What does it mean to be a man? Surely, it’s not one thing. It’s a series of little moments that add up. Man Like is a weekly Zikoko series documenting these moments to see how it adds up. It’s a series for men by men, talking about men’s issues. We try to understand what it means to “be a man” from the perspective of the subject of the week.
In 2015, Adejoh Momoh seized the opportunity to take the driver’s seat in his life. Leaving the relative safety of family behind, Adejoh, who works in the developmental space, was excited to figure out who he was without external pressure or direction. How successful was this journey and what has he learnt about himself through it all?
In this episode of Man Like, Adejoh talks about leaving his sheltered life behind to find himself in a new city, how Nigeria that motivates him to work hard and why kids are a responsibility he never wants to deal with.
Everyone has their “man now” moment. Do you remember yours?
I’ve had several moments, but the most profound has to be when I moved to Kaduna for work. I was 26 at the time, and I was leaving behind the comfort of my family and support system for a new city where I didn’t know anyone. It felt like I was being thrown into the deep end and finally getting the chance to make adult decisions instead of being handheld.
At that age, I still had to call home by 10 p.m. to tell them I’d be sleeping out. I also had to think carefully before bringing a partner home, and things like that. I’d outgrown living like that, so as soon as the Kaduna option presented itself, I knew I had to take it.
Interesting. So was Kaduna all you expected it to be?
To an extent, yes. As trivial as it might sound, just having my own apartment, curated the way I wanted, meant a lot to me. I was very protected growing up, so almost everything had either been done for me or handed to me.
In Kaduna, I got the chance to do stuff for myself, to work at a job I absolutely love, and there was some sense of validation knowing I was in control. It felt like I was finally making adult moves.
But the funny thing is, even after all I said about wanting freedom, I got to Kaduna and I’ve spent most of my time at home because I don’t know anyone outside of work. All my friends I usually hang out with are back home in Abuja. LOL.
You’ve mentioned not making decisions a lot. What’s that about?
So the hand-holding thing happened a lot. Now that I’m an adult, I understand I was shielded from a lot of things to protect me. But I would’ve loved to have an input in most of those decisions.
For example, after university, I would’ve liked to take a break from everything and travel or something, but there was a job waiting for me as soon as I finished. I’d also attended a boarding primary and secondary school, reading and being serious all the while. I just wanted some time to actually have fun and find myself. But I didn’t have that choice because everything was already planned out.
I know this sounds like privileged whining. I’m grateful, but it’s really how I feel.
Boarding school from primary level? Omo
Yeah. I started boarding school when I was about three years old. This school is in Ikenne, Ogun State — Mayflower. It really was one of the best schools at the time. But I didn’t like that I started there really young.
Wow. Have you ever had this conversation with your family?
Oh, I never did. I just accepted things as they were. I talk about wanting to have had more input into decisions as they affected me, but a part of me is grateful for the many ways I was guarded as well. It created the trajectory my life is on right now, and I feel like if i’d done everything I wanted to do, I would’ve wrecked my life.
There was the time I wanted to get a face tattoo. LOL. I think I turned out pretty okay, not being in control of my life?
Is that rhetorical? LOL. The boarding school experience though, how did that affect your relationship with family?
It really didn’t hit me until I was in secondary school. I realised I wasn’t as close with my siblings and family as I’d wanted, and a lot of the strain was because we weren’t around each other a lot. My siblings and I were off in different boarding school again; my parents were out working. That’s when I knew we had to consciously work and be more deliberate about creating the sort of familial bond we wanted.
With the boarding school decision, for instance, my mind was all over the place for a long while. I started to wonder if I was a bad kid. Boarding schools are great for teaching discipline and independence, but if I had a say in the decision to attend, I wouldn’t have done it as young as I was.
I felt this way as a child, but now that I’m older, my perspective has changed. My parents were moving around a lot for work, so I see why they might’ve felt having me in a boarding facility would ensure I had some stability.
Is it something you’d consider if you had kids?
I don’t think I want kids. They’re very unpredictable and too much of a responsibility.
Can we talk about this?
As soon as I became an adult, I came to the conclusion that children won’t be a part of my life plan. There’s a lot that goes into having kids, and I don’t want to be forced to make the same sometimes uncomfortable choices my parents had to make in the interest of their children. I want to live as selfishly as I can.
Don’t get me started on how children can be out of your control. I know good and bad kids. I don’t want to try my best to bring up a child only for them to turn out to be a disaster. I can’t deal with all that.
I want to pack a backpack with two shirts and travel to South Africa without worrying about diapers or where my child would stay. There’s also the part where I have to look out for them. I don’t want to be involved in making decisions for anybody. I want to travel as light as possible.
I’m stealing that last line. What happens if you meet a partner who wants kids?
It’s not a deal breaker for me. We just need to have an understanding that even though we’re both parents, you’re pretty much responsible for this child, and I’ll only be around for as long as I can tolerate it. I’ll be there for the good times and the good times only.
Wahala. Looking back, do you regret the move that gave you your “man now” moment?
It was absolutely the right decision. I’ve seen that I can live by myself and do my own thing. I love my job. I’ve been working here for about 7 years now and it has expanded my mind and career prospects in ways I can’t even begin to explain.
Also, I was sheltered for a long time, living in a bubble. Moving to Kaduna and working with the government on intervention programmes, I’ve gotten to see the opposite of this spectrum. It has been an important part in helping me realise my privilege and how it’s not the same for everyone.
Fair enough. So what drives you as a man living in Nigeria?
I’d say the fear of poverty. Systems don’t work in Nigeria whether you’re rich or poor. But it’s particularly shitty for people who don’t have money. I work hard to make sure I have enough financial options to always have choices. That’s what drives me.
I’m curious to know what you’ve learnt about being a man over the years
That I have the will to survive, thrive and just enjoy life. I’m tougher than I look or sound. No matter what life throws at me, I’ve realised I always find a way to thrive.
So what’s next for you?
I’d move back to Abuja to live by myself, in my own house. My family lives in Abuja, so it would be the first time we’d all be in the same city, yet live in separate houses.
I’m excited to see what that looks like.