Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Painful Truth About Nigeria!

One interesting thing about Nigeria is that it is daily becoming a classical example of how things are not being done. It sounds incredible but that is the simplest truth ever to be told. And today it is fast going into everyday parlance that Nigerianism simply means being politically myopic and leaving the substance to pursue the shadow in politics.

The Nigeria of today is fast degenerating to that level where people or nation feel good when they are daily being talked about not for something good but for something bad. It is clear beyond doubt that Nigeria of today derives more pleasure when it is referred to as a very awkward and backward nation despite the fact that it has an abundant natural and human resources that could transform the nation into a much-sought-after El Dorado.

As a result of this ugly situation, many Nigerians who are so much eager to develop their future and talent and of course live a happy life based on their beliefs and orientations are fast leaving the shores of the country for Europe and America in thousands yearly. The increasing number of Nigerian professionals in various parts of the world is a testimony to this statement and the trend in the migration of the Nigerian health workers to America and Europe is a shame to the nation. But the worst part of the whole thing is that the Government of Nigeria is not making any effort to tackle the root of the problem with Nigeria.

The consequence of this is that many things are simply not going the way they should go. Corruption is today glorified as a conditio sine qua non for living in Nigeria and being a Nigerian. The ugly situation of our educational standard and system is today a huge trauma for many Nigerians especially those seeking for education and job abroad. They are not simply being reckoned with since these countries are fast loosing faith in our educational system. Even the quality of education and governance of the nearby Ghana is reckoned abroad more than that of Nigeria that many Nigerians are begging to live there. What a shame that we are now begging to live in a country of the people we once expelled from our country in the name of economic reform.

Electricity, transportation, working conditions, pension management, healthcare system and housing scheme are so poor and bad that many Nigerians have simply lost faith in those they elected to man the governmental affairs. But the fact still remains that many Nigerians are not yet appreciating how poor and bad things have gone and are still going. An average Nigerian who has not been abroad or even the nearby Ghana may not have the platform to make a comparative analysis of these countries with Nigeria in order to appreciate how bad and poor things have gone and the harm that have been done to this nation and is still being done to it on daily basis by those in elective, selective and nominated positions.

It is therefore with sorrow to note that despite all these problems to tackle, the National Assembly had the gut to welcome the homophobic bill presented to it by the Presidency to punish lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transvestites. My stomach turned for a long time when I heard this because I was asking myself if this is the main issue facing Nigeria of today. At the end of the day, I had no option than to conclude that all these grannies have got no work to do in the National Assembly. I was convinced that they have got no work to do because a reasonable Assembly should not have touched that Bill not to talk of allowing it be presented to it in the first place.

But it is a shame that the National Assembly went along to give a precious time to that Bill despite the fact that there are many other issues that demand urgent national attention. The situation reminded me of one time in history when Catholic theologians exhausted of issues to debate on began to debate on how many angels that can dance on top of a pin. This is exactly the situation the National Assembly found itself in otherwise why would they be cowed into giving a consideration to that obnoxious Bill.

Part of the expectation of the Bill is to punish severely whoever is canvassing for same sex marriage, promoting it, sponsoring it or taking part in the marriage either in Nigeria or abroad and to punish severely lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transvestites who exhibit their sexuality with punishment of up to five years in the prison. As I said earlier, is this the issue that demands urgent attention in our nation today? Obviously a lot of issues are there to be tackled, top on the list being corruption, dwindling educational system, poor healthcare system, unavailable housing and high cost of living. Therefore when one begins to think about the rush with which the members of the National Assembly used to debate the issue, one is left with the option of concluding that these shameless grannies have got no quality job to do.

I have no doubt that issues surrounding sexual affairs should be left for individuals and theologians to decide upon with the state setting only the guidelines on how it should be conducted. For instance, though I have got the right to marry any girl of my choice, the state in as much as they are morally obligated to respect this my choice, should be able to provide me with a guideline on how this should be done to avoid infringing on the fundamental human right of the girl I so much desire to marry. In this case the state is expected to come up with regulations on how this should be conducted.

For instance the state in a bid to safeguard the right of the girl child to joyful teenage life and education is morally justified to come up with a law that would prevent me from marrying that girl if she is below 18 years and should also punish me if I contravene this law. In the same vein two same sex adults who agreed to have sex, should not be punished for their choice but should be protected by the state since the main locus of the sex is a prior agreement and consent between two of them. The state can only punish this form of relationship in the event of rape or when one has a carnal knowledge of his same sexual partner who is below the age of consent for sex in the state or having carnal knowledge of someone without their consent.

A nation is founded upon commonwealth and as such should be able at all times to protect that commonwealth. A nation like Nigeria is made up of various interest groups ranging from religious, commercial, ethnic, sexual and many other groups and therefore the state is under obligation to protect all these interests and especially to ensure that the minorities are not unduly victimised. The state should also protect the interest of religions but then even as it is doing so should not allow religious groups to impose their beliefs upon those who agreed not to believe in anything or do not share their beliefs.

