Monday, 26 December 2016

APPEAL LETTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY SHEIKH PROFESSOR ALHAJI DR. YAHYA A.J.J. JAMMEH BABILI MANSA BY GAMBIANS IN THE DIASPORA

 Your Excellency, 


We, the Gambians representing our nation overseas, extend our thanks and appreciation to Your Excellency, The Government and People of The Gambia for the smooth and peaceful conclusion of the December 1st Presidential Elections which you described as transparent, free and fair. Both local and international election observers also certified the whole process as credible. Yourstatesmanly and televised acceptance of the election results in favour of the Coalition candidate on December 2nd, was acclaimed and applauded throughout the world. The fact that you further congratulated Mr. Barrow on his victory and assured him of your support and guidance was testimony to the fact that you care for the progressive development of The Gambia in a peaceful and orderly transition. Many of us have received commendations on your behalf in our various jurisdictions from individuals and institutions citing your action as the dawn of a new era in African politics and democracy. 

Your Excellency, we were taken aback by your pronouncement on National Television on December 9th, rejecting the results. This new position of Your Excellency has the potential of undermining the peace and stability that The Gambia is renowned for. Your Excellency, in the light of the foregoing, we strongly appeal for you to accept the choice of The Gambian people and facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to the President-Elect, Mr. Adama Barrow. Meanwhile we applaud the efforts of the international community especially the UN, AU and ECOWAS mission headed by Her Excellency Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in their quest to bring about a peaceful resolution of the current political impasse in our motherland, The Gambia. 

In conclusion Your Excellency, we once again implore you to consider our plea which is aimed at achieving the greater good for our beloved country, The Gambia. Please accept Your Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration and esteem. 

Basamba Drammeh
 Activist

(Image of the Gambian flag is sourced from http://www.freeflagicons.com/country/gambia/flag_background/ )

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Oremi Innocence

Sourced from 'Longest Ride' the movie
I have stolen the innocence from between us
That we no longer love like children
I have stolen the innocence from between us
That we now crave that we are together alone
Every time our eyes meet
It's like we say a thousand words to each other
And yet it feels like we have said nothing
I have stolen the innocence from our hearts
Now I feel the sting of regret
And I miss your laughter
I miss the way you used to look at me
Uncertain of whether or not the innocence was worth keeping
Until I stole the innocence from between us
Oremi, perhaps saying sorry won't fix it
But I assure you that I regret that we no longer love like children
That we no longer are
Perhaps
Perhaps
Perhaps, this innocence was the only thing between us!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

I think of 'Good bye tomorrow'

Dear Africa,

We are having the HIV conversation and I'm thinking of all my HIV moments. The first time was in the 90s when I saw the nollywood film 'Goodbye Tomorrow'. HIV had wrecked a marriage, and turned a once beautiful bride to an extremely sick and skinny version of herself. The bride had been blamed for the disease and rejected by all who knew her. Years later I'd hear of HIV during gossip. Someone had suddenly returned to the village and died inexplicably. Everyone blamed it on HIV. They said it was punishment for the wicked. When more people died, they said that God was using HIV to expose all the wicked ones one after the other. I did not understand this. But does a nine year old question the wisdom of the advanced?

In the new millenium, there were Nigerian soaps like 'Behind the Seige' still strumming the HIV conversation. The ones who had HIV, where the adulterous husband, the inadequate wife, the raped daughter, the philandering boy friend. HIV was still breaking homes and making people cry. And yes, Papa Ajasco, an armed robber had come to rob weilding a syringe loaded with HIV. And his victim, went into his room wore a condom(we did not see), came out and took the injection like a man. He died shortly after of HIV and went to hell for stupidity.

Years after I saw that, some ladies came to my local church to teach us about HIV. If I remember correctly, they used a ripped umbrella to represent a condom (perhaps too shy to whip one out in the House of God). They said that as children of God we do not need condoms because we wont be having sex before marriage.  also attended several HIV workshops for youths at the NNPC refinery. I do not recall seeing a condom in the hall.

It's February 2016, and I'm at the Advanced Course on Sexual and Gender Minority Rights, University of Pretoria. I am deeply scandalised by the sight of condoms. I feel so shy to even look at them. Condoms and lubricants stacked and spread everywhere on the display table. At this time I am 26, called to the Nigerian Bar, fully bearded, pursuing a masters degree, and I am just learning that they also come in flavours of banana and straw berry.

