Sunday, 31 May 2009

Its a boy!

Congratulations! Kimora Lee Simmons and Djimon Hounsou welcome a son. Read about it here.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Garuba 6

We arrived in Bauchi at dusk. During the drive from Jos I updated Garuba on what had happened in Lagos and how much time and effort I expended in obtaining the duplicate call-up letter from the NYSC Secretariat. We had stopped over in Jos at a place along Tafawa Balewa Street to treat ourselves to the most wonderful pounded yam and smoked fish, with a bitter leaf stew that was so peppery my eyes watered. Garuba said he loved it and that he would stop over at this Idoma woman's place whenever he was in Jos. The woman and her daughter both knew Garuba and we were given the special treatment. In Bauchi we drove to Garuba's place, both of us knowing that the next day after registration at the NYSC office, I would be given accommodation of my own. It was as yet unclear what my NYSC job would be, or even whether the job would be in Bauchi city itself, or in some rural location outside the city. Whatever, I knew that my one year in Bauchi State was going to be very interesting indeed. Being with Garuba had already caused me to feel as if I belonged here.

Once we had closed the door behind us in Garuba's room, it was so natural to collapse into each other's arms. It was obvious to us both that we had longed for this moment. I could hardly believe that this was happening, and I had to keep pinching myself literally. Then out of the blue Garuba said those words to me that sounded like music. We were both sitting side by side on the bed, our arms around each other, looking into each other's face. When I heard the words, I wasn't sure if he had really said them, or if I'd heard the words in my head. I looked into his eyes questioningly and because he saw that I appeared to be so affected by what he'd said, he smiled and pulled me close, whispering those same words again into my ear. Then I knew that he had really said them...and I hugged him and said the same words back to him...It was blissful being together again and we made the most of the time that we had together that night.

Garuba must have informed his parents the night before that there was a guest present, because when breakfast was served the next morning, it was for two and this was my first taste of fura da nono a yogurty porridge with millet mixed in, which I thought was absolutely delicious. He drove me to the NYSC office and said, just like the last time, that he would be back in an hour. Mrs Giwa was not there, her maternity leave commenced on Monday I was informed. Mr Audu was standing in for her, but he was currently in a meeting with the Area Director upstairs and I was to take a seat and wait. Taking my seat, I thought to myself that it was exactly because of these officious civil service types that I had vouched never to join the civil service, or work with any government department. These people wield enormous power and feel very important, but are insensitive in the use of that power, and appear to be oblivious to the fact that people are affected in a very real way by what they do and how they do their jobs. Mr Audu appeared after about half an hour and I take back everything I just said about civil servants. Mr Audu was extremely pleasant. He welcomed me to Bauchi, took my call-up letter, registered me and told me that I was lined up for a job at the chambers of the Attorney General. Wow! I was stunned. To think that I was half expecting to be sent to some village with no electricity or piped water, perhaps to teach English Literature in a secondary school. And here was this lovely Mr Audu offering me a job at the heart of the state government. I had just arrived in Bauchi he said, so I was allowed a few days to settle down. I was to report to the Attorney General's chambers on Monday morning. Wow and wow again! Now came that knotty problem of a place to stay. I was informed that I had reported late and that all the NYSC accommodation was taken up. It was my responsibility to find a private place for rent.

In a way this suited me, because it meant that I would be isolated from other youth corpers. I had no desire to live at close quarters with others in a manner that would be reminiscent of the university hostel. I was no longer a student and had no intention to continue to live like one. Besides, I had met someone in Bauchi who was going to play an important role in my life from now onwards. So I decided to wait until Garuba came back for me, so that together we would decide what to do about the problem with accommodation. I was standing in front of the NYSC building on the lookout for Garuba's car from the direction of his office, the direction where I expected him to come from, when I felt someones hand run across the small of my back. Startled, I turned around, only to find Garuba smiling at me. "Oh baby, for how long have you been here?" I asked. He explained that he had to leave the office to attend a meeting in a government building. The meeting was postponed, so he decided to come straight to the NYSC place and had been sitting in his car parked in the car park at the rear of the building. "How did it go in there?" he asked, gesturing towards the NYSC building as we walked towards the car park. I told him the exciting news about my job posting. However, there was no NYSC accommodation available and I was required to find a place of my own. Garuba had an uncertain expression on his face. This would be good news for us if Garuba had his own place. But he lived with his parents and there was no way that I could stay with him long-term. If however I got my own place, then there would be no restriction as to how much time Garuba and I could spend together. Listening to my explanation, he seemed to soften and agree to what I'd said. In the meanwhile, he must return to work. I suggested that I would go back to his room and wait for him there, so he drove me home and then went back to his office.

