“Asa,” he called.
“Yes,” I answered, looking up from my open cupboard.
“You dey mad.”
I sighed and went back to my business.
“Michael,” he called another day.
Sensing he had nothing to say, I ignored him.
“Asa, no be you I dey call?”
I still didn’t respond.
He jumped down from his bunk, walked over to mine and said, while pointing his right index finger at me, “You don dey carry me play bah? Shebi me and you don be mate abi?”
His nickname was Aji-ike (ass hair), and he was a pain in my ass during secondary school period. During one of our vacations, I called him with my newly purchased Nokia 6330. After the initial pleasantries, I said, “There is something I would like to tell you.”
“What is it?” he asked.
“Not now, when school resumes,” I replied.
I never got around to telling him until we finished our SSCE. He was persistent though.
Three years later, when my cousin asked for my advice on how to go about his matriculation party, I said, “Go to school, snap pictures with the a few friends you invited, and find a restaurant where you can have lunch with your guests. That way, you save yourself the task of cooking and serving.”
On the matriculation day, we occupied one of the tables at a restaurant called Celebrities. I took a photo with my phone while wearing a big grim, with a bowl of empty Supreme ice cream on the table in front of me. The photo was good, so when I got home, I uploaded it to my Facebook timeline where it garnered some likes and comments. Ajike was among the commenters.
Later that day, I got an inbox message from him: Nah which bebe carry you go Celebrities?
I replied: What is that supposed to mean, eh? So I no fit go there go chop? And who talk say na girl carry me go there?
Ajike: Oya no vex. Wait…what! Nah boy carry you go there?
Ajike: Which kain guy go carry him fellow guy go chop for that kain place? Are you trying to say what I’m thinking?
Me: I have absolutely no idea what you’re thinking. Just know I didn’t go to that restaurant with a girl.
Ajike: Are you gay?
With that outright question, I suddenly lost my bluster and started to panic, but just a bit. This guy was not your regular straight Nigerian – no, far from it. This is a guy who makes jokes out of almost everything, a guy who backed LGBT rights during an argument where some of our other classmates were being derogatory and mean. He was so supportive in his opinions that one of the others fired at him with, “You sure say you never join them, this one wey you dey defend them.”
Ajike shot back, “You don forget? No be me and your papa dey do am for inside una house that time?”
Facing my phone screen now, I took a deep breath and typed: Yes I am.
Ajike: Since when?
Me: Since I became sexually active.
Ajike: You’re lying.
Many months later, he hit me up. He was in town and wanted to meet for the first since we graduated from secondary school. We agreed to meet by weekend. On Saturday afternoon, I met him at the back gate of the army barracks where his father, an army official, resided. We shook hands and exchanged greetings and some pleasantries. We were heading out when he suddenly asked, “So how is your bebe?”
“I told you I don’t have a girlfriend,” I said.
“So you’re serious about that gay thing you said?”
“Yes I was. I’m gay.”
He didn’t miss a beat. He simply said, “So, okay, do you have a boy friend then?”
“Not at the moment, no.”
He nodded, and that was it.
Ajike is the type of Nigerian that gives me hope about the future of Nigeria’s gay clime. There is something liberal and free about him which endeared me to him the first time we met. With him, I feel hope that the consistently homophobic nature of this country will dissipate with time. He hadn’t always been so open minded, but has a commendable ability to show such remarkable open-mindedness, unlearning everything he’d known every day about the homosexual.
One day, he summed up his character when he shared on Facebook a photo of Empire’s Jamal, with a caption: ‘If you have a problem with the LGBTIQ, why not let God who created them cast the first stone?’
OAN: I have a crush on IBK. There, I said it. God! I feel so much better.
Written by Michael