The War of Words: On Gay Rights, and the Rest of Us

gay-nigerians

After the responses a post on my Facebook wall on gay rights in Nigeria had generated recently, I decided to publish it on my blog. This is not uninformed by the ongoing debate on this issue, with reactions and counter-reactions. Reprinted below is what represents my personal opinion about the gay issue. For my fans and followers who had love to see this in verse, I guess you will have to wait a little longer!

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All these war of words between the pro-gay and the anti-gay! The pro-gay advocates that gay right is human rights, and in a democratic society, it must be protected and recognised. On their part, they have a point to the extent that to criminalise gay practise and marriage is to deny gays the right to private and family life. Be it a sexual or marital relationship between men; or one between women. They have also said that gay practice is a private matter which the state should not be concerned with, thus criminalising it is wrong. And the US is a ready example as to how modern Nigeria should be like.

On the other hand, we have those who are against it. On their part, they rest their argument mainly on morality. Gay practice is against nature and even God’s commandments, they say. Embracing it is a rebellion against God. It is a sin. It is unholy and unclean. It is indecent and immoral. God turned against Sodom and Gomorrah for this same reason, they say. And many more equally believe it is un-African. Against our culture. Although homosexualism may have been practised by some African cultures, those against it believe that it would be a sweeping generalisation to conclude that this is common with all cultures in Africa.

While the pro-gay think the other side is just being uncivil and hypocritic, the anti-gay say the pro-gay is a victim of western influence who is to be sympathised with.

My problem is this, there is so much display of intolerance on both sides of the divide. It’s just too intolerant of us all degenerating into something less ourselves. Let’s demonstrate some appreciable level of tolerance and understanding.

In every democratic society, there is no state religion. Although, the people in the state, mostly, have one religion or the other. But the state is not to adopt any. The consequence of this is that no matter how good or moral or holy a religious tenet is, the state cannot adopt it as being generally applicable to all.

In the workings of the state, morality is relative. It is not universally accepted. What is morally wrong in a particular place may not be morally wrong in another. The law enforces morality, but not all aspects of morality. There is no law, for instance, against disrespecting one’s parents, yet it is immoral in many cultures. As the state grows, it however begins to accommodate certain things which hitherto were seen as unacceptable, but not without certain restrictions to at least balance private rights with public morality. There is nothing wrong with some states in the US legalising gay marriage, if the democratic culture and times favour it. The state, ideally, should have no God, otherwise it risks adopting a religion. The state is seen as a creation of law, not of God, and the law a creation of consensus, not itself. That’s the stage these countries have reached. To have more freedom, they must necessarily kill the idea of God-religion. Human freedom dictates at all times. But the question is: as Nigerians, have we gotten to that stage where we can kill our God-religion, our various cultural moralities, our Christian, Islamic and traditional beliefs, and embrace the full evolution of human rights in both our private and public life?

It needs no answer. If we were ready, there wouldn’t have been a louder noise against it in the country. And there is nothing morally wrong or right about the GEJ administration signing into law a bill against gay marriage and gay rights. It is a matter of the relativity of morality. And in Nigeria, not the US, the democratic culture is yet to mature to the same level as that which operates in the west. Also, the time is not ripe, just as the time was not ripe in the US some years ago.

Morality is relative, just as opinions are divergent. The Nigerian jurisdiction is simply not ready to embrace it. Yet. It doesn’t mean Nigerians are uncivil, undemocratic, hypocritic or ‘uneducated’. It is just a matter of time and place.

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Now Out: My New Book, Stranger in the Mirror of My Life, is now out!

Poems for Everyone Affected by HIV/AIDS

Poems for Everyone Affected by HIV/AIDS

Yes, finally, ahead of World Aids Day on December 1 this year, my new collection of poems – Stranger in the Mirror of My Life – predominantly centred on HIV/AIDS is now out!

Below is a brief description of the book in my online bookstore:

Stranger in the Mirror of My Life contains poems for everyone affected by HIV/AIDS around the world. In this collection, you will hear your own voice, feel your own tears. But beyond these, HIV positive or negative, you will discover that mirror, helping you rediscover life, hope and dreams in ways profound.

Senator Ihenyen holds the view that with regards to the HIV/AIDS scourge, the cure that the world seeks is hidden in the heart of mankind and that cure is love. Stranger in the Mirror of My Life is a clarion call to the human race for compassion and empathy in dealing with the epidemic facing humanity.
History, the contemporary reality and the vision of an HIV-free generation is the overriding interest of this collection. Stranger in the Mirror of My Life can be described as a moving compendium and a companion for all people living with HIV and the rest of the world.”