Being alone in Garuba's room, I had the opportunity to quietly reflect on what had developed between Garuba and me. From the minute I saw him I was attracted to him, but little did I know that he too felt pretty much the same. He had gone even further by openly telling me how he felt and what he thought of me. I never knew that anyone could feel that way about me and I was deeply touched by his frankness. I couldn't deny it, I had fallen for him too. I put on a video and lay on the bed, hugging a pillow. But I hardly paid any attention to what was on the screen. It was his bed and I was lying in it. I could even smell him in the pillow. I had fallen in love again, but this time with a man who was available, a man who wanted to be with me too. These thoughts must have been swirling around in my mind for hours, because I was quite surprised when suddenly the door opened and Garuba walked in. Closing and locking the door behind him, Garuba came to the bed, sat down on it and removed his shoes and his caftan, which he flung across the chaise lounge. He climbed into the bed, turned and faced me. And before I knew what I was saying, the words came out of my mouth..."Garuba, I love you..."

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Something intensely funny

I stumbled across this and thought to share it here. Ladylyf, pardon me for taking liberties. I just couldn't resist... I have a dildo.

Oh my God!

Djimon goes into several shops in SoHo while his fiancee waits in the car. New York City, USA - 26.05.09

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Homosexuality knows no borders.

From ILGA:
Since its first edition in 2003, the International Day Against Homophobia has grown larger year by year. With this, May 17 has become the prime moment to remember that homophobia still exists and that we must combat it. The proposed goal for the 2009 Campaign is to make the general population and, more specifically, ethno-cultural communities of all backgrounds more aware of gay and lesbian issues, and sexual diversity. Ethno-cultural communities occupy an increasingly significant place in our societies. What’s more, contributions by these communities are invaluable to our country. Not all of the world’s citizens are able to enjoy the privilege of living in an egalitarian society. In several countries, rights, such as the right to love a person of the same sex and have sexual relations with that person, are limited or violated. In other countries, sexual orientation is recognised, for the same reasons as practising a religion, as a basic freedom, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal. People from countries in which homosexuality is legally banned may have some of their own values challenged: what was prohibited in their country is allowed and legally protected in their host country. Keeping in mind how homosexuality is a universal fact and that borders cannot be forced on it, the 2009 Campaign is aimed towards helping these people to become integrated within their host society and to make ethno-cultural communities aware of sexual diversity issues. In addition, LGBT people and their communities will benefit from their own community’s improved openness toward their issues.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Is something wrong with me?

I've been reflecting on the goings on in my life in recent times. Firstly, I find myself in a position where I do not believe that I am able to offer any serious competition in the man stakes, to all those youngsters (twinks) who are buzzing about the scene. In any event, the "scene" never really was my thing. It seemed too much like guys ogling each other with only one thing in mind; where there never seemed to be the suggestion of something more substantial, more meaningful; and this sort of thing has never done it for me. For this reason, I quickly became bored with the scene. I even found it mildly annoying, so I removed myself from it, save for very occasional forays into a bar or something. But those rare visits would only reinforce my conviction that the decision I made to quit the scene was the right one.

OK, something more substantial then. For the last 15 years or so, I have been in one relationship or the other for more of the time than not. But looking back, it looks to me like a string of broken relationships. These were relationships where I believe I worked as hard as I could to make them successful. But I guess it takes two to make a relationship work, although I'm not for one minute suggesting that I was never at fault. The bottom line is that the relationships always failed, sometimes after 2 or 3 years, even though with some of them we have remained very good friends afterwards.

The problem is that I've now become reluctant to put myself through another heartbreak. And this is having an effect on the way that I respond to anyone who shows an interest. I am so jaded that nowadays, I do not ever find myself making the first move as I used to do in my heyday. I'm feeling too content with the peace and quiet of my flat. I've taken up Botany on a more serious level and found myself this morning passionately explaining to Kevin at the garden centre why I needed a replacement for my Campanula that failed to sprout this year. I spent half an hour deciding if I wanted a pink, yellow or white orchid. I settled for a Ludisia Red Velvet. Words such as Anthurium, Primula vialii, Viola 'Etain' are going around in my head and I'm wondering if I'm losing touch with the real world. I voiced my concern to my friend Albert, and his exact words to me were "Boy, you need a husband..."

Can someone please tell me, is there something wrong with me?

Shocking News!

I heard/read today of the untimely demise of TAJUDEEN ABDUL RAHEEM in an automobile accident in Nairobi. Read the story here. A man who I held in high esteem and for whom I had immense respect, someone who I looked up to. He provided many with inspiration and strength. A huge loss for Africa. As has been said about him, we could always rely on him to "draw our attention to the most significant aspects of the latest political event in Africa", just as we could rely on him "to provide guidance and encouragement during hard times, restoring in us the courage for the longer struggles ahead for emancipation of the continent." A great man who will be sorely missed.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

A Lovely Day

Wow, I can't believe the weather in London today. OK, its a bank holiday weekend and I've ignored the faithful alarm that sounded at 6.30 this morning, turned over in the bed and gone back to sleep. At about 11.00, I finally struggle out of bed and pull the curtains in my bedroom. My Goodness! I just can't believe how dazzling it is outside. I am annoyed that I have failed to make some proper plans for the day, but no, I will not be spending this day indoors.