For instance though am born a Roman Catholic, the state should ensure that nobody not even my parents should force me to believe all the doctrines and dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church or deny my right not to be one anymore. The sate should also go a step further to uphold that right if I choose to be an atheist. Religion and religious matters should be made to be a very private and personal issue and the state should be ready to protect me from whoever wants to infringe on this my fundamental human rights.

It is therefore shameful that the National Assembly allowed itself to be cowed into going ahead with that controversial bill whereas many issues are still calling for urgent attention. For instance what has the shameless National Assembly done to punish employers especially in the media and banking industry who have the notorious habit of placing graduates and other jobs seekers on eternal probation. Some of them have ended up being in this probation for between one and eight years, whereas in the western and some African countries they should have their appointments either confirmed or asked to leave with a cogent reason within six months.

The members of the National Assembly should therefore bury their heads in shame for allowing themselves to be cowed into considering the no issue an issue in the first place. The argument the National Assembly advanced forward in going forward with the Bill is that being a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transvestite is not part of Nigerian culture. These we have heard over and over again but how do one explain that even though this is not part of Nigeria culture, we still have gays, bisexuals and lesbians in different parts of the country and in every aspect of its life including the Executive, Legislative and Judicial arms of the Government, churches and in a nutshell everywhere. What then could be referred to as Nigerian culture? Maybe corruption is?

This is not an attack on lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transvestites, the Government or the churches but a call to those who are responsible for all these homophobic attitudes and hatreds to consider the harm they doing to the image, health and future of the nation as a place to live a sane and peaceful life.

In the middle of the 1980’s when the first case of HIV and AIDS was reported in Nigeria, the first reaction of the then Government and of course the nation was to completely deny its existence claiming that it is a Whiteman’s disease. Before we could know it, the so called Whiteman’s disease has affected about 3.5 million Nigerians and continues to wreak havoc on our young population. But the most agonising part of the whole drama is that despite huge human resources we have both here and abroad, no single person has had the audacity to sue the Federal Government for the initial denial that led to this present day AIDS and HIV epidemic in the nation.

It is also a shame that this single episode has not taught Nigerians a good lesson. Am not surprised because Nigeria is a classical example of people who do not learn lessons from their past mistakes. Bearing then in mind the bitter lesson we are learning from our initial responses to the HIV and AIDS epidemic, it is a shame that no single Nigerian has mustered the courage to challenge both the Presidency and the National Assembly on the effect their homophobic stand would have on the future of the nation especially as it relates to the war against HIV and AIDS.

Nigerian being a country not good in statistics does not know how many gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transvestites we have and of course with the current homophobic nature of the nation, we would never know that. Reason is because nobody would ever accept being gay, bisexual or lesbian for the fear of its attendant homophobic implications. And the consequence of this would be that before we are over with this stage of denial, more harm and damage would have been done.

An example will suffice here, because of the homophobic nature of Nigeria as a nation, many gays, lesbians and bisexuals would always have their fundamental human rights trampled upon simply because they are gays, lesbians or bisexuals and would never complain to the police otherwise they would complicate their problem. Unscrupulous people are setting them up and using them daily and making lots of money out of them simply because they cannot complain and the reason for their not complaining is because the law is against them.

Similarly many of them would lose their lives in the future either by being attacked by homophobic people or by committing suicide since their lifestyle do not have any form of protection under the law. But the most agonising part is that the current fight against HIV and AIDS is likely to be a complete failure, if nothing is done to accommodate gays, lesbians and bisexuals under the law. Let me illustrate this in a very simple term, a bisexual who indulges in sexual intercourse with both men and women is likely to end up transferring the virus from his male partner to unsuspecting female partner.

Research conducted in countries with a very strong homophobic attitude, noted that it is only a microcosm of gays, lesbians and bisexuals that are ever identified or known due to their strong tendency to deny their sexuality throughout their entire life for fear of public opprobrium towards them. In addition, due to high level of illiteracy and ignorance in homophobic and third world countries, many gays, lesbians and bisexuals have a strong culture of unprotected sex amongst them. This is partly because they believe that same sex love can never transmit Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The implication of this is that so far they are forced to live in closet sexually the sexual health of others would always be in jeopardy.

Many women who unsuspectingly and unknowingly are married to bisexual men got the STDs including HIV and AIDS virus through this way. Against these backdrops, it is imperative that Government and members of the National Assembly should reconsider the homophobic state they threw Nigeria into. We cannot continue denying the existence of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transvestites in Nigeria.

There is no point in denying the reality and what we all know is there in our midst. It may be very understandable that the nation is not yet ready or ripe for same sex marriage or civil partnership but to completely deny the existence of gay life and culture in Nigeria or use stringent measures and laws against them would never help the situation but would only go a long way to aggravate the already bad situation. By the way how are we convinced that putting them in prison for five years would return them non gays or lesbians at the end of their incarceration?

