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Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Four Seasons of My Love

The first time we met,
My hands trembled as I reached out for the first touch
My heart screaming the words in jagged beats unheard
But felt within as our lips met
Season one : Éros

The days passed,
I wept, tears trickling down my face while you felt the pain
I lifted the burdens in brotherly care feeling the weight
With each step, I knew
Season two: Storge

Weeks merged into months,
Together we gathered in praise and worshipful song
Thanking the maker for the moments of peace we enjoy
Together as one in love
Season three: Agápe

Years later,
Vows we make sealing our permanent romance
My name and yours in warm embrace, united, familial
Waiting for the cry of little ones
Season four: Philia

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2014 in Poetry

 

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Is It Wrong To Play Hard To Get?

If we were to borrow a leaf out of the animal kingdom book, then we will stop by and talk with the female crayfish. The female crayfish actually does the initial work of attracting the male and then when he comes after her, she puts up a resistance. Her act of aggression only stops when the male can flip her over to deposit his sperm on her underside 🙂

Now let’s apply that to a large percentage of human kind. The woman, by her physical appearance, manner and decorum gets the attention of the male folk, then he comes after her and she puts up a resistance. She wants him to prove that he really wants her. This behaviour is not unnatural and, I dare say, is not wrong either.

There is nothing wrong with playing hard to get. Especially if the opposite is being easy to get. You may have heard of that proverbial babe that gets handed down from one friend to another? The Yoruba speaking people in South West Nigeria have a word for her ‘animashahun’ which roughly translates ‘I will give to all that ask’.

There definitely is a measure of dignity attached to making it hard for a guy to come after you and do the chase. One of which is the fact that it makes the guy see you as a prize worth fighting for. I know some people will cringe as being thought of as a prize so maybe we can substitute that with a treasure worth finding (Feel better?).

It should go without saying that playing hard to get is a weapon you should only use if you are interested in a guy. if you absolutely do not want to be in a relationship with a guy, there is no need to lead him on. That would be cruel. One of the ways of leading a guy on is accepting gifts from him. I have heard the school of thought that says if a guy gives, why shouldn’t I take? Personally, I think this is just greed in action.

Let’s look at it this way, someone has come to your office seeking a contract. There are other people bidding for the same contract and you are in a position to influence who gets it. However, you will like the best contractor to get the job. Will it be okay for you to accept cash gifts from one of the contractors before the contract is awarded even if he tells you he is just giving you the gift with no strings attached? My people say, he that does not want to laugh should not show their teeth.

But what of you want to show your teeth? What if you really like someone and you would want to be sure they will go the long haul for you. This is where it gets a little tricky. Some have suggested testing them by putting some hurdles before them. Again there is nothing essentially wrong with this. Just remember, that with evil God does not test anyone. So it would be wise to follow this example.

Yet, some ladies have gone totally overboard with playing hard to get. For example, there is nothing wrong with making yourself unavailable sometimes, saying you are busy when you really are not. But what would you say about setting him up with your friend just to be sure he doesn’t have eyes for anyone else?

There is also a difference between harmlessly flirting with other guys so he knows you are in demand and actually going into a relationship with someone else to see if he will still want you or he will come fighting for you.

And what about the difference between having a warm conversation that shows you just might be open to something deeper and cold caustic remarks that say, ‘stay away from me, I bite’.

Balance is key.

Note though, that it is not only ladies that play hard to get these days. Some men, act just like the male antelop, they expect the woman to come after them. My opinion? Totally not worth the trouble. Except of course you are a feminist or something like that and wouldn’t mind being the one doing the pursuing. I mean, there are women who actually want to be the ones driving a relationship. If that will make you happy, knock yourself out! But don’t forget that the foundation you lay at the start of a relationship is what you will build on. So before you go pursuing a guy, be prepared to take the lead whenever he can’t.

Let’s not forget though that playing hard to get is something you do BEFORE the relationship starts. Once you have said ‘yes’, your energies should be channelled towards making the relationship work and not constantly wanting him to prove that he really wants you.

