I was contemplating on what to write this week when the news of the crash of an Ethiopian Airline flight popped in. As is usual with such tragic news, shock was the immediate reaction as such breaking news come with very sketchy details. Such news are scary developments that often remind of man’s helplessness with certain issues. Soon after that initial shock and as typical with such horror stories, one tried to know the direction of the ill-fated flights as a way of knowing if the possibilities exist for those one knows closely to be among the casualties. The flight was said to be headed from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. It was reported that all 149 passengers and eight crew on board the plane were feared dead: the most chilling part of such reports. One mutters a silent prayer, submits to helplessness and the feeling that such East African regional flight harbor less possibility of huge Nigerian casualties. But this is a world that is shrinking to a global village so the likelihood that Nigerians would be among the casualties was not entirely ruled out but then, there was nothing to suggest that there would be huge Nigerian casualties in the doomed flight.
Curious to know about the crashed flight, I foraged international news media for details about the flight and they did not disappoint. The crashed airline was a Boeing 737 Max airline that was on a normal schedule to Nairobi from the hub of the highly successful Ethiopian Airline in Addis Ababa. But what was very frightful was that the plane was not one of these rickety or refurbished airbuses that litter the African skyline. It was a brand new plane delivered just four months ago and is one of the latest brands of Boeing planes that had charted an impregnable record in passenger aircrafts in the world. The brand is noted for its high fuel efficiency and is complete with modern comfort appurtenances that mitigate the discomfort of air travel.
But then, wait for it! The crashed plane was the same brand with the Indonesian Lion Air fatal crash that crashed into the sea just last October with even heaver casualty figures. One ponders. A modern brand new passenger airplane recording two fatal crashes in a space of five months? There must be a serious problem somewhere and of course, many feel that the problem must be traced to the manufacturers of the brand, which is reportedly selling like wildfire all over the world. It was further reported that the pilot of the ill-fated flight reported some mechanical problems shortly after takeoff and was cleared to turn back and return to the airport. It never did. Perhaps, it was trying to negotiate such return when all went up in one huge cascade of rubbles some 30 kilometers from the airport! In the weeks and months to come, Accident Investigation Bureau and Boeing experts would be sweating to find out what the problem is but in the meantime, there would be an expected grounding of the Boeing Max airplanes all over the world until its safety issues are resolved. In fact, China has led the way by ordering airlines in the country to ground the brand till investigations are concluded on the two crash cases.
Having gotten these pieces of information about the crashed Ethiopian Airways passenger jet, I reluctantly moved on. What can man do in such circumstances? I was foraging on the social media in the early evening of that Sunday when I came across obituary posts for our own Prof. Pius Adesanmi, erudite scholar, forensic analyst, compulsive writer, activist and pundit. Disbelief was my initial reaction. Who could be making such expensive joke? As is usual with such posts, no details were attached but I set out searching for clues of what would have led to the death of such rising star. Ethiopian airline crash never occurred to me. Many things flashed through my mind. What could have been the cause of such untimely death? Accident? I remembered when he wrote about surviving a ghastly car accident in Nigeria last year. Again, I thought, but he lives in Canada? As if accidents don’t occur in Canada. Could it be that he was ill? But we got no prior report of ailment about him. What really could have happened? My mind was restless. I decided to check on Sahara reporters where he brandished his scholarly thoughts through incisive writings for a very long time and there it was; he was among the casualties of the ill-fated flight. Gosh!!
I knew Adesanmi through his writings and in his works, one can see a mind that is headed to stardom. He was a compelling writer; one you don’t read lying down. He espoused raw patriotism and has that flowery command of prose that is laced with benign arrogance. On yes, when you are a good writer, there is this imputation of arrogance from those whose genius gets rebuked by your effortless delivery. When you write on national issues and contemporary events, when you criticize traditional behemoths as Pius did, you are bound to attract many foes who simply begrudge your intellect even you neither know them nor will you ever get to know them. Oh yes, it was normal for many to feel he was self-opinionated just because he ventilated his thoughts and ideas on issues that concern our everyday life in Nigeria and Africa. He did so in elegant style; rich in panache and colorful in deliverance. In discussing national issues, Pius was brilliant, apt and pointed. He cared no hoot who gets hurt by his blunt excursion of issues that gnaw at the soul of Nigeria. In fact, he poached seamlessly at our soft underbelly that tolerates very many vices in our life as individuals and as a nation. He maintained an untainted intrepid and impeachable fidelity with the Nigerian masses in running his critics of statecraft in Nigeria. He was a rebel to the establishment and this persuasion is hinged on his crusade for the general good. He was class-blind and appeared as a revolutionary to the stratification that throws a wedge between us as same creations. He left no one in doubt where he stands on national issues and often delivers in a language that neither hurts nor annoys.
Now, how could such a bright star who had scored feats in academic exploits be cut down at his prime? That is the mystery of life. In my mind’s eye, I tried to draw a picturesque analysis on how he set out from his Canadian base that weekend to Africa; on a journey of no return. Though I am not clear about his mission in Nairobi but I have a feeling he was attending a seminar by a world body in the Kenyan capital and it was reported that intending attendees at the seminar formed a major hub of the casualties of the ill-fated plane. I am just guessing of his mission in Africa where he met his death. But whatever was his mission, I don’t think there was a foreboding that he was embarking on his last journey or that he would die the way he died and this further deepens the mystery of life which Shakespeare saw in his epic classic Julius Caesar as ‘a poor player that struts and frets its hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury; signifying nothing’ no definition of life trumps this one which captures its emptiness and tentativeness.
It was not as if he boarded a rickety flight. In fact, it is probable that like the other 156 casualties of the flight, he must have felt very secure in the bowels of a brand new Boeing aircraft that was being toasted all over the world. It was possible that he, like the other casualties, never recalled that it was such brand that crashed into the sea in Indonesia some five months back. What more, there were reports that the same ill-fated flight returned from Johannesburg that same morning and there was no cause from anywhere that it would end in a heap of debris just six minutes after taking off in Addis Ababa. The mystery deepens!
Again, Ethiopian Airlines has struck an impregnable record as Africa’s most successful airline and competes favorably with other global airlines. It drives an African air hub and now rivals many global established leading brands. So in deciding to board that flight to Nairobi, Pius didn’t contemplate a lower standard. In fact, he made the best of flight choices. Why that plane should meet that doomed fate is what AIB will unravel in the months and years to come but it speaks of the limited capacity of man against certain certitudes of life.
Pius is gone and with him a burning intellectual light that had been abruptly extinguished just at the starting point. He died with his dreams and concerns for the good of Nigeria. Sure, he lived an accomplished and exciting life but then he had so much to still give and these sadly died with him. We can only writ in pain and agony at the passing of such emerging intellectual giant, such compelling writer, such fervent nationalist but we can do absolutely nothing to reverse his regrettable exit so we tearfully wish him God’s speed as he journeys on and hold on to his earthily works as a memorial of a rising sun that set at noon. God rest your noble soul, Pius Adesanmi.
Peter Claver Oparah
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