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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Monday, January 28, 2008

Right to life and live

Talk about serendipitous events. Last week, a question strolled casually into my mind. Where is Bisi Alimi? It strolled out with equal measured insouciance. As I settled to read the newspapers, this story reproduced in PUNCH caught my eyes. I sighed at the many layers of despair, and desperation contained in Ama's unfortunate case but also at the delusion and denial in the perspective of the report.

As l read, my thoughts were broken by an email alert and I opened it to find a letter from an asylum lawyer representing Bisi Alimi, suddenly that thought came back, this time in a thundering rush, where is Bisi Alimi?

A few years ago, October 2004 precisely, when I saw my show plan for an interview with an openly (he had been outed by a campus magazine) gay young man, I decided to talk him out of it in fear of the consequences. He was adamant that he had important issues to raise. I considered all the options and decided to do the interview. On my part as a journalist, I decided to do it because of some of the abuse issues he had raised and also because it is my duty to raise important issues and give everyone a voice on a neutral platform. The fact that I interview an armed robber does not mean I am in support of armed robbery neither does interviewing a prostitute make me a supporter of prostitution. I have no dislike for any human or human group unless such a human or group becomes harmful to others.

How naïve I was, immediately after the interview (see clips) aired, Bisi Alimi was thrown out of his home, beaten mercilessly and had to go into hiding. On my part, I got heckled and sent hate mail and letters for supporting homosexuality. My Friday edition was cancelled by the network, the rest of the show was taken off the live format, all my guests and shows from that time are screened and censored and l was banned from ever raising political or certain social issues up until now. In fact one of the reasons I started this blog is to find a space to breathe, an alternative voice.

That is how Bisi became not just someone I interviewed but a human soul I became friendly with. By nature I abhor the trampling upon of another human for no offence to others or the community. Sexuality, gender, race, religion, colour and ethnicity in as much as they remain personal to the individual and unharmful to others should not be a reason for discrimination let alone harm.

During the interview he raised vital issues detailing how the culture of homophobia and silence curiously opens boys to abuse and affects the rapid spread of HIV and AIDS. He told of many men who are closet homosexual, bi sexual or just interested in same sex liaisons operating under ground and going home to unsuspecting wives. He also told of men in power who use young boys desperate for money, contracts and jobs for sex. He never accused anybody; just spoke about his own experiences, including abuse and his hopes for better understanding.

That did not happen, aside beatings, the threats to his life and loss of friends and family, he could also not get a job. I worried incessantly about him and began to feel responsible for his woes. Thus I never rebroadcast, allowed access to or uploaded (these clips are the first and only available videos) that edition of the show.

Imagine my delight when I found out that he had somehow made it to the UK and was in film school as well as involved with gay activism whilst in a committed faithful same sex relationship.

I was happy for him; at least he was where he might suffer discrimination but not a direct threat to life. That was until I got the email from the asylum lawyer. Bisi as an openly gay man will not be safe in Nigeria. It is okay if he goes on the "down low" but he cannot be true to himself and remain here. l have always found bravery in his truth for I perhaps misguidedly have always preferred the worst version of the truth to the best-told lie.


Anonymous said...


Loomnie said...

It was very brave of you to have interviewed Bisi Alimi on your programme. I too know of many who live unfulfilled and unhappy, with the knowledge that if they came out they would face the same kind of senseless, non-reflective treatment, the same kind of treatment that you described in the case of Bisi Alimi. It is really sad, but then one can draw some kind of consolation in knowing that he is somewhere much safer than Nigeria. I wonder when we Nigerians will start facing real problems, instead of chasing shadows. I really wonder when we will start discussing cases of all kinds of domestic abuse, instead of hunting those whose only 'offense' is falling in love with a person of the same sex.

Asabe said...

