Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.
Hadiza*, 35, and Zikora*, 40, dated for three years before they got married. Today on Love Life, they talk about being friends who travelled together for work, growing into a relationship and getting married despite living in Nigeria where same-sex marriage is illegal.
What’s the earliest memory you have of each other?
Zikora: It was the day she punished me in secondary school. I was in SS 1 when she was in SS 3. The punishment was for everybody sha, but she championed it. She said she wasn’t the one that punished us but that’s my earliest memory of her.
Hadiza: LOL. The first time we met, it was at a park in Calabar. She was with her then-girlfriend in 2014. Her girlfriend was my friend and they were with some of my other friends so I joined their table.
Zikora: Hadiza came to tell us about this girl that she had met a few minutes before she found us. She decided she was going to go back and look for the girl who had already left. But did she?
Hadiza: I still think I should have said something to that girl. My friends teased me about it and after that day, we all started hanging out more. This was around this time I started a weekly meet at my house for queer women. I wanted it to be a consciousness-raising group but these women said it was too serious so the group phased out.
Zikora: Imagine me in a queer gathering talking about classism, euthanasia and abortion after a long week at work.
Some of us were trying to destress from the work week, dear. It felt like AA meetings, and so the group decided it should be monthly.
Did you two keep hanging out?
Zikora: Yea, I got a job in the firm she worked at but in a different branch.
Hadiza: Then we started travelling together for work. We would go to London and attend conferences together. During tea breaks, we talked about how much we missed our partners who were back at home in Nigeria.
Zikora: We even helped each other pick out gifts for them. We did double dates quite often when we were all in town. Things were going great until my girlfriend broke up with me.
Hadiza: That period, everyone was breaking up in our friendship circle. It was 2016. Even my own girlfriend and I started to grow apart and eventually, we broke up. Around this time, I got a job in Abuja and moved, but we stayed in touch.
Was this when romance entered the story?
Hadiza: Not yet. I wanted her to move to Abuja because I felt like she would enjoy living in Abuja more. She would have more access to finer people to date here and more work opportunities.
Zikora: Well, I wasn’t ready when she asked. Calabar was home for me. It’s where I grew up. Moving to a city I didn’t know as much as I knew Calabar scared me. In early 2017, we had to travel to China for a conference. I asked my office to book my flight from Abuja so I chill with her for two weeks.
Hadiza: She came to meet me in my one-room apartment that had a small queen-sized bed, which we shared as friends.
Zikora: As friends o. We were very good friends. I was on the streets scheduling knacks every other day.
Hadiza: I even helped her find people to hook up with. After sleeping and waking up with her beside me every day for two weeks, I caught feelings.
Zikora: Then this Hadiza babe wrote me a love letter.
Awww, what was in the letter?
Hadiza: I basically told her I had fallen in love with her and wanted to be with her. I detailed all the things I could bring into her life if we became a couple. I told her to take her time to think about it while I marinated in anxiety.
Zikora: LMAO. She read the letter out loud. She said she saw marriage with me, a baby and a couple of pets. Then added, “I know this sounds like a proposal and that’s because it is.” Omo, I panicked.
Because of small proposal?
Zikora: LMAO. I panicked because I know her. I knew she was not playing when she said she wanted a relationship with me. More importantly, I was still very much on the streets. I had to end things with everyone before I got into a relationship with her.
Hadiza: This girl took three months.
Zikora: August 2017 is when we became official to me and then we went on the work trip to China as a couple. When we returned, I went to Calabar to pack my things and moved in with her.
Hadiza: We spent Christmas together.
Zikora: Hadiza is such a darling. When I moved in, she planned a welcome party for me. During the holidays, she made me a Christmas tree with 120 bottles of my favourite beer. It was the sweetest thing.
Hadiza, you know how to do romance o. So what was dating like?
Hadiza: Me, I was already in the relationship waiting for her to join me. When she did, we immediately became an old married couple. We did everything together. We particularly like cooking for each other.
Zikora: I learned to make vegan meals for her and she learned to cook meat for me. We joined our finances and assigned responsibilities to each other.
I’m curious. Did you ever have money issues?
Hadiza: At first, Zikora was weird about money.
Zikora: I was the poor partner.
Hadiza: When she moved in, she was like, “If anything happens to us, I don’t want to be homeless,” so I put vex money in her account and told her she could do whatever she wanted with it. At one point, she wanted to contribute to the rent because she didn’t like the idea of me paying it alone.
Zikora: Hadiza was used to living on her own and made decisions without involving me. For example, her house has always been a safe space for queer people and so she would randomly invite people to stay over for as long as they wanted without letting me know. I like my space, so it was upsetting. I wanted to feel like I owned our apartment too.
How did you people resolve this?
Zikora: I told her how I felt about it and she started to include me more in her decisions. We decided to get a bigger house with a spare room and I started contributing to the rent.
For me, having a spare room in the house is not a priority but it is, for her.
Hadiza: You don’t know when someone is going to be homeless and I want to be there for them. I ask for permission to do things like inviting people over. After we resolved this, things went smoothly.
What happened next?
Zikora: Nothing much. In the first year of our relationship, we travelled a lot.
Hadiza: She would travel for weeks and when she comes back, I’d have to travel too. There was a time we met at the airport on her way back from a trip. We hung out for a few hours there, and then I was gone for a month.
Wow. How did you people survive this period?
Zikora: Video calls mostly plus we were both used to being in long-distance relationships. Before we started dating, we spent a lot of time away from our partners. We coped well then we started fighting.
What was causing these fights?
