Emmanuel Olatunde Sanya

d. 2021

It was with sudden shock that I learnt about the demise of our colleague and friend Professor Emmanuel Olatunde Sanya on the 11th of April 2021. I vividly remember my first encounter with Prof. Sanya at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa in September 2004, when we attended a ‘Neurobiology of Epilepsy’ workshop jointly organized by the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), Society for Neurosciences (SfN) and the American Epilepsy Society (AES).

Prof. Sanya came across as a brilliant communicator and enthusiastic participant who freely expressed his opinions on several contentious issues that arose during the workshop. Away from the workshop atmosphere, he also shared plenty of jokes connected to his native country, Nigeria. Over the course of time we kept interacting at several neurology related meetings on the African continent and overseas.

In 2017, we were privileged when he joined the team of the ILAE–Africa region as a member of the executive board serving as the Head of the Communication Task force. It was this office he was holding before he passed away. In addition, he also served on several other ILAE committees namely: Communications and Fostering Research Agenda; Publications Council and ILAE COVID Task force. He was the editor of the quarterly ILAE-Africa News Bulletin and helped set up the ILAE-Africa What’s App group and regularly posted Epilepsy related information using this avenue as well as through e-mails to keep the members informed. As a very strong advocate of unity among Africans, he frequently reiterated that we needed to be working together as South, North, West, East and Central Africa regions so as to be able to set our own agenda and achieve our goals. He enthusiastically wanted to see that activities regarding raising epilepsy awareness and education in the communities were propagated on a large scale both locally and in the region and in our last email communication early this year, he lamented at the lack of activities by the Nigerian League Against Epilepsy due to the COVID 19 pandemic.

Emmanuel Sanya, Angelina Kakooza 2019
A selfie moment: Prof. Sanya (middle) with ILAE-Africa Chair, Dr. Angelina Kakooza.M and another conference participant at the 33rd International Epilepsy Congress, in Bangkok, Thailand, 2019.

In a particular way, I recall passionate statements he made during an informal Epilepsy Africa Forum meeting we held in the lobby area of Centara Grand and Bangkok Conference Centre, in Thailand during the 33rd International Epilepsy Congress in June 2019. In his very authoritative and yet humble way, he stood up to address the African delegates present by urging them to conduct research and publish on epilepsy and promised to initiate this process, by circulating a draft questionnaire to collect information on the status quo from the region so as to guide this plan. Prof. Sanya was among the African delegates that advocated for the creation of the “Elders Forum” at future African Epilepsy Congresses where the ‘Elders’ who have done significant work on epilepsy in Africa reflect and share their experiences about the journey they have travelled doing epilepsy related activities to inspire the younger generation. In our last face to face meeting in Entebbe, Uganda during the 4th African Epilepsy Congress in August 2019, he made a noteworthy comment that continues to ring in my mind, “Africans need to learn the value of participating at such meetings, through making that extra effort to sponsor themselves to attend them”.

Words may not suffice to express the heartfelt sorrow that we feel for his passing, but we are comforted by the knowledge that though a good heart has ceased beating, his was a heart that had touched so many lives,therefore it can’t help but live on in those it loved- the family members, his students,colleagues, friends, church community, patients, and the entire medical fraternity.

On behalf of the ILAE-Africa executive, I wish to express our deepest condolences to the family and to whole epilepsy fraternity, especially the Nigerian League Against Epilepsy where he was serving as the Secretary General. It was a remarkable experience working with Prof. Sanya who had a wonderful way of always bringing us forward, gently but clearly insisting that we do what was needed to boldly make a difference, but with humility and respect. His energy, foresight and wisdom will be greatly missed in the region. May God rest his soul in eternal peace and fortify and comfort the immediate family and close friends.

Dr. Angelina Kakooza Mwesige
Chair, ILAE-Africa,
Past President Epilepsy Society of Uganda


Prof Sana was Consultant Physician/Neurologist, at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital; President Nigerian Society of Neurological Sciences; Secretary General Nigerian League Against Epilepsy; Head Neurology subspecialty of the West African College of Physicians.

A brilliant mind, a bosom friend. A devoted Husband and Father. A lover of Jesus Christ and a pastor. I pray God will console his families, colleagues, friends and grant us the succor, fortitude and grace to bear this irreplaceable loss. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.

 Farewell our colleague

Dr. Birinus Adikaibe, Chair, Nigerian League Against Epilepsy