By Juliet Ebirim
Driven by a deep sense of loss and grief, Tolu Falode, elder sister to the late Toba Falode who was murdered in Dubai about a year ago, has written a book ‘Gift of grace – A sibling’s bond’ which she is set to launch on May 19, the birthday, of her fallen brother. Toba, was the son of ace television presenter, Aisha Falode. Tolu in this interview, shares her memories of him, how she’s coped since his death in February 2014 and what the book is about. Tolu Falode is a law graduate, freelance writer and a blogger. She is also a strong christian.
How has life been since you lost your brother, Toba?
It’s been a very big challenge because we were only two and my brother was just 19. We are a very close family. Just both of us and my mum. It’s been difficult, some days are tougher than others. It’s a day to day challenge.
What fond memories do you have of your brother?
One of my fondest memories about my brother is that he was very ambitious. He didn’t seem to have any of those worries that usually burdened a young adult. He wanted to do his music and he wasn’t really bothered about the challenges that could come with it.
I respected his courage and that is one thing I would miss about him – his desire to succeed and his purity in keeping true to his ambition.
What is that thing you knew about him that nobody else knows?
I wouldn’t be able to answer that because the relationship I had with my brother was very unique. I’ve known him since I can remember, because we are only about two years apart. He’s always been there, I can’t remember life before him. I knew Toba, but people knew Tyler Fray – that was his musical alter ego. I was there when Tyler Fray was being developed, but I knew the person Toba.
I know a lot of things most people don’t know about him, just the way he knew so much about me. We were able to communicate without words. We could look at each other and understand what we were both thinking. So, I can’t really say a single thing because I knew multiple things about him that nobody else did.
Who was the real Toba?
The real Toba was shy, charming and mischievous especially to me. He used to make me scream all the time when we were kids. He would hide my toys. And then, he had this mischievous laugh. Whenever I heard that laugh I knew he was up to or had done something. That was my brother – a very lively, loving, charming, handsome, mischievous young man.
How have you coped since his death?
It hasn’t been easy at all. It’s a daily struggle. Some moments are more difficult to deal with than others. For example, I graduated and I remember teasing him that he would be at my graduation.
I had to bear that particular milestone in my life without him being there. Moments like that are very painful especially when I start thinking about all the lost dreams that are no longer possible.
Like the woman that would have been his wife, the children that I would have called my nephews and nieces, that I would have loved as my own. Sometimes, those thoughts are too heavy to bear and it crushes me emotionally. My family is just coping by God’s grace.
How do you feel knowing that his killers are yet to be brought to book?
According to the eyewitnesses, we were told that Faisal Aldakmary Al-Nasser and Olivia Melanie Richards Evans were responsible for my brother’s murder. It’s such a shame that the Nigerian government hasn’t been more proactive in the case. It’s very shameful and embarassing for us as a country because this is a life and they haven’t treated it as such.
My brother was the fourth Nigerian to die in Dubai that year and he passed on in February. It means that between January and February, three other Nigerian citizens had lost their lives in the UAE in questionable circumstances. It’s a very difficult pill for my family to swallow. The government hasn’t realised the impact this has had on my family.
We’ve given them all the evidence, we’ve gone beyond what a family should be made to go under the circumstance, yet they still haven’t done anything about it. It’s at a standstill and it’s because the Nigerian government is refusing to move forward with the case and that’s why the Nigerian passport is not respected abroad. It’s shameful.
What really happened to Toba?
We were told by the eyewitnesses that were present that Faisal Aldakmary Al-Nasser and Olivia Melanie Richards Evans had gone with him to the balcony of his apartment and had come back saying my brother had fallen. Faisal started confessing saying he would do 25 years in prison and the lady told him to shut up and keep quiet.
She came to the police station with a lawyer while nobody else was legally represented. Faisal worked out with my brother’s blood on his shirt and nobody stopped him. We presented all these to the Nigerian government and the eyewitnesses signed the statement, but they are yet to do anything.
How did you set out to write a book about this?
The process of writing this book was accidental. It was my coping mechanism. I remember that when I first heard about his death, I couldn’t walk on concrete and I couldn’t look up because I really loved my brother.
