“I’m Scared Of The Nigerian Police” — Man Like Ezra

November 1, 2020

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.


The subject of today’s Man Like is Ezra. He’s the co-founder of Paystack, a payment solution company. He talks about painting his nails, avoiding police trouble, and the struggles that come with being the first child.

When was the first time life showed you that you were now a man? 

I don’t know if it came as you’re a man and you have to man up. It was more like you’re the firstborn and you’re now out of school, and your siblings have to finish their education. Your dad that was responsible for everyone is no longer in the picture so you have to step up. At the time, I was earning small money while trying to pay for the education of my siblings and also give them pocket money. At some point, I think I was sending money to my mum too. 

For me, the ultimate aim was for my siblings to become independent because I was only expecting myself to be the breadwinner for as long as necessary. 

I’m curious: how old were you?

I think I was 21 or 22. I left uni just before turning 20, so I had gotten a job by then. This was around 2006/2007, and I was the breadwinner until my siblings got out of uni around 2012/13. 

Man. How did this affect your growth? 

I remember having a conversation with my mum about this. At that time in my life, I felt like I was making money (however small) but I wasn’t able to save up and do things for myself. For the most part, getting a car was super far-fetched. Every time I attempted saving for something substantial, something would happen that would take the funds. That was a little bit unsettling for me. And it was easy to blame my inability to do things on the fact that I had to take care of my siblings and mum. 

In retrospect, it’s funny to see how my finances have evolved to the point where I’m comfortable enough to take care of those concerns in the past and not necessarily think about it. 

What’s one difference between not having enough and being comfortable now?

Peace of mind. And not getting upset. I don’t know if I was upset at myself or with the people making the request. There’s the powerlessness when a need comes from your family and you don’t have the funds for it. It’s worse when you know that you shouldn’t be at this point in your life because you can see your friends doing well. You know that these friends can easily take care of the problems you’re struggling with. 

Thankfully, it doesn’t happen again. If I can’t take care of something right now, it just means that I don’t have the resources for it today. Because I can plan properly, I feel more in charge of myself and my emotions and how I face difficulties.

Pls, do giveaway.

[Laughs]

What’s your biggest fear?

Nigerian policemen scare me. When I’m driving from point A to B, I’m mentally picturing the route where I have lesser chances of encountering policemen. It’s definitely going to be a longer route, but I’ll be more at rest.

Sigh. 

I think the police trouble started with my hair in 2011. That’s when I became a regular customer. I’ve ended up writing statements in the police station over ridiculous things — like carrying a laptop in my bag. 

There was a day I closed from work by 9 p.m. and left the office to get suya. Somehow somehow, I landed in the police station because I got stopped. After delaying me for an hour, they finally let me go home that night. After that incident, there have been random stops and questioning where you can tell that the police officer is trying to get to a point where they have something on you. And if they don’t, they invent something.

Ahan.  

Thankfully, I’ve not been flogged or rushed. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been hit, and I can’t remember because of the beating. I won’t say that I’ve had some of the other scary experiences that people have had. 

It’s annoying because I’m not someone that likes wahala. All I’m trying to do is get from point A to B in peace. It’s not like I’m an outgoing person either, so I barely go out or go long distances. I’m just going down the road, and I end up getting stopped by the police. Usually,  the encounter with the police lasts longer than the trip itself, and I also end up parting with money. 

What’s the most money you’ve parted with at once?

₦40,000 – ₦50,000.

Man, fuck the police.

Yup.

Moving on to happier things, I’d like to hear about your style inspirations.

I remember relaxing my hair when I was uni and wearing it all back. During that time, even though there was no official rule against that kind of hairstyle, the school authorities gave me so much trouble. At the end of the day, I ended up cutting the hair. 

Immediately I got out of uni, I felt I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted, so I started growing my hair. Then I started plaiting it around 08/09. In 2010, I decided to cut it off and have dreadlocks instead. On one of the days I was getting my hair done at the salon, I decided to paint my nails and I liked it. And that just became a thing I started doing as well. 

