Popular Nigerian gay rights activist, Bisi Alimi has shared a story of how he and his boyfriend were attacked in Lagos 10 years ago. According to Bisi, the attackers barged into their home late at night and started to beat him, accusing him of representing Nigeria in a bad light. Read the first two sets of the story below…
10 years ago today, I escaped an ordeal that has scared me for life, I might be brave, look brave, act brave, but dear, underneath that bravery is a brutalised and damaged person. Many times when I flashback to that day, I cry, sometimes I laugh and sometimes I went into that very depressing place of self hatered and I loath myself.
Here is my long story
It seems like yesterday but I made a vow not to remember to the point where it pained. It was a very lovely Monday, the sun was shining and as usual I was getting on with my life.
I had just returned from the Internet cafe, where I had endure a long walk of shame with abuse and name calling. How I had endured that for almost 5 years I had no idea. I think it’s more about the friends I had than my ability to cope.
We were beaten together and harassed together, sometime the ordeal is alone. I think knowing we had no where to go to, we got used to it, at least we had each other.
This Monday (9 Apr 2007) marked a month I had returned from attending a conference in London and that was my first trip out of Nigeria ever.
It felt great to be back as I never really liked London, it was too cold and too clean.
As I walked home that Monday I saw a friend of mine, Jude, very tall and muscular guy, a gay guy as well but on the downlo. He was living with his sister on the estate. We exchanged pleasantries and he walked with me home, asking what I brought back from London.
Jude is a very nice guy but a player, I have seen him played with the hearts of my girls, he is one guy that is very cute and he knew it and made his money from it.
He walked home with me and as usual, told me he is hungry, I told him we have food at home. My girls always cook, they are the best irrespective of whatever shit is going on now.
We got to mine and he went through my bag and saw some DVDs and he wanted to borrow Brother2Brother, but I have problems with Jude, he never returns my DVD so I refused to give this to him, he begged and after charming me, I offered to give him the DVD. My boyfriend charmed me into doing that as well.
He had it but with a very strong warning to return it that night or he will never get any DVD from me ever again. He ate, chatted a little bit more and left. My boyfriend (I won’t mention his name for security reason) settled in to watch another DVD
My boyfriend and I had been together 4 years, we both live in the estate and there is a funny story behind our dating. I had had a bet with my best friend Femi (he died of AIDS complication 10 years ago), and the rest was story.
My boyfriend lives in the same estate with me and I wondered how he was able to deal with the showers of abuse that we both face everyday. I love him so much, he was 10 years younger, a very cute charming and promising young man and I felt that was what drew me to him.
Around about 9pm, NEPA has taken light so thanks to my neighbour Iya Lanre, we had access to generator to give us power, the usual over dramatic Mexican telenovela was on, we had our light off and using the tv light as the room light. We had just had dinner, both of us, cuddled up on our bed, watching tv, then there was a knock.
He looked at me asking if I was expecting anyone, another knock. All my girls had gone home and none planned to sleep over that night, then I remembered it might be Jude returning my DVD. Then another knock, I got up walked to the door and opened it.
The person at the door gave me a very ‘dirty’ slap, I went blank and saw stars, pushed me with his leg and I fell backward hitting my head on the floor, then they entered. I knew they were they because I heard more than one voice, but I have no idea how many. He turned me over, but before then, had removed my shirt and my trouser, I was left with my underwear. He told me to face the floor and one of them put his leg on the back of my head.
I heard my boyfriend begging and they told him to be quiet, they started beating him and they were beating me too, it felt like iron, it was hard and painful; what they were using to beat me.
After over 2 hours, which included causes, abuse and the fact that I was disgracing the Nigeria government during my trip to London (I had granted an interview to BBC network Africa).
Then one of them said; let’s do this and go. I had no idea but suddenly I felt a cold steel touching my head and then it hit me, it might be a gun, then my fear was confirmed, the other said, we need to make it look like a robbery, let’s turn the house upside down and take as many things with us.
While they were doing this, I heard another knock on my door, it was my neighbour wanting to know if I am in or not as it is almost midnight and she wanted to lock the gate. I couldn’t answer, but they forced me to tell her not to, few minutes after that knock, I guessed they had a peep, saw the road was clear and ran out of my room.————————-
This is the story of the attack that changed my life. I am marking the 10years anniversary.
