Midweek Fix: Debola Underscore & Tolu Oke – When Death Comes Calling


I want to write about two people.


But before I do that, I want to make some things clear.



  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Only last week it was Robin Williams. Oh well…



Tolu Oke was a writer.

His blog: https://toluoke.wordpress.com/tag/tolu-oke/


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.


Tolu Oke
Tolu Oke


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.

Adebola Babatunde Underscore Baba
Adebola Babatunde Underscore Baba


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.



15 thoughts on “Midweek Fix: Debola Underscore & Tolu Oke – When Death Comes Calling

  1. I try to see the positive in every sad situation especially the death of young people & what I see/hear of Debola & Tolu is the tale of two exceptional men who LIVED. It’s good that you can share how exceptional they were with us because I think it is even more glorious that they can keep inspiring us even in death.
    I don’t know how to pray for the dead but I know the Almighty God will hold their families/friends, keep them strong & comforted and smiles will not be far from their lips as they remember moments shared with the deceased.

    Thank you Seun for reminding us to seize every moment & day while giving our all to whatever path we choose.

  2. I remember pointing that Indomie noodles ad to you and say I thought it was really cool. Now, knowing this….sigh.
    May God alone, who understands just how it feels to lose someone so dear, floods our hearts with comfort and peace. Amen.

  3. The choicest trees never stay long in the forest….
    Their lives challenges us to live ours to the fullest…
    RIP Tolu and Debola
    Nice tribute Seun…please don’t leave us…God will keep you alive and healthy (Amen)

  4. Life’s a vapour as is described in the Bible and death, the inevitability of man, a debt we must all pay come hell or high waters! None’s immune from its sting! These precious, gifted ones left way too soon! Heart-wrenching but God knows best! May the Good Lord teach us to number our days, so we can apply our hearts unto wisdom, may the departed continue to rest in the bosom of our Lord, and may their families be greatly comforted IJN, Amen!

    Tx for sharing Seun, sad it is but life and its vanities are really worth pondering ’bout from time to time!

  5. This is what I always call “living after death”. For Tolu and Debola, the sun set too soon in our opinion, but they both led lives that will keep living after they have left this world.
    God rest their souls, and comfort their loved ones.

  6. Thanks guy but no thanks to death…I say no thanks to death amd its sting…one thing is we will all leave this journey one day…those that gone early do not offend God,..we that we are alive we are not perfect…one day we will all give up the ghost…Adieu Ridwan Babatunde Adebola and Tolu Oke. God bless ur souls

  7. ….i remember the day I got to know about Tolu, I couldn’t work for the rest of the day. I was stunned, just couldn’t belive that someone so awesome n talented was gone…i can never forget his cinnamon roll story in his blog mainly cus that was the first story I read on his page n cus that was my favorite snack in school. Life just knows how to suck the sunshine out if everything…It just makes me think sometyms. The more I try to make sense of things the more confusing it gets…Rest in peace Tolu, Rest in peace Adebola.

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