Basically, I am just being me. I don’t let the societal constraints that define what’s expected of a man or Ezra define me. I do what I want as long as I’m happy with it. Another thing that fascinates me is androgynous clothing and appearance. Unfortunately, I’ve not had a lot of them. Apart from a couple of sweaters, most of my clothing is the stereotypical guy clothing — T-shirts.

Interesting. Don’t you care about what people will say?

[Clears throat]

I dunno. Part of it might be realising that whatever you say or do will not stop people from still asking questions again tomorrow. I’ve developed general apathy towards people’s feelings. I will continue being myself. 

Does this extend to your family members? 

My mum is not going to continuously hammer on the same thing. Yes, she brought it up, but after I explained to her, she was fine. My siblings never questioned my choices though. I don’t know if that’s out of respect or…

In the beginning, it probably started out like why is my elder brother painting his nails or ordering this and that. Then it progressed to I can’t talk to him because he’s my elder brother. Now, I think it has become I’m very proud of my elder brother being able to do this without caring what people say about him. 

I’m crying in the club.

Lmao.

You said something about your dad being out of the picture. What was that about?

Long and short was that he cheated on my mum. 

Wait.

It’s wild because he was a regional overseer in Deeper Life church. That meant our house was very spiritual. By the time I was six, I had finished reading the bible like twice. 

Wait. Did you just say Man of God? 

It doesn’t mean that he’s not a man. Lmao.

Omo.

[laughs]

The cheating wasn’t once, but this particular one broke the proverbial camel’s back. And that’s because he moved in with the person. It was the way he handled everything that made me realise that I don’t want to have anything to do with this man again. 

Omo. 

Do you think this influences in any way the red flags you look out for in relationships?

I don’t know that I have red flags. It’s important that the person is like me in some way and should be able to hold conversations. If not, anything happening becomes out of the question. However, I’ve not been in a relationship since 2013 when my last one ended. 

Oh. Wow. Do you belong to the streets?

If you want to put it that way, yes. 

Dead. This changes my question: how do you decide people to have sex with?

Basically, I have my friends. They are the people I go to for my needs ranging from just talking to advice to work, and somehow that just becomes a part of it with some of them.

Doesn’t that complicate the friendship?

My older friends know me so there’s nothing like them wanting more. And if they do, they know I’m not the person for that. When I make new friends, I try as much as possible to be very clear about the kind of person I am. I let them know that I’m not looking for a relationship, and I have many friends. I’m not about the life of trying to schedule that oh this friend is coming today, come tomorrow. Because at the end of all day, it’s a friendship and we’re all friends. 

It’s not surprising to come to my house and see me with three friends I met individually but are now friends with each other. You’ll see us either chilling, watching TV, playing board games or making food. New friends I make end up coming into this picture where they can see every other person and how I am with them. It’s now for them to decide whether this person who is friends with a lot of people is what they want. Thankfully, I’ve not gotten into any situation where I have to explain myself about why I can’t be in a relationship with anyone. And that’s because I try to be honest and clear way before anything outside of just being friends happens. 

Interesting. What’s one friendship that has immensely added to your life?

I think that’s the one I have with my best friend at the moment. I met her in late 2009, we dated for like a month in 2010, but we went back to being friends. And we’ve been best friends till date. We’ve grown together. We even ran a consulting firm together from 2013 till when I started at Paystack. She’s an expert in her field. She’s always giving trainings because she’s like a manager of managers. One time, she was even a lecturer at the African Leadership University.

She’s the one person I’ve always gone back to over the years when I have issues and need someone to discuss with. This person always comes through for me when I have a complication in my life that needs to be unravelled. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without her in the picture because she’s been a part of every single thing I’ve done so far. 

You didn’t ask me oh, but I think you guys should get married.

[Laughs]

Tell me how you felt when you finally bought your first car.

For me, it was a…it felt good.

[Laughs]


Check back every Sunday by 12 pm for new stories in the “Man Like” series. If you’d like to be featured or you know anyone that would be perfect for this, kindly send an email.

Zikoko Donation Banner

Help Zikoko keep making the content you love

More than ever, people are turning to Zikoko for stories that matter and content they love. But still, we, like many media organisations, are feeling the financial heat of these times. If you find us valuable, please make a contribution to help keep Zikoko zikoko-ing.

