For the next 10 weeks, I will be serialising my book, ‘The Cost of Our Lives – Pandemic Edition‘, and sharing a chapter with you every week. The Cost Of Our Lives highlights the story of how Ibidun was taken from Ajegunle to London by her mother’s friend. This novella details Ibidun’s London adventure of friendship, betrayal, freedom, and how she was able to return to Nigeria to begin a career as a celebrity fashion stylist.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you missed the previous chapters, read them here.
I lived happily with my mother in my cozy three bedroom flat in the Badore area of Ajah, going about my business and spreading my wings, until one bright Friday morning when one of my contacts on WhatsApp sent me an internet link to view.
A popular Nigerian blog, Celebrity Web, has done a post about me. The blog post was actually a feature on me as their ‘Fashion Stylist of the Month’ with a lot of good things written about me, along with a couple of my fabulous pictures pasted all over the blog. The post put a smile on my face but that smile must have lasted for only the few seconds it took me to scroll to the comments section. The first comment I read almost gave me a heart attack.
“Ibidun, you can go to Naija and be forming big girl for all dem fake peeps but we over here in London know your real gist, you thief! Have you told all your ‘big’ Lagos friends about how you stole clothes from Primark and you were almost deported hence your move back to Naija? Zainab, Ibidun or is it Dan-Martins you now call yourself, I hope you know the authorities are desperately looking for you for impersonating Zainab and stealing her British passport. It’s an offence to work with someone else’s documents and you did just that throughout your stay here. I have more dirt on you but I’ll let it pass for now. Let me catch you paying blogs to put up flattering stories about you again because you’ve been able to prostitute yourself to make some small naira in Nigeria now and I’ll be the first to comment with more revelations about you for those who don’t know the real you. I’m out!”
I didn’t know when tears began to roll down my eyes. I looked at my phone and noticed I had over a hundred messages already. I knew most of them were going to be about this comment rather than the post itself so I decided to ignore them all. I thought of dropping my phone and ignoring the rush of messages coming in, but I couldn’t. I was thirsty, I needed to go into the kitchen to get a glass of cold water to calm me down but I couldn’t even move. I just stood there with the tears still flowing. Soon, I was crying like a baby, hoping that my mother couldn’t hear me from her room so I wouldn’t have to explain why I was weeping so hard.
I finally sat on the couch and summed up enough courage to read the comments that followed. It got worse. It seemed as though all my secrets were suddenly out in the open.
A chapter in my life I thought was closed, dead and buried had suddenly been reopened and resurrected. All sorts of people with all kinds of funny aliases had also posted all manner of comments. A few were lies, some were exaggerations but most of them were true. A lot of them were things that could only have come from those I called my friends. Yes I had worked with Zainab’s details but only two people knew about this – Armandeep, my Indian colleague at Primark, and Clara, my friend from London. They both knew I never stole Zainab’s passport so why would someone write that?
In less than an hour, the negative blog comments had become countless, almost like a bottomless pit as they didn’t seem to end no matter how hard and fast I scrolled. My stomach began to turn. I ran into the bathroom to vomit. I felt like the most hated person in the world at that moment. It seemed as if no one wanted me in the world anymore. I was all alone against the rest of the world. It was as though a group of witches had set out to hunt me down for my past mistakes. My childhood suicidal thoughts returned. I began to consider ending it all. I looked around for an easy way out. I went into the kitchen and searched for something I could drink to end it all, something that would make my death fast and not too painful but I found nothing except a knife. I could barely muster enough strength to move around after I returned to the living room, but somehow, I knew I had to find the strength to do something. I knew I had to stand up for myself. Clearly, no one had any information that could come in handy in my defense and my enemies were clearly having a field day. Besides, who else was I expecting to have my back and stand up for me, if not me? My phone rang endlessly the whole time, but I refused to pick up any calls as I chewed the confidence pill and began typing a comment of my own on the blog. I didn’t care if I was doing the right thing or not. I just knew I had to be heard; I had to tell my own story. My fingers shook as I typed.
“The big girl is in the building, I am Ibidun but feel free to call me ‘soldier.’” I had just finished pressing the send button when someone responded. “Ehn, so she even has the guts to post a comment, is she not ashamed of herself? Is this really her?”
I was quite surprised because it seemed as if the person was patiently waiting for me to respond and then lash out at me. It almost seemed as if we had been chatting via WhatsApp and not posting comments on a blog. Several hateful comments followed from different readers. As I chewed on more of the confidence pills my mother had instilled in me, I started to type my response.
“Yes it’s me, Ibidun Dan-Martins, the reigning Celebrity Web Fashion Stylist of the Month! Your comments are not going to hold me back! You can spend your whole lives talking and posting hateful comments about me but, guess what? You’re only making my brand bigger. I’ve always wanted to be a fashion stylist. I’m happy I am one of the best around now and I’ve always wanted to be a popular jingo, so thanks for making that happen. Thanks for selling my market. By the way, everyone has a past, think more about yours and less about mine. Those who spend their lives talking about the speck in other people’s eyes would go to their graves with the log in theirs. Go figure!”
The conversation between me and the haters continued for about ten minutes until I hit the final nail into the coffin.
“Dreams can actually come true in Nigeria if you are determined to work hard. I am here trying to make my dreams come true and you are there putting up false stories about me. What are your dreams? What are your aspirations? Well, as long as you remain a faceless anonymous wanna-be hating on successful people like me from the safety of your laptops or phones, you will never find time to improve your own life.”
It worked like magic.
Before I knew it, the parade changed. The comments that followed began to take a different tone.
“Oh my God, you’re such an inspiration. Thanks for standing up for yourself.”
I thought I wasn’t reading properly, or perhaps my imagination was pulling a fast one on me. But it was true, other people who had experienced cyber bullying began to pour out their hearts after that one comment. Someone wrote, “This same thing happened to me and I couldn’t go out for two weeks. I almost killed myself. Thank God for my family that kept me a bit sane.”
Another person wrote, “It’s painful that others just sit in their homes and judge our lives. We are living our lives while they act as spectators. What right do you have to judge others or fabricate stories about people who are clearly ahead of you? Thank you Ibidun for standing up for all of us. We should even start a campaign to end cyberbullying, what do you think?”
From that comment to the next, and the one after it, all the comments became extremely positive. As I read more comments, the tears flowed even more freely, but from a different place – a point of relief. I was extremely proud of myself for standing up for myself.
My boyfriend was extremely supportive during the days that followed. He never opened the link to any of the other blogs that tried unsuccessfully to spread the story, at least that’s what he made me believe. And he really stood by me, closing early from work to spend time with me and showering me with love and attention. What would I do without Uche?
Join me next week for the next chapter of The Cost Of Our Lives.