This tribute has been a long time coming. Sometimes, starting is the hardest thing. But start I will.
One year ago, I lost my best man. Literally and figuratively.
All around me, as I start to write this, are reminders of him. I still use the car charger from his car and his glasses that usually perched on his nose at an impossible angle still lie in my glove compartment where I dropped them one year ago.
As I write this getting off 3rd mainland bridge, the memories flood back. I’ve shed many a tear over the last year and at the exact time I am typing this, I am at the spot near Dolphin where I got “the call”.
The type of call that you never really want to take.
The drive back home to the mainland on that day must have taken an hour as I couldn’t really be sure of my coordination to go any faster than 30km/hr. But this isn’t really meant to be a soppy emotional piece but a tribute to a good man. A better man than most, and one that always was looking to be good to all around him.
‘Kunle wasn’t perfect. Just to get that out of the way.
For a start, he used expressions like “stuffs like that” and if you know me, you will either know of my pet peeve or will have witnessed one of my 3 -5 minute lectures to him, smack on the head inclusive, on the need to speak proper English which always…without fail ended with a “No vex, you know say na Akure I grow up”
Sounds much better when he said it in Yoruba actually.
What ‘Kunle did have was a good heart and a joyful spirit in abundance. He genuinely cared about people and it wasn’t just because he worked in HR but that was who he was. He was the glue that held our little band of friends together and the magnet that attracted even more folks to his network and, in turn ours. Everywhere I go, even now, I meet random people, who come to me to speak about ‘Kunle. All good and happy stuff…that make me realize even more, how great a guy he was.
He always did feel a sense of responsibility towards others, which always manifested in his famous “check up” on you calls
Him: How far? I just dey think of you, I say make I call?
Me: Ese o! Mr. Thinker. Shey o fe fun mi l’owo ni? I dey find 1 million.
Him: Ah! Alakoba ni e! But make I tell you now, if I get that kain money, I no go be your friend again, because I go dey proud gaan! Na my PA go dey answer your call.
Me: (Multiple Expletive)
When you look to quantify and understand the amount of sacrifice he made for others as well, it is best understood from the point that he always felt grateful to all those around him that had sacrificed for him to be who he was, his parents, uncles and family. He had a particularly strong bond with his mum. And that made it so much more difficult for me when she asked, as we went to break the news to her “Osibo, shebi iwo lo duro re, Ore e da? Ma paro fun mi”.
‘Kunle didn’t always have things easy growing up and this helped him be empathetic to everyone around. It was amazing how he’d even borrow to sort other people’s issues. Well, amazing if you were getting the money from him but “annoying” if you were the one he was “obtaining”.
He once told me “Shebi na your Oyinbo people talk say you go rob Peter to pay Paul. So ninu example yi, Peter l’oruko e”
Yes, you guessed right. Expletives from me.
But that soon turned to laughter when he asked, “But Egbon, come wetin Peter do wey make dem rob am, give Paul. Shebi Paul follow stone Stephen. Awon ara Israeli yi gaan”
‘Kunle was funny. And it wasn’t really about what he said. It was the timing and delivery of it in his “Akure+Ilorin” accent. And while he was at it, he brought out the funny in you. No matter where it was hidden, no matter the situation. I have a lifetime of stories and jokes around the times we shared together and it was to these that I turned in the immediate aftermath of his passing.
For example, our trip to Cote d’Ivoire in 2003 where he naively handed his passport to a “Custom official” when he was caught with others trying to cross the border via a bushpath. He was attempting to come join me at an AIESEC Conference in Abidjan and only had just enough money to get to Abidjan. He never recovered the passport and I was livid at how naïve he’d been. But as usual, even while remorseful, he told me, “Egbon, gbogbo ariwo yi O solve anything. You fit be my Oga but you shaa no fit beat me, when you no be Mama “. Meanwhile, wetin be this thing dem dey chop wey be like garri sef”
I remember him cracking up the Official at the Nigerian Embassy in Abidjan as we went to get him a “laissez passer” so we could leave the Country. The official had told us to hurry and get out of the country because of “Rebel activity” Don’t remember what it was but before we left the embassy the gentleman was laughing at something ‘Kunle said.
I always joked that some Ivorian Rebel would attempt to escape to Europe with his missing passport if he didn’t cancel it. Years later, when he had some visa issue at a border in Europe, he called me and said “Guy, e be like say that laissez passer matter don reach this side oh” I laughed my head off.
A practical Joker extraordinaire, if you didn’t get to witness one of his “standup routines, well, ask someone who did. From explaining Brad Pitt to Isaac J , to “pricing” “chics” for me outside Black Pearl in VI with Bosun & Muhammed (Disclaimer: Before we marry o, before we marry. Abeg o! )
In all of this seeming, happy-go-lucky life style, you could never doubt his professionalism and competence with his work. He really knew his shit. (This write-up would have been incomplete if I didn’t swear at least once. That’s how we rolled. Heck, I even swore at the Service of Songs) And that’s why and how he dedicated himself to helping people with their careers.
One year on, I choose to celebrate my friend. Celebrate his life. Celebrate the good that he did. The lives he touched. The good times we had.
I am happy that he touched mine. I am happier that I am part of his story. I am happy that on that evening in early 2003, over yam and akara, we chose to give this “green kid” from Ilorin a chance to be part of the team. I am happy that in December 2003, I was able to have a difficult conversation with him about him not being ready for another year in AIESEC Nigeria and taking a different path. It is testament to the man that he took everything we discussed in good faith. I am happy that we “hustled” to get him on that plane to Germany in August 2004 to go bring back “our” UBS Award.
It has been a ridiculously emotional year and I must at this time say how much strength I’ve drawn from the family he left behind. His wife and sister in particular, were incredible one year ago and remain so till now. Where you saw grown men break down and cry, these two were nothing short of pillars of strength. I ask that we continue to remember his entire family in prayer.
On the day ‘Kunle died, I bought a song (“Daddy Mi – by Reminisce feat. Davido) off iTunes which we’d both just recently “discovered” and was expecting him back, to play it for him when next I saw him. Knowing full well that he’d tell me “You too dey pose, because I no get Mac abi? Nkan ti ma ra ninu traffic ni 150 naira. Full album sef. Jero!”
And I’d respond “Okaa baba” which was the official response to “Jero” (And I still have no clue what that exchange really meant)
Sadly, he never did come back.
The song had special meaning for him, especially because he was on the cusp of greater things. I know he’s in a better place and even if I do wish he was still around to do those greater things, I trust and accept God’s will in these matters.
‘Kunle was special to me and I miss him everyday. I sometimes said to him he was the Robin to my Batman, from our AIESEC Nigeria days… but over time I saw him more like Superman. He really could do and did do, anything for me. And many others.
“Duday”! Omo Folake. Sun ree o!