There are things I must do with the car at that Total petrol station near IKEA, then of course I must visit IKEA itself, even if just to lose myself in that maze of shelf after shelf of desirable items on display. And I've always wanted to go and have a look at the Lee River and Picketts Lock, which I live not very far from, have read quite a lot about, but have been kept too busy by hectic London living to have ever had the chance to see. Then I must take in the Banbury and Lockwood reservoirs. I'll take the bike with me and cycle down the miles of cycle paths I understand are in the area. I only wish G had called me as he said he would, so we could do something together. Its such a glorious day..

Thursday, 21 May 2009

The way I see it

I think that the mind of the present day African is affected and influenced by so many diverging factors, that many of us are unable to work out exactly what our place is in the world. Those of my parents' generation grew up in Africa at a time when most of Africa (and certainly Nigeria where my parents were), was subjugated to Europe, such that the aspiration of the African at that time, was to strive to become as European as possible, since this was what was presented to them as the ideal. My father in all the years that I knew him, loved his tea, a passion which he acquired through his association with the British expats with whom he had worked very closely in the many years that he served in the then colonial government of Nigeria. His passion for tea was only matched by my mother's love of fine bone china. Both of them had been sent by the colonial government to Britain during the 1950's, where they lived for some years. Looking back now, I can clearly see that the interior of the home in which I grew up in the 1970s, was an imitation of the typical English suburban home of the 1960's, complete with lace curtains. And of course my mother's treasured porcelain, teapots were her favorite, of all shapes and sizes, none of which I remember ever being used.

But as hard as my parents tried to Europeanise, they always were African. And unlike me and my siblings who grew up speaking English as a first language, (which itself I suspect was deliberate on my parents' part), they spoke the indigenous language to each other. And it wasn't just the language. My parents exposed us to our true history and culture too. They took us during the school holidays to the ancestral village, where they had managed to build a house during the years when my father still worked for the colonial government. That house too was equipped with gear that Mum and Dad had repatriated from the UK, furniture, refrigerator, gas cooker and the ever present ornate china of which Mum was so fond. And while in the village, they would make sure that we interacted with the people there, joined our respective age-groups and participated in the age-group activities. The outcome of this was that we became exposed to a completely different worldview from that to which we were accustomed, living in Lagos the big city.

Back in Lagos, my education was Western. At school I learned science, art, Western music and how to play Western musical instruments. For leisure my brother and I would read books by Enid Blyton and such other European children's stories. Walt Disney productions, comic books and TV cartoons were a staple.

Together with this westernisation however, came the indigenous folklore at the ancestral village, those stories about the spirit world and the animal kingdom, the wisdom and cunning of the tortoise and the sacred nature of adagba, the revered python. These were the same folk-tales that even our great grandparents had heard as children. But then, added to all of this was also that very strict religious instruction in the Christian religion, as so happened by chance, since this could just as easily have been the Islamic religion. This was a hodgepodge of information to assimilate as a child and and it is undeniable that that there has been a lasting impact on my mind with regards to finding a true identity.

I am African, but do I really think like an African should? I could ask the same question of many other Africans. The clergy of the Anglican Church in Africa are keen to inform us that homosexuality is un-African. But they seem blind to the fact that the Anglican Church itself originates from somewhere other than Africa. Most of the arguments against homosexuality that are heard in Africa today are supported with references to the Bible. But tell me, what is African about the Bible? What have we done with our African identity? Traditional dress for men in the part of Nigeria where my ancestors came from, is comprised of a top hat from the Victorian era, or a bowler hat for the more trendy types. The top half of the man's body is adorned with a Victorian Englishman's nightshirt, traditionally decorated on the front with jewelry or coral beads. The bottom half is covered with a cloth that I can only describe as Madras cloth , which my mind tells me was introduced to my people from the Indian sub-continent by the early European traders. So that today, when a man is fully dressed in his "traditional dress", almost every item of his clothing is from somewhere outside Africa. Including his shoes!

What has happened to us? Where is our true identity?

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Africa, are we preparing for a rapidly changing climate?

It is not in dispute that the world's climate is changing. Hand in hand with this change is environmental degradation on an industrialised scale, the rate and extent of which has never before been known.

As a young child growing up in Lagos, Nigeria in the 1970s, the country was in the throes of putting up an impressive show titled the Festival of Arts and Culture, or FESTAC as it came to be known. Part of the grandiosity of the event was the construction of a brand new town on the outskirts of Lagos, supposedly to provide accommodation for the thousands of participants at this festival. Along with this FESTAC town was to be constructed a 4-Lane motor way between Lagos and Badagry close to the country's border with the Republic of Benin. The road would continue into Benin, to Cotonou, that country's largest city. We lived in Surulere, which itself was then still a newly developed area of Lagos, having been built up for the first time in the 1960s. The Badagry Expressway led from somewhere behind where we lived, on towards the FESTAC town and then further on still for tens of kilometres to Badagry. FESTAC town and the Badagry Expressway were projects that would cause the breaking into of virgin land.

