Saturday, 26 June 2010

Homosexuality Is An Abomination: A Response To Olusegun Obasanjo

To say that I was disappointed with the recent statement made by the former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo on the 14-year prison sentencing of two gay men in Malawi would be an understatement. I was not just disappointed; I was highly disappointed, ashamed and above all chagrined that a person like him could make such a statement. Initially, I decided to ignore his response but lately realising that ignoring such a senseless ranting would only go a long way to empower the oppressors, I took the bold step of responding to him using this platform. However, the good news is that as am writing this, the two men have been ‘pardoned’ and released from the prison; a move that lends credence to the fact that commonsense and human rights would always prevail over stupidity and ignorance. Obasanjo’s statement lacked every bit of prudence, intelligence and commonsense and does not even have a modicum of decency in it. Obasanjo was once a victim of phantom coup charges and spent many months in the prison. This incarceration which nearly led to his death led to the eventual Deus Ex Machina that saw his rise from the Prison to the Presidency. Therefore considering his position as a victim of a phantom coup charges, an elder and a statesman, his comments are very irresponsible, disgusting and unacceptable.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and his partner Steven Monjeza were sentenced to 14 years hard labour for holding an engagement ceremony in Malawi in December last year. The sentencing generated a lot of outcry and international condemnation from all works of life including Barack Obama and Madonna who has two adopted children from the impoverished southern Africa country. The sentencing was described as an affront to the human rights record of the country and a great setback for the achievements made so far to advance the cause of democracy and human rights in the continent. The hostility shown towards the sentencing was taken to another level in the United Kingdom where the British Parliament nearly moved a motion to ask the coalition government to stop the £80 Million yearly aid Malawi receives from the people and government of the United Kingdom; a country where homosexuals rights are protected and homosexuals are allowed to enter into engagements and civil partnerships.

Obasanjo in his narrow-minded observation refused to agree with the voices condemning the sentencing. Frankly, I am no more pretending to be flabbergasted with his utterances. It was under his administration that an obnoxious bill to sentence gays to prison was introduced in the Nigeria Parliament. He and his friend Archbishop Akinola fought very hard to ensure that the bill made it into law; they failed due to external pressures from human rights groups. Arguing in support of the Malawi stand, Obasanjo opined that Malawi being an independent sovereign nation should be allowed to apply its own law as it deems fit without any form of external interference. He further alluded to the bible, culture, being unAfrican and the law of nature to defend his justification of the sentencing. Let me quote him: "I believe that God, who created man, male and female, is a wise God...who doesn't make a mistake. If he wants sexual relationship between man and man and between woman and woman, God will not have created them male and female. For me it is an abomination in my part of the world and if anybody practices it then he must be unbiblical and anything that is unbiblical for me as a Christian is not right”, he said

He continued: "If a country makes it a law then he should be punished according to the law of that country. If a law in my country says we shouldn't shake in public, that of course would be ridiculous, but let's say that is what the law says, until you can get that law repealed, you must not shake in public. If you say you will defy that law and you shake in public, and the law says if you shake in public you go to prison for three months, then you have to go for prison for three months."

I have taken my time to critically go through the arguments of Olusegun Obasanjo and in my views and with due respect to him, his arguments does not hold water and cannot stand the taste of time. I would not be too harsh on him if I say that he thinks like the men in the Stone Age. As usual, his utterances have every mark of a ranting from a short-sighted lunatic from a jungle. I have my reason for not agreeing with him and part of the reason is that no sensible person would ever think the way Obasanjo is thinking. His way of think is very myopic and does not reflect any iota of a person who has entered the four wall of a formal school. Every reasonable school of thought is in accord that the judgement is obviously a gross violation of the human rights of these two gentlemen. The issue of being gay is a no-go area since a state has got no moral ground to legislate on what happens between two consenting adult males in the privacy of their bedroom. Obasanjo does not agree with me on this point because to him once a country makes a law, it must be respected. I disagree with him. The fact that a country made a certain law does not make that law sensible and morally justified.

Just like he cited above, if a country makes a law that two people should not shake hands in the public, that law cannot be morally justified since it goes against all the ethics of human understanding and the masses are under a moral obligation to disobey the law. Obasanjo cannot be right because it would take only fools to condone a law knowing that the law is cynical and works against their welfare and interest. Does that mean that the story Obasanjo was telling us that he was roped into a phantom coup allegation is after all false? Under military decree that was used to try Obasanjo and his colleagues, the military court never relied on a concrete evidence to find them guilty. In fact the military tribunal relied on a ridiculous circumstantial evidence that never holds water to try them. One of these circumstantial evidence is what is a called accessory after the fact of treason and the meaning of this is that a person could be indicted even if he never plotted a coup but actually got information or heard about one. Obasanjo and his colleagues were found guilty and sentenced to prison under this cynical decree. We all knew it was wrong; even Obasanjo took all the time while in the prison and while out of the prison to defend himself and to assure the people of his innocence in the whole drama. He was eventually released from prison, pardoned and set in the path that led to his being the President of the fourth republic of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is also interesting to note that most of the men and women who were indicted and imprisoned with Obasanjo using same phantom coup allegations never received this pardon. One of them is General Oladipo Diya and even while Obasanjo who was pardoned became a president he vehemently refused to forgive them; not even Diya.

