My Bro is a biweekly Zikoko series that interrogates and celebrates male friendships of different forms.
Okiki and Tobi first became best friends 21 years ago, but didn’t see each other for 13 years. In this episode of My Bro, they talk about their childhood friendship, why they chose not to stay in contact after life separated them, and the interesting family event that finally brought them back together.
Our origin story
Okiki: We had no choice but to be friends. We were about six or seven when we met, and our friendship started while I was living with my grandparents, and your parents dropped you off at their place when they had a work or church event to attend.
Even though we went to different schools, we bonded quickly because we were the same age and didn’t really have other kids to play with. You were the only friend I was allowed to visit.
Tobi: And your grandparents were the only people on our street my parents trusted enough to allow us stay with after school. But, omo, with the way Nigeria is going, I doubt anyone is allowing their neighbour’s children to stay with them and eat free food. LOL.
Man, you were so small and loud when we were younger. It was as if your gragra was to make up for the fact that you weren’t tall. Your playfulness brought me out of my shell. I remember you trying to toast fine girls on the street and add them to our friend group when we were teenagers.
Okiki: Please, let’s be focused here. You and who were toasting girls at that age? It’s a bro something; don’t bring girls into it. LOL.
Okiki: I knew you were an ajebutter from the start. You had this rich kid vibe, and I was also physically intimidated because I have a small stature and you’re big. But my grandparents mentioned we were the same age, so I wanted to hang out with you. Last last, me too, I was an upcoming ajebo.
Tobi: Stop lying. We just had trappings of wealth because my dad was a manager, and they gave him a driver.
Okiki: Na only rich people dey talk, “trappings of wealth”.
Tobi: Okiki, abeg o! Anyway, the first thing I noticed about you was how loud, no, bold you were. Even now, as small as you are, there’s no one you can’t talk to. And I just used to wonder where you got your liver from. Remember Maria on our street? That girl was the finest, and you were talking to her.
Another thing I noticed is how you’re friends with everyone. Overall best in friendship. I also noticed how smart you are. Someone would think it’s rubbish that’ll come out of your mouth based on your loudness, but you have sense. I’ll give you that.
I knew we were close when
Tobi: I can’t really remember what I did, but there was a time when we were younger that I did something bad and lied with your name. When she came to confirm, you said yes. I didn’t even tell you beforehand.
That’s when I was like, “This is my guy.” My other friends felt like I ghosted them, but omo, it is what it is.
Okiki: You were the first friend I ever had who wasn’t my sister or anyone from my family. I knew the friendship was real when I’d be in school, and all I could think about was how we’d play once I got home or on public holidays when your parents dropped you off at our house. I felt our friendship more when I went to boarding school, and we started growing apart. Every time teachers told us to write a letter to our best friend, your name was the only one that’d come to my mind.
Okiki: I noticed we were drifting apart when I had to leave Lagos for Ogun state to start secondary school. I was just 10 years old, but I could tell things were starting to change. I also noticed we didn’t hang out often when I came home for holidays because we weren’t in primary school anymore, so your parents didn’t need to drop you and your brother off with my grandparents while they were at work.
The pressure of secondary school also added to the strain because we became busy trying to pass Integrated Science etc. We still saw each other, but it wasn’t like before. It continued until I left Lagos in 2009, after secondary school, to go and live with my mum in Abuja.
Tobi: I was very angry when you moved to Abuja. Just talking about it reminds me that you left without saying goodbye or anything. I felt like I’d been left behind in the trenches, even though it was just Abuja you moved to. I was like those people who had people japa on them without their knowledge. I felt some resentment.
I know my brother and I asked my parents, but they didn’t explain properly. It also hurt some more because you were the glue that held our friend group on that street together. Once you left, everyone just started drifting apart.
My parents were extra cautious of me having new friends. They knew you and your family, so it was easy. They didn’t trust any of my friends after you. But we move sha.
Okiki: I was whisked away. It wasn’t my fault.
Tobi: Now that I’m older, I understand you didn’t have a say. But back then, I was angry. I asked your grandparents about you, and they always told me you were okay.