Its May 2016, and I'm being schooled on how to wear a condom properly for the first time in my life by a student volunteer at the Centre for Aids and Sexuality, University of Pretoria. She should be 20 or there about. A few minutes ago, it felt like forever, after she had drawn my blood and retreated to another room to wait for the 'line' or 'lines' to appear. Suddenly, it dawned on me that several other Nigerian lawyers may not know how to use condoms properly. Heck! several other Nigerians even.

She pinches the tip and rolls it down the pseudo penis. 'It is very important to keep the air out' she said. 'You must come back again in 3 months' to confirm'. I am scared. I think of 'Good bye tomorrow' and becoming a skeleton. In that moment all I think of is my life ending. I forget that Justice Cameron has lived for about 30 years with the virus, and Kenny Bademosi for more than 15. I forget that I just learned to protect myself properly. All I think of is the look in 'their' eyes if they knew that I was taking condom lessons. If they knew that I had to come back.

'Tell me. What's the result?' He says, his eyes fixated on me.

I do not respond. I do not think he has the right to know. He did not care enough to teach me about condoms.

'Tell me.'

It dawns on me that I have been vulnerable. That we have always been vulnerable not because we are weak, but because we are ignorant, shortchanged and yet unattended to. And this vulnerability now humbles me. But also, it dawns on me that it is 2016, and these should no longer be acceptable.

In this with you,

Nnanna

#WorldAidsDay

Image sourced from:https://brocku.ca/brock-news/2015/11/with-aids-awareness-week-under-way-brock-prof-says-charlie-sheens-public-disclosure-of-hiv-status-raises-issues/

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The blessings of a ‘Blessed Body’



Dear Africa,
You know how crazy we all got this year when the Akinfessi photos splashed everywhere. Everyone suddenly became ‘Akinfessi’. And then the Orlando shootings happened! Oh God! 2016 seemed a dark year. Who did not cry? Who was not angry? But coming from this we also stepped into a miracle, the gay conversation. More than any time in Nigeria’s history, same-sex affection has been written about, spoken of, mentioned, and dreamt about. More people were attacked and arrested. More people are being harassed in their homes and on social media. But as opposed to it just being the unfair ratio of Nigeria against the sexual and gender minority community, it has become a growing and substantial fraction of Nigeria at an amala table with the rest of it. Some of the homegrown incidents of this conversation are the  star-studded Nollywood film Hell or High Water(which I’m still dying to see) and the breath-taking anthology Blessed Body.
I got a copy of Blessed Body a few months ago, and it shared my bedside with school work and extracurriculars. But yesterday, I finished it! Africa, Blessed Body is a fierce one!
Its birth has Unoma Azuah and Queer Alliance(a Nigerian LGBTI non-governmental organisation) in the mix. Its pages are bedazzled with fabulous contributors from all over the world with one thing in common, Nigeria. Aze Ebira to Kennedy T.Chidi, Godwin Sodi, Kenny Bademosi, Pamela Adie to Gamal Turawa, the list goes on. From lips that are so ordinary and among us, it is hard to ignore. From hearts that beat so within us, it is difficult to walk away from. 37 unapologetically and fiercely written auto-biographies!
Africa, they are telling stories. Stories of us. They write that we were here from the beginning and are still here. They write that we sat and still sit in the class rooms of primary and secondary schools, to learn. That we got drenched in the rain. They write that we prayed, cried and travelled both the dusty and glazed paths of healing homes, churches, shrines and airports. That we got raped and disowned. That we bore the pregnancy of our children and our dreams loathing in faith and self-hate. We made mistakes. Mistakes that leave scars that may hurt for ever. Who knows? But they write of victories that are so imminent that faithlessness is foolish. They also write of the sweet journey that being you has cursed us with.

What I find most striking about Blessed Body is that it goes beyond the clichés of ‘the community’. The clichés that those who are most like us are the safest. They are presumed to understand the most and will be the first source of protection. From where I am standing it, Blessed Body seems to warn that not everything or everyone that is familiar is a safe space, not even if there is a common sexual orientation or gender identity. This anthology exposes that even within the community there are predators to be weary of.
But also, the stories acknowledge the gift and curse of strangers. People and things on the other side of our phones, towns, faiths, realities and world. People whose affection can either poison or nourish us. People and things into whose arms our life as minority forces us. In some hilarious light, we see that heart’s tendency to flirt is universal. And that even in the most dire of circumstances, it still finds the stamina to love, trust and desire. Breath-taking is what Blessed Body is, it is difficult to say what gay story stands out the most, because they are all valid facets of the big one.
Blessed Body isn’t so much an ‘Akinfessi tale’ but it has given the Nigerian ‘gay conversation’ more weight and texture than it has ever had. Africa, this book is a smack of most of the things Nigeria, and even you, should know about our minority children, travellers, preachers, parents, and lovers. I guess it is safe to say that this is our point of departure, and it only gets better as to be understood one must be heard, then listened to; seen, then read. More importantly, to be understood, we must ourselves understand.
As always, I love you. Even while you scar me, I haven’t a reason to be scared of you. This is my painful truth.
Blessings,
Nnanna

