It happened on the 18th of July, 2014.
It was 6:25pm and I had just closed from work. Auditors had been around from the head office, scrutinizing every expense and examining every receipt, all the while drinking tea; tea I secretly wished I had laced with poison.
Anyway, I finally turned into the entrance of my street, looking forward to eating the marinated chicken (that’s what ‘oga’ called it) that my significant other had prepared for me the previous day. A few blocks down my street, I saw a crowd gathered, which wasn’t really a strange sight in the city of Port Harcourt, so I drove on. The crowd however somehow parted and I caught a glimpse of a young man naked to his underwear sitting on the floor. Must be a unlucky thief that was caught, I thought to myself. I hated mob justice, but good luck trying to stop an irate mob. So I made to continue down the road. The crowd parted again somehow, and I saw another figure seated beside the man I had seen before, and I had an instant tachycardia. I recognized the second guy; he had popped up on my Badoo’s ‘People Nearby’, and had tried to chat me up. But with ‘oga’ around, I did not respond. So I was instantly disturbed, because in my gut I already knew what was going on, and I was scared.
I pulled over, got down from my car and approached the crowd, a horde of people, some armed with clubs and sticks as well as some other weapons. The two men sprawled on the floor had already been beaten black and blue, and they were bleeding. I walked toward a man I recognized in the crowd, my barber, and when I queried him, he was like, “Sir, imagine o… Homosexuals… In this our street! God forbid! We go kill them!” And he proceeded to pick up a brick and haul at them. The brick hit one on the guys on the head and I cringed, but the battered young man did not even flinch; their spirits and bodies had been so broken, they were numb.
Suddenly I tasted salt in my mouth; I did not even know I was crying as I imagined myself sitting on that floor, being beaten and humiliated in similar fashion by these people – my neighbors. The same people on my street who waved at me in the morning when I went to work, who came to me for prescriptions, who greeted me “Good evening, doc.” You see, these people I had lived amongst would do the same to me in a heartbeat. The sight was too much for me to bear, so I turned and went back to my car.
There was no way I would leave those guys there. It could be me lying down there and being beaten to a pulp. I also knew that I couldn’t do much by myself to stop the manic crowd. So I called for help. I called a captain in the army whom I had a fling with many years ago (that is a story for another day). He was initially reluctant to help, until I said, “If it were me passing through this, would you leave me there to rot? Will you not save me?” Then he asked for the address.
Eventually, the good captain sent over a truck full of soldiers, and I went to help them navigate to the spot. By the time we got there however, the two guys had been taken to a police station, where they were shackled, still in their underwear, at the back of a van like common thieves. I called a friend who is a lawyer, and he joined us at the police station. The boys were eventually released to us after nearly four hours of intense shouting and me literarily trying to stop the soldiers and the policemen from getting into a brawl. We eventually took custody of the two men at about midnight, and we drove them straight to a clinic run by a guy I know personally, where their wounds were treated. I did not know how to console these two; I was afraid that if I opened my mouth to speak to them, words would fail me and tears would flow freely. So I kept mute. When the guy who knew me from Badoo looked up at me and silently worded “Thank you”, I merely nodded without any vocal response. It was as though something had taken my voice away.
It was around 2am that I finally fell into bed (without anymore appetite for my marinated chicken), and I could not sleep a wink. My mind was kept alive with so many thoughts. What kind of jungle do we live in? When did people become less than animals in our eyes because of their sexual orientation? Am I ever going to be truly safe in this country…my country?
You see I was sick because in that same crowd, wielding a brick she was determined to stone the two guys with was a young woman on my street who’d just opened a bar financed by a married man she was dating. In that same crowd was Samuel who was living with a girl whose parents’ house he could not even find his way to. There was also the woman who owned a store down the road where she passed off Aba shoes as Dubai-made. Also with a club was the single mother who had previously had two abortions, and the mechanic who had fixed a fake brake-pad for me once. He was the one who poured hydraulic on the guys they were assaulting.
Now, homosexuality is a sin, right? Maybe – even though sin is relative, but all these people that I just mentioned are saints? I think not. So where do they get off playing judge and jury? Where do they get off deciding what is right and wrong? And who gave Mama Amanda who sells provisions the right to scream “homosexualists should be punished”, while she sleeps with the University of Port Harcourt student who lives in her BQ.
I suppose nothing makes sense in this country.
After this incident, I stopped talking to these people on my street, I barely responded to their greetings. I did not open the door when people knocked to ask for the chance to charge their phones in my flat. And I stopped giving out any prescriptions. I simply sent them over to the health centre. Because you see, when they discover who I really am, they will probably mob me, and I will find solace in the fact that I wasn’t friendly with them.
Written by Dennis Macaulay