NB: yesterday I said July instead of April, I am really sorry about that.
As the men hurried out of my house I held my breath, I was nervous as I was not sure if they had left indeed. Slowly I turned around and I realised we were alone. My boyfriend still had his face on the ground and his hands tied to his back just like mine.
We managed to untie each other and that was when the reality hit me, from deep in my soul I screamed out, I shouted; ole! Ole! Ole!
I was running as I was screaming
My house is in an isolated area of jakande estate. It was not part of the estate. It was actually an area set aside for animal farming. Next to my window is a pig farm. I was so poor that is all I could afford. It was my first freedom and it felt so right. I rented it when I was 27 years. I was struggling with the pressure from my parents to get married and I felt leaving home will be my first step to being able to be in control of my life.
I was running and screaming thief! Thief! With no idea where I was running to or what I was running from. I got to the nearest bus stop to my house (oja bus stop) and it was at that point I realised I was actually only wearing an underwear. ( the nearest bus stop to my house is about 10 mins walk, I guess I ran there in 1min)
My screaming attracted a lot of people and they asked what happened and I narrated the story to them. It was then I was told I have bruises and swollen head. I had to go to the hospital but in nigeria looking the way I was looking, hospital won’t treat me without a police report.
I walked back home, in tears, pains and shame. The news has travelled far. Since my coming out, I had lost all form of connections with my family, so I was shocked when that same night I got a call from my mum.
I put on some clothes and headed to the police station. I got there around about 1:30 am. I explained what happened to the officer on duty and he gave me a police report with instruction to come back at day break to make a proper statement. I got back to the estate and headed to the 24hrs clinic where I was treated and went back home.
All the while my boyfriend was at home, crying and in shock. He told me that my travel box was missing as when as so many thing, then I hit me, what about my passport, we searched everywhere but couldn’t find it.
My neighbours came around, it was like someone had just died, many people were sharing their version of event and what they saw. In the midst of these was a cloud of fear hanging over the house
By the time I went to sleep, it was around about 4am. It has been a long night, I couldn’t sleep, I was traumatised and kept asking why me??
In the morning still high on energy, I had a shower and headed for the police station. I was not expecting the police to do much. I didn’t see the guys so I can’t describe them and since there was no light, my neighbours could hardly help as well with their version of event.
However I was not expecting what happened at police station.
As I arrived, I asked for the officer the night before as instructed, then gave my name. I was then introduced to the day team who will be handling my case. The officer in charge called me into a room and started questioning me. And then suddenly he said
‘Based on the information we have, we are made to understand that you used your house to harbour homosexuals’. Then argued that according to their investigation, what was an internal fight within my group of homosexuals.
I was furious, I asked if he has asked anyone in my house, he refused to answer, and just then he dropped the bombshell.
‘I am afraid I will have to detain you here in the cell’. I was shocked. I am the victim here, I tried explaining but he won’t have it.
They took my wristwatch, my trainers and other valuables and locked me up in the cell, this was around about 11am.
Worried that I was not home yet, my boyfriend came to the police station to look for me around 1pm and that was when he told me my mum had been to the house and had discovered some of my stolen items including my passport.
I was relieved and tried telling the officer this but he won’t have none of it. He then asked to see my parents. My father and mother arrived the station around 2:30pm and were told that according to report, I am a notorious homosexual who has been terrorising the estate and people would wish I didn’t come back.
This was just too much for me, I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
I was released to my parents with an instruction to do something to me or people might. I came back home with my
Parents and that was when my mother asked about the visa on my passport and the prospect of leaving Nigeria for good.
That evening, all my daughters came to my house, they were in shock and terrified. I told them the latest developments and instruct them that someone will have to take over the organisation we started 2years ago.
That night we cooked, we cried, we ate, we laughed but deep down we were scared.
I remember one of them holding me so tight and saying he was really scared, what if they had killed me.
With this thought in my head and the horrible reality of the ordeal I had experienced in the last 24hrs, lying in my bed tears rolling down my eyes, I closed my eyes and slept off.
To know what happened on the 11th, you will have to come back tomorrow.