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Queer and Powerful



Simon Nkoli (image sourced from: https://nonstopagainstapartheid.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/the-power-of-sissies-simon-nkoli-and-international-lesbian-and-gay-solidarity/)
Dear Africa,
In a few weeks my brothers shall be called to the Nigerian Bar. Wigs and gowns are flying around at the Bwari market. Bank accounts are being drained and trips are being planned from all over the world for the biggest party in Abuja 2016. The ‘Call to the Nigerian Bar’ ceremony. Slowly, we are drawing closer to the last set of news wigs that were inspired by Justice League, Suits and Legally Blonde. Perhaps Boston Legal, or the old Nigerian soap, the Firm. Perhaps even by the ancient décor that escorted the presence of Nigerian lawyers and judges. Our dreams battered into shape by academic test after academic test. Our confidence squeezed into a pulp by structures and labels that eternally struggle to make us clones of those before and those after us. Whether or not we can help this is not the issue. The issue is whether we have taken all this bull shit, and are going to get called to bar, to join the league of extra-ordinary freedom fighters like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Madea! Yep.
Sorry. That’s the biggest lie we ever told ourselves. Not that it makes any difference, given that what is false or true is quite relative. Nonetheless, this is my objectivity. There is a big difference between lawyering and freedom fighting. While lawyering comes with thick volumes, long nights and days, travels, inexplicably long jurisprudence and court room sessions- nothing like Suits by way- the art of freedom fighting comes with toxic stories. This cannot be programmed into DNAs like the fear of silks and Bar final. The art of freedom of fighting cannot be learned in the classroom either, not even if all the cotton and wool are invited from their stations to address it. Terribly, I also know nothing about this art.
In a spirited debate a few months back, my blog and its effect on human rights in Nigeria was put on the spot. Was I doing anything worthwhile? Was I wasting my time? Did I have an audience? Did I have any impact at all? I expected these questions. The main question being what power does my writing have on the everyday life of the average Nigeria?  I gave anything but the right answer to the debater and to myself.
Going back a few months before that, I had thrown on some corn rows, and published a letter on Olumide Akinfessi’s alleged death(still not formally addressed by Nigerian civil society and state agents). I had gone all out with homo-inclined posts on my facebook wall, and the world fought back. Long lost friends arrived with spears and confetti. While some applauded and encouraged me and my art, others used rather unsettling words. Ex-lovers, brothers and enstranged ‘sisters’attacked openly. Family called from home. The big question, ‘Nnanna are you gay?!’ must have recurred in my inbox only a gazzilion times.  My facebook wall was a war-torn zone for a long-stretch of time. I’d hate to address the effects it had on me, my academics and my life.  But it was important for me to withdraw not because I was out of words or thoughts. I owed to myself to be stable and in control of the situation. Perhaps, storytelling and blogging are only a few sparks of  the  flame that burns within. So, I took a chill pill, reclined and was entertained by the racket the world has always been. Especially as regards the things that draw me in the most, Queer Politics.
There has been a plethora of mind blowing events that has haunted my facebook LGBTI circle and those beyond. Phenomenal things. Of course, you’ve been watching as well . So you know. While enjoying the brief tranquillity of not being a target for hate, hostility and homophobia, because  I still have that luxury, others have put up the middle finger and are fighting these battles every day of their lives. I respect these ones, they have given up this luxury for a life of eternal visibility and conquest.
However, in my watching, something has struck me. Queer !
That one word that used to mean just being ‘unwelcome because one is homosexual’. That one toxic term for strangeness, such a strangeness that should never be experienced or acknowledged. This word was safe. Things were better when it was just this. The streets, homes and churches were as hostile. But at least, the targets knew that they were targets. So they owed to themselves to be mentally and physically prepared for whatever.
It’s different now Africa, so different. I haven’t been out there in a while. But if social media is the new street and church and school, then things are a lot worse. Three stories have struck me in this light. Four stories that seem in some light to address the question ‘what is Queer?’
Bisi Alimi, the spirited Nigerian son from Mushin that has taken the world by storm with his human rights activism and visibility, is one of such stories. He is presently counting down to his wedding day, each day publically celebrating a part of his past and present . Similarly, being Bisi all the same, relentlessly fierce and unapologetic for being homosexual and having very firm views on the subject, he constantly a target for hostility.  He is queer and African, and no one dares contest this! He came out quite voluntarily on national television early in the millenium and has held the world’s attention since then.
Mr. D, whose name, I shall not write in full to avoid re-victimisation, took Nigeria by storm when he got married to his male partner, and Linda Ikeji published his wedding photos. It spread like wild fire. I’m equally guilty of adding to this as I shared one of such posts on my wall. I was particularly ecstatic when I saw those photos. They were remarkable. They seemed to say ‘fuck this! Its my life!’. And I thought ‘what guts!’ Of course, in the way that a brother cheers his own when he accomplishes a feat. But! Things were not as I thought. He was not saying ‘fuck this!’ . In fact, he was not saying anything at all. He was just a regular Nigerian in diaspora leading a regular life. He had no intentions of making a point, or participating in the discussion and sure as hell did not enjoy being the discussion. How Linda got the photos, only God knows! As much as I enjoy the affirmation of diversity as equally valid, I forgot that I owed it to the human community to respect. This often means keeping quiet, listening closely and praying, not acting, being supportive, being silent and learning. Mr. D, another Nigerian, getting into a same-sex marriage caught the world’s attention too. He is queer and African, but its no one’s business to contest or discuss it. About the world’s attention? To blazes!
