The Tony Elumelu Foundation to Announce Selected Entrepreneurs for 2019 Programme on March 22, 2019


 Over 1,000 African entrepreneurs from African 54 countries to participate in the 2019 Cohort

·        Event to be live-streamed on TEFConnect – Africa’s digital entrepreneurship hubLThe Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), the leading African philanthropy committed to empowering African entrepreneurs, will announce the selected applicants for the 2019 cohort of the Foundation’s flagship Entrepreneurship Programme on March 22, 2019. The event, which marks the 5th round of the Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Programme, will take place at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.

Every year, the Tony Elumelu Foundation opens its application portal to African entrepreneurs, with businesses of less than three years old. Through its $100million Entrepreneurship Programme, the Foundation empowers 1,000 entrepreneurs annually, who receive $5,000 in non-refundable seed capital, access to mentors, a 12-week training programme and opportunities to promote their businesses to a global audience. All applicants receive access to TEFConnect, Africa’s digital entrepreneurial hub, which provides access to networks, training, further capital sources and business opportunities.

As a means of cascading its proven entrepreneurial tool kit to the huge numbers of applicants, the Foundation launched in 2018, TEFConnect, the digital networking platform for African entrepreneurs. The platform, which has currently over 400,000 users, providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to network, receive training and forge business partnerships to scale their businesses beyond physical borders.

In the five years since the Foundation launched its Entrepreneurship Programme, it has empowered 4,000 African entrepreneurs directly and an additional 470 entrepreneurs supported by the Foundation’s partners. The Foundation recently appointed Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu as CEO effective from April 1. Mrs. Ugochukwu succeeds Parminder Vir, OBE, who will continue to lend her experience and expertise as a member of the Foundation’s Advisory Board.

The incoming CEO, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, emphasised the importance of partnership in reaching additional entrepreneurs beyond the Foundation’s annual commitment of 1,000 entrepreneurs.

“Each year we see a significant uplift in applicants. Our execution partner, Accenture Development Partnerships, are currently reviewing and finalising the applications. Over 215,000 African entrepreneurs applied from across 54 African countries, up from 151,000 applications last year, with an increase in female representation from 62,000 in 2018 to 90,000 in 2019. These rising figures demonstrate the burning desire of the African entrepreneur to develop our continent, and we must urgently convert this passion into viable businesses to develop our continent.

Our Programme has developed a robust mechanism for directing capital effectively and efficiently, to those who can deploy it in local communities with the greatest impact. We are looking forward to working with partners to collaborate with us, to scale the platform and process we have created. Empowering African entrepreneurs must be a shared responsibility to create economic prosperity for all”, she said.

Speaking on the Entrepreneurship Programme, Osato Noah, West Africa Lead, Accenture Development Partnerships, said:

“We have worked with the Tony Elumelu Foundation since the inception of the Entrepreneurship Programme. In 2015, the first round of the Programme saw us review 20,000 applications for the Foundation and this year we reviewed over 215,000 applications. The sheer diversity and speed at which applications have scaled in the last four years have been incredible. We commend the Tony Elumelu Foundation for their commitment to the transparency of the programme, and Accenture is proud to partner in the delivery of this Pan-African project.”

The Selection Announcement will also feature a Nigerian TEF Alumni Meet up, as well as an interactive dialogue with TEF Founder, Tony O. Elumelu, CON.

Abiodun​ CokerTeam Member, External RelationsUnited Bank for Africa PlcUBA House, 57 Marina, Lagos Island, Lagos, NigeriaMobile: 08034542301E‑mail: Abiodun.Coker@ubagroup.comWebsite: www.ubagroup.comFacebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Google+ | YouTube | UBA Blog…Africa’s Global Bank
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Shareholders Laud Transcorp Hotels Plc For Impressive Performance, Approve 15k per share as Dividend

The Shareholders of Africa’s leading hospitality brand, Transcorp Hotels Plc, have extolled the Company for its impressive financial results for the year ended December 31, 2018. The congratulatory remarks were made at the Company’s 5th Annual General Meeting, which took place at the Congress Hall of the iconic Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.

Following the company’s 26% increase in turnover, the Shareholders have unanimously endorsed a final dividend of ₦1.14bn for the 2018 financial year.  The final dividend translated to 15kobo per ordinary share, which is a 20% improvement over the 12kobo per ordinary share for 2017.