To buy the ePub format of the collection of poems, simply click here! It’s $3.75
only!

The ebook is now also available to readers locally at YSG ebookstore in Nigeria for the list price of 500 naira only (but now selling 474 naira 5% slash!)

This book is specially dedicated to all the people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa and around the world.

Ready for Release: Stranger in the Mirror of My Life: Poems for Everyone Affected by HIV/AIDS by Senator Ihenyen

UPDATE NOVEMBER 24, 2013:

Stranger in the Mirror of My Life: Poems for Everyone Affected by HIV/AIDS is now out! To buy the book, simply click the linked title above, or go to the online bookstore directly!

Red Ribbon

“Stranger in the Mirror of My Life” is an attempt to capture essentially the socio-psychological colourations, factors and effects of living with HIV/AIDS, and how they affect the way we live – whether positive or negative. I’m literally putting the mirror before the faces of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) to help them see the man in the mirror and say:

“I’m HIV positive. I’m no stranger to myself. I’m no stranger to the world. This is my body. This is my life. And I’m in charge!”

The words above is the opening lines in the preface of my forthcoming collection of poems on HIV/AIDS, “Stranger in the Mirror”. It is now finally ready for release this month – ahead of this year’s World AIDS Day.

Stranger in the Mirror of My Life: Poems for Everyone Affected by HIV/AIDS is going to be available on Amazon.com as an ebook.

If you had love to be the first to know as soon as the new collection of poems is released this month, you can simply indicate by filling the form below, with a message. I will be happy to send you a link on how to get the book as soon as it is released.

Let me use this medium to thank everyone – family, friends, fans and followers – for all the inspiring words and encouragement all over the years since I started this Poetry on HIV/AIDS project! It is specially dedicated to everyone living with HIV/AIDS.

You’ve been waiting for this a long time…here it is now…at your fingertips in just a few days from now! Please help me share this post with your contacts. This ebook is for everyone.

Senator Ihenyen
Author, Stranger in the Mirror of My Life: Poems for Everyone Affected by HIV/AIDS

From the Archives: My HIV/AIDS Collection of Poems Two Years Back

As I finally prepare to release my collection of poems on HIV/AIDS ‘Stranger in the Mirror of My Life’ this month of November, 2013 ahead of World AIDS Day this year, I have decided to republish the page below as a post. The page was first published two years ago.

This is part of the posts I have specially lined up sequel to the release of the collection in ebook format on Amazon.

It helps me appreciate the some of the changes that have been introduced into the whole project, helping me appreciate how far I have managed to go since this project started in 2005.

Your comments are always welcome!

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A Nigerian writer takes on HIV/AIDS with his work, Stranger in the Mirror and Other Poems
Red Ribbon

HIV/AIDS is a global epidemic that needs all the attention it deserves. The prevalence of the scourge is alarming, especially in sub-Saharan Africa! In 2009, the 19 countries worldwide with the highest prevalence of reported infections, apart from India, are all African countries with more than 24.5 million, and over 66% (UNAIDS)of the Aids infected population.

South Africa ranks first on the prevalence list with over 5 million HIV+ population, followed by Nigeria with about 4 million people are infected with HIV/AIDS (JAIDS report). And we have all been affected in one way or the other!

Statistics from UNAIDS 2008 Report on the global AIDS epidemic show that Sub-saharan Africa has over 22 million people living with HIV, Middle East and North Africa have 380,000, South+South East Asia, 4.2 million, East Asia 740,000, Latin America, 1.7 million people. Others are Caribbean with 230,000 infections, Eastern Europe + Central Asia have 1.5 million, Western + Central Europe with 730,000, North America now with 1.2 million and Oceania, 74,000 infected people.

Across the continent and other parts of the world, HIV/AIDS has reached an alarming rate as ABC appears not to be working. HIV/AIDS is not what only happens to others as most people tend to think, but it can happen to anyone. This is why we must continue to spread the word, not the virus; give aids, not AIDS.

The Initiative

In commemoration of the World Aids Day, December 1, I wish to officially launch Ripples Across Lives: Poetry Against HIV/AIDS, an awareness and sensitisation project on HIV/AIDS.

Since December 1, 2005, the day I wrote ‘Ripples Across Ripples’, my very first poem on HIV/AIDS, I have been involved in an extensive research into the epidemic over the years. A year later, I’d written over 50 poems specially centred on the scourge, taking a penetrating look at the dangers, prevention and lastly, the discrimination against People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). I had published about 10 of these poems on the Internet, and got quite interesting feedback from various parts of the world.

