I was meant to meet Tosin on Monday, but she never made it to Lagos; instead, I will be attending a service in her honour later today.
My first visit to the FATE Foundation office was in April 2010; I was asked to speak to a group of entrepreneurs on “Planning for the Future: How to Provide for the Security of Your Business”. It was an interesting discussion on risk management, and for me, an eye-opener on the challenges entrepreneurs face doing business in Nigeria. At the end of my session, I popped into her office to say hello, her smile had not changed since high school.
My first words were “I’m hungry, please arrange lunch ma’am.” She replied with a hint of sarcasm, “where are your manners, is this your good afternoon?” Half an hour later, well fed, I took my leave. She saw me off to my car, and extracted a promise that I would return to speak at the foundation soon. This lady had wonderful powers of persuasion, and made sure I returned to FATE a few months later to speak on risk management again.
My orientation is usually capitalist; my favourite words include efficiency, profit, and reward. So, I am deeply respectful of my well educated and intelligent friends who dedicate their careers to non-profit ideas and organizations. I asked her why she chose FATE; she gave me a simple and honest answer I felt belied her qualifications. She was at peace with her job, and the joy of meeting people and helping business people achieve their goals was her reward.
Those who know me will attest to my poor telephone habits; I am not good at returning phone calls, and it might take days for me to respond to a long forgotten text/chat. It gets worse if those calls come in the middle of a horrible work day, when it seems like the problems of the world converged at my desk.
She was persistent, and followed her calls up with text and electronic messages. Eventually, I gave in, and ensured I got whatever she wanted done. When I tried to pull my tough guy act, she reminded me I was a year her junior at ISL, and she could still get me punished. That was the playful lady I knew. Just a week ago, she sent me a message thanking me for putting her in touch with someone at my office, and we were meant to meet last Monday.
Later that week, I boarded a Dana Air flight to attend the Market Access Nigeria session in Abuja; and returned to Lagos on Friday, via the same airline. Apart from uncharacteristic delays on ground (even after boarding) on both legs, the journey was thankfully uneventful. I even had time to snooze a bit, something I rarely do on domestic flights. I got to Lagos, thanked God for his mercies, and hopped into taxi; job done. Two days later, 153 people boarded a similar plane, and never made it to Lagos. My friend, Tosin Anibaba, was on that flight.
In my moments of grief, the words of Robert Binyon speak to me. In his poem penned for war heroes, For the Fallen, he said: “They shall not grow old, as we that are left to grow old / Age shall not weary them, nor the year condemn / At the going down of the sun and in the morning / We will remember them.”
I was meant to meet Tosin on Monday, but she never made it to Lagos; instead, I will be attending a service in her honour later today. This is proof of life’s transient nature, if ever needed. There are people whose goodness shine from a distance. You can’t say why or what they did, but they just give gifts of laughter and happiness to those they meet; she was one of such.
Goodbye Tosin, your smile will never fade. Until we meet again, may God keep you in the palm of his hand.
For Tosin, Obinna, Innocent, Ehime and all those who left us on that dark Sunday afternoon.
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.