Speaking on the Company’s growth milestones, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Mr. Emmanuel N. Nnorom said “Transcorp Hotels Plc has exceeded the bar with an impressive turnover of ₦17.4billion from ₦13.8billion recorded in 2017, representing an improvement of 26%. This is an unprecedented achievement in the history of the Company. It is a further demonstration of our ability to adapt quickly to a changing business environment while keeping pace with global best standards in hospitality.”  The Chairman also thanked the Shareholders for their continued support and faith in the Board and Management of the Company.

Commending the company for its overall performance, Patrick Ajudua, President, New Dimension Shareholders Association said that Transcorp Hotels Plc is an embodiment of what privatisation in Nigeria should be. He further stated that good Corporate Governance and the presence of a focused Management team who are concerned with giving returns to shareholders are some underlying factors behind the company’s continued success.

The Managing Director/CEO, Mrs. Owen Omogiafo reiterated the company’s commitment to quality and global standard customer experience, drawing on the varied international awards conferred on the Company. She said “We are redefining the hospitality landscape in Africa and positioning our continent as a preferred destination for local and international tourists. Our numerous awards and recognition are proof of this.”

On the prospects for 2019, Mrs. Omogiafo noted that “Transcorp Hotels will continue to leverage on its unique value proposition and proven strategies to exceed 2018 performance.”  She further said that growth and efficiency underpinned by a strong culture of service excellence and cost optimization will drive the company.

125th Anniversary: FirstBank Holds Relay Walk, Pledges Commitment To Teamwork


L-R: Group Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications, FirstBank, Folake Ani-Mumuney; Managing Director, FBNQuest Merchant Bank, Kayode Akinkugbe; Chief Executive Officer, FirstBank, Adesola Adeduntan; Group Executive, Commercial Banking Group, FirstBank, Seyi Oyefeso; Chairman, FirstBank, Ibukun Awosika and Group Managing Director, FBNHoldings, UK Eke, following the FirstBank 125km Relay Walk, held to commemorate the 125 anniversary of FirstBank


L-R: Group Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications, FirstBank, Folake Ani-Mumuney; Managing Director, FBNQuest Merchant Bank, Kayode Akinkugbe; Chief Executive Officer, FirstBank, Adesola Adeduntan; Group Executive, Commercial Banking Group, FirstBank, Seyi Oyefeso; Chairman, FirstBank, Ibukun Awosika and Group Managing Director, FBNHoldings, UK Eke, following the FirstBank 125km Relay Walk, held to commemorate the 125 anniversary of FirstBank


5 YEARS ANNIVERSARY: FIRSTBANK HOLDS RELAY WALK, PLEDGES COMMITMENT TO TEAMWORK, SERVICE DELIVERY, VALUE CREATION

By Eric Elezuo

Nigeria’s premier Bank, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, has reiterated its commitment to continue to provide quality services to its over 15 million customers, create value and exhibit wholesome teamwork and coordination among its staff.

The remark was the collective stand point of the Bank’s principal officers as it held a 125 kilometres Relay Walk to celebrate the bank’s 125 years of uninterrupted existence as a heavyweight in the financial industry and general corporate world.

The walk which took place simultaneously at major FirstBank stations across Nigeria, was described as a significant activity to prove that achievements involve everyone committing his own quota for the common good of the whole organization.

Speaking at the Mobolaji Bank Anthony, Ikeja branch of the bank, which hosted one of the walks, FirstBank’s Executive Director, Corporate Banking, Dr. Remi Oni, stated ‘that it takes collaboration, working together, teamwork, empowering ourselves to be able to achieve what we have’.

He pointed out that everyone else’s tiny bit of cooperation contributes to what the Bank has achieved.

He also said that the exchange of baton is “significant in the sense that it suggests that the present group has done their part and has passed on to the next generation that will continue the milestone achievements the bank is known for.”

The walk moved to the headquarters at Marina where the leadership and customers of the bank assembled.

In his speech, the Bank’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, said the bank remains committed to value creation and effective service delivery to all stakeholders in the years ahead.

He said the bank would continue to provide standard services and products to its customers and stakeholders for value creation to maintain its market share.

“What we intend to deliver to them will go up in terms of quality and in terms of value,” he said.

Adeduntan reiterated Dr. Oni’s stand that the Relay Walk was very significant because it shows greatness and synergy.

He explained that the 125km was a representation of the collaborative effort of not just FirstBank but all its entities in the last 125 years.

