Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.

How did you meet?

Zayyan: We’ve always known each other. We’re family friends and from the same town in Kebbi State. Although we’ve both lived in Lagos most of our lives, our parents were all neighbours in Gwandu. So in Lagos, we and some other families were all very close-knit.

Rabi: Yes. He attended the same secular schools in Lagos as my brothers and some of my cousins. And we visited each other’s houses a lot as kids. But when he went to Dubai for university in 2011, and I went to the UK the next year, we stopped communicating as much. We didn’t lose contact, but we just never called or texted each other. He only commented on my few IG posts once in a while.

So how did you reunite?

Rabi: By 2018, we were both back in Nigeria for one reason or the other. But my family had relocated to Abuja while his was still in Lagos. 

With our return to the country and renewed interaction with mutual family friends, I started hearing general news about him and his family. Then early in 2019, his sister came to Abuja and stopped by my family house for a few days. On one of those days, Z called her, and we all spoke for several minutes. I was able to catch up with him and all he was doing with his life. It was during this long, drawn-out chat that he jokingly said I’ve always been his secret crush, and he’d come to visit us when he has business in Abuja.

Zayyan: I didn’t realise I said that until she told me later on. But I wasn’t able to go to Abuja until around September 2019. I dropped by her house, greeted her father and saw her briefly. I spent my weeks in Abuja more with her elder brother and some other of our childhood friends.

But I admired her from afar and got to know she wasn’t seeing anyone. However, I didn’t ask her about it before leaving later in the month.

Rabi: The crush thing surprised me because, when we were young, I never ever imagined he’d like me or we would date, talk less of marry.

What changed?

Rabi: In November, one of us was getting married and formed a WhatsApp group for all of us childhood friends. We’d all gotten very close again, especially with most of us returning to Nigeria after years overseas. The group was created so we could support and contribute to our mutual friend’s wedding. 

This guy was our age mate, getting married so early, and to a Taraba girl. We were so amazed and happy for him. We all came through for him, and during this period, we’d all communicate and hang out a lot. There was also a lot of interaction with everyone’s parents to make sure everything was in order. 

Somehow, me and Z got close. We always happened to be in charge of the same tasks, and my father was also more likely to decide on what he’d do regarding the wedding with his father than the other parents, even though we were states apart.

Zayyan: It’s because they think alike and have always gotten along great.

Rabi: Yes. So during that wedding period, Baba would ask me to ask you something about your father, or pass a message across if, for some reason, they couldn’t reach each other directly. That’s how we got to really talking. 

Then the wedding day came, and of course, it was beautiful. About 20 of us booked an entire floor of a hotel in Birnin. It was an amazing time. And it was there we decided to see each other.

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Wait. Hold up. How did that happen?

Zayyan: We had a connection during the week leading up to the wedding. It felt like we were dating already, the way we treated each other. We’d always pair up on bridal outings and check up on each other. At one point, we were talking every hour of every day. 

So after the couple got married and took off, I didn’t want our own connection to end. I realised I’d go back to Lagos, and she’ woul’d return to her life in the capital. We’d have nothing to keep us in touch, so we’d drift apart. I didn’t want that to happen. I wanted her in my life for good. 

And it’s good I spoke up because she was going for her master’s in January and didn’t tell me.

Rabi: Baba didn’t want me talking about it to anyone. And it didn’t come up between us. 

But when Z discovered this, he decided to apply for the May intake. I was surprised when he called to tell me he’d gotten an admission to my school. It’s not that easy to get in on that particular intake, especially when you don’t plan ahead. 

You got to love a man who’d go to school just to be with you

Rabi: True. Maybe that’s why I love him.

Zayyan: A master’s degree was always part of the plan for me, so why not do it at the same time and place as the woman I wanted to make my wife?

God, abeg o. Am I a pencil?

Zayyan: It turned out to be terrible timing because COVID happened in February/March, and although I got the admission, I had to try again for the September and the next January intake before UK allowed me to travel to their precious land.

Rabi: Yes, our enemies were really pressed. By then, I was done with my one-year program, but he convinced me to stick around for his own. It was an expensive decision. We had to figure out housing, surviving on student jobs and allowance from home. But it all worked out in the end.

