue de croire que le seul hommage qui mérite d’être rendu en la mémoire de Pius serait de donner le meilleur de nous pour l’humanité. And to Payu – as I fondly called you, my friend and my brother – if you can hear this: Goodnight this morning!
Emmanuel Bayo Aregbesola