Outside looking in

March 17, 2019

The Ethiopian flight tragedy

Ethiopian Airlines

This handout photograph released from the Twitter account of Ethiopian Airlines on March 10, 2019, shows a man inspecting what is believed to be wreckage at the crash site of an Ethiopia Airlines aircraft near Bishoftu, a town some 60 kilometres southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. – A Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 crashed six minutes after an early-morning takeoff from Addis Ababa on March 10, killing all 149 passengers and eight crew on board, Ethiopian Airlines said as world leaders offered condolences to distraught next-of-kin. People holding passports from 32 countries and the UN were on board the plane which ploughed into a field just 60 kilometres (37 miles) southeast of Addis Ababa, the carrier’s CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told journalists in the capital, lamenting this “very sad and tragic day.” (Photo by HO / TWITTER ACCOUNT OF ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES / AFP) /

By Denrele Animasaun

“There is no fair in life and death. If it were, no good men would die young”.-Mitch Albom

The news came and it was not good. In fact,it was shockingly tragic.

An Ethiopian plane bound  for Kenya crashed minutes after ascending. It never made it to its destination, all its crew and passengers perished.

As the news filtered through the airwaves: there were 33 nationalities on board. Confirmed, that we had lost two of our own.

Two notable Nigerians on board: One a writer and academic, Professor Pius Adesanmi, and  the other Ambassador Abiodun Bashua, a former Joint Special Representative for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, Sudan.

Disbelief  turned to sadness that indeed,the Nigerian Canadian professor, aged 46,who taught at Carleton University in Ontario was in the crash.

The Prof had more than 40,000 followers  on Twitter and he routinely ‘Woke’ his readers and mentored them through his connection and he also mentored many more young African writers:

“My intellectual life was built by him. He supervised me, mentored me, and yet he always treated me like a colleague,” wrote Wandia Njoya, a Kenyan writer. And;” I can’t imagine thinking or writing without him. My heart is crushed.”

Sadly,I did not know him but I wish I had.

As news confirmed of his passing, so many people registered their disbelief and shock that someone so young and so erudite has left the physical plane in such tragic circumstances.

His friends and the public left messages of condolences and most poignantly, are from those who knew him very well and  shared the conversations they had with him with readers.  He was not only a friend, he was a brotherly friend and a comrade. This made their loss so much more personal.

One that pulled at my heart strings was his posting of a conversation between his daughter: The toughest part? The tears heralding every departure. The accusations. The tantrums. You are going again!!!

The pleading. The cajoling.  The explanations. These trips, they are Daddy’s work. Your own trip with Daddy is in August.  That is when the family vacation comes.

But I’ve been to your work.  Your office is not on an airplane. Every time you go to the airplane without me you say it is work.

Another round of coaxing, sweet talking, pleading. You try to explain this kind of work that takes you to the airplane.  And away. From her. You are struggling. Then she breaks it down brilliantly the way nature has wired toddlers to be far beyond us.

Daddy is this also like the hard work that you say they give you money at the end of the month when you do it? Toddler-speak and syntax for salary.

Yes, Tise, when you work hard you make money to buy things.

So when you leave on the airplane, you make money to buy me happy meals?


Lots of happy meals?


At the new McDonalds?


Her face dissolves into happiness. She is dancing now and running around the house and helping me pack. And we dance like best friends all the way to the airport.

And she waves me bye and tells me to remember my promise of happy meals from the money I make on this trip.

I suppress a tear and walk to check in, afraid to look back and catch her gaze…

He was a doting  father not just in title but in deed and actions. He was a  loving dad.

He loved Nigeria, He was a patriot and a conscientious Nigeria:

“Few Nigerians understand that our chaos, our urban rot and rural decay, our decrepit roads, hospitals, and Universities, our power failures and water shortages, and our fuel scarcity are collective consequences of our wanton embrace of the unthought and unreflected society.”

He was an authority on African studies:

“Since we inherited this dilapidated contraption from the British, we have made not a single attempt to philosophize the Nigerian project through sustained critical thought. The price is always very heavy when a people develop a collective hostility to philosophy.

Dubai, London, Paris, and all the other destinations that Nigerians adore and desire are all outward manifestations of something called modernity. Democracy, law and order, urban planning and regulation are all features of modernity. Innovation and science and technology are equally features of modernity.

Nigerians see the end product but they have absolute contempt for the road which led the advanced world to the glittering modernity that they desire. They do not know that more than two hundred years of philosophy, writing, and critical thought went into the conceptualization of what they see and admire in the advanced world today. They do not know that modernity and its gloss exist today because a long line of thinkers in Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe produced philosophies which became the bedrock of what we see and call modernity today”.

He was a man of God:

If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me –  Psalm 139:9-10 (posted on the 9th March).

He was a critical  thinker and a consummate satirist of note:

Even supposedly educated Nigerians are quick to dismiss philosophy and critical thinking and writing. You hear them say impatiently that what we need now is action and not big grammar. I am sure that when this lecture goes public, there will not be a shortage of Nigerians to grumble that it is too long, too big on grammar. They will then beat their chests and proclaim loudly in readers’ comments area that they did not bother to read beyond the first paragraph. Those who are kind will advise the author that what we need now is action, not big grammar. Google the period covered by the Renaissance and the Enlightenment for an idea of how many centuries of philosophy produced the cities you admire in Europe and America today.

He was accessible to all, funny, unpretentious, and a sterling communicator:

“Nigerians do not know that all the material things they acquire in order to be able to form ajebutter and boast that “I better pass my neighbour” are products of philosophy and critical thought.

They do not know that the cars they drive are products of philosophy before being products of science and technology. They do not know that the houses they acquire in Dubai, London, Paris, and Washington, DC, are products of philosophy before being products of architecture, science, and technology.

Because Nigerians are ignorant of these things, they frown on philosophy, intellectual labour, and critical thought. The slightest encounter with philosophy and critical thought in our lives is quickly dismissed as “dogon turenchi”.

That is the predictable Nigerian attitude to philosophy and critical intellection. Our contempt for philosophy and critical intellection is why we build our houses everywhere and anyhow; why we drive our cars anywhere and anyhow; why we still invest billions in the open drainages we call gutters in the 21st century and call them ultramodern; why we invest in refurbished World War II locomotives in the 21st century and boast that we are sophisticated.