Hi Funmi,Happy New year to you and your family. I was a little disturbed when i read this topic and wondered to extent people would go to show their dislike against a particle thing. I felt sorry for the young man in question (Bisi Alimi) but that does not mean i can in all honesty begin to understand what been a gay means or where it came from certainly not from this part of the world. It is a good idea not to condemn or judge people based on whatever reason but sometimes you cannot help it anyway i wish the young man a nice life but as an individual such practice (homosexuality)goes against everything i believe in personally but that does not mean that i cannot live, work, relate etc with people that practice such.

shola pacheco said...

as much as i dont like the idea of being gay i think everyone has a right to life and not be threatened in anyway as to what they believe,its still so sad to see that free press is still an issue in nigeria.i hope the young man in ? is safe . oh well, nigeria is a typical case of he who has no sin should cast the first stone.this homosexuality exsist with top personnels so who are they to pass judgement

wienna said...

It's a shame dat Naija and its people continue to be close-minded and still going backward with their attitude. If these people continue to live their sexuality 'in the closet', with their wives/husbands being ignorant of what's going on, then these people will be exposed to diseases. No wonder Aids/hiv is on the rise.

While i condemn homosexuality or homophobic attitude, i've been living in jand long enough to work and interract with gay people. It's all about being open-minded and accepting people as they as they are, so long as they don't cause harm to people while being so. Working and talking with these people doesn't concern me with their sexualty, that's their personal and private issues, it doesn't have anything to do with my own life.

Anonymous said...

I have an uncle in the House of reps who is GAY!!!!

Naapali said...

It is your voice of truth and reason that gives many of us hope that all is not lost. We still fail to realise that as long as we oppress others we cannot be truly free.

Thank you for all that you are and all that you do.

CATWALQ a.k.a LAGBA-JESS said...

Nigerians will put up arms where there is no war to be fought and cower in the face of a struggle.
I will look at the situation as a necessary stepping stone that he had to overcome to move on to the next stage of his life. His people are not welcoming of him as they aren't of anything or anyone that they do not understand.
He will do well. Afterall, what did he seek but than to be loved and accepted?
As usual, this is why I respect the work you do and am in awe of the courage it takes you to do it.

questionanswer said...

Funmi you are my ROLE MODEL. I PRAY FOR ur continous success. You don't know how many people you speak for with ur couregeous attitude about tackling issues people feel insecure about. Corruption does not only live in the political office it lives in our church, our schools and sadly enough our homes. Homes where fathers sleep with their daughter's friend, and preach wholesome behavior, while pastors and priest are only friends with the rich and elite and despise the poor, and while teachers abuse the kids. Nigeria's problem lies deeper than the exterior issue of poverty and wat not. 2/3 girls are sexually abused and people wonder why prostitution is on da rise. God help us all.

Nigerican said...

Wow, I didn’t come by for a day and you put this up… no fair. Even though it’s too late I want to say I am ubber proud of u for stepping up and interviewing that man regardless of the consequences… that to me is great journalism. Do u know what really gets me, we can talk about everything that is not real and makes no damn sense in Naija but when it comes to real stuff… like being gay, people want to act all crazy. If we are going to to be big on aids awareness, we have to talk about everything… pre-marital sex, homosexuality, rape… I mean everything. The longer we continue to suppress topics like this , the more we are going to be left in the dark… believe me when I say Aids spreads from a man in denial having sex with his wife after sleeping with his lover… in the dark!! I’m glad your interviewee is safe and sound, I’m also glad u where not completely yanked off the air… more importantly at lot of stuff was brought to light from that u’re show … I bet u.

Iyaeto said...

It's Bisi life. He has the right to choose how to live his life.There are a lot of hypocrites in Naija anyway. I believe they don't know what homophobia means. Besides I had this conversation with my mum in law once and I asked if a white person calls you a N****R or a black B***H or treats you differently because of the colour of your skin how would you feel? She kept quiet so I told her that' exactly how a gay or lesbian feels when you treat them differently. A whole NTA (I think that would be institutionalised homophobia).