Okiki: I asked about you too. I felt we’d drifted apart so much I didn’t bother asking for your number. I thought we wouldn’t be as close as before. My grandparents always said you were fine, so I left it like that.
The crazy gist that made us reconnect
Okiki: Our first reconnection was when we became friends on Facebook in 2011. We never really said anything to each other outside of liking each other’s pictures. But then I heard your parents had another baby, and it was so strange to me because the gap was like 15 years.
Tobi: Can you imagine these people were doing kerewa and embarrassing me.
Okiki: The gist was so unbelievable, that I got your number from God knows who and called you immediately, like, “Guy, what’s up?”. I congratulated you, and we just bantered about how shocking it was.
Tobi: I had a younger sister who died, so I think my parents were trying to get her back. You weren’t the only one who called me about my new sibling. LOL. Some people still think she’s my daughter and my parents are trying to cover up for me.
Okiki: Omo, I had to call o. And I was surprised because our conversation flowed easily, like we never stopped talking. The years of silence didn’t even come up because nobody had time to make fake deep conversations.
I remember seeing a picture of you and your new best friend, and I wasn’t even pissed because I had my own guy too.
Tobi: Shoutout to Benjamin (Okiki’s other best friend)
There was no need to figure anything out. We just picked up from where we stopped. You’re like family, so it was a prodigal son situation.
Meeting for the first time after 13 years
Okiki: We met again for the first time after a long time this year . You told me you were coming to Abuja with your babe, and I helped with your itinerary. I remember how you carried me when we saw each other at the airport. LOL. I’m sure your babe was like, “Is it that deep?”
There was no point going back and forth about not reaching out. Not because it wasn’t necessary, but because It just didn’t feel like there was a break, even though we’d been on a long one.
Tobi: I like to call you “Best in friendship,” and it’s true. I’d just mentioned my trip to Abuja to you, as per, we’ll see when I’m in town. But you took control of everything and helped us plan a good time. You didn’t have to, but you did. I also got to see your mum, whom I hadn’t seen in ten years.
I love how you haven’t changed after all these years. You’re still so supportive, even to my girlfriend, sharing her content and hyping her everywhere. It was super easy for her to like you.
Okiki: I tell everyone she’s the best dentist in the world.
You also made sure I had a good time when I was in Lagos. I think because we’re still reconnecting, we haven’t had an extreme case where you had to come through for me or me for you. But when it happens, I know you’ll be there. By the way, I’ve told you, as long as you marry your present babe, any shoe you want on your wedding day, I’ll buy for you.
Tobi: Ayye! Funds papi.
What makes this friendship different
Okiki: You’re the first friend I ever had, which means something to me. We can effortlessly pick up from wherever we left off. Our separation and silence could’ve easily resulted in a rift or bad blood for other people, but we’ve never had that.
Tobi: I can’t talk about my childhood without discussing our time together. We’ve evolved separately, but there’s still so much love and mutual respect. I find it hard to call you my friend because it’s not enough. You’re my brother. And this year, I’ve decided to pour into this friendship by being more present in your life now that we’ve reignited our relationship.
You’ll definitely see a lot more of me in Abuja. Guy, our friendship has lasted more than some people’s marriages. I can see it being passed on to our children.
I want you to know
Okiki: I appreciate how honest you are with me. And even though you like to say you haven’t come through for me big time, just making time for me while living in that crazy city of Lagos is a big deal to me.
I also love how you’ve grown in your career over the years. Guy, we used to drink garri together. Seeing you achieve big things and make an impact at work is inspiring to me.
Tobi: I love that this friendship has stood the test of time. They tried to separate us, but like garri, we rise. There’s a rock-solid assurance that, no matter what happens, you’re my guy.
Okiki, I love how you’ve maintained your personality and originality. Life can suck out joy and stifle people, but you’ve managed to remain the same bold, happy and audacious person you were when we were growing up. How easy it is for you to make friends and come through for them blows my mind.
Thank you for the gift of your friendship. I’m proud of you and look forward to the speech you’ll give at my 80th birthday party.
Okiki: I’ll tell your kids their father is a bloody fool. LOL.
I appreciate you too, Tobi.
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