As with many LGBT people in Nigeria, where homosexuality is criminalized, Judith got married in an attempt to avoid social stigma. What she didn’t count on was being mercilessly blackmailed.
Pseudonyms are used in this article to protect people’s safety.
By Mike Daemon
Judith was an administrative officer in a Nigeria-based multinational industrial conglomerate.
Before getting married, she was in a romantic relationship with a woman, which was the start of her woes.
“I meet Chidinma in my neighborhood; we hung out a couple of times, and eventually started a relationship. Chinenye lives with her elder brother named Ifeanyi.”
“One day in December 2017, we met at her brother’s house, where we ended up making love,” she said. “The doors were locked but we forgot that the windows were not locked. Her brother opened the window curtains and saw us and then proceeded to force the door open with his friend, who started making a video of us. I had to try to escape to avoid a beating. I left my bra and underwear, but I managed to put on my gown and ran out immediately.”
After several failed attempts to get in touch with Chidinma, Judith thought that their relationship was over, but her problems were just beginning.
Judith loses her job
“After the incident, I did not hear from Chindinma anymore. I couldn’t reach her by phone and I stopped seeing her in my area.
I came back from work one day only for my sister Lidya to tell me that three angry-looking young men had come looking for me. I knew instantly that there was trouble so I quickly moved to my friend’s house to cool off, but all did not end there.
“After a few days, I received a threatening phone call from Chidinma’s brother, telling me he would be coming for me. Upon hearing this, I was so depressed and frustrated that I had to apply for a two-week leave and after that, resigned from my job.”
Battling depression, confusion, and constant fear, Judith decided to open up to her friend.
“I couldn’t keep things to myself anymore, knowing I was in a big mess, I decided to open up to my friend Lidya. In the end, we decided to call Ikedi to plead with him, but he demanded 500,000 naira [about U.S. $1,086], which we eventually paid him and he agreed to go away.”
But that wasn’t the end of the extortion. Ikedi’s friend who had made the video also wanted his own cut.
“He requested N200,000 [about U.S. $434] or else he’d send the video to the police. Since I did not want that to happen, I agreed but pleaded for some time to raise the money”.
Afraid and sensing that the extortion wouldn’t stop, Judith decided to leave the country. She and Lidya devised a plan.
“Out of circumstances and societal pressure, I got married to Neo Gbadio from Cameroon,” she said. “And our union is blessed with a son, Robert Gbadio,”
“Lidya linked me up with her China-based Cameroonian friend, Neo, who was searching for a wife. We quickly got along and everything went pretty well. However, I never told him about my sexual orientation, as I did not want to ruin my chance of leaving Nigeria.
Neo was the coach of a football team in China. On a brief trip back to Nigeria, he was introduced to Judith.
“In 2018, Neo and I met in person. We hung out and saw a few new places in Nigeria. All this time, the blackmailer kept calling, insisting that I pay him the money. Eventually, I met with him and gave him the N200,000 he had demanded and he agreed to delete the video”.
To realize her plan of leaving the country, Judith accepted Neo’s marriage proposal. But all wasn’t going to be as seamless as she had hoped.
“Neo finally proposed and asked his family to come to pay my bride price and do the traditional rites.
“But somehow, one of the blackmailers managed to find out that I was getting married, so he called with threats to ruin my marriage. As I pleaded with him, he demanded one million naira but in the end, he accepted that I pay him N700,000.”
“We got married traditionally by proxy [in 2018] because he couldn’t come to Nigeria because of his work.
Leaving Nigeria and moving to China brought Judith some relief, but it was only temporary.
The blackmailer began making more demands and eventually exposed her to her family in January 2023.
“Earlier this year, I received a call from my mother that shattered and crumbled my life and happiness. She was crying and saying that I had brought shame to the family and I needed to come home for cleansing because I had committed an abomination. I vehemently objected.”
Even that wasn’t the end of Judith’s unfortunate experiences.
Neo, Judith, and their son were vacationing in the United States early this year when Judith’s mother and then her husband learned her secret.
“As I was speaking to my mother on the phone, my husband heard the emotion in my voice and pressured me to tell him what was going on. As I opened up to him, he said that even though he doesn’t have any issues with my sexuality, he couldn’t trust me anymore because I had kept such a huge secret from him.”
He returned to China without his wife and son.
“My husband has now left me, saying that he needs a break,” Judith said. “I am now dejected, stranded in a faraway land with my son.”