Asking Olu Obafemi, the Professor of English at University of Ilorin to speak about Pius Adesanmi, a much younger professor who was among those their stars dimmed in the Ethiopian airline crash, was like pricking a sore thumb with needle. At a point during our conversation in his office at the Faculty of Arts, he bent his head, on the table. He was not tired, physically, but he was tired, inside, he told this newspaper, dabbing his eyes. BIODUN OYELEYE recorded his encounter with Obafemi, who taught Adesanmi as an undegraduate
Adesanmi was related to Obafemi in three critical ways:The deceased was his student at UNILORIN. But he was also from Okunland like the renowned wordsmith. And lastly just recently, Obafemi said with a sigh, they discovered over lunch that Adesanmi’s father was a principal in the secondary school Obafemi’s wife attended. Such is life.
“It is very difficult to talk about him”, Obafemi said with a sigh. “We were from the same Okunland and just recently we had lunch together with Femi Osofisan and others and it was over lunch that my wife discovered his father was her principal when she was in secondary school. ” Asked about the deceased while under him as a student, Obafemi gave what has become a global judgment on the cerebral capabilities of the late Pius. “It was obvious, if you can describe a student as a genius, he was one. He stood out distinctively. He read French but took courses in English Department. Indeed we still spoke about some of the Drama courses he took under me the last time we met. I never knew it was going to be the last meeting for us.
“He was someone with a gaze into the future. He was brilliant. He was confident and he was determined to pursue knowledge to its conclusive end. As his teachers then we had no doubt that he would go places”. Maybe that is why the shock of his demise has remained a difficult pill to swallow for the likes of Obafemi. In a twist of fate, it was a phone call from a newspaper editor who actually wanted to confirm that Adesanmi was on board the I’ll fated airline, that brought the sad news home to him. “He called me and the first thing he said was to commiserate with me and I was wondering what happened.
Then he struck with the news. He said he just wanted to confirm but by then I had not even heard.” But even as trustworthy as his journalist friend is, Obafemi said the story still refuses to sink as a reality. “It was very shocking and devastating. I was ready to disbelieve it, hoping that a confirmation would not come. I wanted to believe that it was a fake news; that it won’t come to pass. But of course once you hear of plane crash you barely hear of survivors.” “Very shattering”, he kept saying. “It is just not possible to think of him in the past. He has such an animating presenceness; very infectious.” To Obafemi, the deceased was not just a theorist but an intellectual activist who spoke truth to power, using his theory as a tool and his conviction as the driving platform. As such, he never shied away from speaking truth to power.
“Because of the breath of his experience he expected Nigeria to come up faster and higher than where she is today and he contributed his quota to that drive even though the dream is still far off. “I refer to him as a young global citizen and intellectual who was apart from being an intellectual ambassador of our country in the Diaspora also constantly kept in tune with his roots. He was always coming back to give to his roots.”A valuable tree does not last in the forest. Obafemi said from all indications, from retrospection, Adesanmi must have understood he would not last long bearing the soil to cover his living soul.
“It was like he had a premonition he won’t last long because the rapidity with which he pursued and reached his academic climax in retrospect could have been because he understood he had a short time with mortals here. It all gave the impression of someone who understood he won’t live long.” Adesanmi didn’t live long, according to the calendar of mortal men. And it was so sad that older men are left behind to speak about his spirit. “Hearing such news about your own student makes you feel empty”, Obafemi said and explained one of the reasons for the emptiness: “we were expecting people like him to succeed us”.
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