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I wouldnt go so far as to be say "brave", but definitely naive. At the most, perhaps a little foolhardy. I personally don't care who's sleeping with who, but NIgeria isn't ready for this kind of openness. And at what cost? Is it enough to justify a man losing his place in society? Is it enough to justify a man losing his friends? Family?

I have lots of respect for you as a journalist and human being. You are definitely one of my favorite people in the whole world, but you were definitely wrong to out him.

misca said...

anty funmi,isnt it amazing that our former president who was all up against homos in nigeria is now the one been accused of screwing his SONS WIFE ie HIS DAUGHTER INLAW ie THE MOTHER OF HIS GRANDCHILDREN.where ever they believe homos would go at the end of the day,its a fact that they all,our accuser have landed properties there.God Bless U

Anonymous said...

FUNMI i applaud you for being barve to do this o!i didnt know NTA was that strict!
@ anonymous 7:09 ..FUnmi didnt out the guy!did he look like he was forced to do the interview..Anonymous also said Nigeria is not ready for that kind of openess!in What way!nut we are ready for adultery which most of out leaders potray abi? We have a lot of homosexuals in that country whether you belive it or not( i know a couple of them) thus,as they are our citizens we are ready to hear about the issues that affect them!i hope you know many govt officials sleep with people of the same sex!Why is it not okay for a man to come out and say he is gay but it is okay to have a President who had 100 children by different women some are not his wives and he is a BAPTIST!a CHRISTIAN..Should a xtian even have more than one wife.A lot of Nigerians are hypocrites.

Personally and according to my religious beliefs i do not believe in it and i will not partake in it.But everyone is free to be who they are..we do not know what it feels like to know you are Gay so we cannot judge..we do not know their struglle..Like the young man said it started when he was little..its not something he made a choice about!

I bet the nigerian society would rather he get married to a woman and then LIE to himself and her!

IF you are a Christian the bible says in Matthew 7:1 "Judge not lest you be judged"...

Imagine his pastor directing sermons at him!for what?..God knows what the Pastoe is doing!sleeping with the choir members?maybe???who knows

aiye said...

Judge not lest you be judges

As a Christian no sin is bigger that the other..I hope you know that if you steal,fornicate,an adulterer,a liar,muderer,a cheater,if you are GAY!!!! it is all d same..so whilst you cast stones on GAY people.remember that you too are not holy!
We are not God!we do not know what the Struggle being a GAY NIGERIAN is?Do you think it was easy for that boy to come out and do that interview!So what?why should his sexuality be such a big deal.he wasnt able to get a job,his parents threw him out!WHat has his sexuality got to do with getting a job?just like if you are STRAIGHT what does that have to do with you performance at work? A lot of Nigerians are just bloody hypocrites!i thot the officials of NTA were exposed human beigns!little did i know their hypocritical asses would raise hell!(God knows the skeleton they all have in their closet)

Funmi Iyanda said...

@all, will keep you posted about Bisi, he faces possible deportation which is why l did the post. l will write in support of his asylum to his lawyer and hope for the best. l know my views are very liberal but perhaps l learnt very early in life in the hardest of ways of the futility of a lot of the things we hold as sacred and sacrosant in the face of possible truncated humanity.
For the person who made the point about outing Bisi, please watch the videos again, he was forcefully outed by a campus magazine and from then on the choice was really out of his hands. My hope has always been that in the face of the complete erosion of my humanity or that of my fellow man, l will have the courage to choose to allow my spirit return to God and my body to the earth from whence it came.

Anonymous said...

God help Bisi.I pray he is granted asylum and reaches his full potential in life.When I hear him speak I see a real authentic soul just seeking expression.

baby said...

reall really sad. i may not like the gay lifestyle but i love gay pple. they are really fun to hang out with.

i for one believe our sexuality doesn't define us as human beings.

