I Was Worried You’d Be Lonely When I Left Nigeria — Michael and Demilade

December 4, 2022
My Bro is a biweekly Zikoko series that interrogates and celebrates male friendships of different forms.

The first time Demilade saw Michael in NYSC camp, he knew he wanted to be friends. Ten years later, they’re best friends who lived together but ended up separated thanks to japa syndrome. 

In this episode of #ZikokoMyBro, they talk about letting their guards down to open up to each other, the accident that brought them closer and how they’ve maintained their friendship across two continents. 

Our origin story

Demilade: We met ten years ago in 2012 while we were both in NYSC camp. I remember you walked into one of the canteens in Maami Market with a friend of yours called Andrew, and I couldn’t stop staring at the both of you. Even though you guys were giving me bad eye, I decided in that moment I wanted to be friends with both of you. 

Michael: We gave you bad eye? LOL. Andrew and I were wondering why you were staring at us. And we’d noticed you were always alone. 

Demilade: I didn’t have any friends at the time. I wasn’t friends with the people from my university in camp, so it was just me. 

After that canteen day, I saw you again by the field, watching something on your phone. I still don’t know what got into me because I’m normally shy, but I sat close to you and started asking questions about what you were watching. I could tell you were disgusted. 

Michael: Not because I didn’t like you, but because you were asking so many questions, and I just wanted to watch my Vampire Diaries on my BlackBerry Bold 4 in peace. 

Demilade: LOL. I sat with you sha, and when Andrew came, I followed you guys around. That was it. From then on, the three of us just kept hanging out. 

Life after NYSC Camp

Michael: Life outside of camp was tricky because you and Andrew weren’t that close, so I had to hang out with both of you separately, and it was exhausting. 

Demilade: Becoming friends with Andrew was important to me too. I mean, I wanted to be friends with the BOTH of you when we met. 

Michael: Wow. It took a while sha, but Andrew came around, and we became a group of three, hanging out all the time, going to restaurants and just chilling. It was NYSC service year, so we had time to have fun together. 

The accident that brought us all closer

Demilade: The first time I really felt connected to you as a friend was when we went swimming one afternoon in 2013. I have a lot of acquaintances, but having friends is hard for me because I can be very guarded and reserved. Hanging out with you and Andrew that day, I felt free and at ease. It wasn’t anything special. I just looked around and realised I wanted what we had to be long-term. 

The second time it hit me that our friendship was genuine was when I had an accident. 

Michael: That accident was the same time for me too!

Demilade: Because of how private I was, you and Andrew didn’t know where I lived at the time. Since I wasn’t with my phone, and my family didn’t know both of you, there was no way they could tell you about my accident. All the time I was in the hospital, I kept wondering how you both would feel, thinking I’d just disappeared. 

As soon as I was discharged, I got home and called you guys, crying. It was one of my most vulnerable moments, but it also helped me understand how important both of you were in my life. I realised you were my people. 

Michael: I remember getting the call and being scared because you were crying. Before you called me, Andrew and I had talked about your disappearance. You’d mentioned leaving for Canada for your master’s, so we just thought that’s what happened, and in typical Nigerian fashion, you decided to do it silently. We expected a call after you settled, not about an accident. 

I was very cranky that night and the following day, because family errands prevented me from coming to see you. I was very worried. We later came to your house; that’s how I finally knew where you lived and started coming over. 

Living together 

Michael: We lived together three different times. I stayed with you for three weeks in 2017 after moving to Lagos. Then there was the lockdown period in 2020 when I was looking for a new place to rent. And finally, in 2021, for three months while I waited for my UK visa. 

After the accident, we’d gotten really comfortable with each other, and with Andrew moving to Canada in 2016, it was just the two of us. 

Living with you showed me you’re a hard person to annoy, and people take advantage of that a lot. I didn’t want to be like that, so I was conscious of making sure I didn’t touch things without permission and kept everything back the way I saw it. But you just kept reminding me it was my house too. 

Demilade: Having you over was exciting for my siblings and I. We had a very caged childhood. We didn’t have a lot of friends and never really invited anyone to our house. You moving in was something new, so I wanted to make you comfortable. But then, you were being so extra, washing the plates and things like that. 

Whenever you did something wrong or forgot to put something back, I’d fix it myself. When I do that two or three times, you’d understand how it’s done, and it wouldn’t be a problem. I just wanted you to feel at home. I don’t know how to fight. 

Michael: But sometimes, it’s necessary. It’s hard to be angry at someone who doesn’t get angry. Whenever I felt offended by something you did, I had no choice but to sulk and get over it as quickly as possible. There’s usually no point. 

Japa separation 

Demilade: Before you decided to leave Nigeria in 2021, I remember pushing you to do it because I could see you weren’t happy. Watching you apply to schools, try to get your visa, and everything else involved, helped me process your leaving, so it didn’t hurt as much when it finally happened. I was very sad because I realised I was the only one left, but It wasn’t a rude shock. 

Michael: I was also worried you’d feel alone. That was my biggest fear, leaving you behind in Nigeria. I knew nothing would happen to our friendship, but I was scared of how lonely you’d feel. 

Demilade: I’m okay. I don’t go out as much as we used to, but I’m doing my best to move on because I don’t like dwelling on things. 

Michael: One thing I’ve noticed since I moved away is how often I talk about you and Andrew. Both of you are huge parts of my life, and everyone who knows me here has heard me mention you guys a lot of times. Both of you have also raised the standard when it comes to how I approach friendship. 

He came through for me

Demilade: When I had my accident in 2013. It wasn’t anything major, but before you and Andrew, I hadn’t felt love from people outside my family. The feeling that I was appreciated and important to people who weren’t related to me was strange in a good way.

Michael: There have been too many times to count. I overthink people’s kindness, so accepting help is hard for me, even from my parents. I always need to do something in return. You’ve helped me understand how to accept kindness because I don’t have to repay anything to you. 

I also can’t forget how you surprised me financially when I was getting ready to leave Nigeria. I didn’t expect that level of support at all. 

What holds this friendship together

Demilade: Love holds us together and is important in every relationship. 

Michael: And effort, too, because no matter how much you love someone, if you don’t make an effort to be in their lives, your relationship won’t last. We both make that effort. I call you as often as possible to fill you in on what’s happening in my life. We still send each other our pictures to vet before posting them on social media. We’re both making a conscious effort to ensure our friendship works. 

I want you to know

Demilade: Thank you, Michael, for being there for me. Just knowing that someone has my back is very important to me. It makes me feel safe. 

Michael: I appreciate you as a friend, Demilade. Please, why is this awkward? LOL. 

I tend to get paranoid and overthink things, but you always find a way to calm me down and make me feel better. I really appreciate it. Thank you for being my additional brother since I even talk to you more than my real brother. 

Do you have an interesting bro story you’d like to share? Fill this form and we’ll get back to you.

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