This propelled me to do more work on what would have ordinarilly been just another volume of poetry from me, after my collection, ‘Colourless Rainbow’, was to debut in 2010. After what seemed like a completed work, I approached a Lagos-based publisher who asked me to put my money where my heart was, but I had more of the heart than the money! The rest is history!

The Message

With the overpowering conviction that I have a message to communicate to the targeted readers (especially youths and PLWHA), I have since got myself involved in initiatives that bring me closer to the epidemic. I had to go behind the figures to see the faces, behind the pictures to feel the pain, behind the silence to hear the cries of the millions of orphans, children, teens, youths and adults who are infected with HIV/AIDS and the rest of us who have been affected in many ways than we could have ever imagined!

I have subscribed to the e-forum of Journalists Against Aids (JAIDS), the UNICEF Voices of Youth initiative, access resources and information from UNAIDS, Body Positive, World Aids Day site and many others. This is because HIV/AIDS is a dynamic issue with complex colourations, and I needed to constantly stay updated.

The Book

So what is the project all about? With I Have Found the Cure for HIV/AIDS initiative, I intend to write and publish a book containing about 50 poems on HIV/AIDS. This is meant to raise awareness and sensitise people about HIV/AIDS in a more engaging and sustainable way. Over the years, I have found out that the best way to fight HIV/AIDS is to keep talking about it. And poetry does have a highly appealing way of making our experiences and challenges, our love and hate, hope and despair, even more moving, more provoking and more lasting. The book which is tentatively titled, Stranger in the Mirror and Other Poems is to be divided into movements that will contain poems on the dangers and risks, myths and facts, prevention, and the conditions and experiences of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). Now expected to be completed for publishing on or before December 1, 2012, I would be needing to work closely with PLWHA groups and other stakeholders in this fight against HIV/AIDS.

Partners
HIV/AIDS NGOs, agencies, corporate bodies are needed to make the book available to the targeted audience.

Publisher
Quality book + global market. The publisher must have a global reach and have the capacity to make the proposed book available in print and e-book format.

Your Voice

Let your voice be heard by sending me a feedback on what you had like to see in the proposed book or relate to me any experience on HIV/AIDS that you strongly feel others can learn from.

It is all about capturing your voice in a book that is going to be ending up in the hands of millions of people out there who need to hear your voice to keep fighting, to keep hoping and to live a healthy life – a future free from HIV/AIDS. Send your feedback to my e-mail address:

senatorihenyen@yahoo.co.uk
or simply post your message(s) in the box(es) below. Thank you for your interest in the proposed book!

In Whose Name?

Safe sex
Saves not the soul
Says the moralist.

We let a million condom bloom
No one knows if it ends up in the right hands
Trash cans, backs of drawers,
Balloons blown in Kindergarten.

In a time of crises
Between rightness and safety
The world lives in two extremes
.

Unleashed from the God of justice
Deaths from this dreadful disease
They say, are destined for us all

And in the deific worship
of the god of tube of rubber,
Man scampers for safety…

damn the soul

This poem, “In Whose Name?” is selected from my unpublished work, “Stranger in the Mirror of My Life & Other Pieces”, predominantly centered on HIV/AIDS

Wastes (in memory of Gani Fawehinmi)

Wallowing in the wastelands we make of dreams
Waiting and wailing in this wilderness of waste
Of white elephants and white papers
Waterbirds of tears, wellspring of weeping
Wondering what went wrong with us

When a wimp passes wind
Without a windbrake
We grow fat in their nuclear farts
We grow fat in the windowless cell of choiceless waiting
While they wend on with white lies
Whitewater rushing from their white-washes
Season after season,
Waiting, with wishy-washy wishes of the messiah.

I am not the wet rot
Eating up the wood of your damp dreams
I am not the widower with whining words
Against your wealth of wastages,
I am not the VIP aides eating you up
Like HIV/AIDS
Those wine makers and wine waiters
In this winery of wastes.

Against the junk in your justice, Jurisdiction of jargons, Canker of corrruption
Against the creeping crocodiles in the shallow waters
of our dead democracies
Flies feasting on the open sores of our sorry state,

I am your conscience
Eating you up like the cancer
That ravaged me

Why is “Colourless Rainbow” sub-titled “Poetry of My Childhood? – a Keen Reader

Have you ever wondered why my debut book, “Colourless Rainbow” is sub-titled “Poetry of My Childhood”? Well, one keen reader did and this is how he puts it in a message I received recently which I just discovered in my spam mail:

“The sub-title is a curious one. Although one of the seven movements in the collection, “Camouflage” did predominantly portray the oppression and suppression of freedom in the military era, precisely June 12, 1993′ when I believe you were still much of a child, I sense there could be something more. The collection also didn’t tell us about your childhood really. In my opinion, perhaps it is your childhood inclination to the rainbow in contrast to the blood; two symbols you used repetitively to create some kind of unity.”