It is therefore ridiculous for Obasanjo to justify the 14-year sentencing of these two men to prison with hard labour simply because the country made the law. That justification seems to me that as far as Obasanjo is concerned every law is good and must be obeyed so far it is still within the law book of the nations that made it. That is an extreme view and could as well mean that Nazism under the German Nazi is justifiable. So should also be the case with the apartheid system under the apartheid regime of South Africa because both were codified into the German and South African constitutions of the era. I do not have a doubt that there is a great lack of good judgement on the part of Obasanjo over that statement and bearing in mind the role he plays today in Africa, he should retract the statement publicly and apologise because he let many people down. Comments like this flares the embers of homophobia across Africa and gives support to tyrannical regimes like the one that passed that judgement in Malawi.

Meanwhile, Olusegun Obasanjo in the interview quoted above was described as a devout Christian; I do not know exactly what that meant. He is a serial polygamist and early last year was in the centre of a controversial court case when his son accused him of sleeping with his wife. That accusation is certainly not what is expected from a devout Christian. In fact am beginning to wonder the moral authority he has in judging these two young men when there is a log of wood in his own eyes. Obasanjo whose two terms as Nigerian President was tainted with human rights violations and allegations of corruption also said in the interview that he does not believe that two consenting adult men have the right to the freedom of privacy in their bedroom. That could be fair enough, because same idea was also used by Sani Abacha to imprison him for accessory after the fact of treason even though he might have ‘thought’ of that in the privacy of his bedroom.

He also likened homosexuality to bestiality and I wonder why he did that. Does that mean that he has gone blind and brainless at the same time to the extent that he could no more differentiate between animals and human beings? It is a shame that an elder statement like him could make such a cynical comparison of humans and animals. In the first place there is a world of difference between homosexuality and bestiality. Homosexuality involves humans of same sex while bestiality involves humans having sex with animals. Homosexuals do not have sex with animals; they are having it with fellow human beings. Two conditions are very important in sex. One of them is consent and the other is age. For one to have sex with another person there must be a consent between the two parties for the action to commence and when that consent has been achieved then the issue of age comes in. The older partner in the affair must ensure that the younger partner is above the age of consent. The age of consent for sex varies from country to country. Here in the United Kingdom it is 16 years. When any of these two are lacking, the state should be involved because there might arise a question of rape or paedophilia. In homosexuality the conditions I outlined are usually met and if these conditions are met before sex, I do not honestly think that the state has got the right to interfere in what happens between two consenting adults in the privacy of their bedroom. In bestiality the case is very different in the sense that the person having the sex with an animal is a human being who reasons while the animal does not reason and in fact the act should be seen as an act of aggression towards the animal. Since animals are helpless creatures, just like kids who cannot reason and cannot wilfully consent, the onus lies on the state to protect them.

In addition to the above explanation, the claim that homosexual act is unnatural and unAfrican smells of ignorance and exhibits every sign of a celebration of stupidity. The fact is that homosexuality is natural and getting the message right would depend to a larger extent on how you want to define nature. Homosexuality has been around from time immemorial as attested to by various writings including the bible. It has nothing to do with the west as many Africans claim. In fact in Africa it has been there too for a long time. The reason we do not have many accounts of homosexuality in Africa is because unlike European cultures most African cultures are oral in transmission. The cultures we have today in Africa were transmitted orally to us by our ancestors and because of that, along the line and probably by selective perception they consciously failed to document homosexual incidents in our history. However, we were lucky enough to have one such account documented in Uganda. Between 1884-87, the Martyrs of Uganda were burnt to death primarily for resisting the homosexual advances of Mwanga II, the King of Buganda. In 1964 they were declared saints by Pope Paul VI. This account is the only one to the best of my knowledge we have of homosexuality in Africa but the fact that it did happen in 1800 is enough to prove that it must have been happening before then. I am therefore surprised where Obasanjo got his facts from.

