Before I proceed, let me state for the record that I am not a homophobe; I once was but I have come to understand that our indiscretions do not make us less human. As a matter of fact, our indiscretions are an affirmation of our humanity. That being said, I believe the aspect of the new anti-gay law which criminalizes homosexual unions is timely.
However, criminalizing homosexual acts between consenting adults in their privacy is straight up ridiculous. Inasmuch as I respect Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and agree with her that Nigeria’s anti-gay law is ill-advised, sloppy, draconian and unconstitutional, I beg to differ on what spurred it on. Her statement that the debate was not home-grown is baffling at best.
To quote her, “And it (the law) is informed not by a home-grown debate but by a cynically borrowed one: we turned on CNN and heard western countries debating ‘same sex marriage’ and we decided that we, too, would pass a law banning same sex marriage.”
One then begins to wonder, does this mean that Chimamanda would rather have Nigeria isolate herself from the Global Village the world has become and hence, not make laws of interest to her? Nigeria is a sovereign nation and until the Constitution is amended to state otherwise, the Government is saddled with the responsibility of making laws that they believe to be of benefit to the Nigerian population.
For some reason, I wonder if her being out of Nigeria for so long has left her out of touch with much of what has really been going on with regard to this issue. We all know that in recent times, the agitation for gay rights has gathered momentum around the world. Majority of Nigerians I believe, were content with knowing that homosexuality was an anomaly present in our society but still are culturally light years away from viewing it as normal or embracing it.
The sudden agitation for gay rights in parts of Africa was an affront to the African way of life and like the proverbial rat trying to get the attention of a sleeping cat the backlash, though irrational was expected. The demonstrations that took place during the International Conference on HIV/AIDS 2005 in Rio de Janeiro for which Nigeria attended spurred the events that led to the law we have today.
Because of the certainty of its spread, the Nigerian Government took proactive steps to nip this trend in the bud and initiated moves to have a legislation passed against legalizing homosexual unions as early as in 2006. Several earlier attempts at sponsoring the bill failed as a result of the activities of faceless lobbyists.
I recall specifically watching a delegation of gay Nigerians living in Diaspora making a case for gay rights on the floor of the Senate sometime last year. Naturally, I like many Nigerians was baffled and appalled by this which seemed to be an open confrontation. The boldness of the delegation was frightening. My guess is that this irked not a few members of the Senate who resolved to pass the Bill in record time.
When word of the Bill got around, the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron was quoted at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia last year, threatening to withhold foreign aid from African countries that discriminated against homosexuals. The Nigerian Senate responded swiftly and bluntly too that the UK government could keep their aid.
That was one of the few moments when I was actually proud of the Nigerian Government. The Senate however, did not stop at that. They went on to produce probably one of the fastest laws to ever have come out of the National Assembly following due democratic process; a deliberate response in my estimation to showcase Nigerian sovereignty.
Chimamanda’s statement as quoted above is emotion-laden and totally unnecessary. To denigrate the Nigerian populace by that statement leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Her statement would imply that Nigerians do not have a proper grasp of the problems that face them.
With her status as a literary icon and as a Nigerian Ambassador, one would expect a certain kind of caution that would necessitate proper investigation before making such.
There is no action without reaction and for a country quite as docile as ours in terms of legislative capabilities, I really wonder if she would rather have us be overwhelmed by it before reacting as we are known to do.
*To read Chimamanda Adichie’s article, click the link below.
Malcolm O. Ifi