I was going to write this article under a pseudonym, the reason being that the ‘coward’ in me may not just be quite ready to defend amongst friends and colleagues whatever personal opinion I may have about gays, one of whom is my top Oga at work should the article through ‘mysterious’ ways find its way on his computer screen, spin this anyway you like but this brother has got bills to pay and a family to take care of, you know.
But then I changed my mind, what the heck? We live in a diverse and inclusive society now, the same way they are entitled to their lifestyle, so am I also entitled to mine, including holding an opinion about their lifestyle. Let them bring any homophobic allegation and accusation against me and I will be happy to meet them at Bow street Magistrate court. I’m sure that I wouldn’t run short of lawyers to defend me, right now I am already fine tuning a ‘cultural influence’ defence in my mind. Although how such an argument will convince a jury is still in doubt, as the prosecution could easily come up with witnesses from my ‘cultural background’, scattered all over London to testify against me.
This makes me sometimes to wonder if indeed we are right to argue that homosexuality is not in the African tradition. Yes, maybe in the days of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, but remember that Unoka fellow (Okonkwo’s father)? His ‘sissy’ ways sure did give him away as somewhat of a homosexual, siring a warrior like Okonkwo doesn’t necessary mean that he wasn’t, maybe Okonkwo knew this and wasn’t telling, hence his morbid detestation of the man who bore him, or is there something the grand old Professor Achebe hasn’t quite told us, I will hold my breath on that one.
Still on homosexuality and culture, I went to a boys secondary school in Enugu in the 80s, and back then western influence hadn’t yet reached its present levels, there were hardly any cable television (DSTV, MTV etc) to reinforce western values or erode African values (depending on how you see the world), the internet wasn’t yet available at the time as well, but you probably wouldn’t need any external influence to motivate you, if already you had such gay tendencies, after its all in the hormones and genes, right?
The situation wasn’t made any easy for both boys and girls by being locked up in a dormitory with the people of the same sex, saying that male on male sexual abuse was rampant in my days may just be exaggerating it, but still there were few incidents that caught our attention then, those (usually senior students) who usually prey on the vulnerable junior students were known all over the school but still they stayed on. So how did these gay men and women come to be the sexual predators that they were?
Was I ever a victim? Well almost. You see, I inherited my father’s light complexion and my mother’s chubby features, without sounding vain, I wouldn’t particularly say that I wasn’t good looking as a young lad, but then any such ‘ajebotaish’ looks may be quite deceptive because I grew up in Aba, and with such an upbringing came a rough grounding on survival and self preservation, but still that didn’t stop this senior student (call him John) from trying to score me.
John tried to ‘tap’ me up back then to be his ‘boy’, a practice in schools where senior students ‘hire’ the services of junior students to be their slave servants, and to be at their beck and call polishing their shoes, making their bed, washing their clothes and doing all other sundry chores in return for ‘protection’ from corporal punishment from other senior students. Anyway, if the junior student has other things to bring into the ‘relationship’ (maybe he is from a rich family with guaranteed steady supply of provisions), then he is all the more ‘courted’ like a ‘bride’ by other senior students. As my mum then had what we used to call a provision store in front of our family house, I was one of the students then that never ran out of supplies, and therefore a prime target for senior students. Come on guys, you know what I’m talking about. And so as John tried to ‘woo’ me with little presents and acts of kindness, little did I know that he had more sinister motives.
My best mates in school were Felix and Martin, nice blokes though we lost touch later in life. John started to come to my dormitory around 2 a.m to wake me up to go to read with him in class, and naively each time he came, I will wake Felix and Martin up as well and they tagged along, I never knew that John didn’t like my habit of bringing my friends along, until one morning, and just as I was about to go to wake my friends up, John called me back in an angry tone and rebuked me. I carried my bag and followed him, but just as we were going into the classroom, he told me that he had forgotten his book in his dormitory and that we should go back to get it, I followed.
Now at his cordoned off cubicle in the hostel, the story changed. John went on about how the weather was cold, and maybe we should just go back to sleep, I agreed and was about to excuse myself to go back to my own dormitory when he offered me his bed instead, under the pretext of saving me the long walk back to my dormitory. He said that he will be camping in another student’s bed, who had gone home to visit his parents. The journey back to my dormitory didn’t seem appealing, especially with the ‘bush baby’ (fable about a human eating animal) stories making the rounds in the school at the time.
I accepted the offer but just as I was about to doze off, I was awoken by John who had come back to his corner and demanded that I make some space for him on the bed; he said that the other student didn’t travel after all. Alarm bells rang off in my head, but then John was a senior works prefect, and Abacha’s Sergeant Rogers didn’t even command half the powers that works prefects wielded at the time.
Thoughts of how to scheme my way out of the entrapment of senior John filled my mind, and scream I dare not. When I felt a big object from inside his trousers rubbing against my backside, I knew that I was in deep trouble.
To be continued.