20 February 2014

By Raheem Oluwafunminiyi

The controversy surrounding the anti-gay bill recently signed into law as announced by Reuben Abati, the Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Media and Publicity few weeks back has continued unabated, further generating much buzz. It even gets more exciting seeing several foreign friends of the country voicing strongly their concerns on such an ‘obnoxious law' which they argue threatens the ‘human right' of some minority to freely associate. More than half of all social media platforms with both the electronic and print media have also joined in the euphoria by publishing and airing a barrage of articles, letters, opinions and commentaries sent by concerned individuals on the issue. In fact, this may be the most discussed topic this year, except the political class wish to add something new as usual to the political dictionary.  

The anti-gay law has brought to the fore the very division that characterises the core of the Nigerian state. When I talk about division, I am looking at it from the angle of our collective senses or consciousness which usually fails to table critically issues with reason and rather attach our arguments or criticisms on blank sentiments and supposition. It is even more saddening that as a people, we have lost our sense of history such that we cannot but miss the point when ordinarily we should be using our historical past to solve issues of the day pronto. A peoples' history is synonymous to its culture and way of life such that it is heavily tied to the identity one carries from one generation to the other. It is why the Yoruba sees bowing and kneeling as a greeting culture that must be respected and preserved for posterity sake and why the average Hausa-Fulani would not jettison the handshake and hug for another form of cultural greeting to mention a few.

I am perturbed by the fact that the anti-gay bill or law has come to divide a nation like ours with a rich sense of history, tradition, culture and values, with a part of the divide looking at the issue from the vexed standpoint of human right and its effect on a minority created from the imagination of its rabid supporters. I am even further irked by the fact that few characters among us are steadily losing grip of our African roots and consciousness that we now see the impunity inherent in being gay as the right thing for certain groups of people. The question I have failed to find ample answers to is how we as humans who claim to be higher animals have reduced ourselves to inane beasts with little or no sense of how we must relate intimately with ourselves. I have even found it very abstruse how lower animals in our contemporary times have become so intelligent and sensible than the human mind in their relation with one another and in accordance with the dictates of nature.

In writing this piece, especially one as critical as those of the anti-gay law, I had decided to throw all caution to the winds simply for the fact that the opponents of the law have failed to realise the present and future implication of their actions, else they would have understood how expedient it was to quickly nip the vexatious cankerworm in the butt to avoid an unpleasant disaster. I have also decided to speak my mind to supporters of same sex union not because I profess a particular religious faith, as many have argued based on this line of thought, but because I am an advocate of common sense, deep reasoning and true African values whose lessons must never be exchanged for abnormality.

The issue which arises here first is the notion in some quarters that the law was aimed at garnering popular support against 2015 from unforgiving Nigerians who more than ever before see everything wrong with the current administration. One may not know some of the strategies being put in place for next year's general election, but it is the most laughable idea to believe that passing a law as important as the anti-gay law weeks back could be linked to some future political exigencies. This is so, because more than ever before and unprecedented in Nigeria's history, the vast majority of our people have become conscious of the Nigerian political space that they cannot but wait to effect a change at all levels. The belief of the past that elections are won through all kinds of electoral malfeasance is fast dying out if it has not. The Anambra election, meandering and logistically deficient as it was, is a typical example of people power and how Nigerians are fast using their votes to effect change. Therefore, it is totally out of place to think the anti-gay law was aimed at drumming support for an administration whose ship, to many, is fast sinking by the day.

Second, I am in a confused state as to what opponents of the anti-gay law term as human right. My confusion stems from this fact: does the term constitute giving individuals the right and privileges to constitute nuisance and commit impunity in the society just because they are gay? If because one's sexual orientation does not fit into the natural existence of man, does it constitutes an infringement of one's fundamental human rights? Having deeply thought about it, I have come to understand without further confusion that the noise peddled about infringing on the rights of gays to freely choose who to enter into a union with is total and absolute balderdash and simply the creation of the imagination of few elements who only want political and legal protection for their insatiable thirst for same sex union. Human right no doubt is one of nature's blessings to mankind and must at all times be upheld but the conception it carries in modern times was only couched by the West to suit their own ‘cultural vices' with no consideration for the values and norms of others. If it is the human right of gays to have the freedom to live in any society without harsh laws against them, is it not the human right of an unborn child whom ordinarily would have been welcomed to earth through proper and natural procreation between the two opposite sex rather than those of the same sex? Certainly, gays and lesbians cannot procreate and therefore, they are the first breakers of the natural law of procreation, especially the law of human right which they so much hinge on in contemporary times. To think that gays have a human right they can fight for, one which they wish to use to confound the sensibilities of right thinking people with moral values is the highest form of insanity. We recognise the human right of everyone but as gays, their human rights belong to those very societies who strongly believe in the rightfulness of being gay and therefore, should be given a soft landing by these societies to integrate rather than adding more to the challenges we face as a people.  

Thirdly, having read a handful, I discovered that the whole anti-gay issue brought up the idea of a ‘minority' whom to them the law was targeted at. As a result of the law, they decided to constitute themselves into groups and blocs, calling themselves the minority because to them, the society has made them so based on their sexual choices. I wish to state categorically here that rather than our gay citizens seeing themselves as a minority, the Nigerian state do not subscribe to such categorization and treats all equally in terms of one's citizenship and not on some flimsy sexual wants or needs. For the fact that our gay citizens see the anti-gay law as obnoxious to their existence and group, and since they can identify themselves even from the farthest distance, they can't constitute a minority but rather appear as good riddance. Happily, their number is quite significant; hence, they can be accommodated by our foreign friends who seem to be harshly very vocal about an anti-gay bill.

Being gay is a matter of choice while the law that regulates it is also a matter of exigency. As an advocate of common sense and reason, there is no way such act can be accepted in a highly cultural and religious enclave as those of Nigeria. It is unacceptable, against our values and moral consciousness. Interestingly, unlike what the West and other proponents of same sex union have argued, the bill, despite many bills passed with less scrutiny and concern by the people, is backed by more than 90 per cent of Nigerians. What could be more democratic than that? If the likes of the United Nations General Secretary, Ban Ki Moon, the United States, Britain, Canada and few others against the bill believe a 14 year sentence is too harsh, obnoxious and against human rights, does it mean the voice of the people which guided the signing of the bill into law is irrelevant? If these characters feel strongly about the law, is it not time to begin the process of accommodating and integrating our gay citizens into their own societies so as to enjoy those basic human rights so ‘denied' them by the Nigerian state? Is the voice of the people not the major canon of any democratic process?

I feel worried by the fact that the Nigerian government have not realised it could use all the diplomatic mettle at its disposal to call the bluff of those who continue to miff our collective consciousness on this issue. If accepting an immoral act is the reason our foreign friends have been dolling out grants and aids to us, and because we have passed an anti-gay law, they wish to withdraw them, is it not time we showed them the giant in us, especially the one we have always claimed to be?

For many, the anti-gay law is too liberal and should therefore be revised in coming years. For the fact that same sex union has no place in our society, a grave punishment should be meted on those characters who strongly wish to advance a culture of impunity on our children and the next generation. Our historical cum cultural values should not be eroded by some Western or foreign vices, hence we must fight such calculated attempt to dampen our collective resolve on this issue. Same sex union may have been accepted and its art perfected through laws in the West yet in this part of our own world, we see it as an insult to our collective sensibilities where some foreign states and groups of people think they can force it down our throats. The Nigerian people have spoken and it is time to act to remove this unpleasant cankerworm out of our society.  

Raheem Oluwafunminiyi writes via


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