2ndCorin5:17 said...

tough topic mehn.. really tough

There are SOOOOOOOOOOO many, so many hard things in the Nigerian Culture..
I admire your bravery and unbias.

U have journalistic integrity.

However, one thing I have learned from taking courses in a different culture is that you never want to be the enemy within, never!
The consequences are so bad that at the end its NEVER worth it. Never!

Thank goodness he is far away and no one has attacked you physically.

Anonymous said...

I wrote the anonymous 7:09 AM comment, and I agree with Anon 2:35pm who wrote after me. We are basically saying the same thing: NIGERIA IS NOT READY FOR THAT KIND OF OPENNESS!!!!! I know worse things happen in the dark but we all know that folks like acting like they don't have sex, never mind having alternative sexual preferences. I have no qualms about homosexuality myself, but our people are so hypocritical it's ridiculous.

Again, I still think that he shouldn't have come on air like that. Of course, he lost his job/friends/family! What else did he expect? I hate to be so cynical, but with a country like ours, with the hypocrites that are abound in our society, what else did he expect? I hope that this pain is only temporary and we can look to him as someone brave and all that in the future sometime, but right now, I question the wisdom of his decision.

Anonymous said...

Sha, he should not come back to Naija for his own safety, one of my friends was beaten very badly in this our country, he should make every effort to stay in jand

ayoappeal said...

thanks aunty Funmi for your how of bravery,i want to condemn what was done to you and the program just for the interview you had with Bisi, well in as much as you never had any interior motives for interviewing Bisi and neither an homosexuals, i think you have done what you are supposed to do, most Nigerians openly deny the existence of gays and lesbians in our society but the number is fast rising everyday, so why don't we just face that fact and talk about it, It pains me that even journalists are part of this mediocrity.
Thanks for your bravery and God bless you in your bid to helping humanity.

Ayo Adedapo

Naijadude said...

omg! It was actually very brave and commendable of you to have the courage to interview Bisi Alimi. He sent out the youtube link thru a yahoo group that I belonged, I saw the clip and was impressed, there was I thinking homosexuality is being raised in the Nigerian media and prompted my most recent blog write up. Until a commenter alerted me about the consequences you got from the interview.

While I thought it was getting better, little do I know its actually worse than i think. I bet I dont have to hesitate about the advice a fellow blogger gave me after telling him I wanna move back to Nigeria. "Your sexuality shld be taken into question, so be careful" But when does it stop? How long can someone try to hide who I am not who I chose to be?

It takes courage, it takes bravery, thanks to the likes of Bisi Alimi and to you, Miss Funmi, for having the couragee to go ahead and broadcast it....

Anonymous said...

It's probably late to comment at this point, but I just want to say good work Funmi. I only just discovered your blog. You do not know how much encouragement your decision has given to Nigerian gays (we do exist by the way). At least I know some people care about what we feel; about the dangers, fears, unfair and cruel treatments we receive from the people we love, and those we owe no explanation about our lives.

The same attitude that perpetuates homophobia in Nigeria, is the same that endorses misogyny and gender bias. But what some have refused to realise is that the injustice we hand out to our fellow Nigerians, is what keeps all of us backwards.

Regardless of religion, ethnicity,injustice, the deprivation of a person's basic human rights can never be justified. Gay Nigerians are not asking that you approve of their sexuality, only respect our rights as you would like yours to be.

Anonymous said...

For a new dawn to come, someone has to sacrific for it and that is what you have done. NTA deprived you of your benefits just because of the Bisi Alimi's issue but the same NTA is housing some 'gs'. There is no crime in what they did, i think i understand better. The guy exposed lots of secretes so it hurts and stings to them from their faces. Not their will but people in high positions made use of them to get you out of NTA. Being gay might be wrong but what about those that habours teenagers for sex and those who sleeps with their daughters and such and such. But for you, Funmi Iyanda, a neutral person, you are still going places. NTA is not the end of the world or your vision.