Quite recently there is the incident of Bobrisky. He has caught Nigeria’s attention. The beautiful Nigerian man with the astute mastery of snap chat and skin alteration, gashing fiercely at the Nigerian gender boundaries and rising supersonically to fame,  was deemed a ‘sensationalisation’ of an event. It was alleged that some folks pulled out of a panel discussion at the event simply because Bobrisky would be participating. In spite of all the drama that surrounded the event, the young man arrived town, slayed as a panellist and walked away. The Nigerian media has addressed the issue of his sexual orientation severally. Is he gay because he gives make up artists and Nigerian girls a run for their money as regards make-up? Is he gay because he loves sequins and selfies? He has severally identified as heterosexual. But nope! It’s not enough, folks still had to pull out of the panel. But then, what if he is not as he claims? Should it matter? Should it be anybody’s business? Well, given that he is quite public, a lot cannot be avoided.  He is deemed queer, because of people’s perception of his dress sense and appearance. Did he ever embroid ‘Im gay’ on the butt of any of his skinny jeans? Or does his tattoo spell,’ h-o-m-o-s-e-x-u-a-l’? It does not have to because the Nigeria I see on social media has become a place where being queer is no longer a question of who you love, who you are getting married to or if you come-out on national tv. It has become a question of whether or not there is something attention worthy about you, something that should be watched, policed and as soon as proven, put back in its place for good!
Last month, a 19 year old beauty queen, C, was hit on social media by a still-anonymous joker . He /she released videos of C indulging in self-stimulation and same-sex intercourse.  This joker, seems to have this video in snippets and feeds the public episode after episode of a toxicity that is aimed at shaming C.  Her name has high google search ratings, and has become a  trending issue. Take note, this video has caught the world’s attention. In the Nigeria I grew up in, there is surely no question of whether or not it is humiliating to be branded a lesbian. The main issue, is how to punish her enough and teach her how-not-to-be-a-lesbian.  C, has risen up to defend herself on social media and in person saying that her face was electronically tailored into the video and that she is too decent to indulge in such acts. The vibe that I am getting is that she feels humiliated not because she is in a sex video, but because she is in a lesbian sex video. As though lesbianism makes an exposed sex video more of a test that it already is. In Naija?! It does oh jareee! In a place where girls who wear boys clothing are threatened with 14 years.  In a country where everything sexual is a synonym for taboo . Nonetheless, C now has the world’s attention in some light. Is she queer? Despite her identifying as non-lesbian? I dare argue in the affirmative. She does not have to be lesbian to be queer in today’s Nigeria, all she needs is a video online or gossip trends, public insinuations, and of course bad press!
It seems to me that being queer in Nigerian now is more than the conversation that one has in the privacy of his/her room. It is more than the phenomenal wedding, secret or broadcasted in distant lands. Being queer now is more than the affirmation of equality and human rights. It’s no longer as simple because the lines are muddled up. But it all comes down to being different or perceived as such. Of course there are the United Nations treaty body General  Comments, Joint Statements and the Yogyakarta Principles, things that the average lesbian student or gay employee may never know about or understand.  Things that simply say, being lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender , intersex , cross-dresser or being perceived as one of them does not make you any more messed up than you are already. In fact, it gives you a leverage,  because stealing the show is a lot easier if people think or know for sure that there is something queer about you, something that is frightful , and stage worthy. Difference does not ask for attention, it snatches it!
Resolved, actually being or suspected to be queer makes you different, slams so many doors in your face. But it gets them to peep out of the windows to see what you’ll do next. This is a chance. And this chance is power! I am learning not to take this chance for granted, the chance to be peeped at. The chance to be watched, ridiculed, spoken or written about, the chance to be criticised. This is the chance to say  and be the most and make your mark, ride on the waves. Use the attention for good. Be heard, seen and, with any luck, chronicled in history . And in all this never forget that no one can contest the validity of authenticity. This chance is what men study all their lives for, preparing in the best classrooms, libraries and conferences of the world. To be different, to be queer, to be watched, peeped at. Unfortunately, every time has its chosen hero, and every story chooses its writer. Skill, pedigree, class or stature often has nothing to do with it. You have it on a platter of gold, but there is no rule that says you must use it.  it’s a shame to misuse or be ignorant of this power. It has a shelf life, and it’s extraordinary to have it twice or for a prolonged time.
Simple men like Mahatma, Nelson, Shakespeare, and the Simon Nkoli’s of the world saw this, snatched it and won. This is not to say that people haven’t died in the heat of trying, but why do nothing when there are rays of hope, opportunity, power ? It’s here for us in the simple things that surround us: the huge wedding that is coming up; the leaked wedding photos that made you unsettled; the sensation you have become; the sex scandal that is a big deal but not big enough to define you.  I know my justice league but I read about Simon Nkoli I was blown away. His queerness put South Africa, add to being independent, on the first page of the coloured chronicles. And the opportunity to do that was in a split second, in a broken powerless place. It could have been simply and safely been ignored. His power, hidden, and his queerness hushed. His context: prison, apartheid, being political, gay and having the world’s attention. If there is one commonality it is their having the uncanny capacity to, through the simplest, most trivial things, capture and use the world’s attention in marking their time in their own handwriting. More than half the time this is achieved in the heat of opportunity but in the absence of status, position and skill. There have always been fairer and better placed men for the job. But God, for some reason, enjoys conferring such powers on the maligned, the nameless, the ‘out-of-where’s, the queer, the forbidden, the targeted. Is Nature’s compensation for vulnerability ? Is she trying to make a point? Or is it one of her jokes?
In a few weeks, Abuja , Nigeria shall host thousands of ground breaking students whose minds have been scripted by culture and norms, and the fear of bar final. The new wigs. Amongst them are men with whom I have eaten and prayed. Among them is a lady that I once loved, and several other people who have mastered the art of lawyering. And who may genuinely not be interested in the art of freedom fighting. Among them are people who will be choked to know that training informs you of what to say, it does not give you the opportunity to say it. Queerness does, being African, Nigerian and being different do? As a Nigerian lawyer with a stormy mind, my blog, what I say and how I say it have earned me some sort of queerness, dare I ask for more? Sharing from time to time in the hostility  for being perceived as queer, flowing from my writing; learning the limits of my still nascent stamina, I slowly embrace this place , whatever the impact of my blog is on human rights. Whatever the impact is at all!

