Saturday, January 25, 2014


Because I Care #45

Ok. So hate is a strong word to use. I got that since primary school. But people who complain really do blow my fuses. I know our President has his weaknesses. And in fact it is for this reason that I will replace him in 2015. But we don’t have to be like the French, of whom Bonaparte said they complain of everything, and always. When Jacques Chirac, a man who left office at the ripe old age of 75, was in power, they complained. They complained about many things. But no one needs to tell you that the French, being who they are, wanted a president who was at least sexually active. Now they have a president who is so active, he’s cheating on the woman with whom he had cheated in his previous relationship. In fact, rumors are that when he’s done whispering French sweet nothings into his lover’s ear all night, he heads back to the presidential palace alone on a scooter. Yet, the French complain and protest, even going as far as spreading nude photos of his lover. God forbid that we Nigerians end up like the French. And it is in this light that I agree with Chief Edwin Clarke who said recently that he who challenges Jonathan challenges God. Because God must want this kind of leadership for us, where we fight gays instead of fighting corruption. And all for what? To prepare Nigerians for my presidency. Just like He let the Israelites suffer in the wilderness to prepare them for the Promised Land.

Of all the species of humans who love to complain, it is the small ones who love to complain the most. This week, Malam El-Rufai, at the Transformed to Transform, T2T Nigeria, Conference and Career Fair in Abuja, talked about the possibility that there might be violence if the 2015 general elections were not free and fair. The SSS, conscientiously carrying out their statutory functions, invited the diminutive but indefatigable complainer for questioning. God bless the SSS for ensuring that those who refuse to allow the President sleep, will themselves not sleep. I concur with Marilyn Ogar, who believes that a statement of fact mentioning the likelihood of violence if there is electoral fraud, is “offensive, misguided and directed at stirring hate among Nigerians.” God bless Marilyn Ogar. Can you believe El-Rufai even refused to honor the invitation of the SSS? My only annoyance is that when the SSS men stormed his house on Friday morning, El-Rufai was out picking his kids from school. Or at least that is what he told Premium Times. I cannot say where else he branched before reaching his children’s school. For all we care he may just have been out hustling for a third wife using his poor kids as an excuse.

I discovered that in the 2014 budget of my soon-to-be predecessor, while the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital and the University of Benin Teaching Hospital have been allocated a total of N662 million for capital expenditure this year, the State House Clinic has an allocation of N705 million for the construction of a VIP Wing. This is understandable. The President is important to us. The lives and health of his lover(s), children, and private guests require utmost care. But trust Nigerians to go all French on us and start complaining. In a statement, a Nigerian civic platform, The Rule of Law Collective, complained that “this budget and the 1,820 pages in which it was written, in all likelihood, will go down in history as one of the worst budgets ever proposed. It represents a complete detachment from reality.” I laughed when I read this. I think it is their name that will go down in history as the worst name ever proposed for a civic platform. Who comes up with a name as unimaginative as “The Rule of Law Collective”? If you ask me, the name sounds like that of a market thrift association for people selling second hand clothes.

I have just looked at the new ministerial nominees’ list. The only people missing from that list were 120 year old Bamanga Tukur and former (pardoned) ex-convict Alamieyeseigha (who I hear is doing great with his weight loss program- I need to call him for tips on how to lose this beer belly). I am playing a guessing game with myself for which ministry someone like Boni Haruna would oversee. If I win, I promise to buy myself a new Tecno smart phone. 

Ps: So Mr Tonye Okio, who was arrested and detained in Bayelsa over criticizing the Bayelsa State Governor on social media, has been released after over 80 days in detention. It is a shame that we live in a country where an individual can be whisked away at the behest of a Governor over comments made about governance on Facebook. It is even more shameful that our security forces can be used as a private militia for serving politicians.


Sometimes it happens that deep within you is every feeling that you have publicly declared yourself superior to. The prejudices you fight, the public habits you find intolerable in others, and worrying about how you others perceive you. You realize this when you find yourself resisting each time she offers to pay, when you feel irritated that she asks for the bill and worse when the bill is brought to her and not dropped in the centre of the table. 

You like to think that you feet are firmly fixed in feminist shoes, though you try to avoid the title itself. It isn’t hard to sound presumptuous when a man declares himself to be a feminist or indeed when one who is not a victim of discrimination or abuse claims to be an activist for that cause. Like when a straight person declares himself to be a gay rights activist. At best you say you are a supporter of feminists. You espouse every theory or belief which empowers women and makes them equal in society to men. So you say, it is proper for girls to be raised to change their own bulbs and car tires and pay their own bills at the restaurant and not rely on men. This is why it shocks you at first how you feel when she pays the entire bill or when the waiters do not see when you have dropped your own part of the bill and shows up just when she is dropping hers. 

