Adesanmi was born in Isanlu, in Yagba East Local Government Area of Kogi State, Nigeria. He earned a BA (first-class honours) from the University of Ilorin in 1992, a Master’s degree in French from the University of Ibadan in 1998, and a PhD in French Studies from the University of British Columbia, Canada, in 2002.
Adesanmi was a Fellow of the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA) from 1993 to 1997, and of the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) in 1998 and 2000.
From 2002 to 2005, he was Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University, USA. In 2006, he joined Carleton University, in Ottawa, Canada, as a Professor of Literature and African Studies; he was the director of the university’s Institute of African Studies.
For many years, Adesanmi was a regular columnist for Premium Times and Sahara Reporters. His writings were often satiric, focusing on the absurd in the Nigerian social and political system. His targets often included politicians, pastors, and other relevant public figures. In September 2015, his scathing column on the decision of the Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, to take an underage wife generated substantial conversation on the matter and even got the response of the Emir who responded to Adesanmi by name.
In 2015, he gave a TED talk titled “Africa is the forward that the world needs to face.”
Adesanmi died on 10 March 2019, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi crashed shortly after take-off. He was on his way to an African Union conference.