“The 125km is a mark of our incredible journey of delivering impeccable financial services to our customers as we leave no stone unturned to remain an icon of admiration in today’s financial services industry in Africa.

“The Relay Walk is very significant and symbolic.

“It’s symbolic because it’s a collaborative efforts, not just FirstBank’s but other operating entities within the FBNHoldings family.

“We came together to organise a relay and the significance is when you think of a relay, when you think of 125, if you want to run a relay of 125 on your own as an individual you can get tired but when you collaborate, together you can achieve it.”

Adeduntan said the walk signified power synergy, noting that the leadership of the institution had moved from individual to individual, generation to generation in the last 125 years.

“What we are doing is to pass on the baton of this relay to the next generation of our staff,” he said.

In his remarks, the Group Managing Director, FBN Holdings Plc, UK Eke, said the Bank has been able to create a network of partners in the last 125 years.

“What we have been able to achieve today by the Relay Walk is to create a network of partners.

“No other institution in Nigeria has achieved this and we belong to a unique club globally of those that have clocked 125 years and more and we are proud of this day.”

Eke said the passing of baton shows that the bank has come to stay with successive leadership team, team spirit, innovation and self-development.

The Bank’s Chairman, Mrs Ibukun Awosika, on her part, said the bank would continue to be the number one in the industry with long enduring legacy of value creation.

“If you had the kind of legacy we have had, we are 125 years, you can only look forward to the future.

“When you remember that the only way you can have the opportunity to celebrate 125 years today is because at different times, different generations from the least to the highest worker have added value and created value.”

Also speaking, the Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Communication, Mrs. Folake Ani-Mumuney, said the bank would remain committed to helping customers build and grow their businesses as it has been committed to creating value for 125 years and counting.

She said: “We will continue to partner with our regulators to make sure there is a strong robust financial services system in Nigeria.“

The anniversary celebration continues with more activities including a Jumat service on Friday, March 22, Church Thanksgiving service on Sunday, March 24 while a lecture will take place on Tuesday, March 26 with a prolific guest speaker, followed by a gala night.

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Akpabio At Election Tribunal, Seeks Order To Reclaim Mandate

Following the withdrawal of his case filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, which sought to challenge his Senate re-election loss, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the  Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District in the February 23rd Senatorial election, Godswill Akpabio, and his party, have approached the Election Tribunal, sitting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, to kick-start the legal processes, that would lead to the validation of his victory at the poll.

Akpabio is seeking to upturn the victory of Mr Christopher Ekpenyong and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), based on perceived electoral irregularities which characterised the said election. 

The former Senate Minority Leader, had while the election was ongoing, besieged the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), alleging cases of infractions and deliberate violations of the electoral law and guidelines during the senatorial election.

In the said election, INEC had in collaboration with some PDP chieftains in the senatorial district, wrongfully declared Mr. Ekpeyong and his party, the PDP, winner of the poll, having scored 118,215 as against Akpabio’s 83,158. 

However, incontrovertible result sheets from Akwa Ibom INEC office showed different figures that had Akpabio securing 138,256 votes as against Ekpeyong’s 123,843.

Dissatisfied with the conduct and outcome of the election, the former governor of Akwa Ibom and his party vowed to approach the election petition tribunal to ventilate their grievances as well as reclaim their  stolen mandate.

UBA Earnings Hits N494bn, Records Significant Asset Growth, Driven by Market Share Gains Across Africa

Records Profit of  N106.8 billion 

The Pan-African financial institution, United Bank for Africa Plc has announced its Audited 2018 Financial Results with impressive growths achieved across major financial lines.

According to the 2018 financials filed at the Nigerian Stock Exchange on Tuesday, the Africa’s global bank’s gross earnings grew by 7.0 percent to N494.0 billion, compared to N461.6 billion recorded in the corresponding period of 2017. The Bank’s total assets also grew significantly by 19.7 percent to an unprecedented N4.9 trillion for the year under review. 

These results, according to financial analysts largely demonstrates the benefits of the Group’s Pan-African footprints with continued growth in market share in key countries of operation across Africa. The contributions of ex-Nigeria subsidiaries at 40 percent, again confirms the strong footing of the Group’s franchise in Africa.