Suddenly the staring eyes feel like tooth picks in your side and you want to disappear. It does not occur to you that they are perhaps looking because Nigerians will stare unashamedly at anything that is different from them, a fair-complexioned black person, an albino, a white person. 

Now that you know you will both be going out quite often it is important that you settle this once and for all. It is not an option to say to her, I will get all the bills- the feminist in you would find this abominable. It is important to you that she pays at least sometimes. Yet you cannot admit that it worries you that each time she pays you can almost hear the voices calling you a sharp guy who has found a white woman to take care of him. You see it, how people are judged, even in Abuja, arguably the most cosmopolitan city in the country- you see people instantly assume that the black girls who show up with white men are prostitutes, especially if the white men are older or show up in vehicles belonging to construction companies. 

“You cannot always be getting the bills,” she says when you trick her into letting you pay the entire bill again.

“Don’t worry you can give me later,” you lie. 

It feels wrong every time and today you feel like a hypocrite who preaches the things he is not willing to practice. Appearance matters much more than you can admit it does. 

This is a situation you will have to deal with for a long time because you have just decided- both of you- that you will be in each other’s lives for a long time. It will not stop even if you decide to grow old together, even if you visit the same shops all the while. It is Nigeria- they will stare every time like you both just got off the plane from a different planet. You know that you must blunt the edges of the toothpicks that prick your side. You must let the things you believe matter to you more than the shameless stares. 
On your way back home, you stop at a shop. Instinctively at the till, as she reaches for her debit card, you dip your hands in your pockets.  As your fingers attempt to pull out the notes, you tell yourself to stop. Stop letting the eyes of everyone at the till, cashiers and customers alike, prick you. Stop! Stop being a goddamn hypocrite. Stop being a dick! 

As she punches in her PIN on the POS machine, you take your hand out of your pockets and reach for the bags, all of them. You exhale and smile. She smiles back. And the shameless eyes begin to disappear.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Because I Care #44

I don’t always use bad language. A president never should. But I tell you sometimes you can see it in a president’s eyes that he is saying it in his head. Like that time Obama got his almost-namesake Osama. When he opened his mouth to say, We gat ‘im, he bunched his mouth in such a manner that suggested that what he really wanted to say was: We fucking got ‘im! And I understand. So bear with me. 
Jonathan got the fucking gays! Or Jonathan fucking got the gays! Whichever one works for you.

Do not ask me why my political rival and soon to be predecessor, like a rat stealing the remains of food at night, secretly signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Law. I am not gifted in reading the minds of politicians. Perhaps he thought: what do I do now that the economy is in shambles, my ministers are corrupt, Maiduguri is still on fire and electricity is still a mess, and in a rare moment of clarity he must have found the answer: the gays. Now it is not my place to praise the president for his wisdom and ability to prioritize- that is what he pays people like Reuben Abati and those young men on Twitter for. I just realize that Nigerians- my supporters especially- need to know what this new law means for them. I would hate to see any of my people get raped in a Nigerian jail.

We will examine a few of the provisions from a legal point of view. Because I care.

Sections 1, 2 and 3 generally say that two people of the same gender cannot marry. If they decide to marry, such marriage is invalid and illegal. This is pretty straightforward. I am not sure I have met anyone in Nigeria who wants to marry someone of their gender no matter what their sexual orientation is. The real meat of the law starts in section 4. This is the time to reduce the volume of whatever gospel music is playing in the background in your room so you can concentrate.

Section 4: Registration of Homosexual Clubs and Societies
This section begins thus: 4.-(1) The Registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations, their sustenance, processions and meetings are hereby prohibited.

Now as a young lawyer who is being paid N20,000 a month by your very stingy senior, company registration (and if you are lucky sale of property) is the only way you can augment your measly income. I see you guys at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) hustling. Sometimes when God blesses your CAC hustle you don’t even remember the names of the many companies you are registering. With this new law you cannot afford that risk. It is now illegal to register any gay club, society or organization. Check for any gay-ish names. Tutti-fruity, Lip-lickers, Sweet Sensations (advice these people to change to Sweet Straight Sensations), and any company name with any of these words: ‘sausage’, ‘rod’, ‘top’, ‘bottom’, ‘same’, ‘lick’, ‘plate’, ‘behind’ etc. Now even the word ‘etc’ is suspect. When a client says ‘etc’, you must ask him or her to spell out exactly what the hell they mean before you will discover after registration that etc harbours something gay. God forbid that our enemies entrap us and truncate our hustle this year.  

