For days I toyed with the idea of sending Kalakuta Princess a message.
‘And say what?’
That always stopped me. There had been no words exchanged between us for some time now so I didn’t have to implement the bridge burning protocol. Perhaps it was best I left things as they were.
I woke up the other morning, reached for my phone and saw the red blinker was going. I swiped my finger across the screen and my heart skipped a beat. I told myself I shouldn’t feel the happiness slowly creeping up my insides, nor the apprehension slithering alongside it, but that didn’t stop me.
The message was from Keme.
I tapped the message icon to read the message and I sat up. If I wasn’t awake before, all traces of sleep was now gone.
– Just saw bad news on the TL. Sly.
That was all my brain could come up with. I went quickly over to twitter and scrolled through my timeline, unsure what I would find. And then I saw Jimi Disu’s tweet. I’m speechless with the link following. I clicked on the link.
The numbness was instant.
I set my phone down and pressed the heel of my hands to my temple.
I picked the phone back up and saw Keme had sent another message.
– Sly died.
– I just saw. I’m just tired.
While I saw it wasn’t my Sly who had only recently gotten married, it was still my Sly.
I searched for his wife’s name on my bbm contacts list and sent her “hey kiddo,” followed by three hugs.
– Thanks pops
The first time I met Sly, he had come to drop off his wife who worked as a Cabin crew at the time.
She was my friend and a scatter brain, and I’d often wondered how much work she must be for the man who married her.
‘Bobo meet Sly, my husband.’ She introduced us that day. They hand swung by on their way through the food court.
He was wearing a t-shirt that accentuated his buff upper body over a pair of jeans, a rosary dangling from around his neck.
‘Maybe one of those hip-hop heads that use it as accessory.’
We nodded at each other, the way guys sometimes do.
The next time I saw him, they were together again. I saw them walk onto the food court from the 2nd level car park at the airport, holding hands like two teenagers in love – he had on another tee-shirt over jeans, the rosary around his neck.
One morning, driving to work, I was surfing stations on the radio when I heard a voice that sounded familiar. When he said “this is Sly and with me is…” I listened that morning and almost every morning since.
I had, on occasion in the past, listened to Classic fm, but Sly gave me a reason to religiously listen.
Driving to work was made bearable listening to him and the rest of the crew, and Front Page news and analysis became one of my favourite programs, especially on the days Jimi Disu was in the studio.
They shared an easy banter of friends, despite their obvious difference in age, with Jimi taking one position and Sly playing Devil’s advocate most times. Anything to not be a ‘yes man.’ They would keep score of who had gotten one over whom, and argue over whether coffee was offered or available or declined. Or whether Jimi don drink am clean mouth.
I remember when they reviewed the news of Pope Benedict XVI resigning, it was on that episode Jimi dubbed him Fr. Sly.
The episode of “open the door dahn”, was funny, “where is our money?” and the excel spreadsheet was a barrel of laughs.
Jimi teased him incessantly about giving him “one of our daughters” to marry, and he would laugh the Sly laugh.
“Sly ma se bayii” Jimi Disu said to him the day they reviewed the bird flu story and Sly was saying if the chicken was cooked at Nigerian temperatures (well done) maybe the pathogens would be killed or reduced.
They gave me laughs. Sly gave me laughs. And he proved to be a hip-hop head.
Saturday mornings with Rap and Hip-Hop classics were always tinged with more than a little nostalgia.
Because of Sly I listened to Classic fm more and fell in love with a lot of their programs and on air personalities.
The last time I saw him was at a friend’s 50th birthday. Her friends had thrown her a surprise party and Sly had come with his wife.
While she danced and horsed around with the rest of us, Sly just sat there with a smile playing on his lips.
‘Una no get work,’ he said after a while.
When their second kid was born, I promised his wife I would come and visit. Eighteen months later I made the visit, but for the last reason I would have thought.
I walked up four flights of stairs to where the condolence register was. I signed my name, then stood there unable to write another word, my chest heavy. Pain reached in and took a hold of my heart, and squeezed. Tight.
His wife, my daughter, got up when I walked in and I wrapped my arms around her and just stood there, hoping that my embrace would tell her all the things I couldn’t find the words to tell her. It wasn’t until she sat down that I read the inscription on the tee-shirt she was wearing.
I used up all my sick days so I called in dead.
I recognised it as Sly’s.
Her face was shiny from sweat and grease, the fan did little to dispel the heat. Her eyes were over-bright and it bothered me.
Her colleagues and friends were there too and we all sat around wearing sombre looks. The silence awkward.
‘Why are you quiet? Why is everyone looking at me as if I’m going to commit suicide or something because I’m not crying?’ She asked. And then turning to me she said, ‘You know you have to write now, right?’
That broke me.
‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘We gotta keep you occupied. I have my work cut out for me.’
Before I left she showed me a message someone had sent her. A condolence message that ended “God will see you true.”
‘Pops,’ she said, ‘that right there is material.’
We had a laugh about it, but I share the sender’s sentiments.
Sly is gone and will be missed, at some point she will let herself grieve, and when that happens, I’m thankful for the support structure she has. In the end, for sure, God will comfort and strengthen her, and see her through.
You will be missed. Terribly. Rest in peace Sylvester Ojigbede.