The thought that he had to die in such circumstances was too much for me to bear. His body was splattered on the floor and this is somebody I had known all my life and we loved each other very deeply.
So how do I begin to compute the fact that he fell from the height of a building I couldn’t see from the ground? How do I digest that? So, I started writing because I was fighting depression and all sorts of bad thoughts. I was feeling suicidal because I couldn’t digest the fact that he was no longer living and I was still alive. I started writing a lot.
My mum had her own battles to fight losing her only son because we are a very close knit family. I shared some of the things I wrote with her to help her deal with it. I’m not sure how much it helped her, but I think it comforted her to some extent. One day, she said to me that it would be nice if it’s published as a book. At that point, I realised I had written about a hundred pages. That was how the idea of a book started. I had started writing before I knew it would become a book.
Could you give us a brief preview of the book?
‘Gift of grace – a sibling’s bond’ is a semi-biography of my family story. It goes into details to some extent about my life and by extension, my brother’s life and my mother’s involvement in bringing us up. It explains how I heard about my brother’s death and how that affected me as a person and how I found my faith in Christ as a result. So, the book is a mix of family, love, laughter, loss, death and life.
How has your mother coped since the death of her only son?
It’s not easy. My mum is a very strong woman and I respect her a lot for that. I didn’t think it was possible for her to survive losing either of us. I remember she said those words exactly to me that she wouldn’t know what she would do if she lost either of us. That was because of the love and dedication she had poured into our lives in trying to make sure we were well catered for.
When Toba died, my mum was broken. I looked at her and I couldn’t recognise her for a while. She had aged immensely, with about fifteen years. Her whole body was crumpled and she was in that state for a very long time. I just thank God that slowly she has begun to see past Toba’s death and the whole experience. Now we are trying to keep a memory in his honour through this book and the campaign ‘Justice for Tyler Fray’.
Please shed more light on the campaign?
The campaign ‘Justice for Tyler Fray’ started after Toba passed on. Like I said earlier, his musical ego was Tyler Fray. It was a campaign we started and it’s active on facebook. The government only initially took interest in the case because of the support we got from Nigerians. So, I would encourage people to keep my brother in their prayers, thoughts and conversations, so we can hopefully inspire the government to move forward.
Right now, it’s in the hands of the government. We can’t move independently as a family, we have to move with the government because this case happened on foreign soil. Can you imagine losing someone you love in such a brutal and gruesome manner and the suspects are still walking and living their lives freely?
Because the government is not doing anything about it. This is someone that was very important to my family and besides, a life should hold some value.
What do you hope to achieve by writing this book?
I describe myself as a passionate christian. The only way I’ve been able to deal with this incident is through my faith. God drew me to himself after my brother’s passing. I was very lost. I was trying to shield my family from the attack that had come to destroy the peace in our home. Our peace was literally destroyed in seconds. I thank God for coming into my life during that period. He just provided me with strength.
I went to Dubai myself. I knew my brother would want either me or my mother to be there. My mother was in no state to go anywhere, so I made the decision to go with my family members. I knew if anybody was to bring my brother home, it has to be me or my mother. It was none of my strength because I was very weak.
So, the aim of this book is to help the lost and those that are grieving, to show them that they are not alone and that God is ready to help them through it. That’s my story. I hope that the book helps those that have lost their loved ones and help people get an understanding of Christianity outside the conventional religious view. The book will be launched on May 19th, the day Toba would have turned 21.
How far had Toba gone with his music career?
Toba had barely begun. He had just started studying music. I remember we saw him at Christmas and he was happy. He had become a man and I was so proud of him. He was just in his elements with music, learning beats, sharing with me all the new songs he created and all the new people he had met. He barely had the chance to begin his life before it was snatched from him. That’s my greater regret.
Where did you study?
I studied Law at Trinity College, Dublin. I lost my brother before my finals, but by God’s grace, I was able to take my finals late last year. Right now, I’m just coming out of the initial stages of grief. I had to put my studies on hold because I had to figure out who I was now. A lot had happened within a short space of time and I had to deal with it. Right now, I’m just waiting for God’s direction in my life.