Despite the challenging business environments in Nigeria and across key markets in Africa, the Bank’s Profit Before Tax was quite impressive at N106.8 billion, a 2.4 percent growth, compared to N104.2 billion in 2017 financial year. In same vein, the Profit After Tax rose by 1.4 percent to N78.6 billion, compared to N77.5 billion recorded in 2017. Due to lower foreign exchange trading income, Operating Expenses grew by 4.1 percent to N197.3 billion, compared to N189.7 billion in 2017

Reflecting the modest appetite of the Bank in the year under review as well as impact of IFRS 9 implementation, net loans recorded a prudent 3.9 percent growth to N1.72 trillion while Customer Deposits increased by a remarkable 22.5 percent to N3.3 trillion, compared to N2.7 trillion recorded in the corresponding period of 2017, reflecting increased customer confidence and enhanced service channels.  Furthermore, Shareholders’ Funds decreased marginally by 4.8 percent to N502.6 billion, reflecting the impact of International Financial Reporting Standards 9 (IFRS 9) implementation.

Commenting on the result, the Group Managing Director/CEO, Kennedy Uzoka noted that the year 2018 was important for the Group, as it gained further market share in many countries of operation. More so, the CEO was excited at strategic achievements made in the year, including the start of wholesale banking operations in London, as it seeks to leverage the Group’s unique network across Africa. UBA also opened its 20th African operation. 

“Defying the relatively weak economic growth in Africa, earnings were positive and we grew our balance sheet by 20 percent, driven by the 23 percent growth in our deposit funding. In a period of economic uncertainty, we have focused on retail deposit mobilization, with exciting results. We recorded a 48 percent year-on-year growth in retail deposits and improved our CASA ratio to 77 percent, optimizing our funding mix, which will enhance our net interest margin (NIM), over the medium term,” Uzoka said.

Uzoka remained confident that the Bank’s performance would be even stronger in the years ahead and shareholders would enjoy even greater dividends, as the Group is well positioned to take advantage of imminent fiscal reforms across many economies in Africa, a positive outlook which should stimulate new opportunities in infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture and resource sectors.

He continued: “Our operations in the United Kingdom now offer end-to-end trade, treasury, structured finance, wholesale deposit taking and ancillary services. With this development, we are better positioned to fulfill our aspiration of deepening trade and capital flows between Europe and Africa. We are also pleased with the market acceptance of our new operation in Mali”.

“Having said this, I am excited by the profitability of our ex-Nigeria subsidiaries, which now contributes an impressive 40 percent earnings to the Group. At the moment, our Nigerian business is benefiting from our product and operational focus, gaining market share – most importantly, the increasing penetration of our retail offerings is reassuring, as this fundamental progress aligns with our strategy of focusing on sustainable growth”. 

“With great optimism, we look forward to a more rewarding 2019 for our shareholders, as we further sweat our resources and optimize productivity towards delivering superior returns,” he concluded.

Also speaking on the performance, the Group CFO, Ugo Nwaghodoh said that the improving mix of the Bank’s funding base and asset pricing, reinforce a positive outlook on Net Interest Margin(NIM) and broader balance sheet efficiency. 

“Whilst considerable investment in people, digital transformation and channel enhancement masked cost efficiency gains within the year, with cost-to-income ratio at 64 percent, we are convinced that our diligent execution of new initiatives will ensure the reduction of Cost to Income Ratio(CIR) towards our medium-term target. Our balance sheet is being positioned to take full advantage of market swings and our strong 25 percent capital adequacy ratio provides headroom for growth, even under a BASEL III scenario. As it stands, UBA has started the year on a good note and should sustain the momentum, as we work towards improving our Return on Average Equity (RoAE),” Nwaghodoh said.

United Bank for Africa Plc is a leading pan-African financial services group, operating in 20 African countries, as well as the United Kingdom, the United States of America and with presence in France.

UBA was incorporated in Nigeria as a limited liability company after taking over the assets of the British and French Bank Limited who had been operating in Nigeria since 1949. The United Bank for Africa merged with Standard Trust Bank in 2005 and from a single country operation founded in 1949 in Nigeria – Africa’s largest economy – UBA has become one of the leading providers of banking and other financial services on the African continent. The Bank which was awarded the Best Digital Bank in Africa by the Euromoney awards in 2018, provides services to over 17 million customers globally, through one of the most diverse service channels in sub-Saharan Africa, with over 1,000 branches and customer touch points and robust online and mobile banking platforms.

The shares of UBA are publicly traded on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the Bank has a well-diversified shareholder base, which includes foreign and local institutional investors, as well as individual shareholders.