Our going to 50 years struggle in Nigeria should have been a good lesson for us Nigerians on how not to tackle issues like this but it is quite unfortunate that we do not learn lessons from our past mistakes and things are being complicated by majority of the uneducated, half literate and untravelled members we have in the National Assembly and other arms of government. It is a shame that we have ended up turning Nigeria into a classical case study on discrimination. If it is not between the north and the south, it is Muslims against Christians and where there is nothing against something, something must be created. The consequence of this is that we have ended up building lots of walls against ourselves thereby creating this big war amongst ourselves.

Having tried a lot to create these artificial walls, I think it is high time we began to pull them down. If the Government is not considering same sex marriage or civil partnership at the moment, it should at least work towards creating a conducive environment for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transvestites by having a legal protection under the law for them to avoid attacks on them, their personality, arson against their properties, victimisation against them in work places their being set up and used by unscrupulous people and stuffs like that.

A good number of Nigerians believe that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transvestites should be severely punished and if possible wiped out hinging their argument on what their religious leaders told them but the fact still remains that it is morally unjustifiable for one to impose his religion, beliefs or way of life on others. By doing this, Nigerian religious leaders headed by the Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, Rev. Peter Jasper Akinola, have continued to inculcate into the minds of their unsuspecting congregation a Hitler-type victimisation, annihilation and hatred against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transvestites.

Akinola by spearheading this has positioned himself as the most holy one but he forgets one thing, that his life style may not be compatible with his office. The question we must ask ourselves here is how is Akinola and his cohorts living up to the expectation of their model, Jesus Christ. They have already judged and condemned the gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transvestites. I strongly think that what they stand for is contrary to what Jesus Christ would have stood for.

Considering the level of poverty in Nigeria, is Rev. Jasper Akinola the homophobic advocate of Nigeria leading an example of Jesus Christ who was so poor that he has got no place to lay down his head with his vivid life of luxury in a choiced part of Abuja and of course with many maids and servants and fleet of cars with a nice holiday and health package abroad whereas his flock are dying of poverty as a result of corruption in a country where he is the Anglican Primate. Another important food for thought is to have a closer look at the background of his children and family.

Considering also the level of poverty and corruption in Nigeria, what effort has Akinola made to fight the Government just like the former Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa fought corruption and apartheid? Akinola is today known for promoting hatred and prejudice against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transvestites in Nigeria than for taking Government to task on the massive corruption and underdevelopment in the nation. It is really a shame that a man of God who is supposed to be a bridge builder is promoting hatred amongst people in then name of religion. At this juncture one begins to wonder the difference between Akinola and some Christian, Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists who are notoriously known for promoting intolerance, disrespect and hatred amongst people they should have been teaching the importance of love, harmony and tranquillity as promoted by their founders.

Little wonder Karl Marx defined religion as an opium of the people, filled with leaders looking for speck in the eyes of their faithful whereas they have logs of wood in theirs. No wonder religion is fast loosing its credibility amongst the people as a result of their diluted and fundamentalist stand and teaching.

It is also quite unfortunate that the National Assembly has allowed religion to be the basis of their law making, thereby putting over 145 million Nigerians under a compulsory standard of religion. But the truth is that no one should be forced to be part of any religion and Nigeria being a secular state should not rely on religion in making laws since it will infringe on the right of those who do not believe in anything. Making a nation a theocratic state causes more harm than good. A good example is this type of homophobic attitude and hatred being promoted by religious leaders without being punished. Another example is millions we spend yearly in the name of religious pilgrimages whereas the money being spent on these pilgrimages would have been used in making healthcare available to the masses.

It is therefore in the interest of Nigeria to distance itself from any form of undue interference and meandering from religion. Any issue that boarders on religion should be an individual affair and the state should not put their hands in it. Gays, lesbians and bisexual should be allowed to live as their straight counterparts by enactment of laws to safeguard the rights of each regardless of their religion, race, ethnic group, creed, sexual orientation and many other stereotypes.

It is the function of the Government to break down all the walls of barriers and discrimination that still exists in the nation by emphasising on what people can contribute towards the nation building rather than who they are. And for Nigerians who do not see anything wrong in discriminating against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transvestites, they should also not be offended or shocked when they are denied employment based on their ethnic group, religion or any other stereotype.

The essence of this article is therefore never to cast aspersion on religion or anybody representing it but to point out that things are not going the way they should go. And for those who are going to crucify me for the stand I have taken, I have just one message for them. I do not care for I am a staunch believer in that yet to come Nigeria and world where and when individuals should no more be classified based on their colour, race, ethnic group, religion, creed, belief or sexual orientation but on what they can contribute to the development of the nation and the entire human race.

And the quickest way to break all these artificial boundaries and barriers is by creating a Commission that should be charged with the power to severely punish any individual, group or establishment engaged in promoting any form of discrimination. This Commission could be called Commission For Equality or Equal Opportunity Commission or whatever name we chose at the end of the day. It should have a tribunal status with the responsibility of trying and bringing to justice those promoting these discriminations and hatred.

At the end of the day, it will save the nation more embarrassment of appearing more holy than the Pope and very stupid before other Nations. We cannot obviously continue denying what everyone knows is there and I seriously think that the earlier we stop this rubbish, the better for us.


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