We were children, and this newly constructed highway which was yet to opened because several bridges along its length had not been completed, presented itself to us as a huge adventure playground. And of course, my brother and I took full advantage of this, going for long walks along the newly laid tarmac. What is vivid in my memory is the dense rain forest on both sides of the road, thick foliage, even wild monkeys in the trees. And this was just a few minutes walk from the bustling cosmopolitan city that was Lagos of the 1970s. We would walk down that empty road for what seemed like miles, but which in reality was no more than half a kilometre, and come to the first bridge on that motorway, a bridge across a river which flowed from the Yoruba Highlands to the north of Lagos into the Lagos Lagoon. My memories of that river and its bank, are of a pristine environment almost exactly as nature had intended it to be, crystal clear water with countless shoals of fish visible in the water, swimming against the force of the current. Although I now know better, at that time it seemed like fun when the few fishermen we did see at this place would sprinkle a few drops of IZAL disinfectant into the water, and the fish reacting to the effect of the IZAL in the water, would leap out in their hundreds unto the riverbank. This was such a cool way to catch fish, my brother and I thought, and we would help the fishermen pick up the fish and put them in baskets that they had placed on the riverbank for this purpose.

My family moved away from Surulere a few years later and it was not until many years afterwards that I went on a deliberate mission to find out what had become of that magical place of childhood memory. It took hours of wandering back and forth along the now very busy Badagry Expressway, before I finally realised that what I was looking at was in fact that river of 20 years ago. First of all, it was no longer a river. Secondly, there was no sign of forest anywhere within sight. What was once dense green vegetation was now what seemed like hundreds of rusting corrugated iron shacks of the kind to be found in any auto mechanic's workshop in Nigeria. That river had been turned into a refuse disposal area, where the mechanics dumped waste engine oil, old tyres, broken engine parts. The water, if you could all it that, was black. In fact it contained more oil than water. Having seen what this place once was, seeing it as it is now just 20 years later came as a complete shock, and the experience has forced me in a more acute way to confront the reality of the damage that we humans are doing to our environment.

In Africa in particular, the basic needs for survival are paramount in peoples' minds. Thoughts about the environment and conservation are far removed from the issues that people have to deal with on a day to day basis. But ironically, apart from the direct environmental change of the kind I have described above and further down in this post for which we Africans are responsible, most of the environmental changes that we will have to confront in the near future are not of our own making. According to the United Nations Environment Agency, while Africa accounts for only 4% of the world's CO2 emissions, it is said that it’s inhabitants will suffer the most from the effects of climate change. The huge environmental impacts of climate change and local non-sustainable practices are matters that African governments must from now start to pay more serious attention to.

In Nigeria and several other African countries, unplanned urban sprawl, rapid population growth and consequent agricultural expansion has meant that much of the forest has been lost. Deforestation is a word I've heard being mentioned in Nigeria for decades, but I have no confidence that the seriousness of the problem that it represents has been appreciated at the right levels of government. The remaining woodlands are being degraded by over exploitation for fuel wood and non-wood forest products. To compound the area's problems the land is being farmed nearly continuously, with a shortened or no fallow period for the land to recover fertility. And as the population continues to grow the problem is going to continue to get worse. As Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, South Africa’s minister of environmental affairs and tourism states…“Africa is one of the regions least responsible for climate change, and is also least able to afford the costs of adaptation.”

Climate change knows no territorial borders and recognises no man-made boundaries or lines drawn in the ground. The changes to the world's climate will affect the entire population of the Earth. The poor people of the world are the most vulnerable to natural disasters, the most reliant on harvests coming at the right time, and the least able to adapt or move away from dangerous places. That is why climate change hits poor people hardest. Changing weather patterns are increasingly bringing devastating floods, drought, failed harvests, malnutrition, increased disease and death. Climate-change induced mass migration of entire populations from devastated areas, has the potential of becoming one of the more serious issues that the world will be forced to tackle in the 21st Century. In the meanwhile, African leaders are mindlessly still busy enriching themselves, regardless that their tenure on this earth is temporary and paying little regard to the state of the world that they will be bequeathing to their children's children.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

I'm out, so what are you going to do about it?

I was thinking about an online discussion in which I was involved, to be found here. Retrospecting on that discussion, I am inclined to concur with that commenter who suggested that gay people in Africa need to be more visible on the whole. My humble opinion is that there is a need for gay African men and women to actively demonstrate the reality of who we are to the heterosexual majority, whilst at the same time being careful not to come across as being hostile towards them. We cannot and should not be hostile and antagonistic, after all, these are our brothers and sisters we're talking about here. Methinks that there is an unhelpful and unhealthy us-against-them mentality that has been engendered in the gay/straight conversation among Africans. Many right thinking heterosexuals are reluctant to argue in favour of homosexuality, because they fear being painted (or is it tainted?) with the homosexual brush. At the same time, many of the gay advocates for homosexuality are combative in their approach, and in the process further alienate those whose understanding and acceptance they so desperately seek.

