Homosexuality is now illegal in Nigeria. The president signed it into law a few days ago. So yes, Ayodele Oyebanji’s story is timely and shocking because it is about the lynching of a gay man. Those are reasons enough to read the story, but there’s more.
Oyebanji makes the reader think about not just the horror of killing a man because of who he loves but the ease of it—how easy it is for everyday, law abiding Nigerians to turn murderers. We saw it in the ALUU 4 mob killing. Should we be worried, as Linda Ikeji suggests, that this new law would encourage violence against homosexuals?
Oyebanji’s use of the second person is both beautiful and unsettling, the way it implicates the reader and forces You to imagine for a moment that you were the one lying on the ground waiting for your death.
The breeze that afternoon was not cool. As expected of a harmattan breeze, it lapped all that came its way. Everything was dust-caked. Including you. The brown and dryness of the weather was all you wore, your manhood pointing its limp head at the ground. You had rolled in the dust for so long. For too long. You had been made to do that. You were an actor and they, the people around you, the directors. Anybody just arriving at the scene would think like that. They would think the bulk of irate people around you were pipers who sang you tunes to dance to. You knew what you had suffered was too much for an actor to bear in a sane enactment. Perhaps, it was an insane one. A real, but insane enactment.
You lifted your face to look at the crowd. Your wife, Bola, was part of it, her eyes red like mud. Those almond eyes you had told her you could die for poured out water. Yours didn’t. Blood cascaded from them like tears had, on the day you went in the middle of a woman’s legs, for the first time. The tears were not those of pleasure as your wife must have thought. They were neither for her clean sheet; the hymen you broke through.You wept because there in her, you buried more than your seeds. You buried a chunk of your freedom. A large chunk of you. The society wanted it that way.
The mob’s beating would not cease. Yes, a whole society was beating you, calling you names. You bled all over as your flesh tore, like it had no substance. No worth. Like tissue. Like a rag. The harmattan sun sure had its fill. It guzzled your body fluids with alacrity. You sank again in the dust. You had been drained of strength.Yet, they wanted you to rise. To walk naked around town. You were a deterrent.
You were to serve as a deterrent. For what God made you? This God must be far from what your pastor preached every Sunday. You would not set your feet in any church again if you got out of your trouble alive, you thought. You knew it was all your trouble, not that of the mob. You knew that you wouldn’t get out of it. You knew other things.
You knew your partner was lucky to have escaped. John had torn himself from the crowd and ran into the bush by a streak of luck. He couldn’t have, with the population around you now. You didn’t feel betrayed; you loved him still. Each moment you shared was worth a repeat. The times he winced when you tugged at the hairs on his chest. The times he stroked your erect penis as he guided it into his mouth. You lived for him. You would also die for him. For your love. You knew he would find another partner if you were killed. Your wife too would get someone else to father your child.
You remained on the ground, life seeping out of your body. Whoever had informed the people around you of what went on in the office toilet was around. He was a co-worker. You knew. You knew guilt would eat away at his heart as he watched you doused with petrol, a tyre around your neck. You needed death to come in time. You called. Fire answered, on your head.
Post image is by Alexander Ikhide. Ikhide is Nigerian and based in Bristol, UK. See more of his artwork HERE.
Oyebanji Ayodele is a final year student of Literature-in-English at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Currently a contributor at GreenBiro, he blogs at ayoyebanji.blogspot.com.
Follow him on twitter: @ayoyebanji.