I want to write about two people.
But before I do that, I want to make some things clear.
- I do not suddenly have a fascination with death. I outgrew it a long time ago. It just so happens that death; being a recurring theme on this journey of life visited closely recently.
- The two people I’m writing about died a while apart from each other – and I would have written about the first guy before now but – it just didn’t feel right. And if I talk more about one than the other, it’s only because I know one more than the other.
- Only last week it was Robin Williams. Oh well…
Tolu Oke was a writer.
I think I met him on NS, I don’t exactly remember how we started talking but I remember him to be a honest critic, he would say whatever he felt about your work. And because he was a sound young man, he usually knew he was talking about.
He took a shine to my writing, and would always say what he felt and why he felt that way. He also introduced me to someone who I have the privilege of ‘mentoring’ (when she has time), but it wasn’t until his demise I realized he was my link with her.
That was Tolu. Never glory-hunting.
We used to talk – personal stuff every now and then – and then we promised to meet and hang out sometime. But he was busy, and I was busy, and the time never seemed right…
And now he’s dead.
He died in an auto accident.
The second person died on Saturday after a sickle cell crisis. Yes, he was SS, but if anything, that made him more special.
He is an advertising legend; I have no doubts that he would have become one of the owners of a multi-billion naira international ad agency – had he so desired. As it was, he won several international awards and distinctions, studied in several international ad schools, arguably the single most awarded individual in Nigeria’s advertising history (not fact though) and his campaigns are the stuff of legend.
I’m sure you would have seen his work – one at least.
There was a series of Noddles ads that went viral – or at least one – this past Ramaddan – something in the lines of ‘Because you’re fasting we won’t show you a bowl of noddles with a chicken’ or something like that.
Ah. Here It Is:
Yup. That was him.
He was a driven, focused man who was always a pleasure to work with. If you spent time with him, he in his element, and you were not inspired, you had to be dead. He was the kind of guy you either liked or hated. It was virtually impossible to be indifferent to him. You know those kind of guys?
And the best, most fascinating part of this young man?
He was just thirty years old.
I was talking with someone – and it dawned on me that Debola (that’s his name) lived the way he did – probably because of his condition – probably because he was aware that he was living on borrowed time. No offense whatsoever meant.
And then, as I continued to think, it dawned on me again that – so what exactly is the difference between me and Debola? Just because he was SS and I am not, was I guaranteed to live longer?
Like it or not, we are all living on borrowed time! There’s absolutely no guarantee that we would make it to tomorrow – we just hope and pray and believe in whatever deity it is we allow guide and direct our piety.
It’s funny how nobody exactly teaches us to do wrong – but we have to learn to do right. Someone told me ‘it’s always the abusive part of a language that is easiest to learn’. I think so too.
So we quickly learn to steal, to lie, to cheat, to kill – we learn to use and manipulate and play other people. And as we get further and further into living for ourselves…
We forget why we came here. Which is, to leave this world better than we met it.
Debola died at thirty – and I know several men waaaay older than he was, who are still alive and don’t have a third of his achievements. And I’m not talking about the creative work or the ads or the awards. I’m talking about the laughs he shared. I’m talking about the inspiration he was and continues to be. I’m talking about the fact that he followed his heart, his passion – he followed it with everything that was him.
There would be several people younger than him too, who have also done great stuff. But I don’t know any. None that I can speak of in the same breath as Debola. In spite of his circumstances, Debola lived life under his own terms. He did not ask life for a quarter – and life; who really does not give a fuck anyways, did not give him one. And he lived it up.
Bottom line; whatever we believe, whatever we want to do, whatever we want to do – we better get up on it and get doing. No time o.
No time. Debola. Tolu. Thank you so much for being what you guys are.
You’re challenges. Motivation. Inspiration. Encouragement. I won’t stop.
God willing. I won’t. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world. With us. With me.