But whether we like it or not, gay or straight, homophobic or die hard gay activist, we are all parts of one whole; the human race, the African community. If a segment of that community is unhappy, as is the case with the majority of the gay segment of the African community, this is a matter for the whole of the African community. We homosexual Africans are Africans too, and the issues that we face in society with stigmatisation and so forth are ultimately issues which the African society as a whole must confront. HIV prevention information that is targeted specifically at Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) for instance, benefits not only these men in particular, but the whole of society, since it is the case that many of these MSMs also do have heterosexual partners with whom they routinely engage in sexual intercourse, most of which is unprotected. Homosexual people are a part of mainstream society. We are not divorced from it.

Contrary to the belief held by some, there has not been an increase in the homosexual population in Africa. The information age has created opportunities for information to be disseminated more widely, more rapidly, and the outcome that we have seen is of awareness and enlightenment on a scale never before witnessed in human history. The world has shrunk and what information a person is privy to is determined less and less by where that person is located physically. Homosexual Africans are aware that their counterparts in other parts of the world have been recognised to be ordinary human beings, who express an entirely normal variation of human sexuality. Sexual relations between adults of whatever gender cannot be abnormal, since as human beings our sexuality is an integral part of who we are. Consensual sexual relations between adults of whatever gender is not immoral either, in my submission.

It is immoral to rape, but it cannot be immoral if I as a man should fall in love with another man whose desire it is to love me back. How can it be said to be immoral when two adult people find happiness together? Who is harmed? Where is the victim? Is it moral when a homosexual man hides or denies his sexuality, marries a woman who he cannot love and lies to her daily while cheating on her with other men? Is this the course that these very 'moral' good African people would rather that I follow?

Well, I'm sorry to disappoint, because you're going to have to get used to me and others like me, who are willing no longer to bow to some archaic colonial European doctrine that decrees compulsory heterosexuality. I am not heterosexual, and although I love my sisters very very much indeed, I am a man who is physically and sexually attracted to masculinity. I am gay and I am 100% African. That closet door was shut behind me long ago and I intend never to go back there. More and more of us gay Africans need to come out and speak up. When we do this, we can create for ourselves a voice that people will listen to and not feel threatened by, while at the same time shedding that burden of the fear-of-exposure that dominates our lives, which only provides fertile ground for blackmailers and fodder for tabloids such as the Red Pepper in Uganda. You cannot out me, because I've outed myself already. And there is nothing you can do about it!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

He Loves Me

He loves me

Especially different

You keep me on my feet

Happily excited by your cologne, your hands, your smile

Your intelligence

You woo me, you court me

You tease me, you please me

You school me, give me some things to think about

Invite me, you ignite me, co-write me, you love me

You like me, you incite me to chorus 2x

You're different and special in every way imaginable

You love me from my head to my toe nails

You got me feelin' like the breeze

Easy and free, lovely and me

When you touch me

I can't control it

When you touch me

I just can't hold it

The emotion inside of me

I can feel it

(The words of the song "He loves me" by Jill Scott)

You can watch/listen to it here

Visit Jill Scott's website

Monday, 11 May 2009


I always knew there would come a time when I would run out of things to say and that I would need some time-off to recharge my batteries. And I feared that day. I just didn't know it would come so soon. Scandalous!

OK, let me attempt to make some excuses for being off-air for a few days. I have kept my dentist busy over the last week or so. He's been working wonders on my left mandible, or maxilla, whichever you prefer. I had always considered myself immune to whatever condition would require the services of a dentist. The dentist's chair and that drill have never really featured in my often rambling contemplations. However, recently, there arose the need for me to seek help concerning some unexplained discomfort in my oral cavity. After a lengthy conversation with this very friendly and polite Greek gentleman, who I was entirely convinced had been so friendly only so as to disguise the true nature of the horrific things the intended to do to me, and because I didn't understand at least one-half of the terms he used, I decided to read up on basic dentistry, in order to get a clearer picture of what Mr Whateverpoulous intended to do inside my mouth when I returned the next day.

So, still with that discomfort which was being assuaged by painkillers in the interim, I did a crash dentistry course. In this post, I've already proudly displayed some of the new words I picked up.
I even now know what odontiasis means. To cut a long story short, Mr Dentist with a single deft stroke has relieved me of what I must admit was sheer agony. Did I say single stroke? No, it was two strokes. First, there was the infection that had first to be dealt with using a course of antibiotic treatment, which meant that the pain from the tooth-decay lingered for a further 7 days of pure hell. Today the entire tooth was pulled out from the jawbone and the pain that I feel now is nothing compared to when that tooth was still in there.

Surely, that's a good enough excuse, or isn't it?