Pius Adesanmi’s appraisal of The Fate of The Public Intellectual, By Tunde Fagbenle

Back in 2012, SLS, now the Emir of Kano, consented that I should help publish, in book form, a compendium of critical essays (irreverent outpourings) written by him, over a number of past years. It turned out to be a voluminous product running into about 600 printed pages aptly titled “For The Good Of The Nation – Essays & Perspectives of SLS”.

I turned to Pius in May 2012 to help peruse the volume & write the INTRODUCTION to the book. He immediately accepted and when I thanked him for the honour he’s done me by accepting, he responded in typical multi-lingual Piusspeak: “Ah, Egbon mi, The iyi is your handiwork o. One is eternally grateful for the role model you have been for my generation in a society that has lost even the most basic sense of that concept.”

And true to his word, on 17th June, 2012, Pius sent in the “Final version” of the Intro, an amazing intellectual philosophical treatise on its own, spanning 20 pages! At the tail end, Pius summed up his consideration of the Man SLS and the place of the “public intellectual” in society. The summation, I believe, is a classic appraisal of Pius himself, what he sees as his life’s mission! Here:

“If you look at it closely, nobody really chooses to be a public intellectual. There are much easier things, more materially rewarding things to do. Public intellection is a corvée that chooses you regardless of your will. Its gaze, like the gaze of the Medusa, renders the chosen powerless before its will. Once it beckons, you must say yes, knowing that you thereby embark on a journey that would grant you more than your fair dosage of attacks and recriminations from the same people on behalf of whom you were elected by fate to act as Delegated Intellect.”

The book, for various reasons, remains yet unpublished but for a bound copy or two with SLS and me. However, for posterity and for those in the business of collecting Prof. Pius Adesanmi’s intellectual works in any form, I shall oblige to forward the original email of Pius to me together with its Word Document attachment. Requests should be sent to: fagbenletunde@gmail.com.

Thanks as Pius lives forever!

Why Glaucoma Is More Prevalent In Black Race

The Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA) says glaucoma is more prevalent in the black race, an official told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Abuja.

Dr Justice Nzerem, Secretary of the Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA), World Glaucoma Week Committee, disclosed this on the sideline of a symposium on World Glaucoma Week (WGW) organised by the association.

Nzerem, who specifically identified Nigeria as having high burden of the disease, attributed this to lack of access to eye care, race as well as poor health seeking behaviour of the populace.

He said that if large number of Nigerians could have access to eye care such disease burden would be detected early and treated.

He faulted the estimated number of Nigerians presently affected with the disease, adding that based on the free glaucoma screening conducted by some members of the association the burden was higher than expected.

”In random sampling the prevalence is high because I had an instance where I screened five persons I saw as high as three cases and another instance where I screened five I had one among them.

“This shows that in a random sampling the prevalence is high and the most important thing is that most of these persons are unaware.

“Glaucoma is more prevalent in black people and Nigeria is the largest black nation in Africa which explains the high prevalence of glaucoma among other risk factors.

“It is actually more of epidemic at the moment. We should pay more attention to the disease and the bane of treatment is early detection. Once its detected early in a patient, there is a whole lot to do to preserve the person’s vision.

“But in situation whereby large junk of the vision is lost, nothing can be done to regain the lost vision, the only thing that can be done is to preserve the little one left,” Nzerem said.

He urged the government to intensify efforts to ensure the reduction of the disease burden and its associated irreversible blindness.

He urged the government to incorporate eye care in the Primary Health care system to ensure prompt access to eye care by the populace as well as ensure early detection of glaucoma.

According to him, early detection is key to preserve the vision of glaucoma patients.

He urged the public to go for eye examination at least once a year.

”If you are diagnosed of any eye condition, follow your doctor’s advice and if he says you should come once, twice, every three or six months follow it religiously to preserve your vision.”

Dr Ozy Okonokhua, President of the Association noted that WGW was an opportunity provided by the International Agency for the Prevention of blindness to sensitise the public on the prevalence, the causes and dangers posed by glaucoma.

The week is commemorated annually from March 10 to March 16 with the theme “Beat the Irreversible Glaucoma”.

Okonokhua, who lamented at the ravaging cause of blindness in the country identified the disease as currently the leading cause of irreversible blindness in Nigeria.

“Glaucoma is a silent thief of sight and we encourage Nigerians to form the culture of working into an eye clinic or healthcare centre to seek health care.

