Late Pius Adesanmi
Visiting Ilorin for the Abiola Irele Seminar at KWASU without my friend Pius Adesanmi was the most difficult aspect of my three-week stay in Nigeria. In Lagos and Abuja, I was fine. In Ilorin I was not, even though, intellectually, it was probably the most rewarding aspect of my visit to Nigeria..

Yes, we honored Pius with a rich symposium that celebrated his life and intellectual legacy. Yes, we poured encomiums on one of the most productive thinkers and writers of our generation.

But not seeing him there in person left a strange, sour feeling. The grief of his passing returned intermittently throughout my stay in Ilorin.

It was Pius that coopted me into the Irele seminar. He was supposed to have assumed the directorship of the seminar this year, but cruel, sudden death had another plans.

I missed our after-seminar conversations on our way from the seminar venue to the lobby of Kwara Hotel. I missed our evening drinks in the bar/restaurant.

I missed his Ilorin expertise. As an Ilorin brought-up, he knew everything about the town. I consulted him on everything from directions to where one could find certain items to buy. This time, without Pius's expert guidance, I groped for direction.

I missed pounded yam dinner at his aunt's home in Ilorin.

I missed Pius's boisterous company, and his Ilorin network, to which he introduced me.

I missed the elevator rides together as we made our way to our rooms. I missed the goodnights as we retired to bed. I missed the good mornings as we met in the lobby to eat breakfast and/or get in the car to head to KWASU.

It was a lonely, miserable visit to Ilorin, exacerbated by the fact that Professor Adeleke Adeeko, the founding director of the seminar, was only able to attend the first two days of the seminar before he had to travel back to the US for a pre-arranged professional engagement. He had come to Ilorin despite this US obligation only to honor our departed friend by chairing the symposium in his honor.

The loneliness was mitigated only by the fact that Pius's intellectual shadow hung over our discussions and proceedings--and by the rewarding intellectual fireworks of the seminar.

Even when I gave a public lecture on short notice at Crown-hill University in Ilorin on the invitation of Orji Ifeanyi Orji and the Vice Chancellor, I could not stop thinking about Pius because he would have enlivened the atmosphere with his presence and participation in the Q and A session. And of course, he would have tagged along for the experience.

When I hung out with Abdulmumin Yinka Ajia at Kwara Hotel, I remembered how we used to hang out with visitors coming in to talk to Pius and me. And indeed, as if he knew, Yinka remarked on how it must be strange to be in that space without Pius. And it was.

I love Ilorin. It moves at my pace. It is a simple town with so much to offer. But mentally, I can never stop associating the town with Pius and his and our adventures there. I will be back to Ilorin, but hopefully I will have recovered enough to enjoy it on its own terms.

Moses Ochonu

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