It was December, 2014. I was done with semester exams. I was trying hard to quell the adventurous feelings associated with this freedom.
Well, maybe not so hard.
I came across a respectable looking user on Manjam who was interested. Since I hadn’t hooked up with anyone in close to five months prior to the time – much less an older person – I engaged him. We soon got talking on the phone. His name was Chisom and he lived in Asaba, Delta State. We spoke about a lot of things – friends, family, background and dreams, every day for three weeks, and we were both impressed by the each other’s intelligence.
Then, Chisom told me that his wife was travelling with the kids the week before Christmas and that he wanted me to come spend some time with him. I consulted with my gay friends; most of them told me to be careful and only one advised me not to go based on my unfamiliarity with that area. One other friend, Ralph, advised me to try confirming Chisom’s identity by checking out his social networks. But the ‘forty-five-year-old Chief’ Chisom said that he didn’t have time for social networks as he was the regional distributor for GP plastic water tanks (or something like that). At times, while on the phone with him, I would hear background noises that Chisom said were either made by his wife and kids or his friends.
Later on, my docility caved under the need for adventure. To back up whatever half-truth needed to be told, I took along some final year project questionnaires with the rationale that Chisom was a chief, and so could be of help in administering them to people.
I withdrew my transport fare, basically emptying the two bank accounts for which I had ATM cards. And on the Thursday before Christmas, I travelled to Asaba to have an adventure.
All through the journey, Chisom kept calling to monitor my progress. At some point, he told me that he wouldn’t be able to come and pick me up himself as his car had developed a fault. He told me that he had made other arrangements. I made it to Asaba around 1pm, and got to the entrance of the estate I was directed to. The fact that a female passenger also alighted from vehicle at the same point made me less wary. She was transported into the estate by one of the okada riders. The other riders asked me to get the directions to the house I was going, but I declined, as Chisom had told me that he’d send an okada to come pick me up. I described what I was wearing – a red-and-blue check shirt on cream trousers. Some minutes later, the okada man arrived. After ensuring that I was properly seated with my backpack, he proceeded to transport me to my worst experience ever.
As we moved into the estate, the absence of houses didn’t bother me at first, since I also lived in a developing area myself. I started worrying when he took a left turn off the main road onto a narrow pathway that could not have been motorable since it was quite bushy.
Maybe it was a shortcut, right?
He suddenly pulled up, and we were surrounded by two-and-a-half muscled men. The half muscle was carrying a local gun with a live round in it. After ensuring that I saw the live round, I was told not to make a sound and hurriedly escorted to a ‘safe’ spot while the okada man, who happened to be one of them, went to hide the motorcycle. Eventually, one of the two muscled guys spoke, and I found myself staring into the face of the person who’d always been on the other end of the line – the one who called himself Chief Chisom. He wasn’t forty-five years old and he didn’t look like a chieftain. He was in his mid-thirties and looked like most southern men of his age – hairy and muscular. They all looked like that, except for the guy with the gun who was relatively smaller. All the items on me where seized immediately; the backpack had been seized earlier when I was accosted. Because they all took different roles in my capture, I’m going to give them names – the Brain, the Transporter, the Nameless and the Gun. Brain, of course, was the person I had been speaking to; I soon came to discover that he could mimic many Nigerian accents.
I was stripped to my underwear. My vest was used to tie my hands behind my back and my trouser was dropped to my ankles to impede my movement if I chose to run. (I remembered thinking that I should stop seeing action movies; nothing I’d seen prepared me for the fear that gripped me)
Brain referred to me as Mister Gay Nigeria. I kept a straight face when he first mentioned it; obviously, this was no time to be impressed. Nameless tried operating my phone. Transporter stood guard, while Gun held the weapon pointed at me. Thankfully, the battery of my Blackberry Torch had depleted, so there was no way they could obtain my data or my social networks. My SIM card was taken out and inserted in Brain’s second phone. I was asked to give my parents’ phone numbers. When I hesitated, Gun delivered a punch to my face. I felt my brain going back and forth in my head as stars exploded before my eyes. Obviously, they meant business, so I dropped their mobile numbers.
My ATM cards were taken, my pin numbers too, even after I told them that those accounts were empty. Transporter and Nameless still went to confirm. My headphones, wallet which contained a little below two thousand naira, head-warmer, earpiece, perfume and a pair of shoes were also taken. Then, we moved to another ‘safe’ spot, where my parents were called.
Brain told them this story: “Your son was caught by my neighbour, doing it with another boy (Emeka). Both of them are here at the estate’s security post right now, naked and with condoms on them. Your son has been behaving like a girl since we caught them. We’ve taken the pictures of them, and the police will be coming to get them by 6pm except you bail your son with 200 thousand naira. Emeka’s father is here and he has agreed to pay 150 thousand, but we can’t release one without the other. So you must send money to your son’s account and we’ll take it from there.”