So what do you think, is there anything wrong with playing hard to get?

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2014 in General

 

LEGAL REVIEW OF THE SAME SEX MARRIAGE (PROHIBITION) ACT 2014

Since news of the enactment of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2014, (which people loosely refer to as the ‘Anti-gay bill’) broke; both Nigerians and the International community have been reacting to the veracity or otherwise of this piece of Legislation. Whilst some have hailed it as timely, and a reflection of the wishes of the Nigerian people, others have given it the stick, describing it as unconstitutional, draconian and suppressive.

This writer will not bother with the reasons adduced by both camps for and against the Act, but will attempt a legal review of the Legislation with a view to highlighting its provisions and the misconceptions that have trialed same.

As stated above, opponents of the Act have posited that it violates some constitutionally guaranteed rights as enshrined in Chapter 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended); but they however fail to realize that the same constitution, in its wisdom, understands that fundamental rights in themselves are not absolute, and went on to provide in section 45 (1) (a) thus:

“Nothing in sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is REASONABLY JUSTIFIED in a democratic society –
In the interest of defence, public safety, public order, PUBLIC MORALITY or public health” (emphasis mine).

From the foregoing, what we can readily deduce is that whilst the Constitution provides for, and guarantees certain rights as fundamental, it also ensures that the protection and/or enforcement of these rights are subject to the overriding interests and considerations which are reasonably justifiable. The question will then be – is the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act reasonably justified given the interests listed in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section 45 of the Constitution? In the opinion of this writer, the answer will be a resounding yes!

There is no gain saying that Nigeria is a very religious country with its population evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, together with a sizable number of people who are traditional worshippers, all of whom (or at least a majority) believe that the idea of same sex unions patently violate their religious and cultural beliefs and the Legislature (National Assembly) being a representation of the people, and having been empowered by the Constitution in section 4 thereof “…to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation…” and in the interest of public morality are unequivocally discharging their constitutional responsibilities with the enactment of the Act.

We all know that certain influences Nigerians have been exposed to over the years, have encouraged the proliferation of homosexuals and homosexual activities in the country in recent times. This has resulted in conflicts, because most people feel offended by these acts and sometimes go out of their way to resist such tendencies. It can be argued that the Act seeks to put an end to these conflicts by prohibiting and discouraging citizens from engaging in activities that offend the sensibilities of the greater majority of the populace thus putting themselves in harm’s way.

Again, others might argue that why should there be Legislation for acts that are essentially private. Now this is where this writer will seek to make a distinction. The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act does not criminalize or prohibit homosexuality in itself, it only prohibits homosexual ‘marriages’, civil unions and other relationships under that head, amorous public display of such relationships, and promoting and/or engaging in homosexual activities. The law also disallows anyone to witness, aid and abet the solemnization of a same sex marriage or civil union.

These acts, as prohibited under the Act, are called ‘victimless crimes’. A victimless crime is a term used to refer to actions that have been ruled illegal, but which are argued not to directly violate or threaten the rights of any other individual. It often involves consensual acts in which one or more persons commit a criminal offence in which no other person is harmed. Examples include prostitution, gambling and the use of illicit drugs.
The understanding is that pure democratic view of government endorses the majority’s right to overrule any minority, thus if an act offends the majority of the population, even if the act is victimless, then the representatives of the majority have the right to prohibit and punish it. They may consider that the direct harm of the activity in question is so great that the people involved need to be protected against their own actions, regardless of their desires.
Some behaviors can be argued to damage social fabric or social custom, even if it does not harm anyone who does not consent. Restriction of these acts can be linked to preserving morality in the community at large and this finds credence in Section 45 (1) (a) supra.

Bringing it home to the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, the law seeks to prohibit the acts which have been reeled out hereinabove, in preservation of public morality even though they are ‘victimless’.

