Johnson Babalola
October 26, 2023

Toronto Bo Sode o (Toronto, Come Outside)

Several years ago, I embarked on a journey from Toronto, Canada, to Nigeria, where I planned to spend a few days with my close friend, SA, in Lagos. At the time, SA was residing in a modest apartment in a three-story building perched on a slope. The section of the building he occupied had a shared entrance leading to a communal hallway, which, in turn, branched off into various mini-apartments. All tenants shared a spacious kitchen and bathroom facilities, and SA’s apartment boasted two bedrooms with a cozy living room nestled in between.

One memorable night, an event unfolded that initially sent shivers down my spines but later taught me a few lessons about life. SA’s girlfriend was in town, and she treated us to a sumptuous dinner: delicacies like local rice aka ofada, vegetable, and mushroom soup, accompanied by succulent seafoods. To keep the meal company, we each sipped on a bottle of “Lanko,” a small Guinness. After some hearty discussion about Nigerian issues, we eventually retired for the night, with SA and his girlfriend heading to his bedroom, while I settled into the guest room.

Around 2 a.m., a thunderous pounding echoed from the main door leading to the communal hallway. The banging was relentless and jarring, accompanied by multiple voices. The leader’s voice boomed, repeatedly shouting, “Toronto bo sode o!” (Toronto, come outside!). The banging continued, and another round of “Toronto, bo sode kiakia” (Toronto, come outside quickly) reverberated through the night. It felt like an eternity. Fear gripped me, as I imagined armed robbers who were somehow aware of my Toronto origins and were after my money, my Canadian passport, but hopefully not my life. To my dismay, SA remained fast asleep, seemingly undisturbed by the commotion.

The banging grew ominously closer, and I hesitated to make a sound or awaken SA and his girlfriend, who were just a few feet away in the adjacent room. Then, for a moment, the pounding ceased. I breathed a sigh of relief, only for it to resume with the same vociferous chants of “Toronto, eti e di ni? bo sode o” (Toronto, are you deaf?, come outside). I was drenched in sweat.

Summoning my courage, I tiptoed across the living room and gently knocked on SA’s bedroom door. No response. I whispered, “Bro, some guys are after me.” Still, there was no reply. As the relentless banging and shouts of “Toronto, bo sode” continued, I knocked harder on the door, and this time, I got a response. SA cracked the door open and asked, “What’s up, bro?”

“Not from the door, bro,” I pleaded. “Can’t you hear them asking me to come outside? I’m in trouble.” SA began to chuckle as he fully opened his door. “What’s so funny?” I inquired. “They’re not after you,” he explained. “These are the neighborhood security volunteers. They work in shifts. There’s a guy here they’ve nicknamed ‘Toronto’ because he was supposed to take over from someone else at 1 a.m., but he’s a heavy sleeper. They’re trying to wake him up.”

I was astounded. “I could have had a heart attack,” I admitted. “Wow.” SA reassured me, “Go back to bed, my friend, and put your mind at ease. This is a safe neighborhood.” I quipped, “And his name is Toronto?” “Yes,” SA confirmed. “He’s applied for a Canadian visa to visit Toronto multiple times and got rejected each time. He talks about his dream to visit Toronto constantly, so they nicknamed him after the city.”

Relieved, I said, “I’m just glad they were looking for a Toronto unrelated to the one I came from.” With a smile on his face, SA bid me goodnight and returned to his girlfriend. I slowly made my way back to my room and drifted back to sleep.

The following morning, I pondered the “Toronto” incident and realized how we often let fear and anxiety consume us over matters that may ultimately prove harmless or unrelated to us. It reminded me that we should always pause, assess, and understand a situation before jumping to conclusions that it might be a threat to our well-being.

Johnson Babalola, a Canada and Nigeria based lawyer, leadership consultant, storyteller and corporate emcee, is a public affairs analyst. Follow him for discussions on real life issues that affect us all.

You can obtain a copy of his newly released book, REJECTED on Amazon, FriesenPress, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, Apple Books, Nook Store etc.