“We have generally poor health seeking behaviour in this country. Nigerians always like waiting for when things are wrong or there is an obvious effect before they work into an eye clinic or hospital.

“We encourage the populace to form the habit of seeking healthcare whether they are healthy or not; that is the only way to prevent glaucoma,” he advised.

Read also: Expert wants government, stakeholders to jointly battle glaucoma

Kessington Adebutu Reconciles Dapo Abiodun and Ladi

The Governor-elect of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, has reconciled with a governorship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party, Ladi Adebutu.

The reconciliation was said to have been arranged by the father of Ladi Adebutu, Chief Kessington Adebutu.

It could be recalled that Adebutu’s governorship bid hit the rocks when the Court ruled that Buruji Kashamu is the candidate of the PDP before the March 9, 2019 governorship election.

The development forced, Ladi Adebutu to form an alliance with the governorship candidate of Allied Peoples Movement, Adekunle Akinlade.

But Adebutu’s father disowned the alliance, saying he is against the parley between Akinlade and his son.

However, a photograph on Monday confirmed the reconciliation of Abiodun and Ladi Adebutu.

The photograph was on the Twitter handle of Abiodun.

Pius Adebola Adesanmi: He Lived In A Hurry, By Obi Nwakanma

Serene Lights on the other balcony, redolent fountains Bristling with signs; but what does my divine rejoicing Hold? A bowl of incense? A nest of fireflies? I was Sole witness to my Homecoming… -Christopher Okigbo (Distances)

My friend and “little brother,” Pius Adebola Adesanmi died in the Ethiopian Airline crash last week. I now have this image of Pius in his last moments summoning the psalmist to guide him home, through the mist of ancient nights, to immortality.

That’s how I read that epigram from the psalms, the last message he left for his family and friends on his Facebook page as he boarded that plane, or possibly, as he sensed its fiery descent. But it all begins to make sense now. Pius was one of those special, restless, flighty beings, who somehow sensed that he had very little time on earth, in this incarnation.

So he lived in a hurry. I quickly sensed his restless energy the very first time we met, and we became instant friends, introduced by his cousin, my pal Dr. Sanya Osha, whom we all called “Horrendous,” and who had just left his reporter’s gig at May Ellen Ezekiel’s Classique magazine, to return to the Ibadan Graduate School of Philosophy, for a Masters degree in Philosophy. *Pius Adesanmi Pius himself had come to Ibadan too, after a First at Ilorin, to study for a Masters in French.

I was already at the Vanguard, doing what I thought were important things, and undecided about whether to go to Ibadan for graduate school in Literature, or to the Columbia School of Journalism, for a Masters degree in Journalism. We were all young and restless, and under the fog of poetry and the writerly life. It was in the mood of the Lagos literary revival of the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, which wanted to re-enact the Mbari movement of the 1960s.

We had gathered in Lagos after university, working in journalism, some in advertising, and some in dead-end hustling: Uche Nduka, Ogaga Ifowodo, Toyin Adewale, Maik Nwosu and his muse, Angela, Afam Ake, Ike Okonta, Nduka Otiono, Akin Adesokan, Unoma Azuah, and so on. Late nights sometimes found us crashing at the home of the poet Odia Ofeimun in Ikeja, arguing late into the night, but sure of a warm mug of coffee in the morning.

Tyranny, the sort imposed on us by military dictators, gave an edge to our sorrows, and fatalism to our quest for pleasures. And we often used to say, in perfect tongue-in-cheek to the poet Chiedu Ezeana, “pleasure will ruin you.” Lagos was socially intense, and Ibadan became our redoubt of solitude. And there we met them- the “Thursday Group” – the late Sesan Ajayi, the two “Rajs” – Remi Raji, Wunmi Raji, Chiedu Ezeana, Emevho Biakolo, Lola Shoneyin, Nike Adesuyi, Onookome Okome, Sola Olorunyonmi, God Ede, Sanya Osha, and Pius Adesanmi – gathered around the poet and critic Harry Garuba.

Their haunt was usually the bar of the SUB. There was intense fornication and drinking, as well as intense writing and “discourse.” Pius was easily the youngest amongst us. He was bold, brilliant, and lovely. He had fallen in with the French scholar, Georges Herault, then director of IFRA at Ibadan, who loved him, and lived with him on Crowther Lane, on the campus of the University of Ibadan. Pius had commandeered Crowther lane for our entertainment. His hospitality was boundless.