Resolved,
Nnanna.

Monday, 24 October 2016

The things I'd love to learn



Teach me to be a lawyer
Not like the warriors that were suitable for yester-wars
Teach me to fight differently
Not with the papers that are stacked up in the walls
Teach me to love my writing and reach for what it's not yet
Gently like the dripping of cream and everything sweet
Teach me to cherish my solitude
Please don’t tell me tell I have failed
Nor give up on me because you can
Teach me to be here
Available and learning
Teach me to candidly cherish my weakness and the sight of things that are yet to be learned
Tell me that I am strong, that you believe
Teach me that I can believe too
Don’t use hostility on me
Hostility kills students and dreams
It kills difference and diversity
It makes us shrink our creativity
But do not be silent, it only means you are absent
Teach me to be the way I am
But tell me the truth
Not the things that others have said
Teach me the beauty of arguments and of taking sides
But tell me that I can have a side of my own too
Teach me to hold unto my faith in the world
Teach me to stay up late at night because I enjoy the eroticism of studying
Don’t scare me with failing because there is no such thing
Teach me to listen, but tell me I have the right to disagree
Look on my dream as equally valid
Validate me, but be honest too, I am at your feet
Don’t crush me with the trophies that mean nothing to me
Teach me that its more important to learn than to compete
Don’t make me cry on your watch
Don’t make me regret my questioning
Teach me that heroes should not be clones of each other
And not every gifting is marked in terms of red and blue
Make this training ordinary as opposed to herculean
Because the extraordinaries are really in owning the simpler things
Teach me to be a lawyer like me
Not a clone of yourself or others
Inspire me to return to you
Teach me to enjoy the depths of not-knowing enough
And make it pleasurable to reach out
Teach me to love myself
Tell me that I can win
Tell me you believe
So that I can believe too
The roads have brought us here
Please don’t get in the way, teach me
Please don’t be a scare, teach me
These are things I’d love to learn
The things I can’t say to myself, yet.

