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.
The subject of today’s “Man Like” is Eromz. He talks about being abducted for speaking up during the #EndSars protests, his plans moving forward after his release, and how his family supports all his decisions.
For someone obviously not scared of the government, what scares you?
Not making heaven scares me. Maybe that’s a huge reason why I don’t fear he that can destroy the body the way I fear he that can destroy the soul. I’m sure that I’ll comply today if the president tells me that if I don’t stop talking, I’ll not make heaven.
Lmao. I’m dead.
I have so many questions, but let’s start from the top. When did you get your “man now” moment?
I think it was secondary school when I made up my mind to stop asking my parents for money and I also started making plans to start a business. I was entering the university at the time.
Interesting. What was the first business you did?
I was selling petty stuff and managing my friend’s music studio.
If only your university self could see the transformation from businessman to activist…
I was also fighting for people as far back. It didn’t just start today…
Ah. I see. Pls come and help me fight my oga.
Back to not being scared, what makes you willing to fight for this shithole?
It’s a matter of exposure. I’m exposed enough to know that no Nigerian should be poor. After doing business for a decade, I have some knowledge of what Nigeria has and what is being taken away from us by politicians. It pains me because these people are not smart and innovative. They are just thieves. They don’t know how to multiply money in the economy. And if the masses had access to this money, it’ll change our lives because we know what to put it into.
Also, I was privileged enough to attend private schools, so I knew the children of politicians and I saw first-hand how they squandered money. The will to fight didn’t happen overnight; it had been growing in me.
Do you think there’s some level of privilege that allows you to fight for Nigeria?
Firstly, anyone who falls into the net of these government people should not expect a bail of one million. Neither should they expect, “Ah, my uncle fit call Abuja. Shebi I just insulted them.” It doesn’t work that way. It’s either you’re hundred per cent in or out because there’s no going back. No one is coming to save you or can even save you. As a matter of fact, when I was picked, I told my siblings and mum that I’d see them in January because I was sure I’d be locked up till then. It’s the pressure of Nigerians and God that got me out of jail.
I’m sorry man.
Were you scared at all? You were smiling throughout.
I wasn’t worried because I knew there was a possibility I’d be arrested. I had been expecting the arrest months before, but I wasn’t sure of the exact day. I even saw the police in front of my house a day before they picked me.
When you’re expecting something, your emotions are more controlled. And I think I have a spirit that’s hard to break. I was scared that maybe my laughing too much would make Nigerians think I was unserious or think it was an act. It was also encouraging to see tweets of support anytime I checked my lawyer’s phone in between court hearings.
What was the experience like? Did they put you in the same cell with criminals seeing as you’re not one?
Of course, they did.
E no add up. Did the criminals know who you were?
When you get into a cell, one of the first things you’re asked is your offense. This information is used to group and class you according to your sleeping area.
Some people were indifferent about me. Some people were good. And others were angry that “Oh, so na you be part of EndSars?” However, they couldn’t touch me because I ensured my confidence and pride spoke for me.
What was going through your head at that point? Any regret?
Can we talk about moving forward? Because the past is the past…
Okay. How do we prevent this from happening again? Is there a way forward?
Yes. The first step is by voting out the incompetency we have at all levels. If they’re still in power and you speak out, you’ll be in trouble.
That’s the only way to prevent it. It’s wrong to tell people to keep quiet. And it’s only by exercising your rights to vote that we can make a difference.
Is it just by voting alone? Cos we’ve been voting since…
There’s more. We have to realise that people have been voting wrongly, so we have to organise mass education from the grass-root. Nation-building starts at the district level, not even local government. We have to empower voters to vote with the knowledge of credible candidates. The only way to move forward is to educate Nigerians about the alternatives.
Interesting. What do your parents think about your activism?
Parents would always be parents. They have reasons to worry because it’s not easy to be a parent. Imagine making all the sacrifices, and you now have one child with coconut head who says whatever happens will happen. Although when push comes to shove, my parents are encouraging.
What do your siblings think? Especially with what happened during your last arrest.
Before I got arrested, my siblings were scared about who was going to get me out of jail. However, after seeing Nigerians rally together for my release, they’ve had a change of mind. These days if I say I want to do anything, they just tell me to be smart about it. Demanding better is not strange to my family — you’ve seen my mum, soro soke mama.
Love it. What makes you happy as a person?
Spending time with my family and working. I love working so much.
Oh, what do you do for work?
I’m a youth empowerment enthusiast, so a lot of my work centres on projects around improving young people.
Interesting. With all that has happened, will anything change in your approach to work?
My plans are still the same. The only difference is that I now have a bigger platform to lend my voice to, and I’m figuring out how to use it. Doing the work is old, fame and popularity are new.
Does fame affect your work?
I can’t go to certain places without being recognised. I can’t walk on my street without being recognised. I can’t tweet silly things at my guys the way I used to in the past. I only go out when it’s important.
Sometimes it feels like people are looking up to me even more than I’m looking up to myself.
Still, I don’t see it as pressure because no one can force me to do what I don’t want to do. No one can demand from me what they’re not demanding from their elected leaders.
I feel you.
Where is the place of romantic relationships in all this? Nigeria will be fine, but you also need to be fine.
Before now, I’ve not had time for relationships and with everything going on, it’s obviously going to get worse.
God of Moe come down.
Lool. Moe is an amazing person, and we talk once in a while.
I liked the banter stuff on Twitter. It was elite.
Ahan. We’ll come to the wedding.
I’m curious: when was the last time you cried and why?
It was because of a relationship…
Wait. You didn’t cry inside the cell?
Lol. No. People were even more worried than I was and I’m grateful for that. In hindsight, I’m glad the break up happened because it prepared me for the abduction.
I must never fail twice at anything I’m doing. And when I fail once, I go into a box where I try to learn from my mistake. When the break up happened, I did this.
Scream. Wow. So women are more wicked than the Nigerian government?
Lmao. Of course. Let’s not loud it.
Eromz. I’m not on seat pls.
I’m curious: what triggers your sense of injustice as a human being?
People misusing little power. There’s no power that’s too big because no matter what, there is always someone you call ma or sir. Seeing people act unfairly towards other people annoys me.
Interesting. What would you do differently if you were president for a day?
I’ll close down half of the churches and mosques and replace them with functional factories. I’ll probably put a law that any church or mosque converted to a factory can’t be unconverted. Unless God comes down that we should change it back.
I couldn’t help but notice that you spoke specifically about your mum but not your dad. What does he think about what you do?
My dad is very reserved. He wasn’t around when I was arrested, but when he got back, he told my mum: “There are people who have fought for this country and enjoyed what they fought for. We don’t know what they went through or what their family went through. If he [Eromz] says he wants to do this, it’s fine. We’ll keep praying for him.”
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