Thank you for your support.

We are also cool with Crypto.

Donation Close
Zikoko Logo

Complete Your Commitment

Donation confirm

Your Contribution is confirmed! Amount

Hassan Yahaya

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

September 18, 2020

Sony just announced the prices of their new home video game console, PlayStation 5 and the world is loving it. Starting from $500 for the PS5 and $400 for the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition, there’s a lot of anticipation for the long-awaited game console. If you’re interested in getting a PS5, but you don’t have […]

April 11, 2021

Today’s Man Like is Andy Obuoforibo, a 40-year-old politician and product manager. He tells us about how his father’s warmth and work ethic taught him the real meaning of masculinity, how his mother’s foray into politics influenced him to participate in politics and why he supports the LGBTQ+ movement as a Nigerian politician. When did […]

April 22, 2021

Puberty is a period of changes in an adolescent’s body. It can also be a very confusing period for them if they aren’t armed with the right information. From breaking voices to hair growing where it shouldn’t, I spoke to five Nigerian men about experiencing puberty. Ben Puberty didn’t take me by surprise because my […]

Watch

Now on Zikoko

May 15, 2021

At the end of the day, what is your soul really worth? A plate of food like Esau? Or you have nothing left of your soul for sale? Don’t take this quiz if you don’t like to be exposed sha, because we will find out. QUIZ: How Much Is Your Soul Worth?

May 15, 2021

Sex Life is an anonymous Zikoko weekly series that explores the pleasures, frustrations and excitement of sex in the lives of Nigerians. The subject of today’s Sex Life is a 28-year-old gay man who recently discovered he is a side — a gay man who isn’t interested in penetrative sex. He talks about how this affects […]

May 14, 2021

Bolanle Austen-Peters Production, in collaboration with the MTN Foundation, is bringing the story and characters of Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman to the Terra Kulture stage on May 13 to 16 in eight performances. The story, which is inspired by true events, is about a king’s horseman who is prevented from committing ritual […]

Recommended Quizzes

June 14, 2020

Have you ever been with someone so horrible that you swore to never date again? Yes? Well, do you know that one or more of your exes probably feels the same way about you? You never thought about that, huh? Thankfully, this quiz is here to let you know just how much of a hassle […]

April 14, 2020

Every friend group consists of very different and specific characters — from the parent to the fun one — and it can be a little tough figuring out where you fall. So, we’ve created a quiz that lets you know exactly what kind of friend you are. Take to find out:

What are you like in a relationship?
February 7, 2020

Your taste in music can say a lot about you, and this time, it’s going to reveal what you are like in a relationship. So, pick a few of your favourite Nigerian love songs, and we’ll let you know if you’re typically a distant, passionate or unbothered partner. Here you go:

November 14, 2019

The fourth season of Big Brother Naija came to an end over a month ago, but the conversation surrounding the housemates is far from over. So, in a bid to keep the fire burning, we decided to create a quiz that tells you which famous member of the ‘Pepper Dem’ gang is your soulmate. Take […]

More from Man Dem

May 10, 2021

‘Real men don’t cry’ is one of the top three most stupid and inaccurate things I have ever heard. Men cry, that’s the reality of life and it doesn’t make them less of men. To help illustrate and normalize men crying for normal and silly things, we asked a few men what the weirdest and […]

zikoko- dating advice
May 5, 2021

I am fascinated by the lives of sex workers because I often wonder how they navigate a hypocritical and judgmental country like Nigeria. Over the weekend, I spoke with a few sex workers I personally knew and asked them if their partners would be willing to speak to me for a story on what it […]

April 30, 2021

As told to Femi We hope for easy lives. But life doesn’t always go the way the wish. I spoke to Balo*, a an educational program advisor. We talked about fending for his family when he lost his father and a culture that does now allow men to grieve. We had an interesting chat. My […]

April 26, 2021

I am personally very curious about what the lives of men whose realities are underrepresented look like. Over the weekend, I had a conversation with a friend about his brother who was a single dad and it made me wonder about what it is like being a single dad as a Nigerian man living in […]

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.
X