Monday, 10 October 2016

To the Pakistani Judiciary: Let Asia Bibi Walk Free

Asia Bibi  (sourced from:http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2016/08/date-set-for-asia-bibis-supreme-court-blasphemy-appeal.aspx )
Dear Pakistani Judiciary,

I can tell you heaven and earth about Asia Bibi's rights as a women, mother and human. But you have heard that already. However, I'd like to talk about your place in making these rights real and true in her case. I am a Nigerian student of human rights, and I know the place of culture, history and faith in giving these rights scope and structure. I also know that it varies remarkably across seas and borders. But one thing never changes, the peoples will to decide for themselves , their will to survive. But we are not the same, so we fall into fractions. Some times we also fall into minority. For some of us, this happens all the time. For Asia Bibi, this is the case. In her existing, living and believing she has grown, worked, loved, walked and breathed her way into being a minority, a Christian. This doesn't give her the right to escape the law of her community, far from it! It puts her right in the middle, in the spotlight, for you the judiciary to see.

The judiciary has a special in every society's social and political structure. They represent no electorate and their conscience is neither auctionable for another term in office nor popular validation. The judiciary is high up there to spare because justice demands that they are spared the drama of popular politics and the literal application of the law. But also they are high up there to see the law not in terms of what the masses or the books want, but in terms of real life, scars that are still open, real injustices actual and imminent . They are high up there to see Asia Bibi, in the middle of her community's laws, Islamic Law. I'm in no place to tell you what Islam is or is not. But I can tell that 'justice' will vary from time to time, and life to life. It is difficult to script, predict or control. I can imagine that you know this already. But unlike other political arms, what is justice or not justice is left for you the judiciary to decide, because you see things differently. Though you bear the lenses of history, culture and faith, you are not blinded by them. You more powerful than that. The judiciary is God's gift to a people that are unseen by the law and misunderstood by the community. The judiciary is a gift to and for its time.

I have no moral justification to demand that Asia Bibi's walks free. But I do because I am connected to the only system in the world with the luxury of the right to be 'wrong' and the ability to change fates, save lives, even when everyone and everything else unjustly flashes bright red. I am connected to you, the judiciary. I know what being wrong and misunderstood feels like. But I have faith in your process. I have faith that justice in a global community like ours should, in as much as it means the festival of popularity, mean also a  feast which serves the mighty and the little, the conforming and non-conforming, the Muslim and the Christian, and all those flagging the strips of the variety so that they are nourished on one day to return the next in gratitude, respect and devout citizenship. This time, the Pakistani judiciacry has the beacon, is Asia Bibi and the rest of the world to return to you, or are we to die tonight?

Inshallah, God's wisdom shall write this history correctly for Asia Bibi, for us, through you. Let Asia Bibi walk free and she'll return tomorrow, inshallah.

Yours,
Nnanna


On Asia Bibi:
http://aclj.org/persecuted-church/save-christian-mom-asia-bibi-from-execution

http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2016/08/date-set-for-asia-bibis-supreme-court-blasphemy-appeal.aspx

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Odimnobi - I smell his sweat