Having firmly established that the Act is constitutional, let us take a detailed perusal of the provisions of the Act.
Before we proceed, it is the opinion of this writer that the draftsman of the Legislation did a shoddy job of it, as it is fraught with ambiguities and rather verbose wordings.

Section 1 of the Act generally prohibits any marriage contract or civil union between persons of the same sex and disallows any benefits accruing therefrom.
It is my opinion that the use of the word ‘marriage’ here is out of place because even the Act itself defines Marriage as “a legal union entered into between persons of the opposite sex in accordance with the Marriage Act, Islamic Law or Customary Law’. What this means is that you can only have a ‘marriage’ if and only if it is between persons of the opposite sex, and it is in accordance with the laws cited. Thus the term ‘marriage’, can not be used to qualify any union between persons of the same sex (at least under Nigerian Law). 
However, the letter and spirit of that provision is not lost on us.

Section 2 disallows the solemnization of marriage or civil union between persons of the same sex in any place of worship (by whatever name called) and any certificate issued in consequence thereof shall be invalid.
What this means is that the solemnization of same sex marriage or civil union, can not be carried out in any place of worship (by whatever name called) or in any place for that matter within the Federal Republic of Nigeria. However, if persons of the same sex succeed in the solemnization of their ‘marriage’ or civil union, any certificate issued to them in that regard shall be invalid.

Section 3 states what qualifies as a valid marriage in Nigeria without more.
This section is clear enough in consonance with the idea it seeks to promote.

Now section 4 is a bit tricky and has been given varying interpretations. Some have said it gives our Law Enforcement Agencies sweeping powers to round innocent people up on trumped up charges of being gay. Nothing can be farther from the truth. For purposes of clarity, let me reproduce the section verbatim. It provides thus:

s. 4 (1) The Registration of gay clubs, societies and organization, their sustenance, processions and meetings are hereby prohibited

(2) The public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly is hereby prohibited.

Before we go on, it should be parenthetically noted that in law, we have what we call Canons of Interpretation which aid our courts in interpreting and applying legislations, and that punitive legislations are strictly construed in favour of the accused person under the “Rule of Lenity”. Thus in understanding the provisions of section 4 (1), we will resort to the use of the Expressio unius est exclusio alterius rule of interpretation, which literally means “the express mention of one thing excludes all others”.
That section only prohibits the registration, sustenance, processions and meetings of gay clubs, gay societies and gay organizations. In other words, it is only when people come together as a gay movement that their processions and meetings will constitute an illegality. Thus, a number of people (who are individually gay) can come together to conduct their normal everyday transactions, and still not be in violation of the law. For example, if you have the Executive a Students’ Union Government (charged to oversee the affairs of students) made of people who are gays, they can not be prosecuted under the Act because theirs is not a gay club, society or organization.
Again, one can not see how the registration of a gay club, society or organization is possible since the Companies and Allied Matters Act already disallows the registration of a body that tends to promote an illegal purpose.

Subsection (2) of section 4 however leaves us with the dilemma of understanding what constitutes a (1) ‘direct’ (2) ‘indirect’ and (3) ‘public show’ of same sex amorous relationship.
Whilst we can infer that ‘public show’ in this context would mean a display of affection of an amorous nature in a public place, the ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’ display of same is rather open to conjecture.
It is the opinion of this writer that that subsection should be redrafted to reflect the its intendment without ambiguities.

Section 5 outlines what constitutes an offence under the Act and prescribes penalties for same.
Subsection (1) prescribes a 14 year jail term for persons who enter into same sex marriage contract or civil union. This provision might seem pretty straight forward until you look at the definition of same sex marriage under the Act. Same Sex Marriage is defined as

“the coming together of persons of the same sex with the purpose of living together as husband and wife or for the purpose of same sexual relationship”.

