You can tell a lot about the quality of life a man lived by what is said about him when he is gone. The streams of comments I’ve seen today about my dear friend Sly Bane Barzini has made me realize what an impact he had on the people who were fortunate enough to come across him.

I’ve known Sly since 2003. In fact, today I had flashes of the first day we met. It was many years ago in Uniben and the only thing robust about him at the time was his character. What struck me about him was his acerbic wit that couldn’t camouflage his jovial and wonderful personality. He had a characteristic way of speaking his mind. None could have guessed at the time that he would switch career paths to Journalism.

Through Journalism, he lit up his section of the world as a voice against corruption and injustice with his satirical articles and his frequent engagements with friends on social topics on the social media platform. Sly was a man of the people with unquestionable integrity and he served them well with his intellect…something that is not so common these days.

Being constantly on the move because of his job and the Lagos hustle and bustle, we seldom saw each other but whenever we did, it was always something to remember. He had this special energy about him that was infectious and always bolstered by bottles of brew.

I was particularly moved at how swiftly he swung into action when I needed a favour. I was almost embarrassed at how he went about making calls to make sure I got the assistance I needed but that was vintage Sly; going the extra mile. He would do that for everyone of his friends.

Today marked a long time in my life since I broke down and shed tears uncontrollably like a baby. I just couldn’t comprehend having someone I always assumed would always be around, unconsciously adding colour to this hard life to be snatched so painfully by the cold hands of callous ineptitude and infrastructural decay.

I was on my way to work in the wee hours of the morning when I received the news and it never really hit me till I got to the office. Only then did I realise that I would never have the opportunity to engage him again by any available medium and this breaks my heart beyond repair. This premature loss is too close for comfort and has brought to mind the frightening reality that life is fleeting…a wisp of smoke quickly dispersed in wind.

Just a few weeks ago, we were exchanging some laughs over his satirically eloquent article about the social media activist and today, he’s no more. I have never felt this frightened in a while that I could die tomorrow and that would be the end for me. All sorts of questions have filled my head today about the quality of life I lead. What would be the legacy I leave behind? Would I cry for me like I cried for him if I died tomorrow? Would I be missed?

I am saddened by the paradox of all this; that Sly, like millions of other Nigerians have become statistical data, victims of the ills of a grossly incompetent system he vehemently spoke and wrote against. The insatiable appetite of ineptitude and the hydra-headed monster has snuffed out one of the starlights of this generation.

I have decided to comfort myself with the fact that he left this world a happier man, having challenged the status quo by doing what he loved and affected lives positively all the way. If there’s anything I’ve learned from his life, it’s that the battle for good by all legitimate means seldom offers reward but standing for something positive is everything.

Sly, as the angels clothe you in a robe of many colours for your service to humanity, know that we will miss you sorely and what you stood for, the battle that you gave your life for must continue so that generations unborn will not experience the decay that has plagued us since birth.

Rest well and be bothered no more by the ills of a nation you loved so dearly and died in the service of.

Malcolm O. Ifi.

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