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For Tobi Ogunniyi. RIP

It was a random tweet. My eyes skipped over it the first time. Returned to it a second time. Then it sunk. I made one phone call. It was true. It is true. And even though my eyes blur with furious tears, even though everything in me screams one big NO! It doesn’t change it. Tobi Ogunniyi is dead. And this doesn’t make any difference, but it is my tribute to a boy who was many things to many people.

We went to the same primary school but I didn’t recognize him when we met in university. He was cool, boy he was cool. He could arch an eyebrow like a rock star and he had the sort of looks you’d associate with one too. Light skin, sculpted features.

Tobi, teach me to arch my eyebrow, now.

You either have it or you don’t, sweetheart.

Tobi, with ready accomplices in Tarela and Kenzo, introduced me to the beauty of contemporary rock. He would play me song after song on his Discman for hours, right there in the lecture room. He introduced me to System of a Down. The first time, he put the earphones over my head and started playing their CD. When he saw I was properly entranced, he raised the volume to the max. I trembled suddenly from the impact and when I glared at him, he laughed riotously.

That’s the only way to listen to rock. Really loud.

He was that sort. There are many who thought him snobbish and stuck-up but Tobi was who he was, perfectly insouciant when it came to gossip or what people thought of him. After our first year, we separated and went to our different departments so I saw less and less of him. We would pass each other on the corridors of the Faculty of Engineering, and he would tease me, “Oyinbo! Chinko!” and even, “Jennifer!” He was probably the only one in Engineering who used my Christian name.

I’m smiling at the memories now.

We both got older, wiser, I stopped listening to System of a Down. Tobi remained Tobi. Popular, friendly, loud, fun.

My last memory of him is in the dark hallway beside the Engineering Library and beneath Surveying & Geoinformatics. He’s walking past, with large earphones over his head, chewing gum. He sees me, smiles, and for the last time (even though I didn’t know it) archs an eyebrow at me. We hug.

What are you doing here, Jennifer?

Came to see my supervisor.

“Aight.” We touch knuckles. He walks out into the sunshine…walks out into the sunshine. Goodbye, Tobi.


  1. Beautifully written. I don’t know Tobi, but this article makes me feel something for this deceased young man. Wow! May his gentle soul rest in peace. Take heart Miss Akhibi.

  2. Obiamaka says

    He sure knew how to arch his eyebrow didn’t he? Talked to him a couple of times in diploma. May his soul rest in peace. Amen.

  3. Adebisi Ogunniyi says

    Thank You very much for remembering this way, he is something special isn’t he? Amazing.!! He will be missed dearly and i’m sure he is in a better place smiling at us. i’m his big brother. Thank you…..oh and the eyebrow raise is a family thing… can remember when i taught him that. Thanks again.

  4. See! And he told me it couldn’t be taught! 🙂

    I know he’s in a good place, probably wondering at the fuss we’re all making over him. But he was so worth it, and more.

    My prayers are with your family. Be well.

  5. Tobi Ogunniyi was like a brother to me. We were classmates in King’s College Lagos and I went to his crib a couple of times in Ikoyi.

    The news of his death hit me really hard and I cried like a small kid that was badly beaten by his parents.

    That was a very depressing day for me as I kept using his pictures as my ‘dp’ and my status messages started depressing some of the contacts on my bbm list.

    That’s how close we were. I know he’s a better place right now. And thanks for sharing his memories in university…we just kept in touch after secondary school and that was it.



  6. Iyke O says

    This post made me sad n happy simultaneously… We obviously knew the same Tobi… The Rock stare… One of the very best of friends in King’s College… And will never be forgotten… RIP Tobi…

  7. sunshine says

    He really was a cool guy, I was a distant observer in the one year we all spent together in Diploma, but I could tell that about him and I definitely remember the arch…..
    Nice one Osemhen!

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