Odimnobi(my pet name for him, literally meaning ‘he who is in my heart’) is dead. Olufemi(his real name), my shield. He was part yoruba and part fulani, small frame, light brown in complexion, beautiful and 38 years old. I am 27. He died last month in the course of a heart surgery. He was unmarried and without a child, but he made me his everything.  He became lover, father, and protector to me. He always won all the arguments because he spoke better English, and I could barely keep up with the depth of his knowledge. We met and worshipped in the same church.
Image 1
He was subtle and calm. At first sight, no one would believe he was a medical doctor and part of the Nigerian Navy, a lion. There was this one time, he roared for me: It was Benin, Nigeria, 2014. I could not make out the several images in my head. I had not resolved the Valentine incident. It had been three years already. Still I could not help the volts that ran through me when a whiff of tobacco smoke twirled across my nostrils. Or the knife that thrust through my mouth each time a man’s palm met my nape. But I saw Dafe, a police man, stare me through and thin from across the restaurant.
I was there with Olufemi to celebrate his promotion to the rank of a Naval Lieutenant, just both of us . Dafe, whose age I have never known, had come with another police officer to have dinner.  A few minutes earlier, we had run into each other in the gents accidentally. He hugged me. I had not prepared for this meeting and I froze once more in his arms. He laughed when he let me go. ‘Timi, Timi. Useless boy.’ He called me, smacking and squeezing my butt as I walked away.
He was still powerful. Three years had done a lousy job at healing this scar.
The evening turned sour. All I could think of was this beast running lose. He hurt me again and again with his eyes, his laughter. He hurt me all over in my mind. Sweat trickled down my back, the memory of that Valentine night lashing at me all over again. Olufemi had ordered the cake, we would have to stay.
‘Timi,’ as I was saying Olufemi continued, ‘It was a mad evening. Every one was…’then he trailed off  into French, while I trailed off into February 14, 2011.
Onitsha had always been a busy and enterprising place. The Main Market had been the hub of everything under the sun from tooth picks to second hand clothing to office equipment. I had moved from Port Harcourt to serve as an apprentice under my Aunt Maria’s husband, Uncle Amadi. He sold auto-mobile spare-parts for Honda and Toyota vehicles. Uncle Amadi’s sister Aunt Sandra lived with us. She was on the National Youth Service Corp programme, and was serving in a bank in Asaba.  They were very nice and calm people. Everywhere except our home felt like Onitsha. It was calm and I never got to know the name of the street because Uncle Amadi would always chaperon me to and from the shop.
Aunt Sandra had a boyfriend, Dafe. He was light skinned and slim. He had red lips and silky side buns. Everyone at home liked him. He was a police man. He would visit whenever Aunt Sandra was home. And when she was not, he would still visit to spend some time with the family. Aunt Sandra spoke so highly of him. She called him ‘Odimnobi’ because, she said ‘he lives in my heart.’ He did not understand a word in igbo except ‘Nkem’ meaning ‘mine’ which Aunt Sandra had taught him to call her.
Olufemi snapped his fingers in my face, ‘Timi!’
‘Eh.’
‘I have been calling you for almost three minutes now’ Olufemi said.
‘Really?’
‘Yes.’he said, ‘And you are crying.’
‘Am I?’
He passed me a serviette. ‘What’s up?’
‘Nothing. I’m fine.’
‘You’re not. This isn’t you.’
‘I’m okay’ I insisted, forcing a smile as the blurry tears fell and my clearer vision caught Dafe winking at me.
A few minutes later, Olufemi had to use the rest room. As soon as he left, Dafe came through to our table.
‘I see you haven’t changed, you faggot.’ He said.
I was silent.
‘I still have those pictures you know.’ He said.
‘Please go away.’
‘Useless boy’ he called me again,‘I’m still using my old number. Make sure you call me tomorrow. We just arrested some homo-boys and they gave us this long list. Who knows whether your name is there. Eh. You know with this new Anti-gay law we are hunting for you guys.’ He looked up, ‘ Your magah is coming.’ he said ‘You better call me, I no dey joke.’
‘Hi’ Olufemi said.
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‘Good evening’ Dafe responded, stretching out his hand for a handshake.
‘Is there a problem here?’ Olufemi asked glancing down at Dafe’s hand before slipping both of his into his pockets.
‘No. Timi is an old friend.’ Dafe said.
‘I see.’ Olufemi said before returning to his seat.
‘My name is Dafe.’ he said.
‘Good.’ Olufemi said, ‘now get lost.’
While Olufemi’s response dazed Dafe and I, I danced Azonto in my head.
‘Do you know who you are talking to?’ Dafe fumed.
‘Dafe please go away,’ I pleaded.
‘No, no, I dey try dey polite to this idiot. Him dey follow me form.’ He pulled out his handcuffs.