This definition is rather vague. What the definition implies is that once persons of the same sex come together to “live as husband and wife” or for “same sexual relationship”; same sex marriage would have been established simpliciter. The question will now be – how do you establish that two people of the same sex are living as “husband and wife” given that the terms “husband” and “wife” have definite meanings? How would you determine the “husband” or “wife” is? What this means is that proving “same sex marriage” as an offence will be a tall order for the prosecution given that “an act does not make a person guilty unless their mind is also guilty” (actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea).

Subsection (2) of section 5 prescribes jail terms for acts that have already been addressed hereinabove under section 4.

Subsection (3) of section 5 has generated a lot of controversies as some have said that the provision compels people who live with, or know any gay person, to report such persons to the authorities. Some even make the ridiculous claim that the subsection disallows any person (be it doctors, nurses lawyers etc) from offering their services to gay people. That is not true!
The subsection provides that
“Any person or group of persons that witness, abet and aids the solemnization of a same sex marriage or civil union, or supports the registration, operation, and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions or meetings in Nigeria commits an offence…”

With the aid of the Expressio unius rule of interpretation already explained above, and the definition of the term “witness” in the Act, it is manifestly clear that what this subsection criminalizes is the witnessing, aiding and abetting of the SOLEMNIZATION of same sex marriage or civil union ONLY. What is meant here is that anybody who helps (either by way of assistance or encouragement) or stands as a witness for persons of the same sex to celebrate their marriage will be caught by this provision without more. It does not in any way disallow anyone from offering their services, or relating with a gay person simply on that basis. Besides, what does it matter if a person is gay when seeking medical or legal assistance? Gay people are entitled to their rights as citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, save for the solemnization of same sex marriage.
The other limb of the subsection criminalizes any form of support for the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions or meetings. This has been addressed hereinabove.

Lastly, some have argued that the term ‘civil union’ as defined in the Act is broad and might include any form of relationship between persons of the same sex. That is not the intendment of the Act.

“Civil Union” in the Act means any arrangement between persons of the same sex to live together as sex partners, and shall include descriptions as adult independent relationships, caring partnerships, civil partnerships, civil solidarity pacts, domestic partnerships, reciprocal beneficiary relationships, registered partnerships, significant relationships, stable unions etc”.

The ejusdem generis rule of interpretation states that where general words follow enumerations of particular classes or persons or things, the general words shall be construed as applicable only to persons, or things of the same general nature or kind as those enumerated. What this means is that in construing all such relationships listed in the definition, they would be understood to mean “any arrangement between persons of the same sex to live together as sex partners”.

In conclusion therefore, it should be known that the Act is not an “anti gay bill/law” as it does not prevent anyone from being gay, neither does it seek to change anyone’s sexual orientation. The Act basically prohibits same sex marriage or civil union and any form of public display of such tendencies by whatever means. That is understandable in view of the religious and cultural beliefs of Nigerians.
I would also suggest that the Federal, State and Local governments will do well to enlighten the people about the provisions of the Act as a lot of misconceptions have trailed same. Even our Law Enforcement Agencies should be made to understand that the law does not give them license to harass innocent citizens on mere unsubstantiated claims.
Furthermore, people should not confuse the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act with the Sharia Law which prohibits homosexuality (sodomy) in itself.
The application of the Sharia Law on homosexuality has been on since time immemorial and the Act is completely unrelated to it in substance.

Uzochi Uriel Okoroma
A lawyer based in Lagos, Nigeria
Follow me on twitter @UzoUriel

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2014 in General

 

Should We Still Be Friends?

So I have been thinking of this scenario. Allow me to paint this picture in a few words. Perhaps you will see that it is a scenario you have been in, or experienced.

So you have this friend and you have been good friends. Let’s label this friend A. Then your friend has this other friend and they too have been close. Let’s label this friend B. Now ordinarily, your friends friend should be your friend, right? Now, let’s throw in the fact that friend B has done something that hurt you so deeply such that even though you have forgiven him, you still need time to heal. Would you like friend A to continue being friends with B while remaining your friend?