Friday, 8 May 2009

Garuba 5

Traffic on Ikorodu Road, Lagos

Arriving in Lagos with time enough to find the NYSC office still open, I hadn't counted on how heavy the traffic would be, travelling between the airport at Ikeja, north of the city, and Suru-Lere where the NYSC Secretariat was located. I had jumped into an expensive airport taxi, urging the driver to get me there as quickly as he could manage it, but found that at 4pm when I was sure no civil servant would still be at their desk, I was still stuck in traffic somewhere around Palm Grove, miles away. I didn't have any heavy luggage, only a shoulder bag, so I paid the driver for his time and left him in the traffic jam, crossing over to the other side of the 10 lane motorway that is Ikorodu Road, via a crowded overhead pedestrian crossing. I had been away from Lagos for only a few days, but returning to this milieu of thousands and thousands of black African heads, stretching out on all sides around me was a bit of a shock, when contrasted with the vast expanses of wide open grassland that I had just been viewing these last few days in the north. I could not return to Bauchi fast enough, but there was this small matter of a call-up letter. I remembered that even before I left Lagos previously, I couldn't find that letter. But in my eagerness to leave home, I was quick to convince myself that the NYSC office in Bauchi would have a record of my posting anyway, and that surely it would be unnecessary to produce the letter when registering. Thinking about it as I made my way to the family home at Ilupeju, walking along the Ikorodu Road, I thought perhaps this was a stroke of luck, because I might not have had the wonderful weekend I had just spent with Garuba, had that letter been in my possession last week when I went to Bauchi for the first time. And of course, there was promise of even more exciting times to come, when I returned to Bauchi after obtaining the letter. I only wished that I had made it to the NYSC Secretariat this afternoon. It was too late for that now, so I set myself the task of obtaining the letter tomorrow.

At home, I didn't think the welcome was as warm as I had imagined it would be. I was back already? After only a few days? It was as if they had been glad to see the back of me. No, I explained, the NYSC wouldn't register me because I didn't have my call-up letter. Inwardly, I thought, if only these folks knew what I'd been up to. I couldn't wait to return to Bauchi, to the arms of someone who obviously cared for me and wanted to be with me. Early the next morning, I slipped out of the house before anybody else was awake, in a bid to avoid having to speak to anyone. NYSC gave me a very hard time. They had issued me with a letter previously and it was not within their remit to issue call-up letters more than once. I cajoled, I pleaded, I begged, I shouted in anger. Eventually, after several long hours of running around the place, from office to office, I emerged from the NYSC Secretariat with that magic document, a duplicate call-up letter. Had Garuba not indicated that he would meet me at Jos Airport on Wednesday, I would have endeavoured to make the journey to Jos today. My ticket was an open ticket, which meant that the ticket was valid on any flight, as long as there was a seat available. But I knew that the sensible thing would be to return home and sit out the night, sitting cross-legged on the carpet in the living room, describing to everyone what had happened when I left for Bauchi last week, the marvelous things I had seen there, but never once mentioning Garuba, although I did say that the chap who had taken me to his uncle's house had agreed to look after my things until I returned.

Early Wednesday morning, I bid everyone goodbye again. OK then, they said, hope everything goes well for you this time. They didn't know how glad I was to be leaving. I almost ran to Ikorodu Road and flagged down the first taxi that came along. "Airport", I shouted. To a Lagos taxi driver's ears, the word "airport" can easily be translated to mean "MONEY!". The taxi screeched to a halt, cutting in front of a danfo that was just pulling out from the bus stop. As is to be expected the danfo driver shouted unspeakable expletives at the taxi driver, and his voice was still audible even as the danfo drove past and went on its way, pursued by a cloud of its own exhaust smoke. I got into the taxi then realised that in my hurry to get to the NYSC Secretariat on Monday I had failed to check on the airline schedules. It was only a week before when I made the journey and I knew that there were two flights to Jos, one in the morning and the second one sometime in the afternoon. I was hoping to catch the morning flight so as not to keep Garuba waiting for long at the airport, since he didn't know which flight I would be on. But I also knew that I could count on him being there waiting for me, whichever flight I did arrive on. The traffic on the Airport Road at Maryland was in the opposite direction to the rush hour traffic. So I was surprised that even going towards the airport was a crawl. Eventually, we crossed the flyover that runs across the Agege Motor Road and arrived at the airport. But I was certain that because this journey had taken so much longer than was expected, I would have missed the morning flight. Rushing into the departures hall, I was relieved to see the check-in queue for Jos. But when I finally arrived at the counter after standing in the queue for what seemed like an eternity, I was curtly informed that mine was an open ticket and I must wait until just before the check-in counter closed and there were no more confirmed passengers waiting to be checked in. And so I waited and waited, until eventually I was summoned by this large abrasive woman to present my ticket. Place your luggage on the scales, she snarled at me. Timidly, I said I had no luggage as I had only my shoulder bag. So she did whatever she had to do with the ticket behind the counter and returned it to me with a boarding pass. My heart leaped, and I hoped that this morning the flight would not be late as it was the last time.