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Those  handcuffs he used to arrest me on St. Valentine’s night when Aunt Maria and her husband had travelled, leaving me with no electricity. ‘Uncle Dafe will check on you once in a while’ they had said and I was comforted. The night he told me that he was the one I was chatting with over ‘2go’(social network) and had sent my nude photos to. The night he seized my phone and went through all my 2go chats, as he forced his erect penis into my mouth while his hand gun’s nuzzle pinned to the crown of my head, threatening to take me to the police cell and report me to my Aunt if I did not cooperate . And that if I mentioned 'our arrangement' to anyone he would kill me. The whole time, I was on my knees with both hands tightly bound in handcuffs. Sweating, frightened and surrounded by fate, darkness the smell of his sweat and the smoke from the cigarette he had smoked half way and left to glow bright red. His shoves piercing deeper, choking and hurting me. When he was done with my phone he threw it on the wall. At some point, he pulled my nape to a
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chair, knees sweeping across the cold floor that was now smeared with my tears and saliva. When he sat, he slammed my head on his penis, it almost got to my stomach. I thought I would throw up. He pulled back. The room was smeared dark and stale with the night. I could see Dafe faintly. He then banged my head to meet his jamming organ continuously, controlling the frequency of the thrusts with firm fingers around my head and nape. He was dripping with sweat, and smelling of everything wrong. The thrusts seemed to have gone on forever, the room increasingly throbbing with temperature, when he squeezed my nape and head tightly, groaned deeply and slammed his pelvis one last time on my face forcing sweat, semen, pubic hair and tears into my mouth. Then I felt the tightness of the handcuffs around my wrist and tip of his hand gun return to my crown.  ‘Swallow’.
Those handcuffs were dangling once more. The images smacking around in my head, the putrid taste of pubic hair and sweat, my mouth suddenly filled with everything wrong. I could hear the beeps from my phone. I could smell his sweat from my seat.
‘Stop. Dafe.’ I screamed. ‘Leave us alone’ just before storming for the exit. The other police man intercepted me.
‘Oga where you dey go?’ He pushed me back to my table.
Customers started taking their last sips and darting out of the restaurant. I was pushed back into my chair. Olufemi, who was just dropping his phone, looked at me.
‘Did he hit you?’ he asked.
‘I was too shaken to speak.’
‘In fact both of you’ Dafe finally said, ‘are under arrest.’
Olufemi stood to his feet, smoothened his shirt with his hands and said to me in a hush tone ‘let’s go’.
When I hesitated, he tone got firmer, his eyes now squinted, he was no longer amused.
 ‘Mon sir!!!’ four uniformed Naval officers walked into restaurant.
‘I want these idiots arrested’ Olufemi ordered.
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I did not tell him of my St. Valentine past. He did not want to discuss the idiots. He maintained that it was people like them that smear the name of the Police Service with mud and dishonour. My body insists that they have done more than that. But who can we tell? Who can I tell that I was raped? ‘A man cannot be raped. He is a man.’ A mouth cannot be raped, it’s a mouth. Who wants to be exposed as homosexual in Nigeria? What boy wants to be known to have been raped by man in Nigeria? In a place where being homosexuality is deemed contagious, and the police deemed always right and final. Who do we report the Police to when they destroy us under the guise of doing their job? We have the Police Service Commission to attend to police when they misbehave but where is the Commission, when it is needed? Can I tell them that I am homosexual and that a police man had violated my constitutional rights and committed a crime? Who will they arrest first? My ‘gay foolishness and criminality’ or  tell me that the law does not recognised oral rape, or rape of a man. Will they ask me to go the Police station? May I then go to the Police station to report Dafe for violating me and stealing my pride when it’s his friends who are at the complaint desk?
 Who will make Dafe stop now that Olufemi is no more? Who will make Dafe pay? Who will bring the rapists and oppressors, the bad apples in uniforms to justice? How can we say we have a voice when fear haunts our reality and crumbles our democracy? The worst of it, we barely know better than to succumb and pray for some magic.      Magic!? when the miracle of democracy lives in our home, dines with us every day. When things can be done better and discipline amongst public officers enforced. But what is the law without the will or implementation?
Olufemi roared for me when the law should have. Especially in a Nigeria where sexual minorities cannot, for their own safety, report any crime that begins with ‘ I am gay, and …’
Olufemi’s demise has filled me with fear. I’m still in Benin. Dafe has married Aunt Sandra, and they both live in Lagos. But the fear of Dafe lives in my heart, as he has moved into my home, my family. As I mourn Olufemi, I hear the Dafe’s handcuffs dangling, I smell his sweat, my fate and everything wrong.
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Image 1:   http://www.christianaid.org.uk/whatwedo/in-focus/africa-partner-speaks-out-against-male-rape/award-winning-article-changes-un-definition-of-rape.aspx

Image 2:  http://www.medicaldaily.com/first-emergency-services-unit-male-rape-victims-brings-attention-taboo-sexual-339248

Image 3:  http://www.foundmyself.com/Jacqueline+Cruz/art/mask-of-silence/45712

Image 4: http://www.copblock.org/116813/des-plaines-police-department-refuse-investigate-misconduct/

Image 5:  https://burgesmccowan.com/blog/increasing-police-accountability/


Image 6: http://spiritualcleansing.org/in-the-end-we-will-remember-not-the-words-of-our-enemies/