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The Dark Side Of Dubai By Olugu Olugu Orji mnia

May 17, 2014

There are two sides to everything, and most of the time, the one side serves to identify and accentuate the other.

The title is not exactly original: they are excerpts of the pained words of Aisha Falode, the pretty, hugely popular journalist with an ever-rising media presence. She was rehearsing the shoddy manner the Dubai police had handled the investigation (assuming there was one) into the gruesome murder of her son, Tyler Toba Falode. As I watched her painstakingly detail how her private investigative initiative uncovered the lie of Dubai that her son took his own life, I was barely able keep the tears away as I connected with the deep anguish her voice dripped.

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I have two quick confessions to make. Firstly, I have never been to Dubai: a fact for which I feel neither pride nor shame. Secondly, I like Aisha a hell of a lot; probably much more than I can ever state with coherence. When I see a woman excel in the traditional turf of men – achieving distinction with feline grace, when I can identify brain, beauty and brawn comfortably resident in one female entity, I simply keel over. As part of the feisty troika – the Amazons – that anchor a TV talk show that goes by the same name, Aisha has exhibited an admirable capacity to carry the burdens of others with equanimity. It is only right that some of us who have been blessed by her interventions should step up to help her bear a cross that is certainly too heavy for one woman.

To very many in Nigeria, Dubai is as close as one can get to Utopia. It is vigorously touted as being everything our country isn’t: superb infrastructure, contented citizenry and everything in between. When a Nigerian wants to serve notice of intent to be numbered in the big league, a shopping trip to Dubai is the natural starting point. When the hugely-talented and formerly-lascivious singer, Innocent Idibia chose Dubai as venue for his wedding, he was merely announcing his canonization into the order of super celebrities. On a recently inaugurated esoteric scale of value, a property in Dubai is worth five times the same property in London. The consuming ambition of our local megalomaniacs is to be on the roll of Dubai landlords. It seems to me that those of our people who elect to fornicate in Dubai consider themselves worthier sinners than those who must sweat it out in pitch darkness here.

Now don’t get the wicked idea that I detest Dubai because I’ll jump at the slightest opportunity to get there; and if I can have my delectable missus in tow, the better. I don’t only want to see, I will certainly sleep in one of those fancy, funky hotels. I also hear the place is littered with architectural masterpieces so I’ll spend most of my waking hours seeing and analysing them as only an architect can do. Have I not stated the fact that I’m an aviation aficionado? Dubai is reputed to house one of the finest airports in the world. You can be sure I’ll devote quality time in and around the airports. I hope and pray my visit will coincide with the period the Dubai biennial airshow usually holds because that is one treat I won’t pass up for anything.

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I would be the greatest of fools if I left Dubai with the impression that the bright and beautiful side is all there is. Even in the midst of her sorrow, Aisha has graciously reminded us of a truth we prefer to ignore in our hypocrisy and dissonance: there are two sides to everything, and most of the time, the one side serves to identify and accentuate the other. Life and death, up and down, wet and dry, black and white, new and old, front and back, light and dark. No study is complete and authentic until the good and evil have been properly placed. So I will also find time to take a peek at Dubai’s seedy side: the pimps, the prostitutes and the polluted morals. I’ll certainly want to find out why James Ibori considered Dubai a perfect hiding place after his cup of iniquity began running over.

Nobody has ever spoken of Dubai prison but I know it is there; a constant reminder to those who have a tendency to forget that all that glitters has a dirty side. I will go there so that I can speak with as many inmates as I’m permitted to because in the reasons for their incarceration lie the truism that every society breeds its own criminals. The fellow who pushed Toba 17 stories to his grisly death is a criminal made in Dubai, and were Dubai the make-believe perfection it is advertised to be, that murderer should be languishing in jail. 

Whether by conviction or constraint, both the Nigerian Government and the Dubai authorities will re-visit Toba’s death and hopefully, a proper investigation will erase every doubt that it was a clear case of pre-meditated murder. Justice would have been served and the Falode clan can then achieve much desired closure. And I hope Nigerians will come to embrace the fact that despite our numerous challenges, there are quite a few bright spots around here that we can honestly point to.

In our understandable desperation to better our country, many of us are guilty of highlighting only what is bad and ugly. I think it is time to balance things out. Nigerians are one of the most hospitable people around. I do not mean the kind of tourism-induced hospitality that is calculated to lure people to spend. We treat visitors excellently even when there is no personal gain involved. The true Nigerian is prepared to spend and be spent to protect the interest of guests; even at the risk of loss or death. I am not just speculating: it is official. Boko Haram is not representative of who we are. They are strange people consumed by an even stranger, foreign ideology. That explains why we hear them babbling in an unknown tongue.

We are a beautiful people with an almost limitless capacity to forbear under suffering, so the suicide route is never an option for us. Running on empty is our daily reality and we take our infectious enthusiasm for life and living everywhere we go. I wager it was the free spirit that Toba exported to Dubai that vexed his eventual killers. They could have asked to be let into the secret of his being so charming and intrepid, and Toba would have gladly obliged them. Instead, they chose the cowardly path of murder thereby diminishing their own humanity and that of the city that nurtured them.

Good has this inherent capacity to effortlessly unravel evil much like what light does to darkness. Without a shadow of doubt, Toba was a shining light that helped reveal the darker side of Dubai; so the minders of Dubai can no longer plead ignorance. And his death challenges the rest of us not to be wearied of being good; as that is the surest antidote to the deluge of evil that threatens the very foundation of human civilization. Oloruntoba Falode is only one among many Nigerian students abroad who met their untimely death in similarly bizarre circumstances. Their families can take solace in the fact that they didn’t die in vain.

The Good Book says, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Faced with monumental loss, many choose to do their mourning alone and in the dark. A few others think and plot revenge. But Aisha is doing something really good and worthy of emulation. By her insistence on unravelling the true circumstances of her son’s death and carrying the rest of us along in the painful journey, she is helping to better prepare us for the storms ahead. And I have this hunch that this woman of steely resolve won’t be embittered by this crushing experience. Instead, I see her with a renewed determination to fight evil like the amazon she has proved to be.

At a personal level, here is what the Toba saga is provoking in me: a renewed pledge to continue to vigorously contend with every manifestation of darkness and evil. The universal prevalence of the dark side points indubitably to the evil in every human. Looking honestly within, I was humbled to trace the proverbial line between light and darkness, good and evil right across the centre of my heart. 

This is therefore the proper point to initiate my crusade: within me.

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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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