The issue of divided loyalty is as old as man. Adam and Eve were God’s friends until they listened to the devil. It was not possible for them to be God’s friend and the devils friend at the same time.Later Jesus would say, you cannot be a slave of God and of riches. So really, at what point would loyalty force you to cut off friendship with someone who is not a friend of your friend?

Granted, no one has a right to legislate for another who he or she should be friends with. Asking your friend to stop being friends with another simply because you both had a falling out can be seen by some as petty. Yet, there are instances where common sense dictates that you should limit your association with someone who is not friends with your friend. It really is a question of who is more important to you. I’m always talking about scale of preference. It comes down to: who is more of my friend among this two?

Some time ago, I had an altercation with someone on Twitter, before I could say Jack Robinson, three of this person’s friends had unfollowed me. At first, I felt bad about it. But upon giving it thought I realised that they did what they had to do. Obviously, a friendship with me wasn’t so high on their priority scale. So they took the side that most favoured them. They were loyal to their own person.

You may think that they did an immature thing. You may be one of those who think you can be friends with two people who do not see eye to eye because you are the bigger person. But really, I do not think it is possible for you to be very close to two people who are constantly antagonising each other. At some point, they will both wear you out. The question: whose side are you on will be a constant refrain.

But, what if you are in love with one of the parties. Let’s say your spouse has an issue with someone who let’s say has insulted them and refuses to apologise. If you and your spouse are really one can you conscientiously continue to fraternise with this person? What if for whatever reason your spouse tells you he/she does not like your association with someone, whose side will you take?

Of course, every situation is different and we cannot rule out the fact that the demands of a spouse may seem unreasonable. But, when you really think of it, does it not come down to the question: who is higher in your scale of preference?

Let’s throw in social media at this point. Should you continue to tweet at, retweet, follow or share with someone who through his actions has shown he has no regards for your mate. Should this be seen as maturity?

Remember, love does not look for its own interests but seeks the interests of the other. Of course, you can say it cuts both ways. You may say, if I am seeking your interests I should be able to realise that remaining friends with this person is important to you. But again, realise that if I have asked that you stop being friends with someone, it is actually in your interest. Would you be happy if I kept the feelings to myself and allowed it to fester until it leads to bigger problems?

So, should you really remain friends with someone if it is upsetting to your mate? Please share your views with me:)

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2014 in Relationships

 

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My Epiphany

I know this road
It’s a road I have walked before
I walked in from this end
And all the way down
The church was to my left
The mosque to my right
The little kiddies school
At the end of the road stood

I thought I knew this road
Today everything has changed
I felt a tiny bit of déjà vu
As I made the same trip
The church had moved over
And taken the place of the mosque
And the little kiddies school
Now it is way down there

I stopped at the middle
And looked right back
Things looked just the same
When I started walking back
Then it occurred to me
What mum has always said
Things often look different
When you walk from the other side

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Poetry

 

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Cheers to a Happily Ever After

In the movies and romance novels, after the boy and girl meet and fall in love they always live happily ever after. Both parties seem to devote all their energy into finding each other, crossing hurdles put before them by family and even friends in other to end up together.
To be candid, in real life, two people who are in love may have to overcome a lot of obstacles to be together. Sometimes, the parents may say they do not want the marriage to happen. It may be because they see something that you don’t, but at other times their reasons may be selfish. In the later instance, you may choose to stand your ground and hold on to your decision as to who you want to end up with.

Let us rewind a little to a point that some people even find more difficult to manage: Finding a mate. Well, unlike In the movies, finding a mate may pose a level of difficulty for most people. People who decide to be selective may have at the back of their mind the type of person they want to spend the rest of their life with in terms of physical characteristics and temparament. If one is fortunate, one will find exactly what one is looking for, at other times, one may discover that ones requirements are simply impossible to find and one will be forced to settle.

So after the congratulations and calls of happy married life have faded and the gifts have all been opened and put away, there is the big matter of living daily with someone who you believe you have come to know during the months and years of courtship but who you may soon discover, you do not really know.