Also, you who is the human rights activist, when you are invited to a meeting, you must ask to see the agenda. You never know who may raise a gay issue and put you all in trouble. You must remember that there are agents of our enemies lurking all about seeking to truncate our hustle.

(2) The public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly is hereby prohibited.
I see your mouth is open. Close it let us continue. Public show of direct same sex amorous relationship directly can be when you, as a girl, haven’t seen that your friend for a long time and you hug her tightly for a long time and kiss her on the cheek and say: eees a liiie! eees this you? A police officer may just arrest you. If you see your long lost friend of the same gender, I advise you to keep a respectable one to two feet distance while you jump and scream.

Now the indirect one can be winking, staring too long, paying the bus fare for someone of the same gender or other such things. I am still trying to understand this one myself.  

Section 5 lists offences and their penalties. For those who enter into a same gender marriage or civil union contract, they get 14 years. And those who register gay societies or directly or indirectly make a public show of same sex amorous relationship get 10 years in jail.

Don’t ask me the sense in sending people who show same sex love to a same sex prison. God forbid that a lawyer or presidential hopeful should know everything. What will my advisers do?

Some other things to generally avoid include:
Chit-chat in public toilets: You know how some guys will nod to you in the urinary at Silverbird after a movie or something, like you guys share some deep secret. Idiots. Or how Nigerians just like to greet strangers. Anywhere. Well don’t do it. Don’t be nodding to a strange man with your penis out on display. Just don’t.
Arm wrestling: This thing can get quite intimate. You are holding each other, looking in each other’s eyes, staring at each other’s ripped beautiful biceps, close enough to smell each other’s breaths… this is just asking for trouble. Avoid arm wrestling like common sense avoids our politicians.
Commercial motorcycles: Praise God that most Governors have had the good sense to ban them. You don’t want two men, thighs grinding against each other going to godknowswhere. God forbid. I rebuke the spirit of 14year jail terms on your behalf.
Whispering into someone’s ear: Sometimes you feel the need to say something to someone of your gender and the noise is too loud or there are people there you don’t want to share that secret with. My hand no dey. Send it as a text. Or WhatsApp message. You know how sensitive the ears are. In fact if you ask me it should be called a sex organ.

Now, section 5 (3) says: Any persons or group of persons that witnesses, and aids the solemnization of a same sex marriage contract or civil union or supports the registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations, processions or meetings in Nigeria commits an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.

This is where it gets tricky. The law says if you are a spectator sef, you get 10 years. If you help, you get 10 years. If you support you get 10 years. So dear supporters what are we to do? If you see two men holding hands, you must cast and bind the spirit of jail sentences and cross the street. Run far from it. I advice that when walking on the street you should use dark goggles. That way no one can prove that you witnessed anything. Also you may want to have ear phones on all the time whether or not you are listening to music. That way no one can say you heard when two people of the same gender were expressing love or arranging to hook up somewhere. 
Generally you can start to time your handshakes with persons of the same gender. I would suggest 2 seconds at the maximum. Anyone who holds you longer than that is trying to truncate your hustle and is an enemy of our collective freedom. We must rebuke such persons harshly.

Hopefully with this anti gay law, our economy, electricity and security will improve. Sometimes when your enemy shows wisdom, you commend him for it. I commend Jonathan for finding the cure to all our problems. Unfailingly, I will talk about this legacy of his when I take over in 2015.

Friday, January 17, 2014


Friday January 10, 2014. A settlement about 24km away from the city centre FCT, Abuja.

A cloud of thick dust billows from beneath the very low Honda, so low it reminds you of the Hondas of your school days- driven by spoilt kids of small-time corrupt politicians packed full with friends and friends of friends so that the car groans as it finds its way to the venue of a party. You are standing for a commercial motorcycle- the last privilege of this backwater Abuja settlement. You need to quickly buy one of the cheap clippers they sell in the local market. The clipper you have developed a sentimental attachment to over the past year and half just broke, half way through your haircut. And if there is anything you cannot stand, it is letting another person cut your hair. It is the touching you do not like. Especially when accompanied by comments like, ‘bros, your head dey soft well well o.’

Putting both your palms over your face, you curse under your breath as the dust envelopes you- there is no point running. You wonder why anyone is moving at such speed in a residential area. The car has over five commercial motorcycles most of them carrying two passengers each, in tow. You hear the screaming of the riders and their swearing. 

‘Wallahi we must catch him. Wallahi we must deal with him!’

