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.
Today’s Man Like is Obafemi “TheGrandVezir” Onwochei, a doctor and 2D animation generalist. He talks to us about how an unhealthy work environment made him decide to switch careers, how growing up in a close-knit family inspires him to create one of his own and how being vulnerable in romantic relationships is difficult but necessary.
Tell me something interesting about yourself.
My name is Obafemi Onwochei. At this point, people usually say, “Oh, you’re half-Yoruba, half-Igbo,” or “Your dad is Igbo and your mom is Yoruba.” Neither of these things are true. It’s also not an adopted name nor is it because I’ve lived in Lagos all my life. Both my parents are Igbo. My dad just decided to give my brother and me Yoruba names.
Interesting. What’s your relationship with your dad like?
I had more books than toys growing up and that was because of my father. He also made me very good at picking up skills and mastering them in very short periods. When I went along with his decisions, our relationship was quite smooth.
He’s, however, that brand of Nigerian parents who think they’re right about everything and their opinion is the fact. As I got older, we started to have conflicts on more and more issues. Presently, our relationship is all right but strained partly because of my career change decision.
I’ve been a video content creator focused on animation and motion graphics for the past three years. I originally trained as a medical doctor, but Nigeria happened.
From my induction, I was already disillusioned by the health care system. It took me ages to get a house job, and I should have taken that as my cue to leave this country. By the time I decided to leave, the damage had been done. I was no longer interested in practising medicine. The meagre doctors’ salaries, the lack of infrastructure and the low morale made me lose interest in being a doctor, so I latched onto the next thing I was interested in — design and 2D animation.
From medicine to design and 2D animation. That’s a big career jump. Why?
I’ve always been amazed by creativity — what goes into creating something out of nothing. From making several ingredients into one soup to turning a bunch of shots into videos and movies, creativity inspires me. It wasn’t a big jump. I just elevated a hobby to a career in video making.
Safe to say you left your job for your passion?
I don’t think I can call any job my passion, per se. My only goal in life is to be a good father and husband. Every other thing, such as practising medicine or video making is just a means to an end. I’m not a husband or father yet, but I’m going to take any means necessary to make sure that I’m in a good position to provide for those that I love. It doesn’t matter if it’s by saving lives or by animating pictures. My passion is to successfully run a close-knit family. If I end up not being a good father or husband, I would be unfulfilled.
Is your family close-knit?
My family is small. I have just one brother in addition to my parents. Growing up, everyone was involved in the success and progress of the others. We always supported each other. I helped my brother with his academics, my father provided what we needed financially, and it worked. This is why I want a close family.
Interesting. At what point did you realise you were your own man?
I think it occurred in small milestones. The first point was leaving my parents’ house just before my youth service in 2016, in Onitsha. I believe every man should take that leap of independence at some point.
The next point was when I became a doctor and realised that my decisions were crucial to saving lives. I watched life leave the earth and watched it come into it. That gives you a sense of confidence in your decisions.
A random question: what kind of person are you in relationships?
When I’m in love, I’m fully at my partner’s service. I draw an insane amount of happiness from satisfying my partner’s needs and making them happy. Everything I do is geared towards making their life easy. I’ll do anything they want to make them happy, as long as it’s not illegal.
There’s a general belief that men should not be vulnerable. People say what you share can be used against you. But I can’t help being open. I’m a very emotional guy, and I don’t try to hold back my emotions, especially with people in my close circle. An ex almost made me regret this and it really hurt. I didn’t see the end of the relationship coming, so I was devastated and tried to find an outlet for my emotions. . But I won’t be stopped.
It helps that I have support systems that are accepting of my vulnerability.
I’m big on crying too. Men and women both have tear ducts. There’s no reason not to cry if you’re feeling overwhelmed. I cried when I saw movies like Coco and Moana. Bottling things up inside you might cause you to act out in some unhealthy way like lashing out. It’s better to process emotions healthily.
Interesting. What does it mean to be a man?
I don’t subscribe to the many tropes of toxic masculinity, but one I find trouble letting go of is being a provider. In yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s world, being a man means being a provider.
What does a relaxing weekend look like for you?
Flying out to Uyo on a Friday night to see my madam. Stay in with her at night and all day Saturday. Then I’d go get fisherman soup from my favourite restaurant in Uyo. Absolutely amazing. Then I’d fly back on a Monday in time for work.
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