Marriage is no child’s play and people who are committed to staying in their marriage often discover that marriage is a whole lot harder than courtship. If you think you went through hell during courtship, expect hell and high water in marriage. If there is a flaw which you felt was just a little thing during courtship, expect that it will grow four fold in marriage. I will always tell my unmarried friends, if there is something he or she is doing now which you really cannot stand but you are trying to manage, never make the mistake of believing it will disappear after marriage. People you think you know change after marriage. It is a fact of life. There is something about waking up everyday with someone that amplifies little flaws.

Another honest truth: it is near impossible to find out everything about your partner during courtship. It is very possible to strive to be the perfect partner during courtship, but it may not be possible to continue with this routine after marriage.

Let’s take this as an example: Let’s say a guy is dating a lady who likes to keep everywhere tidy. Each time she visits, he does his best to make the house presentable. She may come in sometimes and meet the house in a not perfect condition, but she writes it off as one of those things. How will she feel when after marriage she discovers he has no interests in keeping the house clean at all, will not pick up after himself and will leave his plates unwashed after eating?

And what if before marriage, this lady was slim, just the right size the man wants and he takes delight in showing her off. Then after she has one kid, she gets so bloated and loses that shape that keeps the man happy when he sees her. What is more, she doesnt even seem to care how the man feels about it!

You will discover in marriage how little grievances, when allowed to fester, can lead to a total breakdown of the relationship. Let me share an illustration which, I believe, I first read in Covey’s ‘Seven Habits’. Marriage can be compared to opening a bank account. Of course, there is a minimum balance to opening an account. Even if the account is opened at zero, you are expected to grow it. So each day, you make a deposit or a withdrawal. To keep that account (read marriage) going you must strive to always keep the credit side higher than the debit side. If your account begins to bleed then disaster is in the air. So you must work at putting something, on a daily basis, into your marriage that will.contribute to the growth of the love you both share.

Let me share also an advice I got from a couple who have lived together for over four decades. Do not sleep anyday without resolving any differences, no matter how minor they may be, which you had during the day and then pray together before you sleep. It will take the highest form of hypocrisy to hold hands and pray with someone who you hold some thing against.

I told a married friend of mine recently, they just had a baby actually, how they must never allow the coming of children to stop them from having regular ‘us’ times. I always suggest a weekly date. It could be spent taking a walk, watching a movie, having dinner or lunch together or sharing in some other fun activity as long as it is done together. Couples who do things together, stay together.

As my friend Efe wisely put it, beware of being husband (or wife) zoned. You know that routine drudgery of being or doing what society expects of you. The intimacy in marriage is not just about having sex but being friends, talkmates, sharing, caring, being one in thought and in purpose and doing everything in your power to ensure that no chasm is created between you.

And here’s the thing: if your happily ever after isn’t going as you envisaged, you can do something about it. After all even a dormant account can be reactivated.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2014 in Relationships

 

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Let Me Retell My Story

Give me time to retell my story
Hold on, please, do not leave in a hurry
Don’t fret, no need to worry
This tale is sure to end in glory

I tell the future in present tense
I’ll tell it quick lest I lose this audience
This tale will prove my competence
I can’t tell this story with indifference

This is the story of how in one day
All sorrow and pain that came my way
Is forgotten like the fart of yesterday
Joy, made fuller, is here to stay

I am the one they now call Blessed
Who overcame the plots of the wicked
By power of The One who man created
Who with evil won’t us be tempted

See the smile etched in my face
See how I ended not in disgrace
See how I have taken pride of place
See, I have received uncommon grace

Will you have this be your story too?
Retell your story through and through?
Go ahead, just take this as a cue
And make your story all brand new

Now let us make perfect our story
Wait, don’t leave in such a hurry
Do not dismiss this as another theory
Say it loud, ‘my story ends in glory’.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Poetry

 

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