As you raise your head you see the passengers on the motorcycles all holding clubs and sticks. You stop a motorcycle and ask him to take you to the market. He does not know what is going on when you ask. The distance between you and the motorcycles chasing after the car is widening and you wish you could see. At the junction the car turns left and they follow. The road on the right leads to the market. By the time you are at the junction you see the small crowd of motorcyclist gather, dragging someone from a car, delivering blows to his head and body. 

‘Go left, go left,’ you shout, tapping your motorcyclist on the back.
‘I say just go left!’

By the time you are there, the driver of the car has succeeded in running into a nearby house. Sticks and stones and pieces of firewood are being waved in the air. And their chants have changed.

‘Wallahi we must kill him.’
‘What is the matter?’ you ask the one who seems like the oldest who is wearing the photo of Sheikh Inyass around his neck.
‘He killed someone with his car. And we must kill him.’
‘But why do you have to kill him. Why don’t we report the matter?’
‘Ina! Ai, if he had stopped all this would not have happened. We have been chasing him a long time. We have to kill him.’

Behind you people are trying to pull down the gate of the house where the driver is hiding. You are speaking to them asking them to calm down. The woman who owns the house is also pleading reminding them that no one knocks someone down on purpose. More motorcycles are arriving the scene with their sticks and stones. No one is listening. They want blood. They want him. They want him now. 

The woman becomes exasperated and tries an old emotional blackmail trick. 

‘Oya, you want to kill him abi? Enter! It is to kill abi? Enter and kill him and be happy! Enter ooo, Enter!’

She is screaming and opening the gate. You are holding the gate, realizing that these people are not moved by her stunt. They will walk in and kill him if the gate swings open. More motorcycles. More angry men, veins on their necks threatening to burst. More pushing. More we-must-kill-him.
The gate gives in. You run into the house. And the mob follows. Someone recognizes the driver and drags him from the chair he is sitting on. He swings his fist, landing a clean punch on the drivers face. You grab the motorcyclist punching him.
‘Because of Allah!’ you scream in Hausa. ‘Stop this if you have any regard for Allah!’
‘He killed our brother.’
‘How will killing him help your brother? Let us take him to the authorities please!’

Other motorcyclists are rushing in. The motorcyclist you are speaking to calms down. You feel the amulets on his left arm as you hold him. Behind you they have resumed punching the driver, hitting him with sticks. A motorcyclist who has just arrived lifts a huge rock high and aims for the drivers head. You pull the rock from behind him and it falls to the ground in front of you. You dive in and cover the driver.

‘In the name of Allah stop this!’ you are screaming at the boys, most of whom are wearing either chasbis or amulets around their arms. They are trying to drag him away from your body so that they can punch without hitting you. You feel the driver falling behind you. You feel him arms grip your torso. You feel his head lean against your back. His weight is like a drowning man dragging you down. 

Alhaji Sale, the very respected neighbourhood alcoholic arrives. Together you are able to drag the driver outside and tuck him into the car. He locks the car from inside. The mob is looking for fuel to set the car ablaze but they cannot find any. 

The driver is reeling in pain in the back seat of his locked car. His head is swollen from all the punching. At some point during all the shouting and attempts to burn down the car with him in it, the driver opens the door and stumbles out. The mob inches toward him. He is tired, weak. His eyes say: this is too much, I give up, just kill me, just fucking kill me already.
‘Go back inside,’ you shout in English. ‘They will just kill you here.’ 

Alhaji Sale who is tipsy, as he always is at this time of the afternoon, pushes the driver back into car with both hands and tells him to lock it. Someone tries to pry the door open. 

You find a few older members of the mob and drag them away. You beg them. You tell them you will make sure he takes the person he knocked down to the hospital. 

‘Then we want you to take the car and drive him to the hospital.’

You agree. But you want them to stop trying to kill him first. Slowly and reluctantly, the mob calms down when the older men speak to them. But only because they cannot pry the car door open or find fuel to set it ablaze.  

Someone else volunteers to drive the car. Then you see the person the driver knocked down being brought into the car. The only injuries he has are a bruised left arm and feet. Fucking bruises! You say to yourself.
Eventually you are able to get the police to follow you from their station to where the mob now is, outside the hospital. They randomly arrest those who have gathered and you head to the market to get your clipper and finish your haircut. 

As you head home, you realize how foolish it all was, your jumping in to shield him. How you could very easily have become a headline: Writer Accidentally Killed In Mob Lynching. You think of the driver’s bloodshot eyes, his swollen, bloodied head. You still feel all the hands trying to tear you away from him. You still feel his desperate hands gripping, clinging. And you know you will remember this feeling for a long time.