Sometimes we crashed there. Sometimes he staged incandescent parties when we visited. And this salon-like atmosphere persisted until our dispersals, he to Canada, where he studied for his doctorate in French and the Romance Languages at the University of British Columbia, where he was a Killam Fellow. At the end of his doctorate, he first taught Comparative Literature at Penn State University, in College Station, and in quick steps, was appointed Professor of African Literature and Director of the Institute of African Studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, from where he continued to make his marks, until he took flight – this final flight. Pius was imperfect. But it was that imperfection that made him lovely.

He could hold long grudges, and then in one moment of exuberant good-naturedness call you up, first curse you out, and then hold long catch-up talks that buried every grudge once and for all, until another moment of quarrel. His disagreements never went deep with roots.

Two years ago, after he and I had engaged in one long stretch of silence, over what now can only be considered a meaningless, pointless ego-tripping on both sides, Pius called me up one day, and after berating me with his usual “attack-and-follow” style, said, “You foolish man, I don’t want to leave this earth without talking again to you…” And sadly for me, that was my last conversation and contact with my brother, Pius. We’d again relapsed into the silence of self-induced distance, drawn into different directions by busy careers, domestic obligations, and public obligations. In the last five years of his life, Pius Adesanmi became increasingly involved in public issues, and took himself seriously as a “public intellectual.” His models were Soyinka and Irele.

His conscience rooted with the marginalized, and the voiceless, although his instincts remained quite bourgeois, but in line with his very liberal, left-of the center convictions.

Just an indication of this tendency is to be found in one of his satirical essays that now is circulating as evidence of his immortal words in “Boys Behaving Badly.” Pius tells the story of taking his driver to dinner in one of the exclusive “capitalist” redoubts in Lagos – a restaurant that catered to the well-heeled cats of the city and their pretentious paramours. I can now just see Pius having fun, “belching loudly and drawing satisfaction from the disapproving looks,” deliberately pushing the buttons of the “Ogas at the top, and their accent-forming sophisticated mistresses” and generally, deliberately “violating” their self-sanctified “spaces” in the normally extremely hierarchical, pretentious, class-conscious stuffiness of Nigerian “high-society;” particularly its Lagos expression. That was the kind of thing we did, whenever we met: push buttons, and have uproarious laughter. He was a Satirist.

His book, Naija No de Carry Last, which won the maiden Penguin Prize bears testimony to his predilection, as well as his columns in the Sahara Reporters, on which he made mincemeat of social pretentions and political cant. Pius chose Satire as his mode of expression, primarily because he loved to laugh. But more so because it gave him a mask. And he wore masks: he was an only son, of parents who were educators, and who enforced discipline, and gave him “no quarter to misbehave” as he used to say, more so because he was an only son, with sisters who spoilt him rotten.

His sense of measure came from this upbringing. His late father, himself educated in Canada, where Pius ended up making his new home, was a notable educator, who served as a famous principal of Catholic Grammar Schools in the old Kwara state, like the St. Barnabas College in Kabba, and the Titcombe College, Egbe, founded by Canadian missionaries, which Pius himself had attended. He discovered his love of books and language in his father’s library, and he was seduced by large ideas, and complex concepts. Pius was complex: as I said, he could be impatient, and he could hold long grudges, and was like me a little cocky, and not unaware of his great gifts and immense talent. But he was also kind, large hearted, and generous, and amused. He was bicultural, bisexual, worldly, cosmopolitan and wholly, open-minded.

Beneath his cosmopolitan mask were two important spiritual anchors: although he had grown increasingly secular and agnostic, Pius at heart was still an altar boy, drawn to his Christian, Catholic upbringing. He was modulated by that quest for complete meaning and rebirth, whether in the ontological sense of it, or in its purely symbolic sense. He was at heart also a true Yoruba – in whose mythical universe he found another kind of spiritual anchor – and it was okay because it gave spice and dimension to his internationalism.

It was that aspect of his personality that I called his “Isanluism,” for which I needled him, and which he reciprocated by needling me as an “Igbo supremacist.” He called me his “special brother.” I knew him instinctively from our shared incarnation: he was “Abiku” who had mocked, and finally freed himself from the bonds that earthed him. It all makes sense now, these confessional lines in his poem “Entries,” from his The Wayfarer & Other Poems: “They rejoiced/Behold another preserver of the lineage/Entering with fanfare/drying the river of tears/this time they named me for the pope/As I took note of exit routes…/Earthlings, among you I’m a prisoner of war/Escape/Escape always on my mind.”