Of course the flight was late, and we arrived at Jos Airport just before 1pm. But it was wonderful to breathe the cool fresh highland air of the Jos Plateau again as I stepped off the aeroplane and strode towards the airport building. There was a small crowd of people gathered in front of the building, just outside, all of them obviously awaiting the arrival of someone on this flight from Lagos. From afar I searched the crowd with my eyes. Garuba was not tall, but in being diminutive, he was distinctive. He was fair, and he was the one my eyes were searching for. So naturally I spotted him almost instantly and from the way he waved his arms I knew he too had seen me. I quickened my pace, but was careful not to draw any attention to myself. Garuba too moved forward, his eyes fixed on me. We would have, indeed, we should have rushed towards each other and jumped into each other's arms. But this was the north of Nigeria where such behaviour was simply unacceptable. It just was not done. Anyhow, Garuba and I were ecstatic to be reunited and holding hands, he led me out through the airport building where the other passengers were still waiting for their luggage. In my eagerness to return to Jos, I had eaten or drunk nothing all day. And this occurred to me only when Garuba asked me if I'd had lunch. Sitting in the car as Garuba spun it expertly out from its parking space towards the exit of the airport car park, I turned in my seat and stared at this man who had within only a few days come to mean so much to me. He too had had nothing to eat, so we decided to stop over somewhere in Jos for a few hours, before continuing on to Bauchi. I was with Garuba again, sitting beside him in his car and strangely this felt like a homecoming. I was as if I had arrived at my home.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

To you silent readers

The traffic that I get on this blog isn't very heavy. But there are those who visit the blog regularly, almost habitually. And there is quite a reasonable number too. I am awed that I have created something which has attracted the interest of different people from diverse locations and I'm grateful to find myself in this position. However, it can get a bit lonely when I know that someone is listening to what I'm saying, but is not saying anything back to me.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Of interest

This story is worth following. That she became pregnant in prison, 4 months after her arrest and incarceration is disturbing. But thinking about it again, what would a woman who was born in Nigeria of Nigerian parentage, which I am of the opinion is among the strictest, be doing in possession of 680 grams of heroin in Laos?

Sunday, 3 May 2009

We are not all aggressive

The impression created in the minds of most of my fellow Africans, is that homosexual Africans are all created in the mould of the gay men and women they know, the ones who trumpet their sexual orientation from the rooftops, demanding recognition and equality. Of course homosexual people are in the minority and naturally there must be those among them whose desire it is to advocate on behalf of the millions of others who are not so courageous. But there are some truths that we must consider.

1. The aggressive advocacy and activism that seems to be the touchstone of African gay activists appears to be the only image that is portrayed of gay people in most of Africa. There are hardly any Africans who are known to be gay, unless they are activists. In the mind of the simple-minded therefore, most if not all homosexuals are aggressive. "We will not tolerate such conduct, as it seems that homosexuals want to impose their lifestyle on us". This is the reaction that we have seen to this aggressive activism. It is precisely for this reason that we have seen more stringent legislation promulgated recently.

2. In my view, although aggressive activism has had the effect of rousing the awareness of the African public to the existence in their midst of fellow citizens whose sexual orientation is different, given the image that is created by the activists, the reaction of the public has been to oppose homosexuality. Aggressive activism to me, seems to be self-defeating.

3. Apart from in South Africa where rights are guaranteed constitutionally, the evidence is that most other English speaking countries on the continent have hardened their attitude towards homosexuality in recent years. And this is not because of a sudden increase in the population of homosexual men and women. Rather, this appears to me to be a direct reaction to the actions of the activists.

4. In my opinion what is required is for ordinary, everyday men and women who are gay, to put their hands up and say "Look at me, this is what a gay person looks like". Not only will the awareness be created, but the truth will be told as to who homosexual Africans really are, the brothers, sisters, relatives and friends of those who think of homosexuality only in terms of the unfavourable and unflattering information that they have been fed, a negative attitude that is worsened further by aggressive activism.

I do not believe that the activists are succeeding in achieving their objective. What I see instead is a deepening of the lack of understanding of homosexuality by Joe African Public. It is the responsibility of all gay Africans to stand up and show our brothers and sisters who we really are. Leaving it to aggressive activists is not getting us very far.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Garuba 4

It was now dark outside. It was dark inside too, because we hadn't switched on any lights. We just lay there, quietly, side by side, both of us spent, after the exertions of the last hour or so. I lay on my back, Garuba on his stomach, his face turned towards me. He propped himself up on his elbows and we looked into each other's eyes. I wondered at how I had come to feel the way I did in the presence of this man. Garuba was the first to speak, asking me if I was alright. He seemed to have a habit of asking that question, so I guessed that this was his own way of telling me that he was concerned. I admitted that what had just happened had never happened before, with someone I met only a few hours previously. Garuba suddenly looked worried, as if he had caused something to happen which I had not completely approved of. I smiled and stroked his cheek, saying nothing. He moved closer to me and lay his head on my chest and I put my arm around him, cradling him. Garuba said he didn't want me to leave the next day and asked if I would consider staying with him in Bauchi through the weekend. This man had been good to me. He had been kind and gentle and had even opened up to me, telling me what he thought of me and how he felt. I could not refuse him, although secretly, I was delighted that there would be another few days of undisturbed enjoyment of this lovely handsome man. Of course I agreed, though feigning reluctance at first.