Zikora: We were still getting to know each other as partners so it was mostly tiny things that blew out of proportion.
Hadiza: I remember one time I ordered a shoe for her and the vendor delivered a shoe three sizes down. I was fine with keeping it and getting another one for her but she wanted me to fight the vendor. We argued about it for a while.
Zikora: She still has the shoe sef. That fight was even mild, but the airport fight?
Tell me about it.
Hadiza: She travelled to Abraka for a training and she was supposed to return the day I was to travel. Her training ended early so I suggested we move her flight a day up. I paid for the change on the website that night excited that I would get to spend an evening with her before I travelled.
Zikora: On the day of the supposed flight, I made my way to Asaba airport. Only for me to get there and they said I wasn’t on any of the flights for the day.
Hadiza: She immediately called me to shout. I was annoyed that she didn’t believe that I actually changed the flight time. Instead, she believed the airport people who were just looking for more money. I went to the airport in Abuja to rectify the issue. There, they told me that it takes 48 hours for changes to reflect. I was so pissed because they lied that no changes were attempted. Eventually, they admitted their faults and decided to apologise to her.
Zikora: They called me at night when I was struggling at a hotel where the manager had given my room key to a man because he thought we were together. It was just a bad day for both of us.
How did you resolve that?
Hadiza: I wrote her a long letter about how upset I was and how we needed to change the way we fight. If you see the way she para that day ehn.
Zikora: I am sorry. I was very stressed that day. I recognise now that it wasn’t your fault.
Since then, we have learned to fight fair. No more raised voices or cussing.
Love to hear it. How did marriage enter the picture?
Hadiza: I’ve always known that I wanted to marry her. In that letter in 2017, I told her point blank that if she agreed to date me, it would lead to marriage. During the lockdown, after spending the longest time we have ever spent together in each other’s space, I asked her if she was ready for marriage. Initially, she said no but at the beginning of this year, she said let’s just do this.
Zikora, why did you say no?
Zikora: At the time I wasn’t ready but at the end of 2020, I felt closer to her. In January 2021, we started making wedding plans. I wanted us to get married in America because we both liked being in America, but they were dealing with the Delta variant at the time.
Hadiza: Crazy things were just happening. We decided to go to the UK but they said we needed a fiancé visa to get married there. We tried Netherlands and Canada — no show either. Eventually, we settled on South Africa and the next issue became finding dates. That was a separate hell but we were able to find a date in March that year.
Zikora: On the morning of our flight, the airline said they couldn’t land in South Africa due to COVID restrictions.
Hadiza: After taking our money and everything. We had to move our wedding a day up. We told our friends and everybody started looking for flight tickets for us. Luckily, we found a flight and were able to travel the next day.
Zikora: Then I fell sick on the way there. See ehn, we suffered for this our marriage o.
LMAO. Sorry. Tell us about the wedding!
Zikora: When we landed in South Africa, I just slept till 2 a.m. then I dragged her out with me. We took a long walk and had snacks on the way. We had so much fun just talking to each other. We came back to the apartment by 5 a.m. to sleep for our wedding by 3 p.m.
Hadiza: As Nigerians that we are, we were late for our wedding.
LMAO. We support it.
Hadiza: You know something that pained me? Zikora did not cry. It was such an emotional event for me but obviously not for my wife.
Zikora: You are not serious. Did you cry? You just had one or two tears in your eyes. Don’t mind her. It was all sweet. We didn’t have personalised vows because we kept forgetting, but we came up with something on the spot. I didn’t want a big wedding so it meant a lot to me that I got what I wanted.
Hadiza: Me, I want a big wedding with all my people and we will eventually do that too. We came back to Nigeria the next week and settled into our life as a married couple.
What has that been like?
Hadiza: Honestly, nothing has changed. Since the moment she moved in with me, it has always felt like we were married. The only difference now is that we have rings to show for it.
Do people notice that you two are married?
Zikora: Not really. Most people think our rings are engagement rings.
Hadiza: Even when they notice it’s a wedding ring, they never think we are married. Nigerians can’t even imagine that. LMAO.
LOL. Are you two really going to have kids and pets?
Hadiza: My wife has always wanted to experience pregnancy and I want a mini her.
Zikora: Yes but I’m also looking forward to my tech career.
Hadiza: I don’t believe in capitalism and she, on the other hand, wants to make bastard money. The middle ground is that I get to give out a lot of the money she makes. I intend to be a kept woman while she sponsors all our trips around the world.
Do your parents know you’re married?
Zikora: My mum does. She knew Hadiza was my friend, but it’s when we got married she really came to terms with the fact that we were together. So far, it’s been good.
Hadiza: My parents have always known I’m gay, and my mum is always asking after Zikora. Any small thing, “Where is Zikora?”
Aww. What’s the best thing about your relationship?
Zikora: I love that we are grown-up. This shows in our decision making. We respect each other’s choices, even though we may not be okay with them.
Hadiza: For me, it’s that there’s always someone I can reach out to. Even when we were just friends, I knew I could always count on her.
Sweet. What’s your favourite thing about each other?
Zikora: It’s everything for me but mostly her mind. I love how she thinks and how it complements my own way of thinking. I think of us as a trolley and lever pulley system — where she stops, I start.
Hadiza: I really like her breasts, and she is so intelligent in ways that I am not. I am logic smart and she’s science smart. When we have kids, I know she’s the one handling the assignments.
LOL. Rate your relationship on a scale of 1 – 10.
Hadiza: 10 for me because the relationship just works.
Zikora: 10 too. We are both willing to do the emotional work it takes to stay together.
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