There are more conversations happening about how men need communities and safe spaces to thrive. And for many men, the people they know and have formed close bonds with serve this purpose. They become their tribe.
In this story, six Nigerian men talk about their tribe and how they make living a bit less lonely.
In June 2020, I was going through my Google Drive, and I noticed the same faces had appeared in my photos since 2014. So I thought if these people can be in my pictures every year, they must be my tribe. I was right, and I’ve been good since.
It’s tricky to quantify how much work went into building this community of people I feel safe with. But I know it wasn’t solo work, and everyone constantly put in some effort. The most challenging part for me was the amount of voluntary disclosures I had to give and receive, and that’s still ongoing. The WhatsApp chats and the Facetime calls never end, and I also walkie-talkie my friends to keep in touch.
My community is my biggest priority, and I treat them that way. I know I will always find all the love and safety I need in them. They are always there and will answer me when the need arises. As a result, there’s never been a time I was scared that I’d wake up and not see my people again.
About a year ago, I was forced offline because of a nasty power cut in my area. By the second day of the blackout, these people, at different times, stormed my house to confirm I was good. One of them burst into tears when they saw that I was alive and well.
That same evening, they dragged me out of the house, and my friend decided to dance at an event so she could win a power bank and hand it over to me: she didn’t want me to ever go off the grid again.
They’ll always have my back. Life has been fair to me because of these people. Money can’t buy that.
I have two tribes, and they exist for different purposes. One is a group of three people I’ve been friends with since uni. They’re my closest friends, and it’s easy because we grew up together in a way.
The second is a group of 12 boys, and they’re there for more serious matters — the personal and intimate matters I can’t discuss without being judged. It’s interesting how this worked out because I met them recently. But I warmed up to them the more I spent time with them and saw how free everyone was with one another.
It’s great I have these two groups in my corner; having them around helps me figure stuff out. In 2018, the 3-man group helped me navigate my most serious heartbreak. They’d met my ex several times and knew how I felt about her so they could get what I was going through. They checked in multiple times, and one reached out to her to fix things. The same group came in handy for the one after that.
They’re also a solid sounding board and are the first people I tell things to when they happen. There’s no other way to say it — they are my safe space.
I’m a people person, so I have different categories of folks I consider my guys. I grew up with some and met others from school, at work, or through other friends. But in all these groups, a close bond has been formed.
I’m not going to lie; it took some work to get there, from the serious stuff like showing up for them when they needed me to everyday things like celebrating their wins. But it was all worth it because now I know they’ll always have my back. It makes living more pleasant.
I’ve been homeless twice, and I wasn’t bothered. I knew I wouldn’t sleep under a bridge; I just needed to reach out to some of my people and let them know I was in a fix. On both occasions, two of my guys took me in. The first was for free, and the second let me pay the rent at my convenience. It doesn’t get better than that.
For years, I didn’t think I needed a tribe. Most people form these strong friendships or communities in uni, but I was a lone ranger the entire time I spent in school. It’s not like I didn’t have friends, but I didn’t see the need to create or nurture a community that would be my safe space.
This thinking only changed about three years ago. I’m not sure how, but I’m glad it did, and I should have given it a chance much earlier.
The first step in finding these folks was to identify what we had in common, which formed the basis of our bond. Now that I have them, they come through for me emotionally and sometimes financially. A while back, I felt the weight of family and work pressure crushing me, but these people got me through it. Also, I know who I can turn to for the urgent 2k to the significant loans. We prioritise refunds. This keeps the relationship healthy.
My tribe fills a lot of void. And I’ve learned that I can always be vulnerable with them, and they’ll make me feel safe. There’s no high-pressure situation they can’t get me out of. It’s reassuring.
My siblings are my safe space, and they’ve always been. In secondary school, I’d hear people talk about the not-very-nice experiences they had with members of my family, and I was always like, “Wait, what? My family is so chill.”
It results from how much work my parents put in for us to become this close-knit group. The primary thing I feel with them is love, which is excellent for my quality of life because I don’t have many friends besides my girlfriend. Two of my close friends also recently left the country, so my siblings have become an even more integral part of my community. We talk every day, I’m close with their kids, and I even live with one of them. They make me feel incredibly lucky.
I found my people in university. We were in the same space almost every day, and we built our community from the ground up. It was also primarily organic and started with little check-ins. But these droplets snowballed into something concrete post-uni. It still is.
They give me a sense of belonging and offer fresh, valuable perspectives on things I need to figure out or decisions I need to make. I’m self-sufficient, but it helps to know I have folks who will come through for me whenever I need them. It might seem minute, but this realisation alone improves the quality of my life.