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She who lived short but well

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It was April 2009. My first time in Lagos. After finding out I wouldn’t be allowed to fly out to Nigeria in early April as my passport was due to expire in six months and bowling my eyes out, a frenetic 24 hours of form filling, an express passport renewal and another £600 later, I had finally got to Lagos mid-April. Just in time for – of all things – the album launch of Wande Coal’s debut Mushin to Mo’Hits. Still in the top five of my favourite Nigerian albums of all times, the album, as Wande’s songs began making the rounds on radios across Lagos, from “You Bad” to “Bumper to Bumper”, was the most anticipated that year and the launch the hottest ticket in town.

When we got to the venue, I skipped out of the car, keen to head inside as soon as possible. In my rush, I didn’t realise that my self-appointed chaperon during my stay, Lola, who had only two years ago relocated, fell far behind while trying to lock her car and answer her ever-ringing phone at the same time.

It was then I heard a high-pitched voice shout “Lola!” behind me. Hold on, I thought, if Lola was behind me, why is the person shouting so loud? If Lola isn’t behind me, why are they shouting in my direction? It didn’t take too long to figure that, both sporting long dark hair, both a similar size, and complexion, the person frantically calling Lola’s name had mistaken me for her.

I turned around to set her straight only to be met by this diminutive young woman, her almond shaped eyes twinkling and her larger than life smile dazzling, sporting a pair of cool frames and braids, momentarily hesitate before screaming, “You’re not Lola!”

I had heard of her loads of course, both of us working in the same industry. I followed her on social media, listened to her on the radio. “You are the Tosyn I’ve heard so much about!” I gushed. “And you’re the Sinem I’ve heard so much about.” We hugged like we had known each other for years, that was the night as I then told her “Sin met Tosyn.” That’s probably what we’d have captioned the ‘selfie’ we took that night, but this was before the ‘gram.

In the consecutive trips I took to Lagos after that Tosyn soon became a constant. We would bump into each other at events, I would visit her at Top FM studios in Ikeja – even more fun when she was on air as she seamlessly segued from a hilarious conversation with whoever happened to be in the studio with her into live broadcast without breaking sweat, her laughter ringing loud.

Come to think of it, did I ever see her not smile? We ran a feature on alter egos in FAB magazine back in 2011. Tosyn was one of the first people who came to mind. She had so many skills that she had to have as many personas to accommodate them. She was CON.tra.diction, and she was Abisona/SPEECHgirl and she was Hazel. Then of course she was Tosyn. And she was the sum of all.

“My personas meet!” she said, “And on the day they all come to party, then it’s a battle. I like to watch television though! By virtue of how I have set these alter egos up to be, some get along while others always butt heads. Abisona and Hazel are famous for this. I’d rather just be Tosyn, a singer-songwriter from Lagos, Nigeria, who works on radio, is bohemian and loves to sleep, watch television and dance. I like Hazel the least. And to be honest, no one likes Hazel jo! She is strict and keeps trying to get us all to do the right things at all times! (Don’t sleep, you need to meet that deadline! Don’t fall in love, we don’t want our heart broken! Don’t cry, it makes you look weak!).”

Thank goodness, she ignored Hazel and fell in love. Thank goodness, we ignored Hazel and fell in love with Tosyn. The crazy, quirky, cool Tosyn. The Area Mama, the Voice of Lagos, SPEECHgirl who grabbed life by the hair and lived it to the full, and in her doing so, taught us how to live well, laugh loud, love hard and leave a legacy that outlives flesh and blood.

Thank goodness in her wisdom beyond the 37 years she gifted us she showed us the way,

“Here lies she who lived short but well,
No regrets for her, but all, her story to tell.”

Let’s wipe the tears, let’s not regret a life cut short, but celebrate a life lived well. Let us let her legacy live on in raising awareness of sickle cell disease. Let us work on our legacies. Let us reach out to friends and loved ones and hold them that bit tighter “for each day [we] acquire gives [us] a little less.” Let us live such a life that at the end of it all we are remembered well, we have lived well.


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