I really have a big problem with this unnatural issue of a thing. It is a virtue for a person to keep his mouth shut, if he is ignorant of a topic or a particular problem. Many people have been studying this problem for a long time and it is only fair that we allow them as experts in that field to come to that conclusion. When it comes to the question of human sexuality, it is only the psychologists that are well equipped to talk about it and they must in all fairness be given that chance to do just that. Obasanjo is not a psychologist and therefore does not have the competency to talk on this issue. Even the theologians are not competent to talk when it comes to human sexuality for the simple fact that they are not competent to talk about it. The area of specialisation of the theologians is the bible and they have right to arrive at any conclusion they like but are under a moral obligation not to give their congregation hypothesis in place of fact. The fact is that homosexuality is very natural and for us to see how natural it is, we need to look at how humans came into existence in the first place. I would have to rely only on science here and the reason is that it is the only field were we could talk using evidences to support our hypothesis instead of a mere say. I have pointed out on numerous occasions that the account in the bible of how man came into being is not clear enough and in actual fact it lacks a lot of facts to make it true. The biblical account is like a guide to what happened and never the fact of what happened. To claim that God made the world in six days smacks of insult to God for He never did that; the world and all its content came about through the process of evolution. And God is behind the process that set in motion this process of evolution.

On the other hand, the account given by scientists especially evolutionary scientists is more credible and makes a lot of sense than what is in the bible. In a nutshell, the account of creation in the bible was exactly not what happened and God never created man in such a way. The truth is that man came into existence through the process of evolution. In fact fish are the ancestors of the present humans. We share the same ancestry with animals like chimpanzees and gorillas and our DNA is a living proof to that. If we humans share the same ancestry or actually descended from these animals, then the simple conclusion is that we also inherited a lot of things from them including homosexuality which is very prominent in the animal kingdom. Homosexuality has been observed in thousands of animals but the one which am very much interested in citing here is one that is very common to Africa and the reason why I want to cite this animal is because I am very tired of hearing again and again the ignorant view that homosexuality is very unAfrican. The animal in question is the Bonobo Chimpanzees, an endangered specie and the closest extant relatives to humans. Homosexuality is very common amongst them.

Amongst the Bonobos, it is usual for the males to engage in various forms of homosexual behaviour. On one occasion experts observed two males hanging from a tree face-to-face while "penis fencing". This also usually occurs when two males rub their penises together while in face-to-face position. Another form of genital interaction called "rump rubbing", occurs to express reconciliation between two males after a conflict, when they stand back-to-back and rub their scrotal sacs together. Bonobo females also engage in female-female genital behaviour, possibly to bond socially with each other, thus forming a female nucleus of Bonobo society. The bonding among females allows them to dominate Bonobo society. Although male Bonobos are individually stronger, they cannot stand alone against a united group of females. Adolescent females often leave their native community to join another community. Sexual bonding with other females establishes the new females as members of the group.

This is what Carl Zimmer had to say about the female Bonobos in his book ‘Evolution: The Triumph Of An Idea-From Darwin To DNA’: “A female Bonobo joining a new community also enters a perpetual orgy. While female chimps have swollen genitals for 5 percent of their adult life, female Bonobos are sexually receptive 50 percent of their time. Their sex lives start early: young Bonobos start trying to mate long before they can possibly conceive. And Bonobos sex is not just heterosexual. Young male will fence with penises or give oral sex to each other. Female, meanwhile specialise in rubbing their genitals together until they reach orgasm...Among Bonobos, sex is not just for reproduction or even for protecting babies against angry males. It is a social tool. A new female will work her way into a Bonobo community by approaching a resident female and giving her lots of sexual satisfaction. This favour wins her alliance and as she makes more of them, she can make her way toward the core of the community”.

Having seen this behaviour from one of our ancestors, it becomes ridiculous to see people like Obasanjo using their position and not knowledge to sway public opinion towards their religiously held convictions and sentiments that lack any iota of evidence. If Obasanjo is relying solely on the Bible to prove that homosexuality is an abomination as he claimed, then he has a hardwork ahead of him to prove also that he keeps every single commandment in the bible and to convince those who do not share same faith and religion with him that the bible is the truth and not just a collection of books that contradict each other. I am therefore utterly disappointed that people like Obasanjo are taking advantage of the people. Due to the high level of ignorance in Africa people like Obasanjo who refused his people access to free education that would have enlighten them, are now pioneering a poisonous campaign amongst the people to engage in campaign of homophobia against their own brothers and sisters. It is therefore foolhardy to keep pretending that it is a shock to know that some humans are homosexuals. They are! Frankly, it is not a shock. The fact is that some men are gay, some are bisexuals while others are lesbians.

As for the religious aspect of the whole argument, I do not have the intention to discuss homosexuality and religion here. I have a plan to discuss that in detail in another article in future.