When the idea was conceived to get inside the gay community in Lagos, nobody doubted it would not be a piece of cake. But three ‘straight’ reporters took it upon themselves to seek the ‘bent’ ones out. KASALI OLUSEGUN QUDUS sought them out, NAZA OKOLI and
NEWTON RAY-UKWUOMA sorted them out.
Tola Olopade (not real name), a 33-year-old fashion designer, was living with his grandmother when he started exhibiting homosexual behaviour.
He was in primary school when he discovered his love for feminine accessories. He used to wear his sisters’ shoes and church hats. He learnt to catwalk through an old TV fashion show. He realised his love for same-sex relationship through his addiction to girls’ stuff.
He acknowledged that the orientation had been with him over time.
Homosexuality as defined by the ancient Greek simply means romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behaviour between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality is “an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions” to people of the same sex.
This act prior to now was alien to Nigeria’s culture and belief, therefore, anyone found to be indulging in it has surely brought shame to his/her family.
The two predominant religions in the country – Islam and Christianity – frown at homosexuality. The religions are very clear as regards their prohibition of homosexuality as a phenomenon that clashes with the natural order.
Even none of the cultures in Nigeria supports homosexuality. But Nigerians are finally at home with the phenomenon despite the constitutional and moral ban on it. In Lagos, Saturday Tribune found out that it is a leveller that brings both the low and the mighty together in a state where anything not found is possibly nowhere in the country. Our reporters’ finds equally point at the act as a gauge of social influence. It has almost become a major way for the wealthy to enjoy their wealth.
Unfortunately, hiding under the clash between civilisation and culture, the illegal act has not only crept into Lagos, the heart of civilisation in Nigeria, but the city has become a melting pot for the majority of homosexuals in the country.
Lagos is believed to have the highest concentration of gay people in the country. The reasons adduced for this are many. To begin with, nightlife in Lagos is known to be topnotch.
There are night clubs in every corner of the metropolis. Under the cover of the dark, gay men (young and old) feel secure to fraternise and explore different ideas in the name of relaxation.
Also, because of the abundance of wealth in the city, which is a major attraction, many young men who engage in the act are sometimes motivated by money as they are usually able to find rich dudes who are able to meet their needs.
Findings by Saturday Tribune revealed that there are parts of the city that have, for some reasons, come to be associated with homosexuality.
First on the list is Surulere, adjudged as the centre of art and creativity. Surulere is home to some of the finest musicians and artistes in the city. The National Theatre and the National Stadium are both located in this part of the city; landmarks which have continued to attract fun seekers and entertainers and, in some ways, create a kind of friendly atmosphere for homosexual behaviour.
The National Stadium, it was discovered, provides a perfect cover for this illegal sexual act. It is often noticed that young people who go to the stadium to play football or to exercise also indulge in homosexual activities, especially under the cover of darkness.
Victoria Island is another area known to be inhabited by a good number of these same-sex partners. Indeed, even where a gay person does not live there, there is almost always a reason to take him to the Island, which is home to most of the richest men in the city. Some of the tall buildings and fenced residential buildings adorning the area have been found to encourage these rich men to give full vent to their desires, away from the prying eyes of neighbours.
Victoria Island is also home to the city’s most sophisticated clubs where, according to information gathered, the use of mobile phones and all forms of gadgets is prohibited. Visitors are first screened in a special room before they are admitted into the clubs. This, it was gathered, is to ensure that no pictures or videos are taken since many of the club goers are, in fact, celebrities.
Cinemas on the Island are also frequented by gay people. Saturday Tribune found that one of the cinemas is also used as a meeting place for gays and lesbians. The meeting day, it was learnt, is Saturday.
The gimmick is that gays and lesbians often walk into the compound together so as not to arouse suspicion.
Some of the many gyms on the Island are equally known to be patronized by gay people. One of such centres, it was learned, has most of their gay clients registered as family members; it is also said to have some reserved rooms for special guests.
The state capital, Ikeja, is also a popular hideout for same-sex lovers. The most notorious place is said to be an old hotel, where older men (known as sugar daddies) visit frequently to pick up younger men who are usually seen around the pool side.
Ikeja is also said to have some clubs whose owners (while not actually gay) are “gay-friendly”. In these clubs, provision is made for gay parties which often take place during the weekends.
Most of the beaches in the city, it was also found, are popular locations for homosexual gatherings. Because these beaches are often used for private parties and the administrators have no way of checking the backgrounds of their would-be guests, gay people enjoy unfettered freedom at these beaches.
Tola (mentioned earlier), who spent 17 years in the illicit romantic escapade of homosexuality, disclosed the hideouts of homosexuals in Lagos State to Saturday Tribune.
According to him, his first hideout was the room of some National Youth Service Corps members who were living within his neighbourhood in the Somolu Local Government Area. He said when he was initially lured into sex with men, he thought it was an abuse but he soon succumbed to the illegality.
“In my secondary school days, we used to hang out with Kings’ College guys and St. Gregory’s guys at Ikoyi. The venue is somewhere behind Ikoyi Tennis Club. We had patrons who used to sponsor us there. I know two of those patrons whose alma mater is Kings’ College.
“There is also a place in Ikoyi called Bells Street on Lateef Jakande Road. I cannot say if that place is still in existence. The place was as quiet as a cemetery. The man’s family didn’t live in Nigeria but he was a full-blown gay man. He used to bring his men and organised young boys like us to come over. We drank all kinds of drinks. We were not ashamed of anybody because we were all stark naked romancing one another,” he confessed.
“One popular hotel in Ogba also used to be one of our hideouts in Lagos back then. There was a place in the hotel that was in form of a conference room. I cannot say if the place is still being utilised for such stuff. It was those days people found it hard to recognise gays”, he added.
When Saturday Tribune contacted the front desk officer of the hotel who gave his name simply as Akin, he denied the existence of such a hideout in the hotel. When asked how long he had been in the employ of the hotel, he declined a direct response.
Ijesha/Surulere is also a popular hideout for homosexuals in Lagos. Tola described a one-storey building in the area where he said the ground floor is dominated by traders with baby item shops but the main floor is for gay activities.
“I love the gays there because they do not only sleep with us but they also ensure that we learn one trade or another. The men are learned and you must have something doing before they can sleep with you. You are either in school or learning a particular trade”.
Admiralty Way in Lekki is also not excluded from the hideouts of homosexuals in Lagos. The fashion designer said that there used to be a family man who lived in Admiralty Way in Lekki but had his wife and children abroad. He described the place as being very cool and having an underground where they drank themselves to stupor and also had sexual intercourse with one another.
Unlike the past, Tola said, it is pretty difficult to host gay parties in three to seven-star hotels but mushroom ones. “I have attended gay parties in at least three mushroom hotels in Egbeda, Surulere and Agege. There are several gay parties at Shitta and Ebutte-Metta”. He also disclosed to Saturday Tribune the total amount he made while indulging in homosexuality.
“Initially when I started fully, I just did it for the fun of it. I always had sexual intercourse generously with those guys I admired. But a friend of mine advised me to commercialise the act and I picked it up from there. I made over N600,000 while in the act”.
He emphasised that his choosy attitude made him the most sought after and earned him better pay than his colleagues in their various hideouts.
Nigeria’s intolerance for homosexuality is very obvious. The administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan signed into law, an Act of the Parliament making the contentious sexual orientation a criminal act despite the protestations of the Western powers. In Nigeria, Lagos inclusive, the act is criminalised and offenders are liable to 14 years imprisonment without an option of fine. But the revellers do not look like quitting soon, making the situation a game of “you have to catch us first before jailing us”.