I asked if there might not be some concern in the main house since the back house was in darkness and because his car was parked at the front they would know he was indoors. At this we both got out of bed and went to the shower room, together. We had the whole evening ahead of us, but night life is almost non-existent in Bauchi, Garuba told me. This didn't bother me because I was with the person I wanted to be with and it didn't matter what we did or where we went, as long as we remained together. We agreed to spend the evening quietly at home and that is what we did, after supper was served as it had been the previous night. It was explained to me that it is not customary for male visitors to be shown into the main house where the womenfolk held sway. Garuba's father received his own guests in a separate reception area, separated from the main house, although still a part of the main building. 

The more time I spent with Garuba, the more I fell under his spell. His presence around me was almost intoxicating, and I wondered how I had managed all those years before I met him. I had been in a relationship with Moses, but that was not the same as this. Time spent with Moses was fleeting at the best of times and his circumstances and mine were such that we were unable to take our relationship much further than what we had already done. Personally, I was concerned that if I persisted in that relationship, there could be undesired consequences on his marriage, and this was an eventuality that I was determined would not occur. I had gradually decreased the frequency at which I visited the Shrine.

That night, Garuba and I made passionate love to each other and I went to sleep thinking that I would never ever leave this man. Garuba had to go to work the next day, but he decided that we should go in together. I was glad because the thought of staying alone all day did not appeal to me.

I have come to realise that architects have a way of imprinting their own stamp on their immediate surroundings. Despite being over furnished, Garuba's room at home exuded good quality in the items that the room contained. The office was pretty much the same, except that the rooms here were much more spacious and Garuba and his colleagues had ample room to demonstrate what they were capable of. It was a very beautiful suite of offices, occupying an entire floor of a 7 storey building in the centre of town. I noted that even in this environment, Hausa was the language of choice. So very often, I was made to feel like an outsider since anyone who spoke to me would have to make the effort to speak English, a language with which some of them were not very comfortable. I ended up sitting quietly in Garuba's office, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, although I could tell that my presence caused Garuba to be less effective at work than he should have been, since he would every few minutes come into the office from wherever he was, just to see that I was fine. Sometime in the early afternoon, everyone left the office to attend the Friday prayers at the Central Mosque up the road. Coffee and biscuits had been provided, so I remained in the office and busied myself flipping through architectural publications that were sitting on the occasional table in Garuba's office.

We left the office in the late afternoon and drove to the Zaranda Hotel, where Garuba treated me to a sumptuous meal. The society in the north of Nigeria retains vestiges of its feudal past, and Garuba who belonged to an aristocratic Fulani family from which is drawn the Emirs of the various towns, was treated with a deference to which I was unaccustomed. That I was 'on the arm' of such a person, brought to my mind memories of childhood fairy tales of handsome princes and young maidens. This was my own fairy tale and I was relishing every moment. We went back home and Garuba entered the main house, presumably to inform them that he was retiring early, because he soon came back and said that he had cancelled supper. We did retire early and yes, it was absolutely glorious. Later on, while still in bed we agreed that we would drive out of town the next day, because not only would this give us time together alone in the car, he could take us to places I had never seen.

And so after breakfast, we set off on the Gombe Road, towards Yankari National Park, but then we did not turn off towards Yankari but drove past and continued towards Gombe, Bauchi State's second city. Wasting no time in Gombe itself, we continued our journey on the road to Numan, which is in Gongola State, Bauchi's eastern neighbour. We had been driving for several hours and it was in the mid-afternoon that we arrived at our destination, a sugar plantation near Numan. Garuba explained that he knew the owner of the plantation and that there was a guest house here that we could borrow for the weekend. And it was here that we stayed and ate and slept and loved, hardly leaving our room until the next day when we had to return to Bauchi so that I could get prepared for my journey to Lagos, which was planned for Monday. On Monday itself, Garuba again taking the day off, drove me all the way to Jos and the airport. He even paid for my air ticket to Lagos and back to Jos, perhaps to ensure that I did come back.

Northern Nigerians are more restrained and conservative than people from the south and it is very unusual indeed for a person like Garuba to engage in an overt expression of affection in a public place. But in the airport lounge, just before I left him to join the other passengers who were boarding the plane, Garuba held me close and I whispered into his ear, urging him to please drive safely. He said he would meet me here on Wednesday afternoon when I returned. He stood in front of the airport building as I walked out unto the apron and towards the waiting aeroplane. I turned around and he was still there, watching me, smiling. Climbing up the steps to the airplane, I turned around again. Garuba was waving to me and I waved back. I took one last look just before I entered through the door and he was still standing there...