Zayyan: I proposed to her at my graduation in 2022, which started a family war.

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Ah. Why and how?

Zayyan: Well, her parents didn’t know she was staying back in Buckingham with me. That’s one. 

Then when I proposed, I did it in front of my father and some of my siblings. They were all happy to see her, but they didn’t know we’d been together all that while. My father didn’t react well to having to find out when I was asking her to marry me. 

But the real war started when photos of us got to her parents the next day.

Rabi: My mother rang up my phone and started ranting about how my father was furious with me and disappointed. I was quite shocked. I couldn’t even get a word in.

Zayyan: At that point, we both still thought they were angry because we’d been living together in England.

It wasn’t just that?

Zayyan: It wasn’t.

Rabi: So we got to find out that me and Z share a great great grandfather who was an Emir. And apparently, our fathers regard each other as brothers.

Zayyan: It was ridiculous to me. We aren’t even cousins. In the past, didn’t first cousins marry each other?

Ah. So how did y’all move past that?

Rabi: We had to return to Nigeria first, in February 2022. But our fathers insisted we couldn’t marry. They said it was taboo and Allah wouldn’t bless our marriage, so why would they? It was scary because Z and I had already gone through so much together. The thought of us just ending things seemed like a huge heartbreak I wasn’t sure I had the strength for.

Zayyan: It was scary. Most people would say they just won’t take it and either marry anyway or do everything they can to force their parents’ hands. But the truth is, it’s extremely hard to go against your parents’ wishes, especially with something as important as marriage. So I had to pray about it.

Then sometime in April, when I went to Kebbi for a cousin’s turbaning ceremony at the Emir’s palace, I spoke to some princes about it. They all agreed that our fathers were being unreasonable. They agreed to persuade the Emir to summon them. 

Rabi: We don’t know what happened next, but by the end of May, when I was considering returning to the UK to be with my sister in London, my father asked to see me and said he’d told Z we could marry. I was so shocked I actually thought he was just pulling my legs.

Zayyan: I’d had a meeting with our fathers a night before, where they’d given me their blessing.

Thank God for the Emir?

Rabi: Subhanallah. 

Zayyan: The whole thing suddenly made us eager to get married. When I proposed in January, I didn’t even think we’d be married within the year. I just wanted to show my commitment to her. But after our fathers finally gave their blessings, we wanted to be married the next day, if possible.

Rabi: But preparations delayed his eagerness by three more months.

So how was the wedding?

Zayyan: It was great. We brought together the same gang from the wedding that brought us together in 2019, give or take a few people. In fact, we used the same WhatsApp group. It survived at least two weddings since that first one. 

Rabi: If you see our fathers smiling from ear to ear because the Emir attended briefly, you wouldn’t believe they spent five months opposing the whole thing.

Zayyan: We ended up doing two nikahs. One in Birnin and the other in her father’s sitting room in Maitama because he wanted his Imam’s special prayers. Then we did two receptions as well. Our parents paid for everything, so they could do as they liked. We just went with whatever.

And how has married life been since?

Rabi: It’s been nine months already. That’s amazing.

Zayyan: What can I say? It’s been good. Nothing much has changed. We just do a lot more things together and share a last name.

Rabi: Last week, we bought our very first ram together as a couple, and it made me so happy inside.

Zayyan: Yes, we won’t forget that experience in a while. Bibi made us go to Wuse Market so we could get the whole ram-buying experience. Something we could’ve ordered from the comfort of our home. But it wasn’t all bad — even though they cheated us.

Rabi: Kai. We paid extra for the real market experience.

Zayyan: This is our first real Eid as a couple because, apart from fasting together, we’ve never gone all out like this before. It’s the best.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your Love Life?

Zayyan: I’d say 8. It’s been great so far. The foundation is strong.

Rabi: 10. It’s been perfect, and we’re expecting a bundle of joy soon too. Mashallah.

Check back every Thursday by 9 AM for new Love Life stories here. The stories will also be a part of the Ships newsletter, so sign up here.

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