O Pius! What a way to go. Your escape was fiery, and it has left your mother Olayinka, swollen with tears, and us, your bothers, alone, looking skywards at your path of Thunder.

Pius Adebola Adesanmi, my brother and friend, when you return, stay longer, lick slowly the hot soup of life. And still somehow I think, Pius has done his last duty to men: perhaps his death is sacrifice, made to save more lives as attention is now drawn to the tragic flaws in the design of the plane that took him home. He whom death missed last year on the Nigerian roads could not escape its claws in the sky. Rest my friend.

There are no more tears left in my eyes.

Iyalaya Iku…Tribute To Our Pius, By Olayinka Oyegbile

I’d returned home in the early hours of Sunday, March 10, because of the gubernatorial elections that took place across the country the previous day. I managed to crash to bed with the instruction to my family that I should be woken up at 8am to enable me prepare to attend that day’s church service. At the church, I struggled to stay awake throughout the service and even asked myself why I decided to put myself through the torture. Perhaps I should have forfeited going to church and slept knowing one cannot cheat nature.

It was in this insomniac position that I got back home after service and decided to go back to sleep. Around 4pm or so, I woke up to have the first meal of the day. I picked my phone to see if I’ve missed any calls. There was none. I turned to Facebook to see what was going on there. And there it was! My brother in the United States posted “Payo, how? No, it can’t be true. Why?” Payo, is the nickname we all call Prof Pius Adesanmi. I was confused. What can’t be? As of then, I’ve not heard about the crash of any airline. I scroll down to see what others were posting, then I saw Richard Ali, a friend and writer based in Abuja. Then a few others too, and I was praying it won’t be true and that it was just one of those Facebook fake postings. I then went to a news website and read about the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines. However, as of then there was no mention of names of those on board except their nationalities. I spotted that of a Nigerian who was described as a United Nations diplomat. Pius was not a diplomat, he was an academic. I heaved a sigh of relief. However, I know that he carried a Canadian passport, but I prayed he was not on board.

Not minding the time difference I decided to call my brother in the US who was closer to Pius than I was. Luckily, he picked the call and I went straight with a question on his posting and he confirmed my fear that Pius was on board and was carrying his Canadian passport! I was shattered.

Pius was such a lively and razor sharp intelligent guy. Our paths crossed in the 90s when he was a postgraduate student at the University of Ibadan. I was then at The Guardian. Every Saturday which was an off day for me was always spent criss-crossing Lagos metropolis in search of any art events. It was during one of those art escapades that I met him and a host of others. Right from then he was very vocal but not offensive nor obtrusive. His interventions were always insightful and profound. Those were the days when Saturdays in Lagos were full of fun, events and we end up at some watering holes debating the state of the country’s arts, politics and so on.

As it is said, twenty boys can never play together for twenty years. We all went our different ways. Thanks to the social media, we later reconnected. Last year, when a friend in the US contacted me to contribute a chapter to a book on Nigerians in the Diaspora, Pius was one of the first I contacted. I sent a message to his Facebook inbox and after about two weeks without any response I told Seun Akioye who had a few months back conducted an interview published in this newspaper with him.

He gave me his email and pronto I sent him a mail, which he replied shortly after. I was able to interview him online to meet the deadline for the book. His death exactly a week ago is still a shock to many of us. What else can one write? Throughout the week the social media have been inundated with so many tributes. There is nothing one can say that can bring back the dead. Pius was larger than life. He was everywhere and had strong views about many things and people ailing our country. He would be remembered as a sound mind who laboured through his rather short life span to rail at every bad thing.

Who would have thought that death was so near after escaping the same fate while travelling last year along the treacherous Oyo-Ogbomoso Road? What that treacherous road couldn’t do, the sky did. We shall never forget.

The title of this piece is an adaptation of one of his often used expletive (?) against our tormentors. I say iyalaya iku, shame unto death. We shall not grieve long over Pius because he lived a good life and affected many lives. These are his legacies and testimonies.

Sleep well, aburo. Eat what they eat up there and drink whatever they drink because you deserve the best because you’re one of our bests. God comfort you wife, daughter and aged mother.

Iyalaya iku…