“Perhaps, it’s that childish innocence in what you feel the world ought to be; or perhaps, it is the excessive love children have for imageries which colour your poetry. Or, alternatively or complementarily, to take my last shot at unravelling why you have used this sub-title, it is truly the poetry of your childhood since, according to the preface, you wrote a number of poems in the collection in your teenage and early youthful years.”

“Flowing from my last guess, should we then be expecting the poetry of your youth soon? Is that what we should expect from your forthcoming second collection of poems, “Stranger in the Mirror of My Life and Other Pieces”?”

“Don’t mind my curiosity. I have read some selected pieces from your forthcoming work on your blog, and I had a very good read. Mind if I share some of these pieces?”

What do you think?

Back from the Brink

Living in deadly denial for years unending
After years of getting a ravaging result
AIDS CD4g 60
Viral load –
300,000

Times of terrible thrush
Weightless on wet sheets
Sodden with night sweats and spiking fevers
Killing fatigue and dead appetite all day long.

Alone, unloved.
My back against the whole world
Locked-up in a closet
I had nothing to give to life
And life –

Vengeful and unforgiving –
had nothing to give back to me.

With me death had scores to settle
Every day and night
Staring into my eyes
Sicker and sicker I got
And in its cold stare,
soon my fear froze into a cave of coldness
Courage to face the coming hopelessness alone –
Die a brave death.

In one moment, of everything
So suddenly, I lost control
Crying out like a child,
I lost my grip of me
and the tears I let go
Flowing down my eyes –
Unrestrained.
I had lost control of my life
My entire life
And to the love of my life, I let it out
Everything I let go.

Headed to the end of the road,
That had to be the day I took control
Complete control of the wheel of my life.
The same road I now travel
Taking routes even many immune men would never dare.

And that had to be the day I took my life back
When I let it out to the love of my life
And discovered so much I had to give to life.
And life – the same life that had haunted me for a decade
Had so much to give back to me,
Bringing me back from the brink.

(c)Senator Ihenyen 2012

“Back from the Brink” is selected from “Stranger in the Mirror of My Life and Other Pieces”, a forthcoming collection of poems predominantly centred on HIV/AIDS by Senator Ihenyen.

“Poet of the Week” on WRR Poetry!

Hello,

I was featured as the Poet of the Week by WRR Poetry (Words Rhythm and Rhyme) on Friday, July 5, 2013.

A poem of mine, “This is not a Poem” along with my bio was published on WRR’s webblog and social networking site on Facebook. The poem was selected from my published collection of poems, “Colourless Rainbow”.

To view the poem on WRR’s wordpress blog, please click here.

You can also visit WRR’s Facebook page to view it. Simply click here.

And I must warn you that the photograph of me which the Editor of WRR, KIS, chose to use in my author profile is an old one! If you have any doubt in your mind, you can always visit my author profile page to be sure! Believe me, you should…before marrying your little princess to a very old man!

I hope you’ll enjoy reading the featured piece. And please, drop your comments and be generous enough to share. Thanks!

Senator Ihenyen
Author, Colourless Rainbow

Abiola’s Cry: (for June 12 from Colourless Rainbow)

This poem was written sometime in June, 2004 and first published in my collection of poetry, Colourless Rainbow, Coast2Coast, 2011. Rather than scrabbling a fresher poem on the occasion of June 12, I felt posting this older one would better portray where we are coming from, where we are now and where we appear to be headed.

I hope you’ll have a good read! Share and

comments please!

Abiola’s Cry

I know your faces, splashed by threads of light

against the shadowy

Walls of death! Those dark eyes staring at the

spirit

of a struggling soul, held behind bars of

brutality!

And do I not know your footsteps?

Those brutal boots that crunch aloud along the

corridors of death!

Take my soul! Take my soul! Feed my flesh to

the vultures!

Paint the rainbow with the colours of my blood!

Better for me to die like this than bow to your

democratic subtleties!

This spirit shall blaze in your darkened dawn

like the fire of the sun. This voice shall be the

cockcrow

Of your voiceless dawn. These splashing tears

shall wash

away the stains still dripping from our

wounded innocence.

Listen! Listen to the throb of my pulse

As it dances to the beats of a true dawn

Not born by tyranny. Not baptised with

brutality.

Democaracy, not crucified by truth!