My parents of course didn’t believe any of that. Their son couldn’t possibly be in Asaba. Their son doesn’t behave like a girl. And their son most definitely doesn’t do boys. On my part, it took a lot of tearing up (mostly from the punches I was getting when the call wasn’t on), before I could convince my parents that I was actually in Asaba and that I did do those things. On Brain’s part, he had to act as four different people including Emeka’s father to further perfect the charade. At this point, besides the miserable state I was in, I was actually impressed by his performance. It was as if I was involved in a movie.
At some point, Ralph called my number and I told him about my situation. He was distraught. As all the calls were on loudspeaker, there was no way I could tell Ralph that I’d prefer if he didn’t get too involved. After Ralph’s call, Brain asked me if my friend was gay. I said, “No. But he knows I’m gay and that I was coming to Asaba.” That reply got me a few slaps and punches. (Call my loyalty misplaced but I will never tell a straight guy about another gay person, no matter what, I hope) He eventually believed me. (He’s not the only one who can act, I told myself)
I was told to tell my parents that it was the devil’s fault and beg for their cooperation. I did all that just to convince my captors that I was serious as well about getting released. I did all that knowing full well that that line could never be bought by my parents. I was brought up by seriously Christian parents that taught me about the power of choice. My mother would have delivered a life-threatening slap to my face if I was in her presence when I said that. My father told my captors that he was already on the way to Asaba, and when he got bugged with their consistent yammering about him paying in the money, he flared up and told the captors to hand me over to the police. He didn’t care anymore and he wasn’t going to pay any money. (He later told me that he’d have preferred I was with the police, that at least I’d be safe. On the other hand, my captors could kill me and bury my body in an unmarked grave, even with the payment). My mom stopped picking their calls; she was ill at the time so she couldn’t do much. All that took a long time, and then official banking hours were closed. They tried convincing my dad to transfer the money through other means. He declined, repeating that I should be handed over to the police. They made me beg and grovel on the phone, but he didn’t flinch.
All this time, Brain and I had been the only ones talking on the phone. The other three were just goofing around, taking turns to sleep, punching me and persuading me to beg ‘well well’. During a break from the calls, Brain showed me the sellotape he said they intended to use to wrap around my body, to prevent me from wriggling too much when they behead me, so they could sell my head. Nameless used a thick stick to hit me in front of both my knees. The pain was so excruciating that I remembered why I stopped playing soccer in the first place. When it became obvious that they weren’t going to get a dime and it had started getting dark, they decided to release me after a vicious beating delivered on my bare back by Nameless and Gun. The beating was EPIC! There was so much raw pain on my back that I bit the grass I’d been forced down on, just to try getting my mind off the pain. That didn’t work. What worked for me was the bottle. I don’t know who smashed the first bottle on my head. All I know is a Vitamilk bottle is really strong, as was the force that brought down the bottle on my head. The partial concussion I suffered from it took my mind off my pain, literally. And then, a second bottle was smashed on my head. The only reason my scalp was saved was because of the afro I had on at the time. My beautiful smooth back was defaced. (Later, when Ralph saw the pictures, he said I looked like my demon wings had been torn off).
They released me when they saw that they’d drawn enough blood. Then they gave me fifty bucks to get me to the nearest major junction. I was weak with pain. But hope that I’d make it out of all this alive kept me up. I got dressed and they led me to the main road and disappeared into the night.
I stumbled on along, dropping to the ground and getting back up several times, until I got an okada that agreed to take me to town. I told him I’d been kidnapped. And feeling compassion for me, he took care of me and waited up with me until about 2am when my father finally made it into Asaba. My father thanked him and we went to the garage where we’d board a vehicle back home. I slept a lot during the drive, as much as my tortured body and mind could let me. My father and I didn’t talk much until we arrived home the next afternoon on Friday. I took a bath, and thereafter, went to cut my hair. The barber asked me if I worked in a glass factory. I actually laughed at that.
Then, I got back home to face my family. I told them the truth about me getting kidnapped, and half-truths about what I went to do in Asaba.
When they asked if I was gay, I looked my father in the eye and said, “No, I’m not.” I had to connect to my passive heterosexuality and magnify it in my mind. It took a lot of convincing, but I undid the outing. I also dwelt on the fact that my captors told lies about everything, including my sexuality.
Why did I undo the kito? Maybe it was because the truth was given to my parents by liars. Maybe it was because my parents had come to trust me and I wanted to keep that trust. Maybe it was because I didn’t want any more psychological damage for them. Maybe it was because my father would probably have continued the beating if I said yes. I definitely didn’t want to find out the extent of my parents’ unconditional love, if there was an end to it. Maybe it was because I had willingly made my choice to remain mostly gay and I didn’t need any straight person having any ideas around me. I have come to know myself and I love myself unconditionally. I healed from that nightmare eventually, quickly though. My back, on the other hand, took several sessions of various treatments to heal without much scarring.
And every day, I thank God for my life and all the other things that were spared.
Written by Josh-Deity